Monday, February 04, 2008

I'm so ugly, but that's okay 'cause so are you

Sage recently wrote a few great posts about poor body-image and the beauty industry, which put me in mind of an old friend. I'm picking up from another dip in my health so instead of a long rambling post, I thought I would introduce you to her. My mother and I met her in the National Gallery, many years ago. My mother said, "She's no oil painting." and I had to point out that in fact she is

A Grotesque Old Woman by Quinten MassysMum actually bought a handbag mirror with this lady on the reverse. It was a giggle at the time, but I later thought it an excellent idea. All the time we are being subjected to images of beauty to which very few of us can aspire to. And indeed, we are often being asked to compare ourselves to them because of the nature of the sales pitch. The only comparisons that most of us can make are negative; sometimes significantly so.

However, if all this is the case, A Grotesque Old Woman must make most of feel drop dead gorgeous. Nobody reading this will be less than somewhat good looking next to this lady (although research has demonstrated that readers of this blog are better looking than average). Regard this picture, then go look in a mirror and see what you think. Cute, or what?*

And yet, if body-image so important, if we have reason to be as upset and preoccupied by it as we seem to be, then this picture must inspire tremendous pity. Only it doesn't. Ridiculous costume aside, this isn't a lady who looks like she must be without charm, without intellect, without a good sense of humour. We don't instantly imagine that this woman is without friends and it is by no means inconceivable that she may have lovers. She might receive some odd looks and sniggers, but we don't regard this painting and presume that its subject must have a miserable existence.

Which is comforting for the rest of us, when we feel down about our many and varied but really none too significant aesthetic flaws.

* I do of course realise that my opinion of this lady as a minger is subjective; some people may find her appearance much more attractive than I do. However, in my defense I couldn't think of a single living woman I considered ugly. I thought about various women, mostly politicians who are often described as such, but none of them really are. To me, this lady looks the way young actors look when they've had make-up and prosthetics to make them appear elderly when they have to age fifty-odd years in a movie; a much less flattering effect than what aging actually does.


Anonymous said...

She actually looks rather merry and self-confident, don't you think? And keen-witted.

Lady Bracknell said...

Oo, spooky!

I sent my mother a card featuring said cheery old lady on her last birthday.

(One of they there Moonpig ones where you can change the text, so as to pile on the insults.)

She loved it.

Anonymous said...

Eeeep. I think she looks quite frighteningly like Norman Tebbit. Which I certainly don't find attractive in a woman.

Come to that, I don't find it attractive in a man, either.

But being a man I couldn't help but notice she's quite well... erm... you know, the chestal region... thing. Where was I?

No, the original comment I was going to make before getting sidetracked is I think the self-image people have of themselves is far too often negatively compared to movie stars and the like (I'm not Brad Pitt, for example. I'm more like his brother Arm...) when in actual fact real people find other real people attractive.

You don't have to have movie star looks to be attractive. What does help though - even if it's the hardest thing to achieve if you've got a poor self image - is movie star confidence.

RehaDesign said...

Jack P is right!! I had no idea who Norman Tebbit is, so I had to look him up. I hope this link works:

Normn Tebbit

In any case, it looks like a middle aged man with a wig. But is it news that most women are going to be better looking than a typical middle age guy? Particulary a middle aged guy in a wig?