Archivos de la categoría beauty

How We Learn To Put Ourselves Down

Question to just about everyone out there, but particularly women: what do you respond when someone compliments you for your appearance, intelligence or merits? Do you say  “thank you” and leave it at that? Or is that “thank you” followed by “but it’s just…”: just shooting down the compliment and yourself in the process?

At what point did we learn to become so critical of ourselves that we do it automatically, without giving it a second thought?

I’m pretty sure it’s not in the womb. When babies are born, they’re almost invariable considered  “the cutest thing in the world”, and any criticism towards the child will only be met with horror.

Later on, as toddlers, we become aware of ourselves in the mirror early in our lives, but we don’t really stop to think about appearances in the beginning. It’s later. As we hone our powers of observation, we copy and mimic. It’s animal nature: adults are our models, and our survival instincts dictate that we follow suit in everything they do and say to ensure our own development. Girls learn from their mothers and other female role models in the family. Aunts, grandmothers, big sisters, cousins…  And what we observe invariably leads to this: a female adult looking in the mirror and tearing herself down bit by bit. Hair, face, nose, eyes, chin, neck, breasts, arms, thighs, stomach … no parts are exonerated from this process of self-annihilation. We observe this. We copy this.


In the best of cases, this lesson of self-hate runs counter to what our parents tell us (you’re beautiful, you’re smart, your worth does not depend on others…) This is usually not the case. When I turned 8, my body started storing what they call “baby fat” (why “baby”? this is an ailment that plagues us in our puberty, more than a few years too late to be described as “baby” anything … ). Soon enough, the females in my family started treating my weight and appearance as a problem. They started marching in with food scales and Weight Watchers programs, grapefruits and yogurt, measuring tape and modeling classes… The tearing down of me was a coming-of-age ritual filled with criticism and self-hate.

This was a ritual that never let up. ‘Til the day she lost her memory to Alzheimers, my grandmother had a one and only topic of discussion whenever we met: my weight. At some point it was too low, then too high… I was never asked about my studies, my career, my interests. As a matter of fact, I was never asked anything. Every family reunion was an opportunity to pass judgement on me. Well, in our family, it is always an opportunity to pass judgement on one another. My mother meets with her sister (whom she hasn’t seen in over a year)? First and foremost topic when telling me about it: her weight. Same goes for any poor lost soul who may pass her on the street. Weight, clothes, hair, demeanor… all are torn down systematically by my mother and her kin. My sister and I have lived through this. No wonder our way of rebellion has been to not give a fuck.

But ours is close enough to a worst case scenario. What about the rest? The euphemism for the destruction of the female psyche and self-image: humility. We’re taught to never praise ourselves, lest we be thought of as conceited. Compliments and commendations should be met with a gentle rebuttal for the same reason. It all stems from I don’t know which fucked up Rules Book from the 50s, and it reeks of patronizing bullshit. We have assimilated this conviction so well, that we even shoot each other and ourselves down whenever we have the audacity of thinking something kind about ourselves. Case in point?

Me. Ninth grade. After P.E., girls would swarm around the one full-length mirror to apply makeup, gossip and examine themselves destructively in front of each other. You know the drill: “my thighs are too fat,” “my hair is so bleh,” “my shins are so skinny”… etc, ad nauseum. And yes, guys, these comments are a fishing pole for compliments. That’s the only way we have learned to actually get a little bit of positive feedback on ourselves. Of course, the cycle goes like “oh, no, your thighs are fine, but look at my stomach! it’s sooo flabby!” We profer a compliment and pour some more shit on ourselves, expecting others to take it upon themselves to build us up a little while they tear themselves down. We never take it upon ourselves. And if we do … I dared take it upon myself one day, when one of the girls asked me why I didn’t wear any makeup. My response: “I don’t like it. I’d rather let my natural beauty shine through.” The general reaction was mockery and derision. My own effort of loving myself a little was shot down collectively by the pack. I was brought down to my level, in a sense.

