Friday, December 19, 2008

The Right Background

I have been lucky enough to be thin most of my adult life. Twenties, thirties, early forties, sometimes dangerously thin. It makes dressing easier, that’s for sure, everything looked good on me. It’s a big advantage socially as well; it’s definitely not cool to be heavy, much less fat. Women like it too. It’s a good situation all around.

When I was in my twenties it was simple: I preferred drugs to food. I had spent good money on those drugs and eating much of anything would diminish the effect. That or make me nauseous. Certain drugs themselves will send eating right to the bottom of the to do list. Also like most young people I was very busy. I was out with my friends most nights and we stayed out pretty late. Staying thin was effortless, I never even thought about it.

When I was thirty one or thirty two my family responsibilities finally made an impression on me. I realized that I had a nice wife, two small sons, a house in Los Angeles, various vehicles . . . I wasn’t even completely sure where it had all come from. It was real nice, though, so I figured, what the hell, swing with it. So I became really busy with domestic stuff, working, fixing the house, taking “family vacations” (read: working vacations chasing around national parks with my two sons), building skateboard ramps and castles for action figures, and cleaning up after youngsters. Luckily, or perhaps unsurprisingly, I found that I could still eat whatever I wanted. I had ice cream every night, big dinners, barbeques every weekend, and I never gained a pound. I didn’t grow out of one article of clothes until I was about forty three. Soon after that come the jowls and your metabolism just falls down off the scale. I remember the first time that I ran up the stairs and felt my cheeks moving up and down. That was over ten years ago; by now I am officially paunchy. Not fat, mind you, but definitely paunchy.

Well, sometimes I do look fat. I have discovered that it is all a matter of where I stand. If I stand with a bunch of skinny twenty something’s I look pretty fat. They’re nice about it, but it makes me nostalgic for the days when it was my turn to be thin. Then I was thin wherever I stood, now I have to be careful. There came a eureka moment: if I stand near some really, really fat people I still look thin! I had a couple of days recently relaxing on an island in the Gulf of Siam. Not one of the high powered resort islands, just a low key beach island, all low rise, not too expensive. About half of the tourists were Thai; the other half seemed to all be from Europe, especially France. Everyone over forty was fat with almost no exceptions. Mostly very fat, like how can his knees take that pressure fat, like man, his shoes are going to burst fat, like she has to wear a bikini because they don’t make one piece bathing suits to cover that gut fat, like Bill Bennett fat, like how do these people find time to do anything but eat fat. Against this background I was absolutely svelte. See? It all depends on the background.

Something like that happens in Thailand, and unfortunately it is not a pleasant effect for most Thai women. Like whether or not one is fat depends on the background, whether or not one is attractive works the same way. If a woman wishes to appear very attractive she should go out with girlfriends who are less attractive than she. Conversely, if a very pretty woman is seen against a background of fabulously beautiful women she will appear plain. It’s all a trick of the perspective but, like all mathematics, it operates with a cruel certainty.

Because of this phenomenon many if not most Thai women discount their own looks. Thai women as a group are the most beautiful women in the world, beautiful smiles, lavish lips, great hair, coy sparkling eyes, and girlish figures well into old age, gracious and graceful as all get out. Everywhere I go in Thailand there are numerous beautiful Thai women there. But even in Thailand it is not every single one of the women who can be fabulously, achingly, dizzyingly beautiful.

So the trouble is that wherever a merely very pretty Thai woman goes there are almost certainly fabulously beautiful women there. This is always a points off situation for the pretty woman. Stand that pretty woman in a California supermarket and she’s a real attention getter, do it day after day and she will start to feel pretty. At the market in her own city, however, she is usually outclassed by one or more really startling beauties. Day after day she is made to feel plain. Although the merely very pretty woman is still very pretty, the background causes her looks to lose impact, and inevitably causes her to feel less attractive than she really is.

Thai women as a group are very modest to begin with. “Oh, I am not beautiful.” Sorry, honey, but you should face the facts. Local fashion in Thailand is involved too. “Oh, my skin is black.” Honey, that’s just a beautiful shade of copper you’ve got going there, and it’s working. Some of this modesty is cultural and it is part of the charm of Thai women. But there’s something I’d like to say to all of the Thai women who find their beauty overshadowed by some neighbors or friends. Please listen to the voice of one who knows, the valuable advice of one who is well traveled and has been a close and appreciative observer of the miracle of women in a huge variety of settings. Look at yourself! Be objective! Standing alone without reference to anything or anyone else you are a treasure! Look! Be reasonable! See yourself as others see you! Cultural modesty aside, you’re a real looker baby.


Anonymous said...

That "jelly belly" comment really touched a nerve... or a fat cell!

fred c said...

Vanity, thy name is Mr. Fred.