Thursday, April 25, 2013

Why I’m Breaking Up With The World’s Most Beautiful Woman: Gwyneth Paltrow Was My Thinspo


** TRIGGER WARNING **
Yesterday afternoon I was interviewed by a news reporter who is interested in possibly reviewing my book, Mirror Mirror Off the Wall. I was nervous about the interview, partially because being interviewed is always stressful, partially because it felt like a “big deal” interview, and mostly because I was 10 minutes late. I hate being late.

I think (hope!) I made up for my tardiness by being a pleasant-enough person to speak with for an hour or so. I also think (hope!) that the interview went well. Or, good enough, I should say. But a few of the questions threw me for a loop. One, in particular, left me muttering alternative answers to myself as I drove away.  

It wasn’t the question about my relationship with Sherry, my mother-in-law (though I got a bit verklempt when describing what it felt like to worry that Sherry wouldn’t like me.) It also wasn’t the question that started with, “So I found it interesting that you were so open about your sex life in the book.” (I was!? Shit.) Nope, the question that left me almost speechless was this one: “So you probably know that Gwyneth Paltrow was just named the World’s Most Beautiful Woman by People Magazine. What do you think about that?”

What did I think about that?

The question was innocent enough, and certainly on topic, considering the body-image theme of my book. But Gwyneth Paltrow isn’t just any celebrity to me. She was my “thinspo” celebrity – my anorexic drug of choice – for almost a decade. Hearing her name randomly pop up as the new “Worlds Most Beautiful Woman!” felt like it might have felt if I’d been told that an epic-ex, the he-who-shall-not-be-named kind of ex, was going to be the next Bachelor, “didn’tcha know?”  It was a great question, and I got through it with a generic “hate the beauty game, not the players” kind of answer, but my head was spinning on the inside.

There are hundreds of female celebrities who are very thin and stereotypically “beautiful,” but Gwynie was the one I became attached to, almost 15 years ago. She was 25 and earning an Oscar; I was 15 and developing an eating disorder. We were both pale-skinned natural blondes with thick straightish hair. Sure, she had blue eyes and mine were brown, but I still imagined that she was the gracefully thin girl living inside of my unruly and not-thin-enough body, just waiting to come out.

A snapshot from my college "look book."
(Otherwise known as retro Pinterest.)
It wasn’t just her looks, but also her presence that so captured me. I was frantic, anxious, and insecure; high-achieving, yes, but never satisfied. I blurted out answers in class (very unladylike) and feared that my appetite for food was insatiable and out-of-control. Gwyneth, in contrast, seemed characterized by an aura of calm entitlement, i.e.,  the opposite of frantic insecurity. The pleasure of being privileged in every possible way that a woman can be, and feeling as though you deserve it.  This is what I saw in Gwyneth Paltrow, and I wanted it for myself. (Never mind that by most standards I am quite privileged, but I wanted her privileges too, those of great wealth, old-ish money, and extreme slenderness – sans guilt.)

So I saw her every chance that I could. I tore out magazine photographs of her and pasted them into my journals. I watched all of her movies, starting with Se7en, The Pallbearer, and Emma. At first it could have been any teenage girl’s celebrity worship, but when I started restricting food – during the same year as Sliding Doors, Great Expectations, A Perfect Murder, and Shakespeare in Lovemy worship of Gwyneth’s graceful physical perfection helped me get sicker, and helped me stay sick.

I don't want to be quite this harsh... hate the game not the player, right?
Hate the pedestal, not the woman you've put on it.
In 1999, when Gwyneth played Marge, the cultured and unattainable fiancé character in The Talented Mr. Ripley, I imagined an entirely different movie; one in which I played a female version of Tom Ripley, managing to take over Marge’s privileged life. (Of course in my movie I didn’t have to beat her to death with a boat oar to take her place; she just gracefully handed over her identity, saying that I deserved it more than she did!) Funny, yes. But this fantasy was also a symptom of darker times; I really wanted somebody else’s life. Gwyneth Paltrow’s would have suited me just fine.