So it follows that there is no place in society for people with a healthy self-image. If we so much as insinuate that we entirely approve of ourselves, someone somewhere will inevitably try to challenge that. So our way of coping: beating them to the punch. Even the healthiest of egos will put themselves down over one tiny detail or another. We all do. This is what society expects from us.

Today I found this:






And I realized some of us DO notice the vicious cycle of self-hate taught upon us by our mothers, grandmothers and so on. “Never love yourself too much,” is the lesson. Akin to the shaming we go through regarding our own sexualities, masturbation, our yearning for more knowledge (if it is deemed sex- or age-inappropriate), etc. We are kept in line to fit in with society.

How about let’s not? How about we decide to fuck it all and start loving ourselves as we are? Fuck the media and their message that our bodies are not good enough, that thinking outside the box is undesirable, that deviating from the standards assigned to our sex is an aberration. Fuck that shit. And fuck them all: society, the media, the powers that be, our families, coworkers, friends… fuck EVERYONE for telling ME how much self-love is enough! How about we finally arrive to the conclusion that we’re worthy of ourselves more than anyone else will ever be? Be your own lover and admirer. Cherish yourself today.



Everyone Deserves a Prom

I never told my whole prom story (in blog form). I mentioned it in passing in one entry about three years ago, but I never went into detail about the whole tragedy of it. A few weeks ago we were talking about this among friends and I told them the whole story, and one of them – bless her soul! – said: “Everyone’s entitled to a prom night!”. Prom night was a myth I pursued after my own prom had passed. I insisted in participating in my brother’s and my sister’s proms, seeking to capture whatever I thought I had missed in my own. Some would call it pathetic, but I know I was desperate.

My brother’s prom came a few years after my own. I had already graduated from college and had one of those temporary office-clerk jobs after a disastrous stint at a computer systems corporation. I jumped at the opportunity of spending the night at my brother’s hotel room with my then-boyfriend, Oscar. It wasn’t half bad: we scrammed early off the dance floor and beelined to the hotel room, we ordered room service, we got drunk, we went to sleep, and I woke up a few hours later when my brother and his friends came in with a bottle of rum. I had my rum shot, and then it went up my nose. Epic. Hilarious. But not my prom.

My sister’s junior prom was epic too, for all the wrong reasons: I got a flat tire and I had to change it. Imagine that: a girl bedecked in a spectacular, long evening dress full of glitter and satin… changing her car’s tire with great effort, getting all sweaty and dirty (and bloody knuckles too). Yeah, some may see it as a sexy fetish. I won’t judge you, guys, but I beg to differ. Her senior prom was a disappointment too, although I did see one of my elementary school ex-classmates attending the same prom. Maybe this disorder isn’t so strange after all. The Prom Vampire Syndrome.

So what went so wrong that I had to go stealing my siblings’ prom? I’ll tell ya…

It all started on the planning phase, I suppose. Back in 1995, merengue was all the rage (I think it still sort-of is, you won’t find a party in Puerto Rico without its merengazo long set). The artists of the moment were Olga Tañón (complete with pre-op nose) and Tony Vega (where IS he now?), and the class president would simply NOT have prom night without ‘em. These merengue divas were fucking costly, so the budget had to give somewhere else. I’ll tell you where it got cuts: the yearbook (it never got printed. Instead, each of us got it in digital form in a CD-ROM… about 8 years later), and the location for the prom.

It’s important to think about the size of our graduating class: each grade was composed of 9 – 10 classrooms, each classroom had at least 20 students in it. Being conservative, the number would be 180… then take off about 10 (dropouts, people that chose not to go, etc) … 150 – 160? Okay, let’s go with the 150, it’s nice and round. Now add parents and prom date for each one of those students – let’s say, to compensate, that each student brought only one parent and one date – and you get the sheer number of 450 souls to attend the event.

