The Business of Unhappiness

Body image. Stand any one of us in front of a mirror, ask us to reveal what we dislike about ourselves, and an unhesitating list would be quickly forthcoming.

Industry knows this. They count on it. All the way to the bank.

If you’re happy about yourself, why would you ever spend all that disposable income on beauty products, clothes, and other distractions that keep you from looking inside, where true self-image resides?

I read a fascinating Huffington Post article on the economy of waif-thin models. It spoke of how having models thin is benefiting someone, somewhere, and until the public starts demanding differently, designers will kowtow to those in the industry who have everything to gain from keeping women thinking they need to be a size zero to four for any real chance at happiness in life. (I’ve written about anorexic models before and, as an overweight feminist, it’s always been an issue for me.)

You ask me, I think that fashion will never show real women for the same reason that science will probably never really “cure” cancer. There’s too much to gain from the downside — illness and our discontent. The upside means people become healthy and well. If they’re healthy and well, they’ll be happy. If they’re happy, they won’t want or need as much. If they don’t want or need as much, then how in god’s name will industry get their hands on all that tasty money in people’s pockets?

Your insecurities, people, are keeping industry going strong. Your insecurities are helping you contribute to the overall good of society. Productivity, consumer confidence, retail bottom lines — they’re all fed by your insecurities.

Why in god’s name would you want to feel better about yourself? Is that really the Modern Way? C’mon! Don’t smile on one another, don’t love your brother, don’t even love yourself! Piss, moan, whine, and feel shitty in the morning. That way, you’ll feel like you need to “treat” yourself and swing by Starbucks for a Venti Caramel Macchiato, and why the hell not one of those tasty apple fritters? Then, you’ll feel like shit for being so bad, you’ll beat yourself up at work, and say you need to go to the gym. That’ll cut into your day more than you’d planned, you won’t have the time to cook properly, so now you got to go blow your wad on take-out. But the take-out’s all cooked with oils and fats you can’t even imagine, so what would be 450 calories if you made it at home’s actually closer to 1,000 in take-out, and now the workout you just did’s completely pointless. But that’s okay, you’re planning to buy a new pair of jeans and shirt on the weekend anyhow.

See? It’s a cycle. It seems to work for you, it sure as hell works for industry, so why would we ever want to start feeling like it’s all right to be a few pounds overweight with a grabbable ass?

Personally, I’m losing weight. Most of the time, anyhow. Lately I’ve gone off the hook and have eaten badly and not exercised, but I’m back on track.

I’m doing it because I don’t like feeling fat. I don’t like having little to no energy. Or not feeling strong. And not meeting goals. I didn’t like movie theatre seats cutting into me. I didn’t like my doctor looking at me with grave concern as he told me I was toying with the odds on diabetes. I don’t want to be THAT way.

But I sure as hell don’t want to be skinny.

All I want is to be happy. It may have taken a lifetime to realize it, but it occurs to me that Happy doesn’t come off a shelf in a store.

Too bad there’s a few billion consumers who’ve missed out on that epiphany so far. Which keeps industry wringing its hands with glee.

This brilliant image is by a San Francisco photographer named Cheryl McLaughlin and you can find her here. This image is for sale.

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