David Gans (tnf) Mon 4 Jun 01 18:39
I would like to note that there are two television shows I have seen this year that feature very appealing overweight female characters. The lead females on "Ed" and "The Gilmore Girls" are beautiful thin women (of course), but the female sidekick on "Ed" is overweight, and there are THREE beloved female cast members on "The Gilmore Girls" -- including Liz Torres and Sally Struthers, who both made their names as sexy (more or less) ingenues 20-30 years ago.
Lori Gottlieb (lori-gottlieb) Mon 4 Jun 01 18:41
David and Jon are right - men are not exempt. But I'll tell you, I was in L.A. last weekend (I live in Northern California now, and I always feel like Margaret Mead when I'm in L.A., observing the mores of the natives), and I saw many men who were not conventionally attractive with gorgeous women. I mention this because although men do feel the pressure to look a certain way (just go into a bar and see how the women immediately flock to the "hot" guys), normal-looking or even not-very-attractive men will still find women who will love them for more than how they look, or be more open-minded about what defines "attractive." Now, reverse the situation. Do you ever see a very attractive man with a homely looking woman? If so, don't people comment on it as unusual? I saw this once and someone asked, "Is he really WITH her, or are they just friends?" to which someone else replied, "I'm sure they're just friends." This is where, to my mind, the situation is different for men and women. The pressure is on a much higher level for women. It's like, no one could possibly be romantically intereted in a less-than-conventionally-attractive woman. (And for more on this and when we first learn this message: see the chapter in my book called "Thunder Thighs" - we internalize these attitudes VERY early on!) That said, David's insights apply to both men and women: our culture DOES prejudge ALL people based on appearance. And although 47+ years seems like a long time, kudos to David for taking a cold, hard look at our ignorance and prejudice. Maybe I should start hanging out with the 47+ crowd - if you're all that grounded, I'm dumping all my twenty- and thirtysomething friends TODAY.
Lori Gottlieb (lori-gottlieb) Mon 4 Jun 01 18:50
David, I used to work as a network executive (temporary psychosis), and while I think it's great that we're seeing different body types on TV (and I don't just mean the fact that we start out seeing one body type - like Jennifer Aniston on "Friends" first season - and end up with another - like Jennifer Aniston on "Friends" 30 pounds lighter a few seasons later!), I'm not so sure how I feel about the larger women we're seeing on TV. The overweight James Gandolfini on "The Sopranos" has sex with lots of attractive women, and is clearly not hindered by his not-so-perfect body in that department, but the Molly character on "Ed" is the asexual sidekick. In fact, several episodes have had storylines in which she doesn't get the guy because of the way she looks, or the guy really liked the more attractive, thin Carol first, and the guy had to be CONVINCED by Carol to ask Molly out. Or the guy only saw Molly as a friend, whereas Molly thought it was a date. All the insulting stereotypes of overweight women.
Lori Gottlieb (lori-gottlieb) Mon 4 Jun 01 18:58
Linda - you just described not just my childhood growing up in L.A., but my entire last weekend in L.A. And my last trip to NYC. Same sick environment. Here's an interesting tangent on L.A. While doing publicity for my book, the "L.A. ethos" came up at a book signing. Soon the entire room was ragging on L.A. So I asked, "Okay, but if you could choose between looking like you, or looking like those women in L.A., which would you choose?" And almost everyone laughed because deep down, they still want to look like those L.A. women. It's still a cultural fantasy, no matter where you live in the U.S. We may be happier not living in that environment, but there's still an element of... I don't know... glamorizing what it might be like to be "beautiful" - at least in the way society defines beauty. It's not logical, which makes these issues so complex.
David Gans (tnf) Mon 4 Jun 01 19:12
>the Molly character on "Ed" is the asexual sidekick. In fact, several >episodes have had storylines in which she doesn't get the guy because of the >way she looks, or the guy really liked the more attractive, thin Carol >first, and the guy had to be CONVINCED by Carol to ask Molly out. Or the guy >only saw Molly as a friend, whereas Molly thought it was a date. All the >insulting stereotypes of overweight women. Yeah, I hear ya. But the guy who went out with her toward the end of the season seemed to be interested in her on her own merits. Still, I take your point. "The Gilmore Girls" is a much better show in every way, and the romance be- tween the chef and the produce guy seems pretty wholesome to me.
