Body Dysmorphia Dolly vs. Me, Unvarnished

I am not beautiful by worldly standards. I have all of the requisite parts to meet the various averages and norms, am reasonably symmetrical and moderately well proportioned, and have no extreme [visible, wink-wink: happy weirdness doesn’t count here] anomalies that draw attention to themselves or, worse, make other people start in sudden horror and look away with a shudder. I am ordinary, reasonably well ‘put-together’ in terms of neatness, cleanliness, clothing, and so forth, and I have an in-house hairdresser who gets consistently good reviews not just from me, his wife, but from others who marvel that a person as musically, academically, and otherwise gifted as he has yet another impressive and artful skill. But I am not, nor have I ever been, what the rest of the world would consider distinctively beautiful.

My partner considers me beautiful, and I not only revel in that because I know it’s true that he loves me inside and out, but I also feel beautiful in knowing it. That still doesn’t make me the universal Ideal. I am just incredibly fortunate to know that I’m “beautiful” in the ways that matter to me. I’m also human enough to have plenty of little things I’d happily ‘upgrade’ if able: from the mole right in the middle of my face to the jiggly bits around my upper arms and midriff and right on down to my not very glamorous stubby fingers and toes, I can imagine all sorts of ways I could be more like at least my own ideal image of me. While I am working, very gradually, on better exercise and (gasp!!!) eating habits to improve the tone and fitness parts of the equation, I am not so troubled by most of the other perceived imperfections that I feel compelled to fiddle with them. This is just me, sitting here and typing at my desk. Me.

Photo: Me, Unvarnished

Me, unvarnished. Not bad, for all that—silly selfie smile and all!

Nowadays, granted, I hear nearly as much chatter about body dysmorphia and low self-esteem and the evils of the societal pressures, particularly those coming through the commercial and mass media, that feed them, but I still see a remarkable amount of obsession among people of all ages with perfecting appearance in whatever ways each considers ideal. It still frightens me most of all when anyone goes to extremes to meet others’ ideals, for I hope obvious reasons. So I’m none too thrilled to see that the mutant-looking dolls long favored by the young, or at least those who buy for them, are still prevalent and imitated to such an extent by so many.

I can’t help but wonder what would happen if there were a counterbalance of, or even a momentary appearance on the market of, Truth in Labeling/Advertising consciousness when it comes to these beauties. I imagine a Beautiful Bobbye doll and [her] many lovely iterations stopping people in their tracks in the toy aisle for new reasons: picture the same “perfect” dolls now packaged honestly as Defective Breast Implant Bobbye, Collagen Overload Bobbye, Botox Paralysis Bobbye, Internal Organ Displacement Bobbye, Heroin-Chic Turned Addict Bobbye, and of course the ever-popular Acid Reflux Sufferer, Early Denture Wearer, & Coronary Infarct Death as Consequences of Bulimia Bobbye.

It’s too much to ask, of course, even to have anything like a balance of dolls with aught besides pink plastic skin and long, straight or wavy hair, never mind the idea of having great ones with visibly not-so-average qualities—like, say, a prosthetic leg, ears that stick out, albinism, asymmetry, flippers rather than arms, a mole in the middle of the face, club foot, or overbite—that are simply part of their good old normal selves just as they can be in real life. Wonder what that might do?

All I can say for certain in my own experience is that it’s wonderful to have a doll of a partner who finds me the right kind of Beautiful for his taste and, best of all, to feel quite fine about myself whether I’m looking in a mirror or not. I might decide to fool around with a hair coloring experiment, because I have silver hair envy and given my genetics, won’t ever get much more than the sprinklings of grey I’ve sprouted here and there among the mousy browns for nearly thirty years. I do bother to put on a little streak of eyeliner on the rare special occasion. I wear high heels sometimes to enjoy being taller and pretend I’m longer legged if I feel like it, and I sport earrings almost always because in my much younger days, lots of people thought anyone with really short hair and a fairly flat chest was male, so I got in the habit to avoid the confusion.

Now, of course, males, females, and others wear their hair any length, embrace jewelry from their ears to their toes, or none, wear kilts and sarongs and skirts and pants at will, and indulge in eyeliner or guyliner, tattoos, showy stockings, platform shoes, hats and updos and shaved heads, all while being as masculine, feminine, or other as desired. And I don’t any longer care in the least whether anyone knows me as one or the other, myself, any more than I really care whether they find me beautiful on the outside or entirely different from their taste.

I would far prefer to be thought worthwhile as I am, however I happen to be, as a person. Maybe I can thank my childhood environment where I was free to design and build little houses in the bookshelves and out of empty boxes instead of playing with uninteresting (to me) dolls inside them, and then graduate to building forts in the woods with real, flawed, beautiful playmates populating them. Maybe I did benefit, after all, from exposure to that artificial kind of beauty popularized and supported by plastic dolls and the people who emulate them, youthfully testing their sanity and happiness or lack thereof and shrinking from it. I have my faults, but they can’t stop me from feeling beautiful if I don’t let them.