Where was my prom being held?

Parque Julio Enrique Monagas: it was a fucking tiny room at the top of a fucking tiny mogote (flat-topped mountain). The place is perfect for a small wedding, a business meeting … something small.  My class prom was not small. I’ve seen hotel ballrooms filled to the brim for a prom of a graduating class of 60 students. My class was NOT small. But they HAD to have Olga Tañón and Tony Vega. I hate merengue, so you can guess where that left me and like-minded people: very, VERY upset and resentful. I wasn’t gonna enjoy Olga Tañón! I definitely wasn’t gonna enjoy Tony Vega!!! Why did I have to lay low and accept this decision? Well, maybe ‘cuz I was way stupid!

Now, on the personal front, you’d think I had more control of the variables. I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted as a prom dress:

The original one was way cooler: it was a white underskirt with black overskirt. Very ska!

(Something like) this, of course, paired with my dearest Doc-Marten-style boots… And I also had a very precise picture (as in: “I had a magazine cutout”) of the makeup job I wanted… minimalist, sweet, just a bit of attention to the eyes, nothing fancy. I was never a huge fan of makeup.

The gown was the first let-down. Money was short, this much I knew, but I was never told. So, when the time came to choose a prom gown, I was painfully aware of the price tags over anything else. I didn’t dare to go over $100, and I ended up choosing an $80 dress in the kind of slinky fabric I hate (you know the one! sticking to all the wrong bulges and seams…) It didn’t even look like a prom dress: slinky black little number, long but only down to my ankles, with a double row of silver-colored buttons down the front, with a ruched section of fabric in the middle, criss-crossed with thin bands of the same fabric … sort of going for classic-greek, but not quite getting there…

Then my mother thought it wise to get me some control top pantyhose AND some control-top panties … do NOT breathe!

oh, yes! The same! So you can guess how many muffin-tops I had … about a THOUSAND! And I couldn’t do anything about it because I only thought of trying the whole thing out the same fucking day of the prom! Stupid stupid me!

My mother also thought it would be a great idea to have our personal stylist (of that time, she’s long gone, thankfully! Dreadful woman!) do my makeup for me that day. To be honest,  I thought it would be a great idea too – I’m less Michaelangelo and more Pollock with my makeup brushes. The woman arrives and I show her the magazine cutout I had saved for months (!!!), told her “I want something like this!” … and to this day, I remember her words “¡Ay, no! ¡Esos ojos de vaca cagona!” (translate for yourself, if you don’t speak Spanish, but … yes, something to the effect of a cow shitting … enjoy!) Then, she proceeded to do whatever the hell she wanted to my face.

And I swear, to this day, that the woman did what no other living creature has dared: she made it look like I was wearing another woman’s face as a translucent mask.

THIS woman's face. Desiree Lowry: beauty pageant queen extraordinaire. COMPLETELY different face! C'mon!

Nothing has ever been more unbecoming ever again.

(and let’s not even talk about The Hair, although, to be fair, I only acquired peace with my own hair within the last few years)

So, feeling completely unlike myself and very self-conscious about my general appearance, we set out to the prom. The first warning flag of All The Things That Would Go Wrong was the line for the elevator: long, serpentine… The ballroom was on top of the mountain, and the only way to get there was a single elevator. Now, why it was taking so long would be a surprise. We were first supposed to walk in one by one as a few words on each student would be read over the mic. I don’t know how in the world they were keeping the order straight: 150 students arriving randomly at any given moment would not make it easy. However, for me, this would be a highlight – or so I thought.

The wait was long and tortuous. My feet were killing me: no boots for me, my mother wouldn’t have it! So instead, I was wearing shiny black high heels. I have flat feet, so you can imagine. I never wear heels.

After more than an hour’s wait, we were finally at the top, albeit still at the end of a long line that ran from the ballroom all the way across a hallway that led to the elevator door. Then I saw it happen: the diva Olga Tañón whooshing past us in a fucking hurry. And then the line started to move.

