Archive for October 28, 2011

Project Runway decides to live inside the bubble: Spoiler alert!

SPOILER ALERT! ***If you have not seen the season finale of Project Runway, do not continue reading! ***

I just finished watching the Project Runway season finale, and I find myself feeling more than a little disappointed in the show’s outcome and generally disgusted with the human tendency toward superficiality.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not one of those people who blames reality show producers for manipulating the outcome of events (I’m talking to you, Tom and Lorenzo), but I do believe manipulation occurred. I just don’t believe it was conscious manipulation.

And that’s because I believe the judges—and possibly the producers—were unconsciously manipulated by the winner’s looks.

If you don’t watch the show, I should mention that the woman, Anya Ayoung-Chee, who won Project Runway tonight is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. (She’s the one in the pink dress above.) Her smile is infectious, her hair voluminous, and her body flawless. She is quite simply radiant. She’s so beautiful in fact that she’s a former beauty queen. Adding to hear mystique is the fact that she’s even had a sex tape released on the internet.

And from week one of this season on Project Runway, the judges have been fawning all over her, like a pack of nerds trying to get a peak at Molly Ringwald’s underwear.

In fact, they are so taken with Anya that whenever she is in danger of losing, they come to her rescue.

A few weeks ago, when Anya was in danger of being sent home, the designers were miraculously allowed to create a second look to complement their first, giving Anya the opportunity to save a sinking ship.

Then last week during the final elimination, Anya showed the worst looks on the runway, and the judges changed the rules–deciding not to eliminate anyone and sending them all to the finale.

And then finally, tonight, after weeks of Anya facing “designer’s block” and showing some awful looks in the previous episode, Project Runway pulled another fast one and decided to—for what I believe was the first time ever—give all of the designers an extra $500 to buy more material. Having just been destroyed by the judges on the runway, Anya knew she had to act fast, and she whipped out a half-dozen of her signature looks–long, flowing caftans in beachy prints. In other words, the kind of garments even the most inexperienced designer could sew (and Anya has claimed from day one that she’s only known how to sew for four months). The fact that she could whip them out in two days when all of the designers had been given weeks to put a collection together ought to tell you that letting Anya win tonight was about as unsportsmanlike as passing out trophies to losers.

So why did Project Runway cut Anya so many breaks? Quite simply, because she looks so good. At one point, when another contestant lost a challenge to Anya, he said something to the effect of “Did she win because of her talent or her beauty?” And as soon as he said it, I knew he was right to imply Anya had become the judges’ favorite because they felt happy every time she smiled her pretty face at them. I also knew in that moment Anya would probably win the contest.

When I was young, I was painfully insecure and felt certain no one would ever find me attractive. Now that I’m older and wiser, I know that’s not true. I know that, like most people, I have my attributes.

But back then I also believed that the best “man” always won, and that people were too smart to be blinded by beauty. But wisdom and experience have taught me that in reality that’s often not the case. As a writer, I had once hoped that my writing would be the only criteria by which I would be evaluated, but I’ve stood next to enough hot young writers to know that my stories will always compete with others’ good looks.

On 30 Rock, Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon breaks up with a gorgeous ignoramus played by Jon Hamm because she says he lives in a “bubble” created by his beauty. She tells him that he isn’t as talented or smart or successful as he thinks he is, and that people just tell him he’s those things because he’s so good looking. Hamm’s character considers her theory briefly, but then decides he’d rather stay in the bubble than face the reality outside of it.

Age has forced me to admit that Lemon is right—some people really do live in a beauty bubble, protected by their gleaming teeth and button noses.

Anya Ayoung-Chee is one of those people. Brad Pitt is one of those people. Sarah Palin is one of those people.

No matter how much I hate to admit it, sometimes I want to be one of those people.

Yet again, we find out that size does matter

A friend wearing her Cemetery Girl t-shirt. Photo by the talented Neal Smyth.

My husband’s latest book, Cemetery Girl, came out this month, and one of the fun things we’ve done to promote the book is make t-shirts and posters advertising it.

I’ve always been one of those women who hates wearing t-shirts cut for men, so I insisted on ordering half of the the t-shirts in sizes designed for women When I decided to do this, I thought it would be a simple process—order a few XL, a few L, a few M, and a few S, but as it turns out women’s t-shirt sizes are just as complicated as the sizes for any other kind of women’s clothes.

Because the t-shirts weren’t just available in women’s sizes, they were also available in “ladies” sizes, which weren’t really the sizes I would associate with ladies. To me, the ladies t-shirts look more like the kind of clothing that would fit a tall child. They are really really small, and I have trouble imagining any adult fitting into a small or medium in these “ladies” sizes.