By the time The Royal Tenenbaums came out I was in therapy but still struggling. I’d started to worry about my fascination with Gwyneth by then. It had seemed so normal to want to be her, but suddenly I was getting kidney stones and osteopenia, learning about feminism, and fighting to come to terms with the fact that I was never ever (like, ever) going to look like GP.  So it was a godsend for her to finally play a character who was weird, sexual, and somber, instead of pure and perfect. I had renewed hope that I could take her with me into recovery.  So I had my hair cut into a Margot Tenenbaum bob and kept going to therapy.

And then GP (in a fat suit) starred in Shallow Hal, the movie that was supposed to be about inner beauty, but instead had dozens of misogynistic fat jokes. The nice women were all ugly and the mean women were all gorgeous. It ended with Jack Black’s character heroically “accepting” the fact that the wonderful woman he’d thought looked like Gwyneth Paltrow was actually just a fat blonde chick who he was still in love with, but, like, bummer about the fat chick thing.

It pissed me off. A lot. So finally I gave up Gwynie. Cold turkey.

It was a clean break in the sense that I avoided seeing her, but I never completely got over her, or what she meant to me. Gwyneth was the “one who got away,” I couldn’t talk about because the loss was still painful. But when she started talking about her extremely restrictive macrobiotic diet I knew I’d made the right choice.

Since 2001, I’ve only seen three of Gwyneth Paltrow’s films: Proof (which I loved, as I love most films that deal with mental illness), Iron Man (which I didn’t realize she was in, but dealt with it with the bewilderment of running into an ex at the grocery store), and Contagion (I loved the movie and felt proud that I'd finally seen Gwyneth on film without having a strong emotional reaction.)

The story should have ended there, but it didn’t. Gwyneth is still all over the media, and has become quite the fashion maven with "Iconic Style." She’s become a fitness expert freak and a cookbook author. Oh, and she can sing! And dance! She’s even a blogger. Bit-by-bit, this new (improved?!? MORE perfect?!) Gwynie slipped back into my life.

It’s okay. I told myself, I’m recovered now, and she’s just so cool! It’s not thinspo anymore, just good old-fashioned inspo!

A year ago, on Day 314 of my no-mirrors project, I decided to give myself Gwyneth Paltrow hair a few days before visiting family for the holidays. It went disastrously. I guess GP doesn’t color her own hair from a $5 box of drugstore hair dye. (Shocking, I know.)

And a few weeks ago reality swooped in again, and I’m so, so grateful.

$450,000!!!!!!
First I learned that she’d modeled several spring fashion “must haves” on her website, and that the cost of purchasing all of them added up to $450,000. This was not reality; it was comically absurd. Gwyneth had finally made a serious gaffe. That calm privilege was certainly going strong, but I suddenly realized that I’d been worshiping someone who is so privileged that she was completely out of touch with reality. I guess I had been too.

Then she published her second cookbook, It’s All Good, and, let me tell you, it ain’t all good. It was like reading a manual for orthorexia: no caffeine, alcohol, dairy, eggs, sugar, shellfish, deep-water fish, wheat, soy or any processed foods. Now, I respect food allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities; these are real things that cause a lot of discomfort, pain, inconvenience, and ill health to those who can’t eat foods with common ingredients. But this wasn’t touted as a cookbook for people who had to avoid these ingredients, but for people who want to “LOOK GOOD and FEEL GREAT!” Note the order. There are more pictures of Gwyneth in the book (usually eating, or contemplating eating), than images of food. As one author wrote: it reads like “the manifesto of some sort of creepy healthy-girl sorority with members who use beet juice rather than permanent marker to circle the ‘problem areas’ on each other’s bodies.”
This creeped me out. I simply could not ignore a book like this. This was Shallow Hal but worse. So Gwyneth had to go. Again. She was the the pair of skinny-jeans I hadn't been able to throw out, even though the mere thought of trying to fit into them made me feel bad about myself.

