Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Cellulite

This post should have been written weeks ago after going to the triathlon that Steph and Shalan did. During the canoe trip, I was again reminded about this topic.

Women have cellulite. Not all women of course, but many women—probably most. Young women, old women, fat women, skinny women. I don’t watch TV and don’t consume a lot of advertising, but seeing real women with cellulite is somewhat of a shock to me eye. In my mind, women have tight, smooth upper legs, thighs and butts. This is just not true in reality however. There were many amazingly fit women at the triathlon with small tight stomachs, arms that were thin and toned, with defined calves and prominent quads—and cellulite on their legs. The women who didn’t have some cellulite were few and far between.

Many of these women would look damn hot in tight, low-rise jeans or short skirts. Head-turning hot. But in their swimsuits, they reveal cellulite. Many women who finished in damn good time had cellulite. These are athletes—women who train and run and swim and bike. They have low body fat and toned muscles. Still they have cellulite.

Why is this so shocking to the eye? Why is it such a dirty word, and a thing of embarrassment? Why do women spend millions of dollars trying to rid their bodies of this? Why do they stress and cry and feel bad about themselves over these few ounces of fat? Why is the ideal apparently unattainable to many women through natural, non-crazy means? Why has the imagery of women become so different from the reality? What problems does the disconnect between image and reality have on men and women? How many otherwise fit women are uncomfortable or ashamed of their bodies once they pass the age of twenty?

In some ways I am lucky to have avoided many of these hang-ups. I was a chubby girl/teenager. I never had a tight, young body to mourn as I get older. I am somewhat less chubby now as an adult, but being ‘hot’ was never part of my self-image, so it’s hard to understand the fuss. My value as a person and a friend doesn’t change when my weight fluctuates. I didn’t cry when I got my white streak of hair and I didn’t notice when the first fine line around appeared around my eyes.

What I have noticed with displeasure is that I can’t easily pull all-nighters like I did in high school and college. I also know that since I work in an office instead of a kitchen, factory or warehouse, that I don’t have the upper body strength that I used to. These things annoy me, because they affect my quality of life, and the things I can do. But my ass getting a bit squishier—I really couldn’t care less. Other women feel differently.

My best friend in high school had a ‘hot’ body. She recently had a kid and has severe body-complex issues because she can’t seem to get her perfectly flat belly back. She is in pretty fantastic shape already, but she obsesses about her slightly thicker waist and belly. She used to be an athlete and very competitive, but now she works out with the sole purpose of looking good. She doesn’t enjoy it and she treats it like a chore. Her husband completely adores her and seems to have a much more rationale view of the way her body changed, “She’s a mom now. Her body changed radically to have our child. I love my son, and I love my wife – she’s the sexiest woman in the world – how could a little belly change that?” Still her image of herself is strongly tied to how attractive her body is. The whole situation seems sad, and can only seem to get worse as we get older.

Now I am not at all advocating that people simply use aging as an excuse to let themselves become obese slugs – but the futile quest for the unobtainable ideal seems like a huge waste of time. I don’t understand the obsession with women expected to look like they are 20 years old, no matter what age they are. It just seems to disappoint everyone, men and women. Most women can’t be the ‘hot chick’ and most men won’t be able to date the few that are. Women can apparently be very fit, and yet physically not ‘perfect.’

What would perfection take? Surgery?—yuck. Obsessive diet/exercise/massage regimes? – More ‘natural’ than surgery, but at what cost? When I see extremely muscular/cut guys, I wonder what they have given up to spend two hours a day in the gym. What is their intellectual and emotional development if maintaining a ‘perfect’ body is such a priority in their life? Do they read, travel, garden, volunteer or cook? Do they have time to be good friends, family members or lovers and take the time to nurture those relationships and be there for their loved ones – or do they miss out on living life in order to lift or train? What other great things could they do during the time they spend working out?

Obviously my friends and I spend a lot of time on our bikes – but I don’t think it is any of our goals to sculpt a perfect body. We ride for fun and transportation. We ride to explore. We ride as an activity in itself, and not a means to an end. We ride to spend time together. I don’t know that the gym rats listening to headphones really enjoy the activity.

So, back to cellulite. Yes, I believe that the smooth legs of models are more aesthetically pleasing than the squishy upper-legs of most adult women. I also believe that this is an incredibly silly thing to worry about. I also don’t believe that it is such a difference that non-smooth legs are ‘disgusting’ or embarrassing or should continue to be hidden from sight by TV, movies and advertisements. I hate that seeing cellulite on my thin, fit friends is shocking. I hate the possibility that they might see their bikini-clad body in the mirror and feel shame. I hate that there are women who are even shy around their lovers because of their bodies. I hate the fact that what apparently is normal in even fit adult women is considered a flaw.

9 Comments:

At 11:54 PM, Blogger Frick said...

Women have that entire baby factory crammed into their abdomen. I'm not sure what kind of maintence is all necessary, but I'm guessing that a little insulation won't hurt.

