I’ve enjoyed keeping up to date with some of my former students via social media, still sometimes what I see is disturbing, especially the posts from my female students. Almost universally these young ladies—who are mostly in their twenties— post what we old timers call cheesecake: shots where there is little in the way of clothing involved and the emphasis is on butts, cleavage, and pursing ones lips in what, I’m guessing, is supposed to be a provocative pose.
Now, don’t get me wrong. The human body is a beautiful thing. And I do recall growing up in the world of no bras, miniskirts, low-rider bell bottoms, and halter tops, so now you’re probably wondering what has me so anxious. The problem is these young women are posting nothing else; they’re social media streams are just endless views of their barely-covered bodies. They never seem to say what they’re doing in life, what they’ve accomplished, or where they hope to go.
I’m worried because nothing seems to have changed in regard to women being valued only for their looks, a message that girls understand loud and clear. Still, I would sometimes point out in class that only being pretty is never enough, because as beauty fades, one needs skills and training to be successful. Often my comments were laughed off, the girls shaking their heads at the absurdity of losing their looks.
Still, there are plenty of women who understand that beauty is fleeting. A 2019 study showed 92% of all plastic surgery procedures in the U.S. were performed on women, and in 2020 the number of those aged 30-39 who’d undergone facial and body augmentation numbered almost two million. It used to be plastic surgery was the realm of those 50 and over, but not anymore. The question is where does it end? And why are so many women so unhappy with the way they look?
We can probably blame social media, though in my time it was the impossible proportions of Barbie and those glossy fashion magazines that worshipped whip-thin models like Twiggy that had me and many of my peers feeling insecure about our bodies. Today, one just needs to switch on any social media site to see how beautiful everyone else is. And no worries if you don’t stack up. If you can’t afford plastic surgery, those cute little filters can crop out any body parts you don’t like. We can tweak our faces and give ourselves cheek bones, shave fifty pounds off our bellies, and even change the color of our eyes. We can all look like super models.
But to what end? I sometimes try to imagine how much time women spend chasing pretty. Then I wonder what wonderful things might have been accomplished had they put as much effort into studying, or working, or volunteering.
I’m not naive. I understand all this posing is about attracting a mate. But if someone only wants you for your looks, can the relationship last? Note that over 44% of marriages fail every year, with infidelity being the leading cause. The chances of divorce go up when one person is deemed no longer attractive enough. So, if a lasting relationship is what one yearns for something other than looks needs to be involved.
I learned a lesson years ago when I was attracted to a man who paid no attention to me whenever our paths crossed. One of my friends observed these interactions and dragged me to her house, where she dressed me in her clothes. While my attire was generally sporty, Debbie’s wardrobe featured sheer, low-cut dresses with slits up to her hip and four-inch spikes in every color.
Later, I toddled back to the restaurant where we worked, with lots of makeup and bright red lips, body parts I rarely exposed on full display, wincing at the pain in my feet. When the guy saw me, he grinned and started chatting with me as if we’d never met before.
Of course, I was thrilled. But it didn’t take long for me to realize that the person he saw in that pushup bra and stilettos wasn’t me. In that moment, I lost all interest in him. He was attracted to someone who didn’t exist.
I mention this because while pretty is fine there has to be more. You need to have interests, because, eventually, couples need to talk to one another, conversations where pretty is irrelevant.
So, go ahead and emphasize your looks, if you want, but remember if the goal is to meet someone who loves you for who you are, you might think about cultivating interests, hobbies, volunteer work, and a sense of humor.
Then take some pictures that show you actually doing something.
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