As I pranced into the ballroom, I realized they had completely skipped the idea of reading anything other than the students’ names as they walked in, so it was “Diana Campo”, quick picture with my father, and that was that! Later on, I learned that Ms. Tañón was in such a hurry that she gave the ultimatum that she either started within 30 minutes, or she was gone (with full pay, of course!). So, any glory that dissenting students would have at least walking into the room was foregone in favor of this fucking bitch.

Way to go! You can stick that manicured thumb up your flaccid twat, you miserable whore!

Moments later my father pulled me apart and told me my mother was feeling sick, so we had to go. I don’t blame her: the ballroom was small, its ceiling was quite low, and by 15 minutes in, I was feeling like fried fish under the spotlights. It wasn’t a nice place to be. I bid my adieus and went home for the night.

So, does everyone deserve a prom night? Maybe.

I was thinking about this today and I realized that maybe I should have taken better control of the variables I could control: the attire, the makeup, the hair. I didn’t have to accept what was being handed to me right off the bat.I could have gotten creative, like sewing the dress or look for bits and pieces off older garments from home or the Salvation Army. I could have practiced the hair and the makeup at home, maybe raid mom’s makeup box. I could have taken the whole thing into my hands and run with it. It was my prom, after all. If it were today, that’s what I’d do.

But then I remembered what was really going through our minds back then: mom was surviving cancer. Plain and simple. There was no time nor energy for anything other than that. My involvement in school issues was limited, competing with my other escape (boyfriend, sex…). The whole teenage-side of my life, I think, was sort of a cardboard facade waiting to peel off at any moment. It was gone long before my senior year, but I kept up with the motions of being a graduating brat. My heart wasn’t into it, though. Had I really been into it like a normal teenager, I would have gotten a $200 dress like my step-sister’s (2 years down the road):

..not so great for leaping and prancing...

… oh, wait, I did wear that one … to fuck some other boy in his car… jeez, I’m such a smutty fucker. Nah, I don’t deserve a prom. 😉


Confession is Good for the Soul

I confess I’ve been spending increasingly excessive (and unnecessary) amounts of time in certain forum I will not name. It’s usually not a problem, until a week ago. Someone I personally know opened a thread about plus-sized model Chloe Marshall, who was up for the title of Miss England.

I didn’t post anything in this blog about this particular topic because:
1) I didn’t have the time
2) I didn’t know what to say
3) I believe that a single size 16 model won’t make a true change in the beauty and health industry
4) It’s a beauty pageant, for gossakes! And given point #3, it’s such a biased event, with such a narrow spectrum of what beauty is, that I find all of it incredibly boring.

However, the girl that posted the thread thrives on pageants, celebrity gossip and your general menagerie of “girly” topics (makeup, diets, clothes). I decided to dive in when some other girls started talking about Miss Marshall’s health.

The only facts stated in press releases are Miss Marshall’s height and weight. This is, in my opinion, not enough data to go on to make a solid statement about the girl’s health. However, I found out last week that there are more fans of the BMI index than believers in “God”. And it seems a bit funny to me, considering that the BMI index was originally created by a Belgian mathematician for statistical purposes. It was not meant to be the end-all/be-all of health, much less was it meant to be the founding stone for physicians and health-care professionals to diagnose their patients’ health.

Most people I know, however, swear by this scale. They don’t believe that someone size 16 could be a healthy person. Miss Marshall said in her interviews that she eats sensibly and exercises regularly. I, for one, believe her, because I’ve seen girls the same size, young girls, beautiful girls, girls that eat normal amounts of healthy food (vegetables, fruit … not junk food) and exercise normally as well. They are not naturally thin, and I really hope that these girls will understand that being a healthy size 12, for them, will always be more beautiful than a forced and emaciated size 5.