I literally penned a break-up letter in my journal. It was all like, “Dear Gwyneth, It’s not you, it’s me. Well, actually, it’s me having a problem with you.” There was profession of love lost, what she’d meant to me at different times, and admitting that we never actually knew each other at all. It’s funny how so many breakups end with these words. I apologized for objectifying her for 15 years (because that’s what thinspo is, really), and accepted responsibility for putting her on a pedestal she didn’t ask to be put on. (Well, I’m not actually sure whether or not she likes being put on pedestals, but you have to say some nice things in breakup letters. Karma and all that.). Finally, I wished her health and happiness and said goodbye. "I'm sorry but just can't see you anymore."

So what do I really think of Gwyneth Paltrow being chosen as “The World’s Most Beautiful Woman?” It makes weary. Mere days after I finally took her off of my pedestal, she was hoisted onto another one, a bigger one. I admit to being a little sick of GP right now, but I know that it’s the pedestals, not the women on them, that are the problem.

But what do you think? 
Have any of you had to give up a thinspo celeb to be healthier and happier? 

61 comments:

  1. I LOVE THIS. I so completely can relate to what you are saying. And as far as pedestals, I have "thinspro" syndrome for all sorts of people, not just celebrities...moms about town who look so cool that I immediately imagine their lives are so much better than mine. But I agree, it's the pedestals are the problem. When we admire someone for their thinness, we all put down all the other wonderful things that each of us has to offer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are so right: "When we admire someone for their thinness, we put down all the other wonderful things that each of us has to offer."

      Delete
  2. Totally get this, Gwynnie has always been a little the same for me! During my worst ED years she wasn't number 1, but certainly appears. I really appreciate how honest you can be about all of this, refreshing read :-) x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Always nice to hear from somebody else who understands.... Thanks Emily!

      Delete
  3. Great post. I remember reading on her blog a post about how to combine motherhood with your career. There was lots of advice from her privileged friends including, I kid you not, paying someone to blowdry your hair every week so you look immaculate for work without fuss every morning. I am lucky if I even make it to work every morning without going insane let alone what I look like. I was absolutely blown away by how out of touch with the conerns of the average working mother she was.

    I saw GP on the British show "Who Do You Think You Are". I thought she came across quite well on that but it definitely displayed her privilege. Her ancestor was a great kabbalist/rabbi and she used that to explain why she was so spiritual. Hah hah hah.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah.... I never really saw her the same after the $450,000 wardrobe thing. It was a relief, actually, for her to be soooo out of touch!

      Delete
  4. She doesn't bother me. I guess I just don't pay attention to her that much. I never thought of her as an insanely beautiful and charismatic woman as, say Charlize Theron or Salma Hayek. I always thought she was stylish and poised, but she didn't really wow me... I used to intern at Us Weekly so knowing how these "Most Beautiful People" are picked, these whole thing is just irrelevant to me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. IP - it make sense that once you've seen the "behind the scenes" part of how these lists are decided, that they would lose their allure. Still... it sounds like you've got a few celebs on your list that you find "insanely beautiful and charismatic." Different from thinspo, but not unrelated. P.S. - I would LOVE to know how these lists are built! Back when I worked as a marketing intern we would send out spam surveys each week to rank and re-rank different celebrities by popularity and likeability... so bizarre and so calculated.

      Delete
  5. I think Gwynneth is beautiful but I have come to a comfortable spot in my life where I know I am not willing to make the dire food choices she does to be that thin. I want to be healthy and enjoy my life. I constantly tweak and improve my diet but no food is totally off the menu forever. I strive to eat a balanced, healthy diet 90% of the time and the other 10% I can enjoy eating what I want at parties and out to dinner with friends and family. Life is too short to starve and deny yourself when food is used as a celebration in so many venues. I just don't stuff myself anymore to compensate for confusing emotions and stress.

