Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Beauty - Pain Relationship

When I die, I want to be buried in my Dolce & Gabbana boots, as long as I don't have to climb too many stairs to get to the pearly gates - because, unlike Nancy Sinatra's famous go-go boots - these boots were not made for walking! They are just a small discomfort and only one example of what I endure - the quietly suffering aches and pains - in the name of fashion and beauty. I'll suffer with the most of them, but not with he best of them. For example, I won't go as far a having surgery on my feet, like some of the women I know, in order to continue wearing extreme stilettos. No . . . I put my foot (my God-given foot) down on that one.
Throughout time, and as early as the Egyptians, women have endured discomfort and pain and have even risked death all in the name of beauty. In this twenty-first century, botox injections (a form of botulism to temporarily paralyze expression lines, minimizing wrinkles), starvation diets, breast and buttocks implants, to name a few, almost pale in comparison to the Victorian days when pale skin - the sign of an aristocrat (while the working class were marked with tans) - was achieved by using toxic combinations lead oxide and arsenic in powders to whiten the skin. Leaches were even used to bleed the skin to give it a paler appearance. (Dracula may have been the first doctor of beauty) For that dreamy look, women dropped Belladonna, a poisonous herb, into their eyes to dilate their pupils. Metal-framed corsets that impaired breathing and restricted circulation in the 1870’s (just two of ninety-seven listed corset-induced ailments), gave way to the modern girdles of the 1970’s. The highly flammable, rash inducing horse-hair and straw-filled crinolines were improved upon in the 1860’s by using a cage-like frame of steel or whalebone hoops that measured ten yards around and made it almost impossible for a woman to maneuver in. One hundred years later, women traded up by wearing five inch platform shoes that made walking an activity that should have had its own separate insurance policy.

Getting back to these modern times of today, the desired looks may have changed, but our means of achieving them, and the dangers we knowingly and readily submit ourselves to, have not lessoned with time and experience.

Today, we risk skin cancer to look like we can afford wintering in Palm Springs or at least monthly weekend trips to South Beach. We voluntarily starve ourselves and vacuum out our fat - because unlike the days when plumpness was a sign of abundance, being anything more than skinny today means that one cannot afford a nutritionist or a personal trainer and can only afford a Big Mac and fries.

Who sets these standards of beauty? Is it the collective consciousness of society? The fashion houses of Paris, Milan and New York? The A list pawns who must play the game to be queened in the socialite and Hollywood circles?

Can beauty be achieved without pain? According to some writings, thoughts and research, beauty and pain go hand-in-hand. Pain is a reoccurring theme in the study of beauty, aesthetics and life experience. Pain brings, with it, gifts. The pain of childbirth brings a beautiful life into the world. The pain of a broken heart births poetry and beautiful stories. Pain makes us more receptive to life and more alert to beauty. Pain protects us. Pain brings growth. Pain is a teacher. The hero or heroine must suffer to win the love and respect of the people. Beauty, love, pain . . . are all in inhaled in one breath.

"Beauty and pain are linked," poet David Bergman says. "Sometimes beauty is the compensation for having experienced pain. Sometimes beauty has its own pain because it's not going to last. If we're only willing to experience pain or experience beauty, then we're going to live on only some of our gears."

So, as I was saying earlier, please, when I die, bury me in my boots . . . for the pain I will have endured while wearing them as I walked my path in this life (though, nothing compared to the pain of their price tag)is my ticket straight into heaven without having to stop in purgatory.


Michelle's Spell said...


I LOVED this post. Gorgeous boots, by the way! I agree with the beauty/pain equation in some ways -- beauty by its nature is fleeting and there's something extremely lovely about that. As for all the crap we put ourselves through, well, that's something else. I wish I were more evolved but at the very least I have not seen the sun, real or fake, in over a decade and am too fearful of botox killing my expressions.

Susan Miller said...

Yes, very nice boots, Lindy. At times, maybe every other full moon or so, I'll wear heals out for an evening. Maybe even put on eyeliner and some extra mascara with a more profound color of lipstick (that I've had for 10 years) and go out. No, it's not to work the corner.... rather, for some unknown reason it makes me feel more feminine. I feel more like a woman.

But then, like you say, my feet hurt or the make-up just feels heavy by the end of the night. And I think "no thanks". That's when I let them have it...all those people that set the standards to womanhood can have it back.

I convince myself that I am pure, wonderful woman without their definitions. Insert smile here.

Boots Randolph said...

Whatever it takes to turn on your lovelight--go for it!

Erik Donald France said...

Love the boots and flowers mix. I'd no idea that women still do such things to their feet for form fitting, but your thoughtful post triggers memories of Beauty Before Comfort by Allison Glock and Naomi Wolf's The Beauty Myth.

As for modern men, we have ties -- one of the dumbest male fashion inventions ever. "Only Western men would tie a noose around their necks and call it fashion."