Kelly (kellyhills) Mon 4 Jun 01 20:00
Figured I'd jump on board here, too - work? Who needs it... Lori - I read your book a few months ago, and just wanted to do the typical gush-thing and say I loved it. I didn't go thru most of it, but I certainly empathized none-the-less. It also encouraged me to start my own journal again, for which I'm incredibly grateful. A few posts ago, you asked if anyone is ever relieved that they are the thinnest in the room. This made me smile with guilt; I had a conversation over the weekend that went down this path. I had been commenting that in the goth "subculture," most of the women are overweight, and most of the men are toothpicks. The guilty smile comes from the fact that I tend to be one of the thinner goths around, even tho according to "conventional" wisdom, I'm quite large. I know it certainly gives me an ego boost to walk into a room and think "I am NOT the heaviest one here!" - and it saddens me that I still have that reaction. Along this same line, I will admit that I enjoy shopping at stores like Lane Bryant and Avenue; yes, partly because the clothes fit, but also because the smallest sizes are often too large. (It is such a nice feeling to have something fall off of you, and it's the smallest size available. Again, it saddens me that I feel that way.) Along that line of thought, I wanted to toss out a general question: do you [all of you] suppose that the reason 'cute clothes' only come in 'cute' sizes is some sense of wanting to shame larger women into guilt and dieting? It baffles me - there is obviously a market for cute clothes outside the Size 6 chart range, yet they don't exist. Why? Okay, I should pay attention to work now. -Kelly
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 4 Jun 01 20:34
(Just want to mention, parenthetically, that those homely men with attractive women usually have either money or power, or so it's seemed to me. And I have seen attractive men with less attractive women, and yes, it does surprise me. I often figure there's a catch... like money or power. So am I shallow, or is it true that money and power are aphrodisiacs?)
Martha Soukup (soukup) Mon 4 Jun 01 21:05
Pretty reliable ones. But not the only ones.
Lori Gottlieb (lori-gottlieb) Mon 4 Jun 01 23:02
They're aphrodisiacs, but with a very short half-life.
Lori Gottlieb (lori-gottlieb) Mon 4 Jun 01 23:15
David, I'm gonna check out "The Gilmore Girls." Jon: The sad thing is, power is attractive in men only, for the most part. Women with power are often seen as threatening or masculine, no matter what they look like. I know men who consciously avoid women with power, who call them "chicks with dicks," and other oh-so-flattering monikers. And in the office, men can pull "power trips" - yelling at co-workers, etc. (heck, they're even PROMOTED for these tantrums -- "strong management skills"), while women who do this are called four-letter words that start with "c." Or if a woman uses this yelling tactic, inevitably a man in the office will roll his eyes and whisper to a co-worker, "Boy, SHE sure needs to get laid." So if we see a very attractive woman with a not-so-attractive guy, maybe we chalk it up to "power." But if we see a not-so-hot woman with a very attractive guy, most of us are baffled. I mean, if it's not her power and it's not her looks, what does he see in her? Wit, personality, intelligence, creativity -- these qualities alone couldn't POSSIBLY be enough to attract a man, could they?
Lori Gottlieb (lori-gottlieb) Mon 4 Jun 01 23:28
Kelly, thanks for being so honest! This is what happens at my book signings - one brave woman unleashes a few female dirty little secrets and admits to the un-P.C. way of thinking, and BAM! The second floor at Borders has turned into the set of "Jerry Springer"! Suddenly EVERYONE'S going around the room yelling out how they REALLY feel - it's such a catharsis, in an oddly absurd way. I actually cancel my therapy sessions on weeks I do book signings. About clothes sizes: I was doing Table Talk last month (am I allowed to say that here - or is it like the Crips and the Bloods with online communities?) and one woman said that she saw a cute outfit in a catalogue, called the store in L.A. to order a size 10 (this woman is apparently tall and proportionate - not heavy), and was told that the boutique only carried up to a size 8. Not that they were OUT of the size 10; that they didn't CARRY any sizes about size 8. So no, "cute" clothes don't come in normal sizes. Now, I'm a size, like, negative something (I'm 5'2" and mistaken-for-a-teenager tiny), and I recently tried on a pair of pants at a funky store in Venice Beach, only to learn I wear a size LARGE. Which begs the question: who in the *&&^%$* is wearing a size SMALL? Calista Flockhart's baby?
