Being a woman in the modern age can suck – royally. We have unrealistic expectations thrust upon us every day. And they’re not whispering-in-the-background expectations, either. They’re in-your-damn-face expectations. On the TV, in the magazines, on the ad by the bus-stop, on the ad on the side of the bus – these expectations are everywhere.
These expectations to be “beautiful”. The kind of beautiful that does not exist. The kind of beautiful that involves never aging, never growing old, never putting on fat, and keeping a body that – realistically – only exists for the precious few. Big boobs, tiny waist, nice butt, and absolutely no fat seen anywhere. And of course, no blemishes, either.
Growing up an entire life (that sounds weird, but whatever) seeing these expectations, I can ignore them most days. I mean, when I was eight years old, I wrote a “song” about how I could lose weight and get a tan (back when tans were cool and not widely considered the precursor to sun cancer) if the elusive “you” asked me to. Friends called me fat. Girls commented on my fat ass. For as long as I can remember I have been 100% unhappy with my body. The only time I can recall being confident in my body was when I was about 17 years old, and I didn’t eat for a month, and went down to an Australian size six.
I can ignore these expectations most of the time, because if I didn’t, I would be overcome with anger and self doubt even more than I already am. I still look at these “perfect” women and wish I could look like them – heck, I’ve all but been programmed to think that, but because the media and entertainment industry will never change, I sigh in discontent and push my feelings down.
The other day I was watching The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. If you don’t know what it’s about, here’s a quick synopsis: man is born a baby but the age of about an 85 year old man. When he’s five he looks 70, when he’s twenty he looks 65. So by the time he’s 50, he looks about 35. In other words: he gets hotter as he gets older. Now, when he’s about seven years old (and looking about 80), he meets a seven year old girl who looks seven (as most seven year olds do). Cue love story.
Now, the aging process for Benjamin (Brad Pitt) is realistic. You can see him getting progressively younger as he ages.
However, the girl he loves – Daisy (Cate Blanchett) deosn’t age from when she’s supposed to be about seventeen years old. We don’t see a wrinkle on her face until forty three (and that’s only after she admits she’s forty three). When she’s fifty six, she looks no different to when she proclaimed she was forty three. She just does not age in this movie, even though Benjamin’s character is getting younger in every scene change.
Why the fuck did she not age along with him? Why did she not look a day over freaking seventeen until after she admitted her age of forty three? Why was she not allowed to look any older, but the aging process in Benjamin’s character was so pronounced it was unmissable? Why are women not allowed to age? Why are we not allowed to have wrinkles, or – god forbid – breasts that don’t stand to freaking attention? Why do we have to look young forever? Why the hell do we have these completely screwed up and unrealistic expectations thrust upon us before we can even begin to understand how horrific they are?
Why do we have expectations that made me, when I was eight years old, think I should lose weight? That led me to be happy with my body only when I hadn’t eaten food. When, even now, I look older than people years ahead of me in the media and entertainment industry. That when I look at the bodies plastered everywhere I cannot find one that matches my own.
Why on earth are we subjected to these expectations, and why are they continuing? Why are they present in a movie about aging?
I don’t know. I don’t know why it started to being with, and I have no idea why it still continues today. But I know that I wish I had grown up in a society that embraces the female form, and supports every body shape and size, that sees the beauty of growing old and seeing that passage of time make itself known on our bodies. I wish I had, and I wish – that if I ever have children – they don’t have to see these unrealistic expectations everywhere they turn.