25 December 2012
A Christmas Observation
Feliz Navidad dearest cyberspace! I'd like to wish everyone an amazing holiday -- one filled with love and friendship and joy and, of course, a ton of food! I've made it to Florida to spend Christmas with my family (for all you North Eastern-ers, I'll be back up there soon experiencing the chill along with you), which consists of 30 Colombian relatives to be exact (resulting in a loud, intense couple of days but nevertheless amusing times), and in the past few days I've noticed something: the closer you get to the ocean the more body conscious people get. I shouldn't be surprised...it makes sense. Beach = supposed necessity for "beach bod." I've never been to L.A. but I imagine it isn't much more different than Miami in this sense. New York City isn't at all a beach destination, but I suppose it is an island after all so that counts for something. And the Jersey Shore, where I had the misfortune of spending 13 years of life, is most certainly a "everyone should be skinny" sort-of-place (well, skinny AND orange)...
The question is WHY? Why is it that we associate being near the beach with having to look a certain way? Obviously people want to look their best in their bikinis or swim trunks, but who ever said one's best has to mean everyone fits into XS swimwear? I remember being in Spain, at a nude beach in Valencia (for the record, while I support the existence of nude beaches, never forget that not everyone there is going to be your type) and thinking that if we were all in the states, 70 percent of the people rocking their birthday suits on the Spanish sands wouldn't have even gotten so far as to take off their tee shirts. Every possible body type was visible -- totally visible -- and in a way, it was beautiful. If you take away the raunchiness of it all, seeing a group of people strip away societal pressures and constraints in order to allow themselves to be in such a natural state out in the open just isn't something you'd see in this massive land mass west of the Atlantic...especially not at a beach. Our psyches over here are programmed to think that if you aren't thin, you're automatically unattractive, and certainly not attractive enough to wear a two-piece.
I've never spent much time in the Midwest, and only limited amounts of time in the southern states, but if movies get anything right, the farther away you get from the ocean, the less inclined people are to worry about how their bodies look in a swimsuit. Perhaps this is because no one ever has a need for a swimsuit out in Oklahoma, but maybe it's also because the whole center of the country didn't grow up with the dreaded beach bod mentality. I read an article about how the overall average size for women in the states is a 14, but in New York and L.A. it's a 6. This all makes me want to spend more time traveling through the middle section of the country -- I have a feeling that it's entirely under-rated.
Most of this is purely based on observation, but it got me thinking about the vast differences you see between countries when it comes to social constructs surrounding body images, and then I realized it isn't even just between countries where differences become obvious, it's within the same country. I'm sure America isn't the only place where this is seen, but perhaps geography, culture or weather create a certain divide. I acknowledge that part of the reason I'm not the biggest fan of the states is because of its body image dilemma, but maybe I've been too quick to judge. Maybe all I need to do to get a different glimpse of things is head westward, stopping somewhere halfway between the Atlantic and Pacific.