The Look

Another Wednesday has come and with it the prompt for Friday Fictioneers, the rule of which is to gaze at the prompt until inspired, write our tales and trim them down to a bare-bones 100 words. Then participants shall post their stories and link our posts to all the others via InLinkz.

“Muchos gracias” to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting this menagerie of writing talent, and today for also supplying the photo prompt. To read what others have written, or to add your own, you need to find and click on a blue frog. You’ll find one on Rochelle’s blog, but alas, I can’t get the things to survive on mine.

I like to write humor, but this morning’s picture made me think of something other. Since the basic facts here are true, I guess one would label this story Creative Non-fiction.

PHOTO © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

THE LOOK

Zanna stared into her mirror. “Lose another five pounds,” her photographer had said. “You can do it!”

This time she’d resisted. “Don’t men want women curvy?”

“Designers want spaghetti strands with a smile, sweetheart. Curves I can add digitally. Long and lean brings the best fashion shoots.”

At 5ft-11″ and 105 lbs Zanna could count every rib. I could start selling organs, she thought wryly, those that still work. She opted for skipping more lunches and jogging longer.

“She’s got the look.” The ad words struck her funny as she eyed her reflection. She laughed until she sobbed.

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74 thoughts on “The Look

  1. I’m not sure if I blame the photographer or the whole fashion world in general, and our weight obsessed society. He’s only telling her the truth if she wants to succeed as a model, and that’s the bigger problem. Good thought-provoking take.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This is so sad and so very well written and true of so many girls in the field of glamour and modelling . The ideal of flesh-less perfect figures in their world needs to be debunked .

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m afraid it’s like Iain says — and like the photographer said — this is the demand of the fashion industry. The model Twiggy made her appearance when I was a young teen; she was the very first “emaciated” famous model and most of us thought she looked awful. But the fashion industry has sold society on the idea very thoroughly. Now how to debunk it in a society obsessed with looks?
      Thanks for your comment, Moon.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comment. Glad you like the story. Yes, I think that would be skin-and-bones thin, but one of the other young women on the psych ward (in the book I read) was 5′ 10″ and only 80 lbs. Her boyfriend kept telling her she was too fat — seems like he should have been committed.

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    • Thanks for your comment and I definitely agree with you, but then I’m not a fashion designer with a preference for the look of young teen boys. Most articles I’ve read that analyze the problem go back to this root.

      I remember “Twiggy” appearing on the fashion scene when I was a young teen and we all scoffed that a stick like her could be a famous model. But little by little over time fashion designers, together with the media, have sold society on the idea. Now we’re stuck dealing with the consequences.

      One of the girls on the psych ward with the model above was a 13-year-old, 5 ft 4″, weighing 63 lbs on admission. And she was still feeling “too fat.” As she tells her story it sounds like a mental and/or spiritual oppression settled in on her and was driving the poor girl to suicide.

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    • You’re right, it can be. One model said she could never go downtown in NY without being totally made up, because she never knows who may see her and it might be bad for her career if someone BIG saw her looking ordinary.

      A thought on “behind the scenes”: I do think this obsession gets a boost from moms badly wanting their kids to be popular and in style—from kindergarten on. I think it would be good if parents could teach their children it’s okay to swim against the stream sometimes.

      Thanks for leaving your comment, Ali.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I just read an article by a gorgeous French woman who was “lucky” enough to be found on the streets of France and asked to be a model. Her story sounds exactly like yours. Finally, she realized she was killing herself by eating only three apples a day. Oh, she looks so much better now. Well captured tale.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s amazing how exacting some dieters are. One day a woman came through the drive-through of the coffee shop where I worked and ordered a large coffee with 1/2 teaspoon of 2% milk and 1/3 tsp of sugar. when she came inside, I saw the reason for her order. She was super-skinny.

      One of the girls in my book, Portrait of an Anorexic, was so careful about her food, she ate like 2 peas, a bit of potato and maybe 1/2 a banana for lunch. She wrote about weighing her cheese slices and shaving off .1g if it happened to be that much over her limit.

      Thanks for your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

    • 🙂 I’m afraid if you squeezed some of these models too tight, their ribs would crack.
      One of the young women on the psych ward (in my book) was 5′ 10″ and weighed 80 lbs. Not a model; her boyfriend just kept telling her she was too fat.

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  4. I wrote along the similar lines for a different challenge sometime ago. This one is unfortunately true. I actually prefer the mannequins in the showrooms than the emaciated, skeletal models shilling fashion.

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    • I have a newspaper article about anorexia that shows one young woman, proud of her ability to diet, and it’s pathetic. Auschwitz wouldn’t have done much worse. It’s an incredible deception to look in the mirror at a skeleton and think, “Still so fat!” Thanks for your comment.

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  5. Dear Christine,

    I’ve walked in Zanna’s shoes. Not as a model, but as a woman who nearly succeeded in killing herself to be thin. I did have a friend who was a fashion model and told horror stories of how she was encouraged to keep starving. I also had a roommate in treatment who’d be a world class gymnast. At 4’10” and 45lbs, she lost her battle. Although she started to make a comeback, her body could no longer keep the promises her mind made. As you can see, your story touched me in the deepest recesses. Good job.

    Shalom,

    Rochelle

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for your comment and personal insights!
      Yes, eventually the organs shut down, the heart muscle is destroyed, the person starts having seizures leading to a heart attack. Which is how Karen Carpenter died. Some reporter called her “fat” — which she NEVER was — and she developed anorexia.
      Probably the same reporter would make a big case against racism and how wrong it is to judge people by color. Whoops, I better get off this soapbox.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The little gymnast of which I spoke, missed the Olympics by half a point and was told she was too fat by a Czech judge. At 100 lbs, Christie Heinrich was solid muscle.
        At any rate, today I consider myself fortunate that all of my organs are fully functional.

