It probably sounds incredibly stupid coming from someone who isn’t even thirty yet, but I have partially retired. I’ve become too old and ugly to keep working. At first sight, this will probably be laughable, until you think about what that means.
I already was old for a model. But that only makes things worse. I only had the luck of looking a bit young for my age despite a lifestyle that isn’t entirely healthy. The staying thin is the easy part really. You just need a healthy diet for that. Although I’ll confess that sometimes, after a very heavy meal, I did fast.
The problem however is age. And that’s what women are constantly judged by. It is logical that youth is idealized in some ways, but that’s not what’s happening here. What is happening is that women are no longer seen as interesting persons once they show even the faintest hint of a loss of youth. Imagine having a wrinkle. Imagine having a slight imperfection in the skin. Imagine having a grey hair (okay, I did have a few that got ruthlessly purged). Every day is another step closer to irrelevance.
Anywhere where appearance is important you can see this, not just in the fashion industry. The classical example of course is the movie industry. But, of course, all of those are just fringe affairs. There aren’t that many women involved there.
This fear of age however isn’t just something you see in these industries. Culture after all tends to be an expression of the society it’s from. And our society (and societies all over the world) basically see women primarily as objects, not as people. When an object becomes less aesthetically appealing, you will generally not want it in a prominent place anymore. Whereas for a person the appearance doesn’t really matter. A person has depth and personality, an object doesn’t.
But even then, it doesn’t hurt to retire from all this. Of course, there were things that I enjoyed. I can’t help it, although I suspect that at least some parts of it are social indoctrination. Women are taught to be vain, to enjoy receiving attention for their appearance. At the same time, we’re told that it is something awful.
Other things that could at least be enjoyed about being a model were that it pays relatively well, gives plenty of dating opportunities (which I naturally messed up as always), and then there is the most complicated thing. Status. On one hand, it’s nice to be seen as admirable, but on the other, it’s really unpleasant if you’re not admired for what you’re actually proud of.
I’ve never been able to feel proud for having a certain look and being able to pose and walk in certain ways. Sure, there is more to it than just being pretty, thin, and tall. But still, there wasn’t much that felt like real achievements such as solving a new protein structure or the like.
The objectification inherent in being a model always hurt, but it was far from the worst. I never particularly suffered from having to maintain my weight. Sure, sometimes I skipped a meal or the like, but I never had to resort to intentionally making myself feel sick of throwing shampoo over my food.
No, the absolute worst, and the thing that I’m truly ashamed of, is being part of a propaganda machine for patriarchy. It’s something I’ve struggled with almost since the moment I started, and especially since I actually built a bit of a career out of it. Now that I have a child to take care of it makes me feel even worse. From every side, the propaganda to aspire to a certain look and do everything to achieve that is there.
Sure, you can tell yourself that you’re just doing a job, and that if you weren’t doing it, someone else would and nothing would change. But that doesn’t matter. I like to think that it’s possible to be a morally decent person and that you can achieve much good by small things. Only, the fashion industry doesn’t give you that.
And it’s all so unfair and unreal. For instance, when I worked for a mainline brand, the clothes actually didn’t fit any of the models because the smallest sizes already were too large. So, pins and the like were used to get the right kind of fit. Others make a special version just for the models. It goes far beyond the whole photoshopping thing. Many of these brands don’t even make clothes that would fit me properly.
It’s all about a collective fantasy of women as objects that can be shaped into some sort of perfection that doesn’t even exist. We however are constantly indoctrinated to aspire towards that, and countless incredibly expensive products are on the market to help achieve that.
One of the largest markets is age. Just look at all the countless creams, drinks, and what have you. All of them to ensure that we keep looking young and fresh from the factory. Many of these products are a massive lie. Take for instance collagen supplements. I’ve even seen them in drinks (honestly, if you drink a protein it’s thoroughly broken down by the time it is absorbed by the body), but also as something to apply to the skin. Funnily enough, our skin is quite good at keeping out all sorts of things. That’s the whole purpose of the organ. So, those things also don’t achieve anything. The most you can do is to smoothen the top layer (which already is dead). It’s all nonsense.
But it’s sold, and we’re being forced to buy them by the great terror of growing older. Of becoming ‘ugly’ and ‘unattractive’. Personally, I might be a bit crazy, but I’ve always found that a face that’s not ‘perfect’ is much more appealing. I like seeing lines and wrinkles, I think that it’s beautiful when there are marks on the skin. When it’s part of a living, breathing woman. It gives character, it gives individuality. Ever little wrinkle shouts: “I’ve lived!“
And what is my face? What is the kind of face that women are told to aspire to? It’s nothing. It’s a mask, flat and even. It’s dead, it hasn’t lived and shouldn’t live. Why should we be afraid of living? Why should we be terrified of every sign of individuality?
It’s not bad or wrong to be imperfect. Quite the contrary, it’s beautiful. We, the ones who are held up as ideals, we’re not truly beautiful. We’re just dolls, we’re not allowed to live. And I’m so sorry for being part of this insane cult. I’m so sorry for having been part of the propaganda.
We shouldn’t be afraid or ashamed of becoming older. In fact, we should embrace it. We should embrace being human, we should embrace living life to the fullest. And we should try to let go of the endless indoctrination that tells us otherwise.