What this means is that, even though I normally wear a medium or large top, I cannot even fit into an XX-large “ladies” t-shirt, and most of my smaller friends wear a medium or large. This has been really confusing, demoralizing (I often have to say to a really tiny woman, “I think you’ll need a large.”) and frustrating.

We all know that women’s clothing sizes are completely effed up, and making “ladies” t-shirts that would barely fit a small child is like adding insult to injury: it’s just not right. Isn’t it enough that we have to carry three sizes of each outfit to the dressing room when we shop? Do they now have to screw up the one piece of clothing that used to be simple too?

I need your help this week!

I’ve written before about the Hollywood obsession with pairing gorgeous actresses with schlubby actors in my posts about The Dilemma . . .

and Couples Retreat . . .

And now I’m working on a longer piece about the subject.

To help me out, will you all please tell me about any movies or television shows which you think include a beautiful woman paired with a less attractive guy?

Your help is much appreciated!


How beauty is manufactured . . .

If you haven’t seen this ninety-second film that demonstrates how a regular looking young woman is transformed into a billboard image, do yourself a favor and watch it now. It will change how you see everything in the world . . . including yourself.

Why my nieces will now get all of my money when I die*

Pictured above: how my nieces make me feel about my body.

During a recent visit with the fam, my nieces were astounded when I walked out of the bathroom in a pair of black shorts.

“Aunt Molly!” they exclaimed. “You’re wearing shorts!”

It took me a minute to remember I had told them last summer that I never wear shorts because grown-ups should avoid clothing usually associated with jungle gyms and soccer fields.

But I failed to mention back then that it’s still acceptable for grown-ups to wear shorts in certain short-friendly situations: when swimming or exercising. And that afternoon, I was about to go on a bike ride with my nieces, giving me a perfect opening for my workout shorts.

I tried to explain why I was breaking my own rule: “It’s okay to wear shorts when you’re working out. I just don’t like wearing shorts because they make you look childish. And on top of that, you can see all of my cellulite.”

“But Aunt Molly,” they protested, “you don’t have any cellulite.”

I knew they were just being polite, but I also wanted them to know I’m okay with my body. “Almost all adult women have cellulite,” I told them. “It’s normal.”

“But you really don’t!” the nieces insisted as they pointed at my imperfect thighs. “You look good.”

And that is when I decided that sometimes there are things more important than insisting you like your body the way it is. Sometimes it’s okay to simply accept a compliment from your two young, sweet-natured nieces. Even if you know it’s not entirely honest.

*This is a hyperbole, Emma and Melanie. It is not a legal document and will not hold up in court.

I give up

One of my friends is on a diet.

No, she doesn’t call it a diet. But you’ll just have to believe me that it’s most definitely a diet.

When we went out to eat, my friend got a spinach salad. And I don’t mean a traditional spinach salad with hot bacon dressing. Or one of those “gourmet” spinach salads you see at every chain restaurant in America with Gorgonzola cheese and candied nuts. I mean a plain spinach salad with strawberries and balsamic vinaigrette.

Rabbit food.

And when we went to the movies and got popcorn, she refused to hold the tub of buttery love and only ate two or three handfuls when pushed.

Almost no junk food.

She also has healthy nuts and berries stored in strategic places around her house—as if one might find oneself in a corner of the living room too hungry to walk to the kitchen.

Squirrel food.

Spinach salad in a restaurant + healthy snacks around the house – almost no popcorn at the movie theatre can only mean one thing: she’s on a diet.

When we talk about the blog, she almost always protests. “The word diet has more than one meaning,” she argues. “Just because someone is dieting doesn’t mean it’s unhealthy.”

I try to refute her with statistics: “Ninety percent of the people who go on diets gain back more than they lose.”

“But everybody fluctuates,” she says.

“I’m not talking about normal fluctuations. I’m talking about weighing more—like twenty to fifty pounds more—over the long haul because of dieting.”

But she doesn’t buy it. She still believes that the only way to be thin is to subsist on wilted lettuce and wild berries and nuts she finds on the ground.

It’s enough to make a person who writes about the risks of dieting want to give up.

Exceptions: why graduating from college and
wearing a size two doesn’t always make you happy
. . . a guest blog post by Margaret Mason Tate

May 3, 2008—the day I graduated from college—was the worst day of my life.

Okay, perhaps that’s not entirely accurate. Perhaps it would be more fair to say that May 3, 2008 was the realest day of my life because it was the day I learned that hardest lesson:

Achieving your goals after a long period of hard work, sacrifice and dedication feels incredible.

Except when it doesn’t.