        Liked by 1 person

      • This is so sad!On the one had, why did he have to make that remark? On the other hand, as Bob Dylan said in his song, everybody’s going to get stones thrown at them. Why does one stone can hit a vital emotional spot and bring about such destruction?
        It’s terrific that you were able to recover your health after that ordeal. I’m happy to see how you’ve been so blessed with your health and family.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s a terrible state of affairs in the modeling industry. Most of those super-skinny models don’t look attractive to me, they look pitiful. The worst part of this is the unhealthy habits required to get “the look.” It sends the wrong message. And yeah, I like women with curves. Great story!

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    • Thanks for your comment, Eric. Super-skinnies must appeal to the people who count in the industry — and certainly to reporters. In one headline the media fusses about starvation in Timbuktu and in the next you see some reporter criticizing some star for gaining five pounds. (In one comment I mentioned Karen Carpenter, and remember Fergie labelled, “The Duchess of Pork”?)

      We may decry racism and sexism but we still have a ways to go toward respect for all, methinks.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s a peculiar duality isn’t it? I still wonder at how harshly Kate Upton was criticized. The people in charge of fashion who dictate what women should look like are by no means representative of most men.

        Karen Carpenter was a tragic loss. Such a beautiful woman with a beautiful voice. We lost a lot of great music when she died because of ridiculous social pressures. Fergie is incredibly hot, always has been. Feminine curve is far more appealing than the Dachau Prison look.

        We do have a lot of work to do to remove socity’s “isms.” Awareness seems to be the key to the answer.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. You’re right about the plumpness part; I’ve heard in some cultures mothers feed their babies sugar to make them fat. When people see a fat baby they think the family must be prosperous.
      A dear elderly friend told me how her father often said, “There’s no moderation in the human race.” If it were true in 1915, how much more today?

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comment. Even though I agree, I’m just not sure how something so culturally entrenched can be changed unless the media gets on board — and they are the ones most promoting this “thin is beautiful” thing.

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  7. I worked in TV for many years around the “beautiful people” and they themselves have issues because it’s part of their work to look good. Which is fine, I get that. As we remember, Twiggy was the game-changer in the 60’s. But, Marilyn Monroe was and still is the icon — she’d be considered a plus size these days, as would the Flora Dora Girls of the turn of the last century. Fortunately, there is a lot of change already going on — strong and healthy is now the new “sexy.”

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    • Thanks for your comment. I’m happy to hear about positive changes. I was a young teen when Twiggy came along, and we couldn’t believe her. Never guessed she was the tip of the ice berg drifting into fashion ads. I’m surprised Marilyn M would be “plus size”; in my memory she was the normal size for a woman! I really do hope the scene is changing and wonder how long it will take to filter down to critical reporters, and insecure teen girls?

      But there are two angles to this. One is the fashion industry image of “the look” and the “freedom” to make nasty public comments relating to size. The other is anorexia, a type of mental oppression. Most of us get criticized. Why do some people, mostly girls and young women, get a shot straight to the heart by some critical remark? How can we send the message to young people that “Not everybody’s going to love you? Don’t let it kill you.”

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      • As for the filtering down, I’m not sure. You see, people and things meant for public display always have to look their best. We don’t advertise a house with peeling paint, nor a dress with a model who doesn’t quite fit into it properly, regardless of how pretty she looks. Sometimes it’s taken to the extremes, other times not enough care was put in. This has been going on forever.

        As for the critical remarks, well, I had a psychology professor tell me you take a woman with four children. She can say the exact same thing to them all at once. Three wouldn’t care and the fourth would be absolutely devastated. Not that it was a statistical thing, but rather that the trigger differs on each individual. How can we send that message to young people? Well, there’s really no magic bullet. It’s just going to have to be something that will make them see the light … and it could take years before they finally “get it.”

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks again for your long and interesting comment. As for what should filter down, I was thinking of the understanding that “It’s okay to have flesh on your bones.” Men seem to have this understanding; very few males look emaciated, in ads or otherwise. (Mind you, you have a whole other problem there. Guys MUST have the biceps, etc.)

        I would say it’s our Caucasian standard of what looks best that needs revision. Looking their best like Marilyn Monroe, or looking their best like Twiggy? Fashion has changed the perception of what’s “best.” For white women, that is. Articles I’ve read say black women have a completely different concept of what looks best.

        As to models fitting into their clothes, I had to smile, since models often don’t fit into their clothes properly. At least it appears they’re often wearing clothes that are too tight. 🙂

        what you say about parents and children can be very true. Something will devastate one child that bounces off another. This pretty hard to gauge, though, because a parent may feel differently toward one child— the remarks are more a reflection of Mom’s true thinking than generic scolding — and the child picks up on it.

        Children toward each other will almost always be insensitive at best, teasing and cruel. I faced teasing at school for a completely different issue and lacked the security at home to help me withstand. I do believe parents can give that to their children. Bullying about weight issues is only one part of the meanness children will face and need to be prepared for.

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    • Thanks for adding your thoughts, Bjorn. You are right, too. What looks great in a size 4 doesn’t look so hot in a size 14. Male and female models can appear sexy stuffed into clothes too tight and posed just so, but most of us won’t. Sometimes when I’m out shopping I have to think of that Bobby Burns’ quote: “Oh! would some power the giftie gie us, to see ourselves as others see us.” If folks could have a mirror in front and get a good rear-view reflection of themselves, they might choose styles a little more fitting and flattering.

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