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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Is Real Necessarily Better than Fake?

I was looking at one of those home sale websites (actually several, but that’s a separate issue) that fill up my inbox. Generally I ignore them, but we’re moving house so I’m all reinvigorated housefrau, hell bent on having a spotless & flawlessly decorated trophy house, at least until we’ve actually moved, then I revert to my usual token surface dusting slackness. Along with the usual handwoven rugs and ugly bedding sets, there was, on both sites I visited, sales on bogus plants.

They seem like a great idea – no watering or sudden death and they always look the same. No drooping gerberas to mess with the still going strong roses. On a side note, why can’t florists time it so everything goes south at around the same time? At least then I wouldn’t feel bad about chucking the lot. Instead I have to deal with some extra guilt in throwing away still living flowers (who might somehow be aware they’ve been thrown in with the lawn clippings) or spend time every day playing God in deciding on the fate of individual flowers. “You’re dead. You’re close enough,” I think, arbitrarily plucking them from the life sustaining water.

thMDATHANJIf I had fake flowers, I wouldn’t have to deal with this. I have enough guilt in my life with the kids, the dog, the state of the house, the state of my career, etc. It is an extension of the Christmas tree dilemma – which I solved years ago by getting a fake tree. The kids help assemble it and it’s become a nice tradition. It also means that I don’t have to deal with the remorse from killing a tree, watching in slowly droop, turn brown and die in the hot Australian summer, which is not the best time for pine trees. It doesn’t feel part of the Christmas spirit to watch the centrepiece of your celebration die. Sure a fake tree doesn’t smell as good, but I think the whole non-death thing far outweighs the cons.

Where am I going with this? Fake flowers are on par with fake people. It might seem a stretch, but bear with me. There’s been a lot of attention on Kim Kardashian and the nudes and whether or not the photo is recent and how all those people taking selfies are essentially faking it because it takes a hundred to get a good one and lots of time and effort went into taking a photo that looks like it was effortless and no one’s life is like it is on Facebook, Instagram, etc. I get that – my Instagram looks like I’m constantly writing, when instead I’m mostly wandering aimlessly around the house or looking at stock photos pretending I’m creating teasers for books I haven’t finished writing yet.

A fake plant might create the illusion at first glance that you are a whizz with plants, much like getting botox will make you, on superficial level, look 10 years younger (but then you move or talk and the illusion is broken). And that’s okay. The thing with fake plants and fake lives is that if everyone is only looking on a superficial level, then everyone can look great. And there is something really pleasant about that. Sometimes you don’t want to see the lines and effort and dust. You might need a break from all the reality to recharge mentally. It doesn’t mean that you want to only look at the surface all the time and if you care to look, it’s pretty obvious that most of the things we are seeing are not real.

So instead of blaming the person who’s putting a synthetic version of themselves out there and judging them harshly, maybe we should give them a break. Maybe their plants keep dying and they need a fake orchid in a pot plant with fake moss or the life equivalent of it. Not everyone is good with plants and houses and kids and work, all at the same time.

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