Beauty was in the air, everywhere I turned. So much so, I felt like I
was trapped in that Robert Benigno movie improbably named (shudder)
“Life Is Beautiful!” Lemme out!!!

Not only did the Miss America
take a Clintonesque
turn when they proclaimed that all future contestants would be eligible
for the ultimate beauty crown even if they had abortions or were
divorced — whatta ideal! But we’re marching in a
parade one recent Friday, and my friend
Sandy Crimmins tells me some shrink has finally come up with “the most
beautiful female face in the world.”

“And it’s not yours or mine?” I shrug. “Bummer.”

“Get this,” Sandy says. “Polling more than 10,000 men from all over
the world who took part in this experiment, from Bahrain to Chile,
they’ve come up with a computer-generated face based on 17 billion
possible combinations of features.”

Sandy’s a grown woman who knows what real beauty is — her superb
spoken-word CD about America’s true heart-land, “Iowa
with guitarist
Rich Drueding playing the blues like the instrument was invented for

What Sandy then tells me would make grown women weep. “This is
supposed to be the nearest they can get to the ‘Universal Ideal,'” she
says. “Are you ready?”

OK, I say, I’ll bite. Hit me. “Well, ” Sandy says, “the news is not
good. The ideal beauty, they say, is blonde and green-eyed and has the
full, red lips of a 14-year-old and the eye-to-chin distance of an

No wonder there are so many pervs and child molesters lurking out
there. That also explains why models for womens’ jeans ads look like
they’re in the fourth grade. I wouldn’t mind giving this Victor Johnston
of New Mexico State University a tune-up for unleashing still another
stupid, vacant, useless study on an overly gullible world.

When I get home, an esthetician friend who works in a Main Line
suburban Philadelphia beauty salon sends me this e-mail: “It’s Beautiful
Women’s Month. And that means you!! We’re all Beautiful Women!”

Ack!!! It’s a conspiracy! “Did you know,” her letter continued, “If
shop mannequins were real women, they’d be too thin to menstruate. There
are 3 billion women who don’t look like super models and only eight who
do. Marilyn

wore a size 14. If Barbie was a
real woman, she’d have to walk on all fours due to her proportions.
The average American woman weighs 144 lbs. and wears between a size 12
and 14. One out of every four college aged women has an eating
disorder. The models in the magazines are airbrushed — they’re not
perfect!! A psychological study in 1995 found that three minutes spent
looking at models in a fashion magazine caused 70% of women to feel
depressed, guilty, and shameful. Models twenty years ago weighed 8% less
than the average woman, today they weigh 23% less.”

The letter concluded with the exhortation, “Please send this to five
phenomenal women today in celebration of Beautiful Women’s Month. If you
do, something good will happen — you will boost another woman’s

Bargain debasement.

Nothing like a Wonderbra to boost another woman’s self-esteem, I
always say.

What I wrote her back was: Why not suggest women each send this
uplifting letter to five men of the world, instead, since mainly men
impose many of these perfectionistic physical standards on women. “Good
idea!” she agreed. And let’s start with that alte cocker Huge, er,

Enter Charles Q. Jakob, a 30-something Fresno lawyer. “I hate to say
it, and I’m no expert on dress size, but my girl-friend sometimes wears
a size zero.”

I guess that’s why they call them girl-friends.

The point was made in a ‘zine piece, I tell Chuck, that today’s
models typically wear size 0-3, Heather Locklear wears a size 2, while
Marilyn Monroe actually wore a size 16. Yet, I underscore, MM managed to
snag two Kennedy brothers, brainy American playwright Arthur Miller,
Gallic heart-throb Yves Montand, baseball great Joe DiMaggio, and a
number of other men I wouldn’t mind having met myself.

“Bizarre; 12 sizes below average,” Chuck says, then quips, “Hope that
doesn’t happen to my penis.”

“Well, trendy women today want to weigh nothing. Actually, it’s said
that men who like excessively thin women,” I tease, “are secret, deeply
closeted homosexuals; they have found, men who dislike womanly women but
prefer, or more accurately, tolerate ‘women’ without pronounced
secondary sexual characteristics.”

This is a seditious notion Chuck finds hilarious. “Hahahahaha. Gimme
a hefty woman any day,” he declares. “You know, my case is about to
break. Reporters calling me last week, looking for quotes. Yes, I’m
suing a chain of gyms that have carved out women-only areas to compete
against gyms that typically have only female members. The gym industry,
like the film and cosmetic industry, hates people, gives them
body-dysmorphic disorder.”

