Body Image

    c.116w body imageAn article about photographer Jen Davis’ upcoming book and my subsequent visit to her website prompted the question, “Does size really matter or is it how we comport ourselves that affects how others relate to us?”

    What began as a fluke in 2002 when Ms. Davis took a photograph of herself on the beach because she “wanted to capture what it felt like to be judged for [her] body” led to an 11-year photographic documentation of her life. Many of her pictures show her place in the world as an obese woman.

    Her sensual, haunting images reminded me again how visual a species humans are, quick to notice the physical. This includes size, gender, color, ornamentation, anatomical parts we find appealing, and the like.

    It is assumed the beautiful will be noticed first, and perhaps have an easier time (at least in the beginning with opportunities being offered rather than sought out). Turns out the not-so-beautiful are also noticed. The what-comes-after is what gave me pause.

    My unscientific observation is the former generally run with the adoration and notice, while the latter seem inclined to hide and cringe. If this is so, then would it not seem reasonable to assume the hiding and cringing factor is what leaves those who are less than the “present standard of beauty” single, or in less desirable situations, rather than their actual lower “present standard of beauty?”

    My neighbor told me she’s always been “chunky” (her word). When asked about high school, she said everyone gets razzed because everyone has something that gets noticed. In her case it was obvious because of her size. (Gender, skin color, and body structure also being obvious.) She said each of us has things about ourselves others will use to try to hurt us. She was comfortable with herself and didn’t let the snide comments get to her. Her attitude today is if her weight becomes a health issue she will deal with it. Until such time, she does what she wants. At twenty-one she’s happily married, has a son, a great social life, a fun sense of style, and enjoys camping, hiking, and swimming.

    Yes, I noticed her size when we first met. (And even now when I see her.) However, once we start talking (and inevitably segue onto other topics as she has a very interesting take on things) I forget about her physical appearance. Actually, it’s more accurate to say her physical appearance seems to fade into the background.

    Perhaps a sign of true enlightenment is when physical appearance, while definitely noticeable in the beginning, fades to the background as the essence of the person comes through, whether that’s through layers of padding, color pigments, body structure, or some other variation of “beauty.”

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    Tammy Bleck - May 8, 2013 - 12:18 pm

    Interesting post and topical in today’s news. I must honestly confess that for whatever reason (unknown to me) I rarely ever notice things like this about a person. I remember being asked by my fiancé if I thought his friend Max would fit comfortably at our dining room table. I was perplexed. Of course, I answered. Why wouldn’t he? He looked at me confused and answered “because he’s pushing 300 pounds.” What? Really? Um, I never noticed. I knew he was bigger than me but never noticed the poundage. Also I would be the last person a police officer would want to get a description of an alleged perpetrator from. Color me clueless. Not to say that I don’t reserve my opinions about people. I certainly do. But clearly they are not based on physicality. I lean heavily on instinct, character personality and humor. Go figure.

    Tana Bevan - May 8, 2013 - 4:46 pm

    Tammy, Part of what makes it fun being a member of the human race (and what’s irritating about it) is the fact we are so different. You don’t notice body size. I do. I have known others who notice eyes right off. I don’t. It took a year and a half until I noticed the color of my then husband’s eyes. However, after one glance I could recognize from afar — and describe with great clarity — his gluteus maximus. It’s all in the wiring my friend. Thank you for stopping by and commenting. Have yourself a fabulous!