Lori Gottlieb (lori-gottlieb) Mon 4 Jun 01 23:39
btw, Kelly, glad my book inspired you to keep journals again. A lot of people have written to say the same thing. One person even sent me her journals, which, it turned out, were about me and what she thought of my book. I wanted to write back and say that journals are supposed to be private, but I'd just PUBLISHED mine, so I knew that wouldn't fly. I think the rule is: private or published is okay, but not sent to strangers who star in the entries. A few weeks later, I wrote a piece for Salon on memoir and stalkers. Her journals were not mentioned in the piece, but guess what I got in the mail the next week? btw, the Goth scene fascinates me. Did you ever read Sarah Vowell's essay, "American Goth"?
Linda Castellani (castle) Mon 4 Jun 01 23:53
If I see a very attractive man with a not-so-attractive woman, my first thought (when not in LA) is, they must have grown up together, so he is still able to see her as she was back when she was cute. Catty, no? When in LA, I assume money and/or power. There was a time when I prided myself on being the thinnest in the room, back in the olden days when I was under thirty. Thinnest and cutest - at least if the men were older. I remember with some chagrin one bitchy thought I had at a party I attended with a very attractive older man when an attractive blonde was giving him the eye: Oh, she must be over thirty, I can see that her arms are starting to flab. I haven't got a thing to worry about. And I tossed my hair and grinned in a vastly superior fashion. O, I am paying for that now, in a karmic sort of way. Now I attend parties in my baby-whale-shaped way, wearing clothes in sizes that are shocking, and watch the cute young girls and the muscled young men, all smooth and without a dimple or a sag and I get to find out what it was like when the tables were turned.
Molly Wright Steenson (explode) Tue 5 Jun 01 07:01
What a great discussion -- tons of insight here! Castle, there's something you said a few posts up about your mother: "...it seems like the pressure coming from my mother to lose weight started around puberty, as if she were attempting to refute my development, nip those curves right in the bud." I'm not surprised about this in some ways -- Lori, in your journals, it seems like you began hearing some of the messages about losing weight around the time you hit puberty. I'm wondering something here: is there a kind of desire of female role models or mothers to keep their girls girls, rather than see them become women? I'm looking for the right word here -- I'd say that it's as though they want to emasculate their daughters, but the word I'm looking for would be to e-feminate the girls. Does this somehow tie into the power dynamic as well? Taking this a step further, in the whole LA dynamic you've been describing, where thin women are perceived as more powerful (or are more revered) -- I wonder if this power struggle gets internalized or turned against the female body. The fewer curves you have (and possibly, the less zaftig, feminine, curvy female you are), the higher your position in the society.
Ruth Greenberg (ruthchava) Tue 5 Jun 01 08:54
I think thin women are often perceived as more powerful--being thin carries the notion that women have power over their own desires, their surroundings, the people they are with, etc. I have noticed in many cultures (I've never been to LA) the sort of "gospel of thinness" where if a woman is thin/seems to control her intake of food carefully, people attribute all sorts of other kinds of strength and discipline to her; they'll ask her how she has such a great family life, or how her house stays so beautiful, how her finances stay so in control, etc., even if they don't really know anything about her. I am attracted to the idea of e-feminization (which I think of as de-feminization), too, since it seems so conflicted: do the mothers restrict their daughters diets (if they do) because they want to control the daughters' bodies, or because they are interested in controlling the daughter's desires? I have known some women who were eating cookies over the sink not because they were concerned about eventual weight gain (anyone with a brain knows that cookies are equally caloric no matter where you consume them) but because it's somehow unladylike to do it at the table like a real person. When I eat cookies over the sink, am I agreeing that I don't really deserve to eat as much as everyone else, as nicely as everyone else, as openly as everyone else, or in as much comfort as everyone else? More risky, am I also saying my actions are just as real, just as valid, or just as important as the actions of everyone else at the table?
Linda Castellani (castle) Tue 5 Jun 01 10:34
I see the mothers' motivations as more primitive than wanting to control their daughters' bodies or their desires: I think they want to keep them from being competition for their father's desires or from the desires of other men, rendering the mother powerless in the face of the new, desirable female.