What is body-dysmorphic disorder? “When guys take steroids because
they do not think they are sufficiently ‘cut’, and women think they are
fat when not,” he explains. Anyway, “women don’t have a right to special
privileges. If they can go to The Citadel, the Senate, and everywhere
else, their fears of ‘being seen exercising’ are the product of the
American glamour industry. Like the guys who give teenage girls eating

You need to look like a waif, or you are worthless, he says. “It’s
really misogyny. Even the music in the gym.”

Interesting. But, I remind him, he’s with a skinny chick. “That’s a
novelty,” he maintains. “She also has small breasts but that won’t keep
me from loving her. I met her online. It’s not based on physical

Oh, then they will marry for sure, I predict. “Perhaps,” he says. “We
have both approved each other’s DNA.”

DNA aside, Seventeen Magazine’s Ryan MacDonnell compiled this body of
knowledge on some weighty matters:

  • Dimensions of the average female model: 5-9 1/2, 123 lbs.,
    size 6 or 8

  • Percentage of women dissatisfied with their overall appearance in
    1972: 23 percent.

  • Percentage of women dissatisfied with their overall appearance in
    1996: 48 percent.

  • Amount of money the American diet industry makes every year:
    $33 billion.

  • Percentage of dieters at weight loss clinics who are repeat
    clients: 70-90 percent.

  • Percentage of dieters who regain all or some of original weight
    lost: 98 percent.

  • Percentage of American adolescents who are overweight: 21

  • Percentage of American adults who are overweight: 33

  • Number of American girls ages 18 and under who had liposuction in
    1994: 511.

  • Weight of 1900s sex symbol Lilian Russell: 200 lbs.

  • Weight of 1990s sex symbol Courtney Cox: 105 lbs.

Then, by chance, I came across Largesse, the Network for Size
Esteem, and its 10 GOOD REASONS NOT TO

    1. Diets don’t work.

    2. Dieting is hazardous to your health.

    3. Dieting reduces self-esteem.

    4. Diets reinforce body hatred.

    5. Diets cause food/weight obsession.

    6. Diets are a leading cause of eating disorders.

    7. Dieting perpetuates fatphobia.

    8. Dieting supports an oppressive multi-billion dollar industry.

    9. Dieting is social control of women.

    10. Dieting kills.

Here’s their Proclamation for International No Diet Day, presented
annually, each spring:

  • Whereas: There is a constant barrage of unrealistic and
    artificial images, especially in the areas of weight and size, advocated
    in all areas of the media as “ideal,” especially for women; and

  • Whereas: Scientific research support the conclusion that one
    result of these images is a continuing epidemic of anorexia, bulimia and
    other potentially fatal eating disorders among the population,
    especially among teen and pre-teen girls; and

  • Whereas: Scientific research supports the conclusion that these
    images have generated and sustained a climate of prejudice and
    discrimination against the majority of the population who do not fit
    artificial and current standards of “ideal”; and

  • Whereas: Scientific research supports the conclusion that “diets
    don’t work”; and

  • Whereas: Citizens of ____________ will join with others around
    the world to celebrate the rich diversity of body types that is
    naturally inherent in the human race, and the beauty and strength of
    bodies of all sizes.

Famous — and maturely proportioned — author Marge
presciently put it this
way, when I once asked her in an interview back in the ’80s about her
worries as a Boomer being married to a much younger man: “If the
society is unable to sell him on the images it advertises, of course he
will remain loving toward me, if he’s able to resist that. The society
tries to sell you 12-year-olds all the time — not even 20-year-olds;
you’re ‘too old’ at 20. If he pays attention to the ads, he’s going to
chase 12-year-olds, or 10-year-olds, or 8-year-olds, or 7-year-olds. It
gets younger all the time. What you’re being sold is a naked
pre-pubescent body which has no breasts, no thighs, absolutely no lines,
because it is neither used nor able to use itself much.”

Resembling the Venus of

the body of a mature woman, she goes on, “which was the Goddess-object
of people for most of the time we’ve been people, is now an object of
contempt. What did the Goddess look like? A Goddess was the body of a
middle-aged woman. That’s been the holy object of people for most of the
time they’ve been people,” explains Marge Piercy. “Well, it’s got to
come back.”

Are you going to be told what you think is beautiful, or are you
going to decide for yourself?

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