The Opposite Sex 

Weighty concerns

Weighty concerns

BEN: One of my more waifish female friends recently engaged me in one of her favorite games: “Is she hot?” This is a game in which a woman throws out a female celebrity’s name, and the man has to confirm whether or not and to what degree she’s “hot.” In the process, the woman gets to know what the man’s particular tastes are and how they compare to her own ideas of feminine beauty...or something like that. Anyway, it’s a just a game. But I was taken aback by my friend’s response when I confirmed that Charlize Theron was indeed “hotter than the two suns of Tatooine.”

“Really?” she said. “Don’t you think she’s kinda chunky?”

It’s been well-known for many years that women are on a constant mission to attain the perfect figure—a goal so fervently desired that young girls often resort to anorexia and bulimia to attain it. And the responsibility for this has often been laid at the male’s feet: We supposedly give the opposite sex the impression that our ideal woman fits within the parameters of a certain bust and weight size and so on, and that anything less is unacceptable. Usually, I would just roll my eyes and attribute this to one of the more ludicrous strains of feminine neurosis. But if there are women out there who honestly think that Charlize Theron is “chunky,” then I think it’s worth trying to set some things straight.

Let’s start by eliminating the Barbie theory. This is where women blame the beginnings of their body-image problems on the Mattel doll with long blond hair, the remarkably perky DDbreasts, and a complete lack of child-bearing hips. I think most members of the female gender are perceptive enough not to compare themselves with an inanimate piece of plastic. I played with He-Man toys when I was little, and it didn’t drive me to use steroids. At some point, pretty much every kid learns the difference between pretend and reality, between playfulness and seriousness—and it’s pretty clear that Barbie is all about playing pretend.

But what about this ostensibly male-created image of the ideal woman? Quite frankly, there is no attainable perfect body, because nothing is ever good enough for us. Every man who has a girlfriend with big boobs and a thin waist dreams of a girl with small breasts and a great butt. Every man who dates a blonde dreams of a brunette. Every man with a 6-foot-1 girlfriend dreams of a petite girl he can fling around in the sack. We always want something else, and there is no end to it. I guarantee you that even Elle MacPherson’s husband finds himself fantasizing what somebody different would be like.

More to the point, though, there are plenty of men who want some cushion for the pushin’. Sex and attraction are all about flesh, and it’s erroneous to think that less means more in the world of libidinous desires. I don’t know any man who really thinks Kate Moss is attractive. Heroin-chic is strictly for heroin addicts.

Chicas, do yourselves a favor, and quit comparing yourselves with women whose bodily image has nothing to do with you—especially when most of those women rely on artificial means such as surgery to maintain their appearance. Look at the female stars on Friends. The minute they hit the air, everyone thought they were hot. So what did they do? They worked out and lost weight. Now they look more like bodybuilders in need of life-support instead of babes. Most men realize that good things come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. In fact, we prefer it that way, because after all variety is the spice of life. So quit worrying and eat the damn cheeseburger, then pass those love handles over to me.

DANNY: One of my favorite stories of all time is about the day I went into Express looking for a summer skirt. I found one I liked and was in the process of digging to the bottom of the stack for my size. I should point out here that I am pretty much a medium-sized chippie except for a little junk in the trunk, if you know what I mean; I’ve got a small waist but the Judy Booty demands skirts and pants sized high into the double digits. So here comes Sally Small-Ass to lend her assistance.

“Can I help you with a size?” she squeaked.

“Yes, I’ll probably need a 12 or a 14,” I replied. I said this without any shame, because the sizes at most trendy stores run small to accommodate what I like to call midget swizzle sticks.

Sally looked at me, tucked her hair behind her ears, and said something I’ll never forget: “Actually, ma’am, sometimes they don’t make these in the larger sizes. It disturbs the print.” All the world stood still for a moment as I took in that juicy tidbit of information. Then I turned on one heel and headed for the food court.

I used to beat myself up about my weight and body type. In the days before The Pill and late-night pizza delivery, I remember Slim-Fasting down to an even 100 pounds for my senior prom, but I couldn’t even tell you why. I have exercised and kickboxed and ridden the scales from one end to the other. I have binged, purged, and promised myself that, if only once, I’m going to know what it feels like to be skinny. I stunk myself out of house and home on the cabbage soup diet, and as recently as this past spring, I bet my father $100 I could lose 10 pounds. I lost the bet.

Much as I’d love to get on one of my soapboxes about media influence, only the weakest and least confident members of the female race compare themselves to models and movie stars. But not surprisingly, in an effort to explain what men are thinking, Ben’s massive ego has clouded his good judgment. With a few exceptions, women who are not under contract with Eileen Ford don’t tailor their bodies based on the desires of men. The only time I even come close to caring is when one of them might actually see me naked, and even then I’m pretty apathetic.

Sadly, it’s the pressures we women put on ourselves that are the most impossible of all. And while those pressures do originate from the media and from male opinion, I think women internalize those influences, add in a few insecurities, and form them into their own personal mixed-message standard of beauty. When girls are young, they think their mother is the most beautiful woman in the world. They try on her lipstick, play dress-up in her clothes. Then they grow up, see a few videos, read a few teen magazines, and all of a sudden they’re imitating thin and beautiful models with personal trainers and makeup artists. It’s an impossible standard, and women have died trying to match up to it.

The older I get, the more comfortable I am with the way I look. Really, this feeling is something I can’t describe—so let me tell you another story. My friend Sherrlia is one of the most beautiful people I know. She’s redheaded, fair-skinned, and no one’s going to call her skinny. Any common Joe Blow moving past her in a crowd probably wouldn’t have the good sense to look twice. But she’s got this incredible style you can’t copy out of a magazine; she makes me laugh until my stomach hurts, and her silliness is contagious. She knows she’s not ever going to fit into any size 0 jeans; that’s just fine with her, and it’s what makes her beautiful. Because all the Hot Zone books and plastic surgery in the world can’t give you what she projects: the sense that she’s comfortable with herself, no matter what her body size.

Between men’s opinions, media, and marketing, we definitely get the message that however we look, it’s not good enough. Which is exactly why I just can’t care anymore. Whether I’m wallowing on my couch in sweatpants eating Cheetos or burning 500 calories on the treadmill at the Y, I can honestly say I’m happy with the way I look—and if I can say so, I think that’s one of my most attractive traits.

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