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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.
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)…
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