You know you’re a Formerly when you would seriously consider–even for a moment–relocating to a country in which the culture is more embracing of women with your particular Formerly-related body changes. I hear that overfed women are considered prizes in some parts of Africa, and that facial hair is not entirely frowned upon in East Asia. This might just be urban beauty legend, but right before my period, I cling to these probable myths as signs that there is a place for Formerlies like me who are dipping their toes in the shallow waters of perimenopause.
My family and I just got back from a vacation in Culebra, a tiny Puerto Rican island (population: 3000ish) and I’ll tell you, I was ogled by the (very few) men I saw in the street like I haven’t been since I was in my 20s.
In case you think I’m bragging, I am not. I didn’t look my best, as the above picture of me getting a shot of Benadryl in the ass in the Culebra emergency room will attest. The day we arrived, I broke out in a full body rash of unknown origin, and spent much of our trip as an itchy, groggy, doped up mess. What’s more, I was on a 6-day bra strike, shaved nothing (for fear of rupturing one of my many scabs) and due to the humidity, my hair was Gilda Radner as Roseanne Roseannadanna, circa 1978.
I have no explanation for the attention I received, save facile observations about cultural standards of beauty, none of which include festering pustules, as far as I know. The point is, I had a flash of thinking, Hmmm, maybe I was meant to grow old in Culebra, where it seems I still hover around the physical ideal, even at 42, with my pasty white, sweaty, braless mom body that’s covered with hives.
In the taxi ride back to the airport in San Juan, my daughters were playing “Would you rather,” in which they pose two unappealing alternatives and press one another to choose between them. Vivian said, “Would you rather…be cold the rest of your life or put mustard on your toes for the rest of your life?” Sasha asked, “Would you rather drink 1000 gallons of water or eat a spoonful of lava?”
What went through my mind: I’d rather be a Formerly surrounded by gorgeous young aspiring supermodels in New York City than a much-flirted-with rashy disaster on a small Caribbean island.
How’s that for priorities?
February 24, 2010 at 11:02 pm
No myth… it’s true that, in parts of Mauritania, women are overfed (forcibly, from childhood onwards) in order to be considered more “beautiful.”
It’s also true that it isn’t rotundity per se that makes the women attractive, so much as what the rotundity represents. The fat womanâ€™s form, it is to be presumed, reflect her familyâ€™s wealth in a land generally besieged by drought and undernourishment (wealth which will, it is to be further presumed, inure to the benefit of the prospective groom).
This long-standing Mauritanian cultural practice (which the government has recently been rallying against, due to the serious consequences faced by the women) has shaped their aesthetic leanings towards fuller females, but we may take (cold) comfort in the knowledge that their craving for corpulent womenâ€”borne as it is out of class-consciousnessâ€”is no less facile that any American predilection for slender, well-toned women…
…whose form, it is perhaps to be presumed, reflects (i) the ‘wealth’ which paid for her gym membership, and her non-fast-food diet, and (ii) the real or imagined will-power, determination and overall â€˜good breedingâ€™ that enabled her to pursue a life of fitness (we live, after all, in a society that associates weight gain more with sloth than with trans fats, high-fructose corn syrup and otherwise-processed foods)…
February 25, 2010 at 3:48 am
That Benadryl is an amazing drug. Should probably be illegal. So, I wonder, is it a Culebran custom to photograph the administration of shots to a woman’s butt? Well, maybe there’s something more to beauty than the various physical characteristics that you focus on. Maybe it’s something that the tropical breeze elicits in one even when she doesn’t realize it’s happening. Or maybe it’s the glow the emanates from a proud, successful woman accompanied on vacation by her happy family. Or perhaps it’s the immanence radiating from all creatures who have attained a sense of freedom. Or, it could be that those crazy islanders are just really into itchy, groggy, doped up gals sauntering down the street.