On May 3, 2008, with a GPA that reflected my years of diligent work and a photo album full of snapshots that will make me ache for those years and that place for the rest of my life, I walked across the stage on the terrace of the Detamble Library at St. Andrews College grinning like a fool.

I’m an overachiever, and I had worked hard to earn the asterisks and denotations by my name in the college commencement program. The thrill of knowing I had worked hard for four years to achieved my goal felt incredible.

Until it didn’t.

The next day, I woke up—back in my hometown—knowing I had a grown-up job and a live-in boyfriend. I was starting my Big Girl Life…but I could not stop crying. I mourned the passing of a time in my life I will never be able to re-create. I rued the loss of an environment where every one of my friends was in one place at the same time.

My heart was broken—not in the romantic sense, but in the sense that I missed my friends. I was not happy.

Eighteen months later, at the age of twenty-three, I found myself single and obese.

This wasn’t a new development. I had been obese since age sixteen, and I had come into my own in that imperfect body; regardless of how fat I was, my self-image had been pretty good, especially in light of my body composition.

But, to deal with the pain of my relationship ending, I decided that I was going begin running.

I knew that I wanted to lose weight, and I had already taken some of the necessary measures to initiate that process, such as limiting calories and exercising. But I needed something—a goal, the promise of achievement—to motivate me. So I decided I wanted to run a 5K. And when my overachieving self realized that I needed to make my goal just a bit bigger, I thought, “I’ll run the Georgia Half-Marathon.” And in March of this year, I did just that.

In the process of training, I lost a whopping fifty-six pounds. And that felt incredible.

Until it didn’t.

One year after I began my quest to lose weight, I have lost seventy-one pounds, my BMI and body fat are well within normal range, my blood pressure and cholesterol are ideal, and I own a pair of size two blue jeans.

But nobody told me it would feel like this, like my inner demons are still alive and well.

In my teenage years, I was this exact same size and weight I am now, but back then I struggled with disordered eating. I binged, I purged, I restricted, I obsessed over my body. (When I say my eating was “disordered,” it is a way of saying, “One eating disorder just wasn’t enough for me, so I adopted ALL of them them.”)

But when I got fat, all of that went away. Or so I thought.

Now I am dealing with the fact that losing the weight I was hiding behind has awoken all of those terrible voices in my head that tell me lies about the way I look, about the way I appear to other people, and about the food I eat. The voices that tell me I am superior to people if I can go without eating. The voices that tell me that my boyfriend will not love me if I eat in front of him. The voices that tell me to make myself vomit in restaurants.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad I am as healthy as I am. This new body that I fought tooth and nail to earn feels great, physically. But the head and heart need some work now.

Losing a significant amount of weight is something any obese person should do. It’s simply a matter of health and self-respect. But there are serious emotional consequences to going into a weight-loss program without some sort of debriefing plan, especially for anyone who has ever felt that s/he might be prone to disordered eating, continual negative self-talk about appearance/weight/body, has previous eating disorders or a family history of eating disorders, or a history of depression.

I lost weight for a lot of reasons. I wanted to be attractive because I was going to be dating again. I wanted to be able to wear certain styles of clothing. I wanted to prove that I could do it. I wanted to be a runner.

But most of all, I did it to get out of my own head, to get over a break-up and come out the other side healthy. I didn’t realize then healthy doesn’t only include numbers and charts and scales and good cholesterol versus bad. It includes the way we feel about ourselves, the way we talk to ourselves, the way we treat our own hearts and spirits. Changing how much you weigh has the power to make you absolutely ecstatic to be you.

Until it doesn’t.


Margaret Mason Tate is a twenty-five-year-old South Carolina native. Having recently relocated to Atlanta to begin her life with her boyfriend and his son, she works as a homemaker and volunteer. Margaret graduated in 2008 from St. Andrews Presbyterian College with a BFA in creative writing and is currently working on a series of non-fiction projects. Aside from writing and holding down her proverbial fort, she runs half marathons and attends all the live music performances she can.

Cemetery Girl launches today

My husband’s latest novel, Cemetery Girl, came out today, and in honor of that, I’d love it if you watched the haunting trailer for the book . . .

Cemetery Girl tells the story of Caitlin Stuart, a twelve-year-old girl who goes missing near the cemetery by her suburban home.

Though the book is not explicitly about body issues, it is about a young woman who feels that her self-worth is nonexistent without the validation of a man—a problem that often goes hand in hand with body issues and which makes this a powerful read not to be missed by any woman who has struggled with self-esteem.

Buy Cemetery Girl now at your favorite bookstore or online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, or Books-a-million.

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