    ReplyDelete
  6. This was a powerful article and asks a larger question about our idolization of celebrities and other women whose real lives we do not actually know.
    I have worked with a lot of celebrities over the years and I can tell you they have their insecurities just like the rest of us. Some of them even have it written into their contracts to avoid certain situations that may throw them off when performing, such as "no beautiful women in the front row"...."do not show my side profile on the jumbotron"...."no flourescent lights above any mirrors in the dressing room or green room". Their IMAGE is a fantasy, but THEY are real people.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Gwyneth looks sadly too thin. No, not a paragon of beauty. Just flawed like us.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Since i has been any young adults brazilian hair sale and also What i'm saying is constantly Brunswick within my brain is definitely in which. We have constantly pondered exactly why which is. Can it be due to huge number of their particular centres throughout the U. Azines.? Possibly. Nonetheless, we all aren’t the following nowadays to share with you bowling centres yet bowling hand bags and also with out more adieu let’s acquire straight to that. That won’t become a great overstatement to state in which it doesn't matter what carrier you need – Brunswick provides that. An individual identify that – an individual bag, in case you are merely beginning, any twice roller in the event you struck the particular lanes along with your husband or wife or even a 6 basketball roller for your those who head to tournaments – Brunswick have got one thing for all. Although a lot of the hand bags are usually dim tinted smooth against a couple of hand bags together with radiant shades. I am aware, I am aware, it really is tough to be able to crack any practice nevertheless they did it. Which cares it may seem, and you might become proper yet let me tell you one thing – there’re individuals who attention. They desire any carrier from other favored brand name which they love And also in case you are the sort of individual that will not desire to pan on your own – you may get any complementing carrier regarding your beloved also. Point out, you need the youngster to avoid playing games and be together with you around the lane – next buy them any Dyno T brazilian hair uk, they are going to want it.

    ReplyDelete
  9. You can easily know how to contact website for free blitz brigade hack than click here and get it now at free.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Great! Thanks for sharing the information. That is very helpful for increasing my knowledge in this field.
    pacman
    happy wheels
    my little pony games
    unblocked games
    unblockedgames
    friv4
    kizi4
    stunt master hacked

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thank you very much for your post, it makes us have more and more discs in our life, So kind for you, I also hope you will make more and more excellent post and let’s more and more talk, thank you very much, dear.
    happy wheels| friv|monster high| shooting games| tetris| 8 ball pool
    cool math games| barbie games| friv4school| agario| sudoku

    ReplyDelete
  12. It takes me time to recognize her, and now with me she is Pepper of Iron Man series :v sorry, I don't know much about her :D Not anyone can know about private life of celebrities, just know that they are real people :v
    car game | racing game | game online

    ReplyDelete
  13. Thanks for sharing your info. I really appreciate your efforts and I will be waiting for your further write
    Signature:
    friv , games2girls , juegos de frozen , unblocked games ,

    ReplyDelete
  14. agario games and happy wheels are fun way to spend the time. Cool math games are available here to kill the time. These games are time killer and creative as well. Not only for kids even old persons can enjoy these online games.
    CMMG | PBS Kids | CMGR

    ReplyDelete
  15. Great info. I love all the posts, I really enjoyed, I would like more information about this, because it is very nice., Thanks for sharing.
    juegosjuegos.com , friv 2 , kids games online , facebook descargar , facebook baixar , whatsapp baixar , baixar whatsapp , baixar mobogenie , facebook movel baixar

    ReplyDelete
  16. Posts shared useful information and meaningful life, I'm glad to be reading this article and hope to soon learn the next article. thank you
    juegos de matar zombies , juegos de un show mas , jogos do friv , descargar facebook , whatsapp messenger , descargar mobogenie , descargar whatsapp apk , cities skylines mod , five nights at freddy's

    ReplyDelete
  17. Curve Fever 1 play is one of the best locales to make the most of your best blaze amusements, here is the

    perfect spot to be. The website page stacks easily and quick it doesn't drag the page is made out of white foundation with pleasantly differentiated bend fever logo at

    the upper left corner of the screen. On the upper right corner of the screen, round offer catches are accessible.

