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Smug Married: The one thing trickery can't cover up is its influence


Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton

A decade or so ago, I wrote an article about how pornography was influencing mainstream culture. In reply, I got one of the nastiest pieces of mail ever, from someone who claimed to be religious. I was a bit baffled -- what I had written was a comment, not a recommendation.

Back then, my children were very little, my daughter only a baby, but now she is 10, learning a sense of herself as person and as a female, and frankly there are things out there that scare me to death. Time was you hid your trickery. Make-up was acceptably visible and eyelashes could look fake, but every other ruse was designed to be subtle; a measured enhancement of what was already there.

The opposite was Dolly Parton, who gleefully accepted that she was an OTT cartoon lady.

But now you're not supposed to hide your trickery -- it seems at times like you're supposed to hide behind it. Women wear so much make-up it can be impossible to detect the real features of their faces.

Super-long eyelashes aren't for going to parties, they're for going to school; extra glossy, extra full lips, very long hair, very long, very fake nails, very tanned skin, very large breasts, preferably on a very small woman, very little body hair.

Parton is no longer such an OTT cartoon lady. Gosh, where might these beauty values have sprung from?

The established aesthetics for women have long been a battleground for gay men and porn barons, but lately there can be little argument about who's winning.

I'm too old, too fat, too stubborn and too married to be too influenced, though I have been influenced, but you have to wonder why younger women especially have bought into it so readily.

You especially have to wonder when you have children growing into it.

I fell in love with make-up at an early age and this love persists, even as I apply eye shadow to lids that no longer sit where they once were. I have no moral objection to tweaking the things that displease -- whether perceived flaws are something you learn to love, live with or change is a personal choice I would deny no one.

Arguably, there is more honesty in openly fake breasts, hair, nails and skin colour than in the more secretive and often lied about trickery that went before. However, when faking becomes so mainstream, especially in such young women, how can you ever make a child believe they are good enough as they are? Especially when the look so many are faking to achieve is so homogeneous. And where that look was born matters.

Pop stars look like hookers; little young ones going to first-year discos look like hookers. Boundaries get pushed and pushed. Today, I heard my 10-year-old sing about sex in the air, and chains and whips exciting her. Thanks Rihanna.

Girls learn freakishly early what is considered beautiful; they value certain eye and hair colours over others. Boys are sold the same image of an ideal woman as girls are, so there is a double reinforcement.

Gone are the days of "your eyes are a bit small, enhance the brow bone"; here are the days of "all of you is wrong, change it".

You require a lot of self-esteem to be able to see the rubbish it is, but that very rubbish makes it very hard to have any self-esteem at all.

Sunday Indo Living