Tis the season for car commercials.
There is a Lexus ad that seems to come on every commercial break, and since we’ve been iced in and watching a lot of TV, I’ve seen it a few thousand times. A gorgeous brunette works at a sewing machine, making giant bows for cars. A decent looking man drives one of said cars.
I don’t know what men think about when they see these ads, but I caught myself having a thought that gave me pause. After wondering if people really buy each other cars for Christmas, I found myself thinking that if I were thinner and more chic, I could have a fancy car, but as long as I was overweight, I would never so much as see the inside of the dealership.
It only takes a couple of seconds to rifle through a few hundreds thoughts, so I went from “Do people really buy each other cars for Christmas,” to, “If I lost weight, I could work in The Industry again, and make better money, and buy a car like that,” to, “If I were thinner and dressed better–maybe had a few enhancements done back in the day, I might have married into a car like that*,” to, “As long as I am overweight, I will never have a Lexus.”
Funnily, I realized I have that conversation in my head about a lot of things. From jewelry and underwear, to cars–apparently–I’ve got it in my head that until I am 5’10″, and wear a size 4, I will never have that bracelet, that bra, or that Lexus. The bad news is that while I quit growing vertically in 1992, and never topped 5’3″, my width fluctuates almost seasonally. I’m fattest in the summer, in case you wondered. I don’t like to move around in the heat.
Anyway, my point is that I really thought I was immune to all of that! I really thought I had myself together when it came to body image (because I am totally cute), and it wasn’t until I heard this back-of-my-head voice, matter-of-factly (and it was! it was so blase. ”You are overweight, and you will never have X, Y, Z until you look better.” Not shaming, not lecturing, just, “These are the facts, ma’am.”) telling me I wasn’t good enough, that I realized how insidious the issue is.
I did not think, “If I go back to school and study X, I can get a higher paying job doing Y, and I can buy that car.” My immediate thought was that if I quit eating for a few months, had some air bags installed in my fender, and put on more lipstick, I could end up in that car. Yes, because I could get paid more as an actor, but all based on my looks. Not based on talent. Not based on ability. Based on zero body fat and fake boobs. I’d be hungry, but I’d be in a car that supermodels drive. (Do supermodels drive?)
I also ran through the cost of the plastic surgery it would require to get me up to code, and that little voice in my head said, “You have to spend money to make money.”
I was thinking all that and the trick is that I HAVE EXCELLENT SELF ESTEEM. What about the women and girls who don’t?
Later in the day, I came across this video of a lecture by Jean Kilbourne, in which she discusses how the media reduces women to Things in advertising, and how that affects so much more than just self image.
It’s really worth the five minute watch.
Meanwhile, I am busy deconstructing two things: Why I feel like I have to look a certain way to have certain things, and why I feel like certain things equal a better life. (Because I am totally cute AND I love my Saturn. That Saturn is an awesome vehicle, and I wasn’t interested in trading it in for a Mercedes when I had the employee option to do it very inexpensively.)
Meanwhile, meanwhile, I would not trade all the luxury items in the world for how it feels to sit on my sofa with Thor in my lap, and B snoring beside me, watching the Eagles destroy the Lions in the middle of a blizzard. Maybe nothing tastes as good as skinny feels, but nothing feels as good as my life–and my life comes with some cushion.