So, back to the forum thread, I immediately started voicing the opposing point of view, always the dissonance in the crowd. Obviously, most girls started voicing their own opinions, most of them based on the BMI index philosophy, most of them awash with fashion-industry culture and thought. But there was one, sister to the girl that started the thread, that right away pointed spears at me as an individual. Not so much my opinions, but the reason for them. Her specific words, and I quote, were: “Girl, instead of a stick on your shoulder, you have a sequoia tree.”

Of course, she kept on at it, and the barrage didn’t stop when I clarified that this was more of a cause than a personal issue. She made sure to always state that my points of view were an exclusive product of my body and image issues.

Well … I wish I had had this blog post that day. Later on that day a friend of mine read the thread and insisted that I did have to lower my weight, of course, for health issues.

And this is the thing: they’re both right. My friend is completely right and I know where he is coming from: concern, worry, affection. I appreciate it, the same way I appreciated every single comment I received the last time I touched the subject. Most of you who read this blog mean well, and I thank you for your attention and friendship.

But the girl at the forum, my ex-roommate’s sister to be more precise … well, she may be right. That afternoon, after all was written and read, I had to sit down and come to terms with the fact that I have as much a body and image issue as I did when I was an anorexic 16-year-old. But I do not appreciate her intentions. The way she expressed herself about the things I said helped me realize that she was more bent on hurting me or making me feel bad about being fat (and she probably thinks I am in denial about it too) than she could have intended for her words to be enlightening or helpful.

Whatever her reasons for being such a bitch (which she was, no se puede tapar el cielo con la mano), I suspect it has less to do with difference of opinion and more to do with things that went down a year ago. And that, to me, seems petty, shallow and rude.

However, I gotta thank her. That afternoon I cried a bit, because coming to terms with issues that have been standing there for 14 years is not easy. What my friend said made me realize that I do have to do something. But what that bitch said gave me the strength to actually START doing it.

So, thank you, bitch, whether you read this or not. You did me MUCH LESS harm than you probably intended. :) Isn’t it ironic?


The Beautiful Fat Girl – A Fallacy

Even the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty chickens out before putting an obese woman at front and center

“Real women have curves”, or so some say. Specially in this Caribbean piece of land, where we are told from a very early age that our heritage includes equal parts of Taínos (the indigenous people who occupied this island before the Spanish invasion), Spanish and African. Of course, that is pretty much a lie, since most taínos were finished off before the second or third generation after the invasion came to life, but I digress.

We are a mixed breed: we have African blood, as well as heritage from the Middle East and from Europe. Obviously, the mix of breeds results in the passage of dominant genes…

A huge, round ass is apparently the most widespread, lasting gift to us as a race.

Whether you’re out at the supermarket, the mall, a disco, a church … everywhere you will observe that most females are equipped with a considerable butt. The size of the rest of the body will depend mostly on age, and then metabolic heritage. But most women I’ve seen nearing their thirties have already lost their washboard abs and thighs of steel. A slim and lithe build seems to be reserved for girls 23 and under.

You would think then that given the increasing difficulty with which we face keeping a given weight and shape, we would be more empathic towards each other. Maybe I’m being too naive to expect women to be more enlightened as time passes, to start seeing beauty in things other than a perfectly formed butt and ribs that hint themselves out of a sinewy torso.

Some of us will never have the experience of fitting in with what the populace considers beautiful: an “ugly” face is rarely so as a general rule (someone will eventually find the most hideous of mugs strangely endearing), but a fat girl will never be considered pleasant to look at. If a girl is born fat and grows up fat, she will most likely live through the experience of being put through numberless diets by her own family, never being quite accepted for who she is, always being an “opportunity for improvement”.

Eventually, those born fat will either start ignoring these forms of aggression (the “well-intended” advice to diet, the slanted looks, the whispers, the loud scorn by classmates – children can and WILL be cruel!) … or in the worst of cases they will let the criticism eat away at their self worth. I have yet to meet a fat person who is completely happy with who she or he is. “There is always room for improvement”.

