LETTERS

Marie Claire (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

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Some­body sent a let­ter into the Agony Aunt sec­tion of Sa­lon.com. It was heart­break­ing. She was very beau­ti­ful and it had ru­ined her life. Don’t snig­ger. She had spent all her days fend­ing off un­wanted and un­so­licited at­ten­tion from men, who never re­ally saw her. They just saw the pretty pack­age. She was lonely. Her hus­band, whom she mar­ried be­liev­ing he had cut through the sur­face splen­dour of her face and seen her soul, had a sim­i­lar prob­lem. He did not cope when she could not lose her post-baby weight, now they are di­vorced. She is fat. People don’t see her any more. She is lonely.

Her prob­lem had come full cir­cle. I have a cousin with a sim­i­lar is­sue. She be­lieves she is ugly. She has an asym­met­ri­cal jaw line. It has led to nu­mer­ous surg­eries to even it out. Un­for­tu­nately for her, she is like that guy Sisy­phus, who was damned for all eter­nity to push the same rock up a hill ev­ery day only to have it roll down again. Her jaw­bone keeps on grow­ing back. It’s kind of tragic. She be­lieves that if only her jaw line was sym­met­ri­cal, she would be able to have a proper re­la­tion­ship. She would be beau­ti­ful. People would see her for who she is and not for her de­for­mity. She broke up with a man be­cause she was sure he just felt sorry for her, and could only see the sur­face. She is lonely.

The agony aunt was ruth­less in her re­ply. Stop see­ing yourself as an ob­ject, she said. Be­come the sub­ject of your life sen­tence. Eas­ier said than done, aun­tie. Have you looked at In­sta­gram lately? BOOM, the en­tire uni­verse is sud­denly pop­u­lated with ob­jects. Ev­ery­one merrily ob­jec­ti­fy­ing them­selves with­out a care. It is a life sen­tence, just not the one we were ex­pect­ing. Now we are tied to our im­age in a way we never imag­ined was pos­si­ble. Just like an­other doomed an­cient – Nar­cis­sus. He was ob­sessed with his beau­ti­ful re­flec­tion in a pond (an­cient In­sta­gram fil­ters at work). He loved his im­age so much he ig­nored a beau­ti­ful nymph so he could con­tinue to gaze on him­self. So she turned him into a flower so he could look at him­self for eter­nity, and right there you have the birth of nar­cis­sism.

We are the in­her­i­tors of his un­happy legacy, but with a ter­ri­ble added bur­den. Now our own gaze is not enough, each happy snap we post of our­selves is edited, fil­tered and awash with a crazed ob­ses­sion to make the world ‘look at me’. Yes me, me, now, me all the time.

Be care­ful what you ask for. Just ask poor ANC MP Thandi Sun­duza. There she was, liv­ing it up on the red car­pet in front of Par­lia­ment, pos­ing coyly in her bright yel­low, ruched body-con frock and berib­boned shoes. See her throw­ing her head back in un­guarded mirth. Laugh­ing, laugh­ing at the pha­lanx of pho­tog­ra­phers giv­ing her and her seven-month-preg­nant belly a mo­ment in the sun. Her 15 min­utes of red-car­pet fame. Just like a star, only she is ac­tu­ally a politi­cian. Next thing she is an in­ter­net meme, and not a good one, and faint­ing at the air­port as jour­nal­ists try to get her to com­ment on her fleet­ing 15 min­utes. It was all just too much for her. We long to be the ob­ject of the world’s gaze, but some­times it can bite us on the bum.

I will not even be­gin to an­a­lyse the #Boity Re­ac­tion, ex­cept to say that Boity is a pro­fes­sional ac­tress whose job it is to court pub­lic at­ten­tion. A re­ac­tion is pre­cisely what she signed up for and, thank­fully, for the most part, she re­ceived pos­i­tive af­fir­ma­tion and did some good for The Lunch­box Fund too.

But now that prac­ti­cally ev­ery­one oc­cu­pies that strange place where we wil­fully ob­jec­tify our­selves, we run the same risks the pro­fes­sion­als deal with on a daily ba­sis.Put yourself out there and the world might some­times even look back. And they may find that what they see is beau­ti­ful, funny or shock­ing. Worse, the world may just not care. They may stop see­ing you all to­gether, and that is a lonely place.

Mys­tery street artist and vis­ual vir­tu­oso Banksy pre­sented a pink tele­vi­sion at an art show that said, ‘In the fu­ture ev­ery­body will be anony­mous for 15 min­utes,’ sub­vert­ing Andy Warhol’s 15 min­utes of fame for all.The bot­tom line is that the beau­ti­ful Sa­lon.com lady and my cousin can­not see them­selves un­less they are be­ing seen by oth­ers.They are anony­mous even to them­selves. They suf­fer from our mu­tual af­flic­tion.We have be­come some­thing of a philo­soph­i­cal co­nun­drum – do we even ex­ist if we are not seen? A bit like God. Ex­cept that God, if he ex­ists, has it easy. He does not need likes on his lat­est In­sta­gram photo to af­firm his ex­is­tence; he has all those in­vis­i­ble hopes and prayers to sus­tain him.

Kar­raswith Heldsinger

gen­eral MC ed­i­torAs­pa­sia Romy man­ager launchevent.

spe­cial projects atour#MCNaked From left #BoityRe­ac­tion il­lus­tra­tion; ANC MP Thandi Sun­duza. THIS MONTH IS ALL ABOUT BEAUTY (hence the long med­i­ta­tion to your right).The is­sue is chock-a-block with fan­tas­tic de­lights and the best of the best in our Beauty Prix spe­cial (page 37). In­sta­gram, here we come, armed and ready! Who needs a fil­ter af­ter read­ing this? HAVE YOU NO­TICED I HAVE TAKEN TO DRIV­ING new cars.That is, ev­ery month I test one for you.This month, I drove a lit­tle elec­tric num­ber, just in time for the petrol-price hike (page 137)…

We’re thrilled to of­fer sub­scribers the chance to win a hol­i­day at Hide­away of Nungwi Re­sort & Spa in Zanz­ibar, cour­tesy of The Hol­i­day Fac­tory (page 134).

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