Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A quick lesson in the difference between real and pretend

I LOVE Harry Potter.

I’m a full-on, total geek, would-wreck-anyone-in-trivia superfan. I read the books and watch the movies again and again, and may or may not have a teensy bit of a crush on Sirius Black. I have a JK Rowling autograph framed above my desk, have seen her speak at Radio City Music Hall, and was among the legions of fans waiting in line at midnight to buy the new books and see the movies the second they were released.

As much as I love the wizarding world, though, I understand that it’s pretend. I don’t pace in front of the mailbox waiting for my Hogwarts letter or try to perform summoning charms on my glasses from across the room. I don’t try to fly on a broomstick or attempt to apparate in and out of my house.

Like I said, I understand it’s not real. Therefore, I’m not aspiring to become a wizard.

But here’s something that many women and girls don’t understand isn’t real: Magazine covers. Over the past week, un-retouched images of two of the world’s most beautiful women—Cindy Crawford and Beyonce—have leaked online.

The images show things that are familiar to anyone with a face and skin: Pores, bumps, blemishes, stretch marks, sagging, lines. In other words, they show real human bodies (and the ladies still look gorgeous, BTW).

Unlike Harry Potter—which is clearly sold in the FICTION section of every bookstore—glossy magazines are sold as real, and the images in them are presented as real. Except they’re not real—no one looks like that! Even the people who look like that don’t look like that! No one’s skin is as smooth as plastic! It’s fake!

It’s all fake.

And because it’s fake—even fucking Beyonce doesn’t look like Beyonce!—it’s a ludicrous thing to aspire to. Just as it’s ludicrous for me wave a wand and expect magic to happen, it’s ludicrous to try to exercise or face cream or wax ourselves into magazine cover perfection. It’s a fight we will never win because—say it with me—it’s all pretend. Can we please stop aiming for the impossible?

There are no wizards. There are no perfect bodies. It’s all pretend.

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