The Reality of Man Candy

Because I follow a lot of blogs and possibly because I share the interests of many women my age cough* cough*, my Facebook feed has become overwhelmed with photos of largely topless men and some who have only strategically placed items to protect what little modesty remains to them. I’ve thought it pretty amusing, but haven’t given it much further thought. Here’s one to show you what I mean (it’s not gratuitous, at all):

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Until this morning, when I came face to face with it. Given I live at the beach now, it shouldn’t have been surprising as there is a smorgasbord of young backpackers walking around sunning themselves. But this was different. It was a fair way back from the beach, up the hill where the residents live and outside the supermarket. A man, who would generously be about 30 years old, wearing shorts and  nothing else. He clearly put a huge amount of time and effort into the large and defined muscles on his body and equal time trimming his hair and beard. He could have been one of the chests that had popped up on my screen, the look was so familiar to me. But something about it was off.

Driving home, I tried to put my finger on what exactly it was that I found off-putting. Surely I should have been ogling, as I’m sure was his intent, given that all around him were fully clothed on this slightly chilly morning. And it wasn’t just that I couldn’t picture myself ever being with someone who looked like that, it was that I genuinely didn’t want to. Having dated a guy when I was much younger who spent an inordinate amount of time in the gym, I know how restrictive it is. It also tends to be boring, with your partner constantly being vigilant about what they eat and drink and tired because they work out so much.

As a woman, I know about the pressure society puts on you to look good. Though I might rail against it at times and the double standard, I still get my hair and nails done and put on makeup most days. It makes me feel good and I enjoy it, even while acknowledging to myself the increasing futility of meeting expectations while aging. I put in some effort, while consciously making the decision to not go to extremes, which for me is fillers onwards. I realise others draw the line earlier, possibly in the area of hair removal, others what I consider later with lasers, and some just ask “what line are you talking about?”. A couple of years ago, I did some copywriting for a plastic surgeon’s website and that for me was an eye-opener. I decided there was nothing about myself that I disliked enough to voluntarily be cut open and chopped up, and then deal with being in recovery for at least 2 months.

I look at those recognisably sliced and diced women that are common in the areas I frequent and I don’t understand the attraction to that look. But then I wonder if I’m falling into the trap we accuse men of perpetuating of wanting us to look effortlessly, naturally beautiful instead of breaking the myth about how hard it actually is, as well as expensive, to look “normal”.

So this guy was essentially being a woman. In order to look as cut, muscled and groomed as he did, he would have had to prioritise looking good ahead of many things in his life. Given he was walking around half-dressed at 9.30am on a weekday morning, he probably wasn’t heading off to an office job and he didn’t look like someone who got their hands dirty working a trade.  I’m assuming that whatever job he had, it would relate in some way to how he looked.

If he had been a woman, I probably would have admired the commitment and the end result before moving on. But a man doing the same thing! Shock and horror. What a waste of time! He probably would look better if he didn’t try as hard. Cue the brain explosion…

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Blogging my way into difficulties

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After last week’s surprisingly controversial blog, I learnt a key lesson (that’s corporate-speak for stuffing something up). While I am essentially writing about myself, people around me do of course make appearances and some of them might not be happy about it. As a side note, a quick hello to all the Christian groups now following me. I’m sorry to say I don’t generally talk about religion and you may not be interested in the generally fairly mundane musings of a Sydney writer, but welcome!

But back to topic, I got in trouble and much frostiness has ensued with a couple of people this week. I’m not sure if mentioning this will cause problems too, but now I’ll stop the cycle. I’m not an island and it’s very hard to think of topics to write about that don’t contain some interaction with other people. Trying to find something else to talk about this week led me to saying yes to a couple of things I wouldn’t normally agree to in the hopes that it might provide material that won’t start a cold war (we’re very Anglo, so not a word is said directly and we repress like nobody’s business). As a result, this week I have exceptionally long eyelashes and resemble a llama. I have thick hair, which in a trickle down effect leaves me with naturally large eyebrows and eyelashes. Eyebrows – bad. Eyelashes – good. So I’ve never really considered eyelash extensions. At all, not even for a moment. But a free voucher was waved in front of me and I was searching for lack of meaning.

