January 03, 2007
The Greatest Love of All
It's all about self image and self esteem. We tend to walk around worrying about how others perceive us. Are we attractive? Do we have sex appeal? Is the outfit we're wearing stylish and appropriate? Does it project affluence? How we measure up by the yardstick of others occupies way too much of our time. And it's getting worse for young people.
Do you know it's a common practice in recent years for parents to give their kids plastic surgery for a graduation present? It's unbelievable. The not-so-latent message is actually quite demeaning: "Congratulations, darling, on completing this milestone in your education and intellectual growth! But because you're such an ugly piece of crap, we're going to pay to have your face and body fixed." Not exactly a pathway leading young people to a secure place, is it? Well, when you live in a world with Nicole Richie as a role model what can you expect?
Now, gays have historically been up against it when it comes to self-image issues. In fact, we're basically taught self-hatred. When the school system, the church, the government, the military and society at large either deny your existence or put you down, it's hard to get out of bed in the morning beaming with pride. But millions of us manage to do so.
There's something inherent in the scenario of being cast in the role of "outsider" that teaches you to take pride in your uniqueness. That's a very good thing in a time that seems to demand conformity to a certain "nothingness." A few extra pounds are unacceptable — better go have your stomach sectioned off so your body believes it's being starved to death. Mind you, those extra pounds are highly desirable in women's boobs and men's butts. God forbid you should have a nose that doesn't quite conform to the non-ethnic standards set by the likes of Tara Reid or Rob Loew. That's got to be 'sculpted' into a nub of nothingness.
I wonder if Barbra Streisand would have made it had she hit the scene in 2007 verses the anything goes era of the 1960s. I'm told that parents with deep pockets are now having their pubescent boys injected with Human Growth Hormone because being too short is such a detriment to the modern American male. The fear is they won't succeed in the job market or the dating scene. What would Napoleon have thought of that?
Back in the 1970s all the gay journalists and social observers were lamenting the gay male 'clone.' Cities with substantial gay populations were crowded with gym-toned, dark haired men with moustaches, work boots, tight blue jeans and worn leather bomber jackets. It was the rage — everybody wanted one. Straight guys (Burt Reynolds pops to mind as an image) quickly adopted the look. But in its defense, that look served as an easy counterpoint to the madness of the disco scene where revelers (especially gays) were free to express themselves to an outrageous degree.
The troubling difference between thirty years ago and today is this: back then people held onto a strong sense of self and accepted their differences. I'm afraid doing your own thing and marching to your own drummer don't count for much anymore. Assimilation is the happening thing now.
Where does all this adherence to mediocrity come from? Here's a theory: our society has become so totally split between the "haves" and the "have-nots" (with so little tolerance for anything in the middle) the younger generation feels the need to look like they belong on the "correct" side of the fence. No ethnicity, bone structure, skin tone, creed or even independent expression of thought matters as much as aligning yourself with the winning team. And that involves having an image created by plastic surgeons, fashionistas, Hollywood dream weavers and the people who can afford them.
Wouldn't it be a great thing if we all resolved for the New Year to simply be who we are and to love ourselves a little in the process?