There are other cases in which a girl is born slim, or grows up to be slim, and eventually age will do its job and fill her form out to a plump and round issue of itself. I don’t mean to be an absolute judge of which pain is worse, but I can tell you it’s incredibly mortifying to
a) not be recognized by old friends because you went way beyond recognizable with 50 additional pounds weighing on your belly and hips
b) being recognized by old friends, and said friends presuming off-the-bat that you are pregnant
c) look at pictures of barely 2 years ago and realizing you’re not only growing old, you’re growing fat.

In short: changing from “that hot mama” to “that fat mama” in 2 or 3 years’ time is frustrating, and it gives a more somber perspective to aging.

However, one good thing I’ve noticed about my friends (most of which are fat) is that they usually will find loveliness in a person due mostly to what the person is like, rather than what the person looks like. We hate ourselves, we hate our bodies, but we can usually see beauty when it stands in front of us, even if it’s living under 200 pounds of fat.

You type in “sexy girl” in, and what do you get? A girl that is barely thicker than the snake she is holding.

Not so with thinner girls. I’ve surmised that somewhere along the line, something goes on in a thin girl’s brain that clicks, and then suddenly they’re on a class their own, they belong to a clique, and whatever stands outside this circle is not worth even looking at.

I’ve heard the most hurtful, insulting comments about fat people coming from a thin person’s lips. I guess it’s the same “fear of the different” that plays into action in racism and xenophobia.

And incredibly enough, we the “fatties” will give credit to what they say. We will let these comments corrode at our own confidence. I don’t know why, I haven’t yet figured it out, much less found out a solution to protect ourselves from it. But apparently, the bigger we are, the more vulnerable we become to comments coming from razor-thin assholes.

Saddest part is, these razor-thin assholes, given the way the corporate mechanism works, are the ones in charge, the ones making the decisions on marketing, advertising, purchasing, etc. These are the ones that will push for the airbrushed look on magazine covers, these are the ones that will create demand for thinner models and actresses, these are the ones creating a homogenized world of creatures more resembling the aliens from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, rather than a homo sapiens.

The tragedy of all of this? That the new generations are eating it up. Girls will want to emulate the next Kate Moss, and will begin checking themselves out in the mirror, making sure that the hip bone sticks out enough to be sexy. Boys will be fed pictures of airbrushed females, creating expectations that no regular girl will be able to fulfill (and let’s not even talk about how males have been put under scrutiny lately, as well. That is a whole other chapter!). All around, a more strict guideline for beauty is being set up. And wherever we look and read, it’s being perpetrated by males and females alike.

Long gone is the perception that men would prefer a “healthier” female over the stick-thin models showing up in street signs and corners in the 90s. I’ve been reading and hearing men, regular men, ogling at these stick-thin figures, more frequently as time passes. Suddenly, sexual desire is sparked by showing bones and slender thighs, not by the abundance of skin or shapely hips.

No matter that she’s gorgeous, she will never be considered beautiful again until she loses those extra pounds…

We’ve been assimilated into the society of thin. A fat girl with a beautiful face will NEVER be “a beautiful girl”. She will be “a beautiful fat girl”, ‘cuz you have to make it clear: she’s beautiful but she’s fat. Hence, she’s not as beautiful as she could be (don’t believe me? Even gorgeous girls will be put down in public if they’re not picture perfect!).

So … a girl both beautiful AND fat? Impossible. Not true in the eyes of society.

Writer’s Note: This has been a rant brought to you by Diana Campo. You are welcome to express your opinions on the comment section, but be warned: I do not intend to give off the impression that I am in possession of the absolute truth about how things work and how people feel. This is just MY take on things, and I am very aware that my take on things will differ from a lot of other people’s. Variety in opinion is most welcome. I look forward to your reactions! 😉