    ReplyDelete
  18. It takes me time to recognize her, and now with me she is Pepper of Iron Man series :v sorry, I don't know much about her :D Not anyone can know about private life of celebrities, just know that they are real people :v - See more at:
    happy wheels
    super mario bros
    pacman
    agario

    ReplyDelete
  19. Truyen ngon tinh hay la the loai truyen tinh cam
    Truyen teen hay la nhung truyen tinh yeu tuoi teen
    Don doc tai trang doc truyen online.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I am sure that the informative you shared through your post is useful for people. I am impressed with the way of writing. It kept connected me all the time. Keep up the good work
    happy wheels
    super mario bros
    pacman
    agario

    ReplyDelete
  21. Today Giochi di Baby Hazel is within a playful mood. She decides for making his family members satisfied by helping them into their daily chores. As she is too young, he needs your help in completing all tasks. Join your child Hazel to help complete several tasks to ensure that dad and mom appreciates their Princess for her efforts.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Great information I will tweet to my friends to get them to check it out. keep it up. Thanks for sharing!.If have a long time than visit to:
    agario
    pacman
    super mario bros
    plants vs zombies
    solitaire
    happy wheels
    car games

    ReplyDelete
  23. In journalistic activities, to get the opportunity to interview was difficult then, but just a few moments, that take advantage of time and plans to "explore" their subjects interviewed had to be really smart people and have knowledge. Looking young reporter team was practicing at present, there is the fact that we are not out of fear, as many people do not cultivate themselves to specialize in an array at all.!
    g9g , dora , kizi new , huz 2 , kizi hot , friv 4 school , 85 play , 4223 games , 85 games

    ReplyDelete
  24. I just want to say : why do I not find this article sooner ! thankyou so much!
    happy wheels , super mario , pacman, solitaire , plants vs zombies, car games, agario!

    ReplyDelete
  25. Thanks for this help. Hope so that this will help me in my next project. I like play game piano tiles | Piano Tiles | piano tiles 2 game | piano tiles | piano tiles 2 | Dream League Soccer | Score Hero | Score Hero game | Score Hero | Score Hero | Score Hero game | piano tiles 2 | piano tiles 2 game | so much. How about you? B612 | camera b612 | descargar b612 | b612 | b612 | descargar b612 gratis | camera b612 | Dream League Soccer | B612 lets you make collages with your pictures. You can make them with just a regular selfie or a composition of up to nine photographs, and even vertical compositions of two or three pictures.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I just want to say : why do I not find this article sooner ! thankyou so much!
    happy wheels , super mario , pacman, solitaire , plants vs zombies, car games, agario!

    ReplyDelete
  27. I found lots of interesting information here.Great work. The post was professionally written and I feel like the author has extensive knowledge in this subject. Nice post. Donkey Kong, Strike Force Heroes 3, Happy Wheels 3

    ReplyDelete
  28. I just want to say : why do I not find this article sooner ! thankyou so much!
    happy wheels , super mario , pacman, solitaire , plants vs zombies, car games, agario!

    ReplyDelete
  29. It is really what I wanted to see. I hope in future you will continue for sharing such an excellent post.Looking forward for more post and updates in your site. I found this website informative... Get online buy our grass mesh & grass protection mesh from
    fancy pants 3
    fancy pants 3
    fancy pants 3
    fancy pants
    fancy pants 4
    fancy pants 2
    fancy pants adventure 3
    fancy pants adventure

    ReplyDelete
  30. What a great online source of information about this topic. you have done great work. keep continue to sharing such kinds of post. keep it up.
    Juegos de Matar Zombies
    earn to die
    earn to die 2
    earn to die 3
    earn to die 4
    earn to die 2012
    earn to die 1
    earn to die part 2
    earn to die 6

