I’m in Amsterdam, where the most efficient mode of transportation is the bicycle. Rush hour traffic seems more perilous, because of less cushion between you and the ground. No one would see this as backwards; it’s perfectly suited to the environment.
Yesterday I went to Foam, a photography museum off one of the canals. The current exhibit is black and white images from Diane Arbus (1923-1971) There was no one or no image terribly beautiful. Part of what separates her work is the captured shots of ‘others’ e.g. retards, transvestites, and nude colonist inhabiters. The most normal of the images, passers-by on the sidewalk or in Central Park, still look frightened or startled in surprise. I surely had no desire for a coffee-table book of her work, regardless of how great an artist she is; i just don’t care to look at the pictures again. There was one picture that stuck in my mind, and the catalyst for this post; it was an image of Miss America contestants in the 1960s. All of the woman were in bathing suits, facing away from the audience, with their backsides in full view. What struck me was how imperfect (or normal to that days standard) every.single.one. was. I’m talking un-athletic, wide-spread, and cellulite exposed. None of these woman would dare have their butts on stage looking like this now. Can you imagine anyone competing currently that isn’t super tight, toned, and tanned? The standards have changed. How we define beauty has changed. I am not commenting on what is good or bad, only making an observation.
Have our standards been raised as a by-product of all the choices we have for caring for ourselves, or do we exceptionally care for ourselves in order to stay current? (almost chicken-egg scenario) If one has the means to get botox, liposuction, and implants, (all examples of surely being able to afford a gym membership too) then the behavior seems encouraged. Once upon a time the sign of wealth was being overweight. The kings and queens could visually represent how bountiful was the banquet from which they fed.
Now the obese population is currently represented by the poor and lower middle class. The highest concentration of fast food options ($1 menu havens) are in lower socioeconomic neighborhoods. The wealthy are the ones that can afford the choice to not eat (expensive juicing) and/or only eat organic, locally-sourced, farm-raised, and anything that’s been coddled, nursed, and babied all the way to the hot pan.
It seems backwards now if one isn’t taking care of themselves. Healthy should be the normal, regardless of an economic station; but sadly it isn’t. There is so much more information at our disposal. Psychologically speaking, we have always tied health and beauty together; it is how we’ve primitively sought our partners, seeking quality dna to ensure surviving gene pool. The nurturing hormonal response of a mother is a by-product of the baby being ‘cute’. Being intellectually honest, of course society defines beauty differently, mainly because of our technological advances in health and medicine. It seems a natural evolution to me. Because the more information and modes we have on how to take care of ourselves, the more we should use, right?
Despite advanced technology, the simple joys in life will never change, like laughing at yourself not falling off the bicycle riding side-saddle style on the front bar; and parks, all things parks, especially slides and swings.