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Body beautiful

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Four or five years ago, The Body Shop launched a charming advertising campaign with the slogan, "There are three billion women in the world who don't look like supermodels, and only eight who do." The posters of average women were a shrine to reality for all of us who grew up with Barbie and landed on the far side of puberty, perplexed by our non-doll-like proportions.

I called up that real-woman image for confidence several times last week, as I collected booklets full of cleavage from my mailbox. It appears that Victoria's Secret is stepping up its seasonal direct mail marketing.

First came the high-gloss "semi-annual sale" catalog. OK, it's summer, I'm in the market for a new bathing suit, and I will window shop and think to myself smugly that these women need to eat more and exercise less. Because no one can maintain such flat bellies and upper-body dimensions without at least a mild case of anorexia, hundred of crunches, and a dash of silicone in just the right places. I'd have to have all of that plus a couple of ribs removed to fit into these photo spreads.

The next day, a Victoria's Secret catalog loosely titled "clothing sale" arrived. The jeans selections--illustrated with women in denim bottoms and not much else--sported names like "The Boyfriend" ("The comfort of his jean. Designed for you.") and "The Sexy" ("Very slim. Very flirty.").

While flipping through the catalog, lyrics from A Chorus Line played in my head, songs devoted to the worship--and enhancement--of the female bust. ("Oh darling, you're not old enough to wear a bra--you've got nothing to hold it up!"; "Didn't cost a fortune, neither. Didn't hurt my sex life, either!")

The day after that, a VS "accessories" catalog slipped in among my other mail, which included a note from the only person in my family even remotely eligible for a modeling career, my smart and athletic niece who just graduated high school. (Their loss; she's pursuing a softball scholarship.) "Accessories" a la Victoria, with its clear-strapped stiletto heels and the cutest little girly sneakers you ever saw, went straight into the recycling bin.

Friday brought the real temptation for this dedicated bargain-hunter. The VS clearance catalog arrived, with surgically reduced prices on bikinis and bustiers and beachwear, oh my.

I will resist the pressure to look like one of the eight. I will be content as one of the three billion. I will, however, put down this carton of Cherry Garcia and go to the gym.

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