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Don’t Listen to Anna Wintour

October 15, 2017 | by Emuna Braverman

Who says we have to accept society’s definition of beauty?

“You look skinny,” my young grandson said to his mother recently.

“Thanks!” beamed his mother proudly.

“Why did you say thanks?” he asked.

That stopped her in her tracks. Of course we all know why she said thanks but her son didn’t know it was a compliment. He hasn’t yet learned to adopt a particular societal definition of beauty, a particular goal established by the fashion industry or Hollywood or whoever it is that is the arbiter of style and size. For him, it was just a simple statement of fact. He had no agenda, positive or otherwise.

If we didn’t know it before, this confirmed that the standard of beauty that rules society today is not innate. (Yes, I know one young boy’s comment does not constitute a scientific study – but neither is this a piece for Scientific American!) It is dictated from outside. And we have accepted it. We have allowed others/the world/Anna Wintour to determine our standard of beauty. And we’ve all paid a price.

Of course I am not referring to health. We are not discussing the situation where weight is putting a heavy burden on the heart or other organs. That is a medical situation requiring intervention. I’m referring to the average human being who, whether slightly overweight or not, strives to be, in the words of my grandson “skinny”. I’m referring to the majority of young girls and women today who are never satisfied with their weight, with what they see when they look in the mirror, who try every diet under the sun in the quest to achieve that illusive – and, dare I say? – inappropriate goal.

In recognizing the idea that the goal is simply a creation and not a reflection of the human condition, perhaps we can free ourselves of it. Perhaps we can appeal to our own rebellious natures and decide not to indulge society’s definition of beauty. Perhaps we can achieve independence by making peace with our body types and sizes instead of constantly striving to be thin. Perhaps.

I know it’s not easy. But I also know that the one “out of the mouths of babes” comment was, in its own way, a wake-up call. I’m not proud to have bought into an external societal-prompted definition of beauty. I’m not proud that I spend so many of my waking hours trying to achieve this goal. And never quite getting there…in fact, I know I never will get there because the goal itself is unrealistic.

While we don’t have to return to the shtetl of Anatevka where the widespread poverty made plump women the envy of all and Tevye wanted a “rich man’s wife with a proper double chin”, there is a happy medium, emphasis on happy.

Perhaps we could adhere to the Rambam’s philosophy of (and I paraphrase) “everything in moderation” and apply that to both our eating habits and our diet. And take the shame, the pain, the obsession, the striving out of our eating and our (furtive) glances in the mirror.

I’m not presuming to solve the issues of weight in one short article; I only mean to get us to ponder what the true definition of beauty is. Just as the Almighty is the only arbiter of what is good, just as He is the only one able to give us an understanding of the objective reality of what being good is, so too does the Creator of the world define ultimate beauty.

What is His definition? Modesty – a sense of dignity and innerness. I’ll leave you with that thought to ponder…the one thing I know for sure; it has nothing to be with weight and size and Anna Wintour!

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