    ReplyDelete
  31. Thanks for sharing the information. It is very useful for my future. keep sharing. A good blog.
    agario | agar io | agario game | agario | agar | agar io game | agar io | agar| agario game

    ReplyDelete
  32. Thanks for your great information, the contents are quiet interesting. I will be waiting for your next post.
    agario|agario skins|agar io skins|agar.io skins|agario skin|agar io skin|agar.io skin|agar io|agar.io|agario game

    ReplyDelete
  33. Inside Out Games Developing up generally is a bumpy highway, and it’s no exception for Riley, that's uprooted from her Midwest life when her father starts a whole new career in San Francisco. Like all of us, Riley is guided by her feelings – Pleasure (Amy Poehler), Dread (Invoice Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Unhappiness (Phyllis Smith). The feelings reside in Headquarters, the Manage center inside Riley’s intellect, where they assist recommend her by daily life. As Riley and her feelings struggle to regulate to a completely new everyday living in San Francisco, turmoil ensues in Headquarters. Whilst Pleasure, Riley’s major and most vital emotion, tries to maintain things positive, the thoughts conflict on how finest to navigate a whole new metropolis, home and faculty.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Great info. I love all the posts, I really enjoyed, I would like more information about this, because it is very nice., Thanks for sharing.
    Red Ball is a online, platform games series, posted by King. It involves a red ball 4 stuck in a world of various levels, and hola launcher is a freemium web and mobile application which claims to provide a faster, private and more secure Internet. Whether you are looking to improve your culinary skills or you simply love whipping up tasty treats, this simulation game named cooking fever will surely leave your mouth watering. Sun, sand, surf, and all the fish you can eat! Sail away to paradise bay, where you'll help Keani and friends restore the island to its former glory. Good happy !

    ReplyDelete
  35. Thank you for sharing valuable information. Nice post. I enjoyed reading this post.Can you play more games at :
    agario | agar io | agario game | agario | agar | agar io game | agar io | agario game

    ReplyDelete
  36. Posts shared useful information and meaningful life, I'm glad to be reading this article and hope to soon learn the next article. thank you
    Signature:
    Download retrica online includes more than eighty different filters with many different styles and include retrica indir , and zombie tsunami is the ideal game for anyone who loves the running game genre

    ReplyDelete
  37. I enjoyed over read your blog post. Your blog have nice information, I got good ideas from this amazing blog. I am always searching like this type blog post. I hope I will see again..
    cool games| cool math games| 8 ball pool| sudoku| yoob| stickman games| unblocked games | shooting games| friv4school|
    happy wheels| fighting games

    ReplyDelete
  38. I wanted to thank you for this excellent read!! I definitely loved every little bit of it.Cheers for the info!!!! & This is the perfect blog for anyone who wants to know about this topic. I like play games Piano Tiles 2 game online, Score Hero game, Dream League Soccer, download camera b612 and descargar b612 gratis. How about you?

    ReplyDelete
  39. This is a great article, that I really enjoyed reading. Thanks for sharing.

    usps tracking
    weather
    facebook video downloader

    ReplyDelete
  40. Thank you for such a sweet tutorial - all this time later, I've found it and love the end result. I appreciate the time you spent sharing your skills.
    Descargar Geometry Dash |Descargar Geometry Dash 2.0 |Geometry Dash|Geometry Dash 2.0 |

    ReplyDelete
  41. Had visited the sites you had posted and it was nice.
    Nicely written information in this post, the quality of content is fine and picture very nice. Things are very open and intensely clear explanation of issues.
    play run 3 | head football | free online mahjong |

    ReplyDelete
  42. I am really very happy to find this particular site. I just wanted to say thank you for this huge read!! I absolutely enjoying every petite bit of it and I have you bookmarked to test out new substance you post.

    ReplyDelete