For one of his birthdays I organised life drawing classes for my Dad. He has a natural ability to draw and a way with a likeness that is both vivid and startling. My mother can also draw. Really well. Sadly they never passed this ability on to me. And believe me, no matter what Malcolm Gladwell says about how 10 000 hours of practice will make you proficient at anything, recent research has shown that talent trumps all that work. In fact, you can get away with much less work if you have innate talent.Take that Malcolm.
Anyway, off my Dad went to his life drawing lessons, with a lovely artist and a series of naked female models. He was loving it. His fellow class members were loving him.‘Your dad is so cute,’ they would announce at the local coffee shop. He was the only male in the class so I think he was working all his charms. He is gruff and deadpan but also delightful when he wants to be.
Shortly after, however, a difference in artistic temperament began to make itself felt in the small group of sketching dilettantes. My father reported on developments over a family dinner. He just could not understand why all the fellow artists where so merciless in their depictions of each week’s bare, naked lady.
His personal compulsion was to glorify her flesh.Stretch her out, beautify her, view her in the best possible light. A kind of Greek ideal taking form week after week in a studio in Melville.
‘I mean, she is a beautiful naked woman and they make her ugly,’ he mused. Imagine a voice-over involving Anthony Quinn and his accent in Zorba the Greek and you will get a sense of where we were heading with this.
‘Are they not just being realistic?’ I wondered.
‘No,’ he grumbled back, ‘they are just being mean.’
At first, I just shook my head and worried that he was not internalising the principles of drawing from life. But, Dove adverts aside, I think he has a point. I mean, his airbrushing technique is apparently quite typical of the male gaze. I always love to throw in a little research (sometimes even twice per column), but men are definitely more forgiving of women’s bodies than women are of their own flesh and blood. The average fellow does indeed view us with rose-tinted spectacles. He also has a healthy appreciation for a curve, so he will consistently idealise a more – shall we say – robust figure than the one the majority of women will claim as their own ideal.
Here is the thing; the women in my Dad’s class were probably inadvertently doing what we all tend to do when we look in the mirror. Unless we are Elle Macpherson, who was perfectly happy to announce just last week, whilst frolicking on a yacht in some Mediterranean sea port, that she feels she looks better now than she did when she was 20. How many of us would say such a thing? Not many, because we are too busy gazing fitfully at that new dimple in our bum. And then etching it in charcoal for posterity. We are just being mean.
IT’S THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE Spring is in the air and our fashion director Sharon and her team have given us a bumper edition to make every fashion heart trill with anticipation. OUR FASHION TRUNK SHOW is coming to Cape Town this month. I’m so excited to be hosting this shopping extravaganza in the Mother City. Book tickets now at Marieclaire.co.za and join me for bubbles on 4 September.
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