I feel ridiculous and am hyper-aware of them, not just because I can actually see them but also thinking that people are looking at my eyelashes and wondering what the hell happened. And they are here to stay for the next few weeks. I’d love to say that this was the first time I’ve stuffed up a beauty thing, but I’d be lying. Colouring my own hair when I was at uni saved a lot of money, but occasionally I’d get bored and try something new. So there was this one time when I found out why they put the helpline number on the side of the box of colour. No one means to turn their hair khaki. My flatmate literally laughed so hard he couldn’t get up from the floor.

Then there was the time I had a bikini wax from a Frenchwoman. Any one who has experienced this will know what I’m talking about. The rest of you can just wonder and be grateful.

The time I lost a Shellac nail into a cake I was taking to a dinner party. The nails were dark coloured and the cake was chocolate. Needless to say, I peeled the rest off and the surface of my nails along with them. It was too late but hopefully whoever got it thought it was a nut.

I could go on with all the times the beauty industry has done me wrong, making me believe that some new fad can make me the flawlessly groomed beauty that I never seem to have the time or energy to be. But overall, struggle is a good thing – trying and failing is interesting. Being perfect is boring so having characters who make mistakes is essential, but isn’t that easy to do. There is such a strong urge to smooth the edges and polish them up, in a way that is impossible to do with your actual life. You want to make them able to do the things that you never could and vicariously live through them. In the worlds you create, you have complete control so why not try to make it everything you wish your life could be? This is the worst possible thing you can do. What I try to always keep in mind is that even superheroes need flaws and weaknesses, the trick is in giving them the right ones.

Meh – a fashion moment

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Last week the world passed me by in a blur. It was one of those weeks where I was so busy with one area of my life that I did the bare minimum to keep everything else functioning. I’m helping out a friend with her business while she’s away on holidays and given that I have only a fraction of the necessary knowledge, was flying by the seat of my pants on the verge of panic most of the week. The phone ringing sent an icicle of dread to skewer my innards, not knowing if I was going to look like a complete moron when someone asked me a question. Fortunately, many of the phone calls were marketers of some description and I was probably the only person they had called that day who was actually happy it was them on the other end. Not that I didn’t hang up, but hopefully they sensed my joy.

One of the moments that stood out in the fog of the rest of the week happened as I was walking past Hermes. Normally I glance at the windows and like your average woman, move on. I barely spared a moment to consider the likelihood of ever purchasing an item from the store. Sure I’d love a Kelly bag, but realistically, I’m unlikely to ever think that $25,000 for an entry level bag is a justifiable expense. On this day though, out of a side door came a swirl of models, dressed head to toe in garments that I could barely fathom the price of. The first impression I had was that they were all teeny tiny people, though strangely enough very tall, wearing various shades of caramel. Their skinny legged pants that fit without a hint of stretchiness skimmed their fragile looking ankles, at length that very few people can carry off without looking like an awkward teenager who suddenly grew. Their heels were so high, anyone but a professional would be kissing the ground like the pope. They swept out one door, walked two steps then flowed in a line through another door which was blocked to the public by a security guard. It was a mysterious manoeuvre that I will never know the purpose of, and part of me is insanely curious as to why it happened. What was the purpose of going in and out of the same building through a door mere steps away?

I was left with the impression of beautifully made clothes in lovely fabrics, worn by someone who was shaped completely differently to me and frankly, mostly everyone. I thought about it, and even if I had the money to spend on these clothes, the problem is that they wouldn’t suit me even though I’m fairly averagely sized. Fashion is something that isn’t made for most of us. If I took the time, I’m sure I could understand what makes one design different to another and where the inspiration for particular pieces came from. But like learning the workings of an internal combustion engine, I have the mental capacity for it, but not the interest. A friend of mine who is obsessed with fashion, says that it makes the world a more beautiful place. I’m all for that, but I really don’t think that’s where most designers are going. It seems to me that by making clothes for and advertising clothes on people who bear only a passing resemblance to everyone else, you are really only interested in beautifying a very small section of the world. There is a reason for flowers to be colourful and a point to the stunningly beautiful wings of a butterfly, but the purpose of high end, ridiculously expensive fashion still eludes me.