Besides, by the time you've pushed your body to the point where its resorting to burn cellulite off, I'm thinking the rest of the body is approaching that oh, so fantastic skeletolesk look, which may be all the rave in some circles, but really isn't that attractive.

You see, that's what the spandex is for, to cover up the cellulite!!

 
At 5:12 AM, Blogger George said...

Amen.

My wife is 45 years old and she might have gained a few pounds over the last 25 years..................so have I :-)

It's what's inside that counts.

 
At 9:51 AM, Blogger annie said...

I dated one of those guys for a while... too long, really. I was definitely a lower priority than the weight room. And going camping for a weekend? Forget it! That's two whole days away from the gym. What a loser.

I was anorexic around the ages of 18-19, and even when my ribs were showing through my back, the Buddha-belly and the fat at the tops of my hips never disappeared. Knowing that gives me a different perspective on dieting. I'm not sure I'll ever go on a diet again.

Besides, the models in magazines are airbrushed anyway. Their thighs probably sport the occasional dimple too.

 
At 5:10 PM, Blogger Megan said...

There are alot of things about my own body that aren't conventionally beautiful that I really dig -- round belly, thick thighs, big butt, pendulous boobs -- but my heavily dimpled thighs are a hard one for me to embrace. I don't know why this should be, really. I, too, find that smooth thighs are more aesthetically pleasing, but I think this is so mostly because my aesthetic has been trained by media images and the fact that women in America have very little opportunity to hang out naked with other women unless they went to a single-sex school, were on a sports team or are gay. Think about it, how many everday women have you seen naked in your life? One of my favorite things about the gym, actually, is hanging out in the locker room and checking out the other women. One, because it makes me feel more relaxed about my own body too be able to observe the great variety and imperfection of non-models and two, because it feels like an intimate, communal space. My impression of European women is that they are more comfortable with their bodies, and somehow I think this is because communal showers, communal baths, nude beaches, etc..., are more common. I could be wrong, never having actually been to Europe :)

It is interesting, though, that there is little rhyme or reason for who does and doesn't have these smooth thighs. I've seen tons of overweight women with goregous, sleek thighs and tons of thin women with dimpled ones.

All I know is that I like to swim and hang out in my bathing suit without wearing a long t-shirt or a pair of shorts and I try really, really hard to not care about those dimples because they make me feel like a freak and like I'm somehow offending the public. (I have the same anxiety about my bikini line, which I don't shave out of disinterest, but I worry that some pubes peeking out of my suit is like some moral failing). Neverthess, I do react the same way as you -- with shock -- whenever I see someone letting their cellulite all hang out, because I'm conditioned to think that they should be greviously ashamed, rather than nonchalant or even proud. It's a taboo, which is weird, and my own reactions certainly indicate some conditioned thinking.

 
At 5:44 PM, Blogger SanDiego81 said...

Even though I'm in the absolute best shape of my life, I still have a bit of a belly. Even when I was losing weight for sports in college, I was still never quite able to get rid of it. I'm pretty okay with it; I'm a lot more embarrassed by my freakish bike tan.
Personally, I am attracted to girls who are curvy, well-fed and healthy looking. A woman who looks like a woman is infinitely sexier and usually more fun to be around than some starving model who looks like a 12 year-old boy and ingests nothing but salads and Diet Coke.

 
At 1:33 PM, Blogger annie said...

I like my freakish bike tan! All right, maybe not the shorts part. But I like the glove tan.

And I've found that most guys, while they like to drool over magazine girls, would actually rather date a real woman anyway. I know when I was dating that muscle-man it just irritated me. He wasn't even fun to hug, he was too hard. I like my fellas a little cuddlier than that!

 
At 10:03 PM, Blogger jojo said...

I went to the beach this weekend and was on cellulite patrol.

Sure enough -- even most of the skinny girls had a few dimples.

It really makes me wonder about the Hollywood types. Is their image just all about airbrushing and plastic surgery? Or are those women the small minority who just don't get it?

Megan -- I totally agree with weird feeling that my 'imperfect' body is an offense to others. What a weird way to feel. I wonder if men feel this way. Judging from the number of overflowing beer-guts and man-boobs giggling on the beach, my guess is No.

How does something so common become an indication of moral failing?

 
At 11:08 PM, Anonymous Jim said...

Before we go places, my wife often dabs on some cosmetics - not excessively or anything, just a little goop to even out the complexion or something. I honestly can't tell the difference between her when she is cosmetically enhanced or not. What she thinks makes her look good has no effect on me as I think she looks good either way.

I think the same goes for cellulite. It's out there, but we (men) don't notice it as much as women think we do. Any man who does notice it (or cares if he does notice) has issues that should prevent you from seeing him again (e.g. Annie's bodybulder).

 
At 10:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cellulite and strech marks or not having any. Women are beautiful no matter what.t having any. Women are beautiful no matter what.

 

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