I am lying in bed, sick, watching Hulu because the inspiration has drained out of me. And the holiday commercial for Victoria’s Secret replays and replays. I can’t look away.
Supermodels with breasts like plastic fruit, so round, move in slow, calculated adjustments, their skinny flanks decorated with proud ribs- a precise school of dolphins, surfacing suggestively.
“Love me,” they murmur. “Desire me.” They say it as though they already know that we do. Sometimes a voice whispers, but their mouths don’t open, as though it’s the lingerie talking. They smile wickedly, sweetly, smugly– whichever way they’re supposed to.
After all these years of living in this country, in this city, in this culture, I am still faintly surprised for some reason, that they are almost naked. I don’t know why. It’s a reaction that comes up from childhood, maybe, from somewhere deep and certain. I am indignant at their nakedness, because I can’t seem to avoid it. I don’t have a choice except to keep shutting my eyes and turning away.
“It doesn’t matter,” I tell myself. “Why should it matter?”
When I was a kid, standing in line at the grocery store with my mom, I felt like I couldn’t look away from the women on the covers of the magazines, with their glossy skin and upthrust breasts and pouting lips and sultry, shadowed cheekbones. They were always women, and they were always sexy. Occasionally, a man is on the cover of something, but often he is wearing a sharp suit that covers everything. Often, a woman is completely naked, with strategically placed hands, or flowers, or something ironic and playful that references a recent role she’s been cast in. Money, puppies, whatever.
But women who speak of the pressure they feel to look a certain way, who agonize, who fixate, who buckle under the pressure, who get cosmetic surgery, who complain, who mention our insecurity—we are considered vain.