Everybody loves a good body

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We can’t divorce beauty from body, but we can certainly dump the idea of ‘paper-thin perfection’, for humanity’s sake, maintains Sudha Subramanian

A few months ago, the famous Hello magazine carried pictures of the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton. The headline read, ‘Kate shows off her post-baby figure’. It showed a beautiful Kate, in a t-shirt that flashed her perfectly flat midriff, shooting a ball into the basket. And now that we know she has a flat tummy, we can rest in peace. Or can we?

There is something about body shape and women that can get almost everybody talking. From the moment we get out of our beds, we are constantly reminded that a perfectly-shaped body is a guaranteed ticket for acceptance, approval and authority in the society.

It is also, apparently, a must-have to get that dream job, popularity and ‘success’. Knowingly or unknowingly, most women fall into this trap. If only we could get rid of the love handles, we could get a handle on the love life. One inch lost at the waist could help gain that promotion at work.

Little wonder then that plastic surgeons get to play Gods, thanks to the number of women – celebrity and ordinary – that throng their clinics to go under the knife. It has almost become a norm.

A little bit of enhancement here, a tuck there, and salvation is yours. Almost. Rakhi Sawant, actor-turned-aspiring-politician, had famously said that what God hasn’t given you, a plastic surgeon can. For those who can’t afford the surgeon’s fees, there’s celery stick.
Look at the number of teenagers nibbling on those sticks, starving themselves, in the hope that they will look ‘perfect’. Whoever said perfection is easy?

Until a few years ago, a woman could relax about her body, at least after giving birth to a baby. Suddenly, we have put a red flag on that, too. We are pushing all our moms to achieve the ‘yummy mummy’ look, immediately after birthing.

And anyone who strays remotely from this popular trend faces the flak. Remember how Aishwarya Rai Bachchan got the full blast of it? There’s simply no excuse for baby fat – they belong to babies, not to ladies.

Interestingly though, historically, we weren’t a nation that was obsessed with perfect female figures. One look at the female sculptures that adorn our temple walls will clarify that; they are voluptuous and certainly, don’t propagate the stick figure as being ‘perfect’.

Being voluptuous was the norm, for it indicated a woman’s fertility. Think shila balika. Also, movie actresses of yore were healthy-sized; size-zero hadn’t made its grand entry yet.

Today, however, we live in different times. Our society has very low tolerance for people with non-thin bodies. In many ways, subtle and overt, the media has successfully educated an entire generation that a stick-figure is one of the most important factors for recognition, popularity and success.

Dispelling this myth is next to impossible, because people have forgotten that everyone cannot have the same ‘perfect’ body shape and size. We are a deluded generation. Look at the female toys we let our kids play with – Barbie dolls, for instance – they are all tailored to perfection (slim and fair).

It’s no surprise that our matrimonial ads are full of proposals for beautiful, thin, fair girls. There’s no denying that size does matter. But it’s spelled ‘healthy’, not ‘perfect’.

The scales tilting too much, either way, is a red signal, and we would do good to remember that. Sure, we can’t divorce beauty from body, but we can certainly dump the idea of ‘paper-thin perfection’, for humanity’s sake

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