Michael Eriksson
A Swede in Germany
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Obsession with looks

Not all women are obsessed with their looks; but surprisingly many are, and almost all women are sensitive about them and/or draw some part of their self-image from their perceived (un)attractiveness.

A case in point: Once when I was very young, I was baby-sat by my grandmother’s older sister, who was severely overweight and probably in her sixties at the time. I had recently seen a TV feature about pigs and, when seeing her resting on my grandmother’s bed, I was struck by how her body shape matched that of one of the pigs lying in the same position. Being so very young (and totally oblivious to how women tick), I actually brought this to her attention—and to my great surprise set her off crying. Later I got a very stern talking to from my grandmother, who “could not believe that I could say something that mean”.

I can, today, well understand that my statement did not win a tact award; however, I cannot consider her reaction reasonable: She must have already known that she was overly fat, and at her age she should have been mature enough to handle a child (accidentally) confronting her with her weight. Feeling hurt would be perfectly normal—but crying? Had she been a fat teenager, lacking in maturity and still hoping that she was attractive, I would have understood it. Similarly, a single mid-thirties woman who is starting to get desperate of ever having children, and sees the statements as the last blow to her remaining hopes, would have my sympathies. In the above situation, however, there are no such mitigating circumstances.

(In contrast, “telling on me” is not necessarily an issue: If she did, that would certainly have been immature—an adult should be able to handle such issues with a child on her own—; however, it is quite possible that she merely sought comfort with my grandmother, who then acted on her own.)

Interestingly, this happend before I had any real concept of attraction and beauty related to women. Correspondingly, I did not express the opinion “I find you unattractive”. Neither did I actually imply “you are fat”: Most women her age in that area were at least bordering on the line of unhealthy overweight, and many of them were clearly beyond it. Thus, I never reflected on her weight as atypical—being fat was simply the way most old ladies were created. (I knew in theory that old ladies were once young ladies, even little girls; however, for all practical purposes people of various ages were created differently, just like men and women were.)

What we have is in all likelihood another example of the unhealthy attitude many women have to their appearances—something exemplified in the many cases of eating disorders; money thrown out the window on shoes, clothes, hair “styling”, ...; teenage girls spending hours in front of the mirror; women being overjoyed by a single compliment; etc.

A little quiz for the female readers: Would your boy-friend prefer that...

  1. ... you look perfect, or that you are on time?

  2. .. you have a dashing new pair of shoes when he pays for a date, or that you pay for it?

  3. ... you go on a diet to stay thin, or that you do not bitch about him not supporting you by following the same diet? (Admittedly, something I only know from TV.)

Unless you can honestly answer “the former” in all instances, chances are that great attempts at looking good will lower your overall standing with him. Note, in particular, that looks may get you a man, but will not be sufficient to keep him; further, that from an evolutionary POV looks are enticing to men through “get her pregnant and move on to the next girl” scenarios (where youth and good genes are of great importance), but that for a long-term monogamous relationship other qualities would come into play—in effect, women are playing (on an unconscious level) to exactly the kind of men and relationships they claim that they do not want.

What about the women who wear very plain clothes, do not use make-up, etc.? Some of them are sensible; however, many are still plagued by an unhealthy attitude to looks—just a different variation. For instances, the attitude “I am very unattractive, trying to look good will not change this, and therefore I do not bother.” is common.