Money, Yawns, and Swans

The last week of the month is always my least favorite. One serious drawback of working in education: monthly paychecks. So the last week of the month is when we start to run out of shampoo and toothpaste and stuff and when I’m scraping money together to gas up the car and calculating when I can start floating checks so that they don’t beat my deposit to the bank.

Yes, if I were a fabulous money manager, none of these things would be issues. I’m getting better at it – the last week of the month is no longer sponsored by Visa – but making positive changes in your life takes time.

I am tired. Exhausted. I keep yawning these uncontrollable yawns that threaten to swallow my head. The yawn thing has been going on for a couple of days now. I don’t know what that’s about.

Last night we watched The Swan, again. I’m so ashamed that my mom and dad and I keep watching it – it’s like a train wreck fascination or something. It has stimulated some really interesting dialogue, though – not to mention some really spirited ripping on the terrible production values of the show itself. The over-the-top melodrama, the Serious Music that I’m sure was recycled from Joe Millionaire, the horribly boring clips and in-episode recaps – it’s all so FOX of them. Seriously, they must think their average viewer has the attention span of a newborn kitten. I don’t know – maybe the average viewer does have such an attention span. But anyway, a few things came up that I found interesting enough to share.

When they begin detailing the “necessary” changes to the women, it tends to bring forth opinions from my household that fall into one of two areas. Sometimes, it’s the sharing of “wish lists” – “I’d have my chin done, and my boobs, and my toe joints.” I don’t really have a wish list. Sure, there are things about my body I don’t like, but you know what I would really worry about? I’d worry that the “experts” would find flaws with parts of my body that I don’t find objectionable at all, or worse – parts of my body I cherish.

Can you imagine? You go in there thinking, “I hate my nose, it’s always felt out of place, I’ve always been teased for it, I just want them to fix my nose,” and the next thing you know, they’re telling you that they have to fix your chin, your brows, and your cheekbones too. Your squarish chin that looks just like your grandfather’s, that makes you feel a connection to him when you see pictures, even though you never had the pleasure of knowing him. Your brows – yeah, maybe they’re a little heavy, but you like them. They make you look smart, thoughtful – not like you’re in a constant state of alarm. And your cheekbones – what the hell is wrong with them?

I think most of these women look perfectly fine “before.” For example, I loved the shape of Tawnya’s face – she had this lovely elegance to her bone structure. In her “before” clips, she didn’t look like an ugly duckling to me – she looked like a woman who had been absolutely crushed by circumstance one too many times. She looked sad, and tired. I wanted to cheer when she told them not to change several things about her face that they’d planned to “fix.” She said something along the lines of “this nose has been with me through all this, both of my daughters have it, I want to keep it to remind me of who I am.”

Those surgeons were SO disappointed, and actually went so far as to admonish her a bit in interviews – “She seemed like she really wanted to work on herself, to go through with this transformation – I’m disappointed that she cancelled the surgery.” And meanwhile, I’m sitting there like YOU GO GIRL!

We’ve found that we can choose, without fail, the woman who will be picked to go on to the bullshit pageant each week. Why? Because it’s always the one who looks the most like the women chosen on previous weeks. The woman who stands out a little, who didn’t lose as much weight, who didn’t conform, is sent home.

My dad made an excellent point last night when I was complaining that they all looked the same, with their makeup and their hair extensions and their lookalike gowns (of course, this is standard in mainstream beauty pageants as well). Dad said, “I feel like I’m looking at several portraits painted by the same artist – they’re all a little different, but they’re similar enough that you can tell they were done by the same person.”

I keep planning not to watch, and then I wander through the living room and get sucked in. For me, it’s turned into this weird thing – she looks perfectly normal, so what will they find wrong with her? What part of herself will she shed as part of her “transformation?”

It’s not entertaining, really – it’s the feeling I get when I watch a movie like Requiem for a Dream. It hurts to watch, but I feel like I have to. I feel like I have to hear what it is exactly that makes these women so sad that they’ll go through all this willingly. I feel like maybe if I keep listening to the same bullshit recycled clips, I’ll begin to understand.

This phenomenon has certainly been written about more thoroughly and eloquently elsewhere, with more references to actual facts and theories about it. I haven’t studied nearly enough feminist theory to ground my feelings in some facts, and I wouldn’t begin to try. For me, this is about witnessing something that makes me simultaneously uncomfortable and fascinated, and making an attempt to reconcile what I’ve seen with what I understand about my world, and about myself.

11 Replies to “Money, Yawns, and Swans”

  1. I refuse to watch that show, but I will guiltily admit to watching a couple episodes of “Extreme Makeover”, which is just as bad.

  2. again – it's why I just don't watch teevee.

    It may sound prudish but I don't think I'm off-base to echo that we're in an age of vulgarity, esp. in this country when so much that is Natural is still supressed.
    I don't know if I agree that you must consider the show to understand your world. I mean, how much are you drawn to study “vivesection in the name of beauty and health” in order to understand yourself and world?
    What I mean is, we (this generation)have become so self-obssesed that science is able to invade our humanity, our “humanness”, more than ever – not only because the technology now exists but because we ask for it to, absent of other things/models/philosophies to ground us. secure us.
    That's my old-man view anyway.

  3. just to clarify – i'm not trying to make a claim that i have an obligation to watch this as a chronicler of society or anything. that would be self-delusional at best, and a flat-out lie at worst. it's definitely more like “guilty pleasure,” except that i can't really describe it as pleasurable. it's some sort of nearly-masochistic obsession with wanting to know why people do this.

  4. What's laughable to me is that FOX is run by the the same group of insane liberals who are gunning to get words like “bitch” and “damn” taken off the air. Let's get rid of shows like “I Got A Full Body Makeover By Plastic Surgery So I Could Marry A Midget Who Turned Out Not To Be The Millionaire He Promised To Be All So I Could Fool My Family For $11.92.”

  5. The show itself is there due to there being a following, and the doctors investing money in putting such a show on the air. As to the merits of it, I am against people doing such for cosmetic reasons only for quality of life. I believe we should work with what we have not chop, shape, and augment at will to fulfill our “theories” on beauty. I can see due to actual medical need(extreme weight issues, health concerns etc.), but Boob jobs, nose jobs etc are not necessary for health reasons- just for personal security issues, or really insecurity ones.

  6. I should also clarify that by “you” I meant, “one” or “we”. After that, the “example of you” (via the question posed to “you”) was a general one to others that might join the contribute to the comments/discussionhere.

    sorry about that.

  7. While I appreciate the link, Lorie, I hardly think anything I have written was any more eloquent than what you've done here. You capture that mixture of horror, fascination, and compulsion that makes this stuff so alluring and so watchable — you did it beautifully. Thanks.

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