David Gans (tnf) Tue 5 Jun 01 11:47
I have to say, I see my own weight issues as reflective of my strength of will (and ergo strength of character). If I am controlling my intake of unhealthy foods, and exercising sufficiently, then I am living the disciplined life I would like to live; if not, not. So it makes sense to project these same things on the people I see, no?
Ruth Greenberg (ruthchava) Tue 5 Jun 01 11:58
I guess it makes sense, but is it fair or accurate? Only if you can guarantee that others have the exact same degree of difficulty keeping themselves slim and the exact same level of desire to reduce/stay at your idea of a good weight for them? It seems to me that you are projecting your own idea of the right weight for them, not your idea of discipline; people have their own ideas of what constitutes discipline. I find myself judging people whose surroundings are untidy as undisciplined, or people who are often late or unable to keep commitments. Does that mean they are not "living the disciplined life" you refer to above?
David Gans (tnf) Tue 5 Jun 01 12:18
Hey, I'm describing the behavior, not excusing it :^) We just need to be reminded of this phenomenon and taught not to judge everyone by our own standards.
Kelly (kellyhills) Tue 5 Jun 01 14:50
Lori - your book signings sound like they must be fun. Is there a list where one can view where you'll be next? Re: journalwriting. Well, I started mine back up when my husband and I split apart. I figured I needed to write to keep sane; I had just read your book and figured, if nothing else, perhaps I might like to see what I was thinking, someday when. (A few weeks later, another friend read your book at my insistence, then my journal and told me "do like her - publish it!" - but I digress.) Anyhow, you mentioned it was weird to read something where you were central to the journal; my husband probably empathizes well, as he just read mine over the weekend. As for clothes - my god, size 10 isn't considered "normal" anymore, by clothing retailers?! Sheeesh - and I felt old for remembering when size 14 belonged in the "normal" part of the store, not the "plus" area. I got into a good rant the other day on another 'board, talking about clothing sizes and how you cannot pick up two pieces of clothing in the same size and have them fit. (Or, if you've got my luck, an XL will be too tight in one brand, but fall off you in another.) Another poster pointed out that the weird sizes had to do with the way clothes were mass cut... Dan: I don't know if it makes sense to project that onto the people you see; in fact, I would suspect it kind of unhealthy. If you equate eating healthily with being thin, you could very easily feed someone elses insecurities (anorexia comes to mind). Then again, it does take serious willpower to diet. (Big dramatic sigh.) I really want to lose this last 50 pounds or so, and that means exercise and trying to "eat right" - I wish my eyes and tummy agreed on what right is. ;-) -Kelly
Kelly (kellyhills) Tue 5 Jun 01 14:57
Oh, Lori - I've not read Sarah Vowells essay, but would be interested to. I did a quick search of Salon and determined it's not (easily found) there - tho, did you know in a topic search, your name is right under the "Goth" topic? Is the essay published in her recent book? As far as goth culture goes, I'll admit I'm "on the outside" - I don't go for the bats and spiders thing, personally. ;-) -Kelly
Susannah Indigo (sindigo) Tue 5 Jun 01 15:03
re 23: yes, I do -- the response tends to stop the neurotic kind of talk and move to what's important. It might very well move to something that has some content - for example, the response might be "I know, but I'd feel so much better if I'd get back to running/ biking/whatever", and that's actually something a friend can help in talking about, finding time, going together, etc.. But I have to add that as a mother of teenagers (boys, thanks god, because as they'll explain matter-of-factly, "Girls don't eat."), I'm appalled by the current obsession with thinness among young girls (having nothing to do with LA or New York). It seems to me that I grew up in a time when a girl's looks were all she was judged by(though there was no such thing as a size 0), and then feminism got us away from that for quite some time... and here it is back again, full force. I haven't had the opportunity to read your book, but I'd be curious to know, in terms of society, if you track trends in this, and how it relates over the past 30-40 years to the entry of women into positions of power and their capability to live independent of men.
Paul Bissex (biscuit) Tue 5 Jun 01 15:08
>having nothing to do with LA or New York If these girls and their peers watch TV, go to the movies, read magazines, or see advertising, it's got something to do with LA and New York IMO.
Linda Castellani (castle) Tue 5 Jun 01 15:34
What size *is* considered "normal" now? Are 5-7-9 Shops still in business?
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