i’ve been a fan of mtv’s true life since day one. sure, there have been instances where the show has come across as a softcore exploitation of the subjects involved, but it’s no doubt one of the realest reality shows the channel has ever produced. sometimes the episodes are tough for me to sit through, especially when the topic deals with body image issues, decaying relationships, jealousy, and/or insecurity — it just hits too close to home. but, even though i lack the emotional capacity to get through some of the topics, i always get sucked in. as fun as the scripted fuckery is, nothing is quite as fascinating as reality, and as a true voyeur, i live for these types of shows.
if you’ve never watched (or even heard of) true life, it’s an hour-long documentary series that follows the lives of 2 or 3 young people per episode. each episode focuses on a particular topic, i.e. true life: i’m broke, true life: i live in a brothel, true life: i’m in an interracial relationship, etc. anyway, i was channel surfing the other day, and there was a true life marathon on mtv. the episode i happened upon was true life: i hate my face. though i had seen the episode when it premiered a few months ago, my interest was piqued enough to continue watching. this particular episode focused on two girls who suffer from a condition called body dysmorphic disorder, which essentially means (and i’m putting this very simply) that sufferers have a negative obsession over a part (or parts) of their body. in the cases of the two girls, neither could stand their faces — more specifically, their nose and chin. i remember the first time i watched the episode, i was at a friend’s house. throughout the entire episode, he was absolutely beside himself.
she’s so hot, how could she say that about herself?
but she’s rich and cute! what does she have to complain about?
this girl is a model?! she’s got to be shitting me.
if you haven’t noticed, this post marked the first and only time i posted a photo of myself on this blog (an adult photo, anyway). there’s honestly no real reason for that outside of my never-ending self-image issues.
i can remember disliking my appearance as young as five or six years old. i would cry to my mom, telling her that i wasn’t cute enough to go to school. that everyone would either shriek in horror or laugh at my ugly face. i even told her — at six years old! — that i “needed” a nosejob in order to be presentable. i would often watch both william dieterle and disney’s interpretations of the hunchback of notre dame, because i identified with quasimodo — the sensitive, isolated soul with a grossly disfigured face. there was even a period in elementary school that lasted about a year or so where i convinced myself i was a special little martian monster sent down on a mission from from mars (whoa, check out that alliteration), and that was the reason my face was so different and distorted compared to everyone else’s (imagine my surprise when i saw martian child for the first time). it was silly, but the thought gave me comfort at the time.
i know some of you instantly thought, dude, you’ve hated your looks since you were five?! the people around you must’ve done some serious emotional damage when you were a child. but in all honesty, i was called cute, adorable, and beautiful fairly regularly, especially by my parents and brothers. if my self-esteem was a true and honest representation of what they thought of me, i’d have the confidence of kanye west! bdd isn’t always the result of an external influence, though. i don’t believe anyone has ever insulted my face (at least not to my face… my body, though, is a whole other story entirely). i guess whatever wires in my brain that cause self-confidence were criss-crossed at birth or during my early years. later on in life, i think the lack of representation of people who looked like me in the media really toyed with my self-perception.
in 10th grade, i discovered the world of fashion and used my personal style as a form of artillery against my disorder. i would put together elaborate outfits, especially outfits that emphasized the waist on down (as far from my head as possible, please!), to draw atttention away from my face. of course people assumed i was superficial and really into myself because i cared so much about what i wore. oh, how little they knew. you’d be surprised by how many people who are absorbed in fashion and personal aesthetics have some form of body dysmorphia, whether severe or acute. it’s the perfect outlet — not only does it make for a good distraction, but it also gives off a phony yet convincing sense of self-confidence.
sadly, bdd is a condition that’s often horribly misunderstood and the severity is usually undermined and dismissed as glorified narcissism. countless times i’ve been accused of simply seeking attention and “fishing for compliments” by criticizing and being deeply self-concious of parts of my face and body. that couldn’t be farther from the truth! take it from someone who lives with it every single day: it can definitely be mentally crippling and emotionally exhausting — and it’s a lot more complicated than a simple behavioral or ego issue. honestly, no matter how often someone calls me “cute” or “beautiful,” i don’t see it myself. body dysmorphia has nothing to do with how other people see you — it’s about how those affected see themselves. i couldn’t care less if joe the plumber thinks i’m hot. and to be honest with you, most of the time, compliments hurt more than they help. i can’t tell you how many times i’ve gone to bed crying or how many temper tantrums i’ve thrown because of how impossible it seems for me to view myself through the same lenses as the people who think i’m attractive. it makes me feel like a total loon. the accusations of attention-seeking only add salt (and hot sauce. and chipotle peppers. and acid.) to the wound. i’m learning to keep my negative thoughts to myself, though, because not only do i hate the way i feel, i hate the way i make the people around me feel. at my worst, i’m a neurotic and paranoid, walking, talking bundle of self-deprecation.
after watching the premiere of true life: i hate my face, i confided in that friend about my bdd. part of his response was, “omg, but you’re so cute, though. if you think you look monstrous, i wonder what you think of me!” don’t worry, non-sufferers, we hardly think about your looks. something a lot of folks don’t realize is that suffering from bdd leads to an existence that’s not only isolated (i’m naturally a shrinking violet, but this condition makes my bashful/socially anxious disposition a million times worse), but very self-centered. of course there are several incarnations and manifestations of bdd, but i think it would be safe for me to say that for the most part, people living with bdd don’t care about anyone else’s looks. i live in my own little world that’s so meticulously controlled by my mental and emotional imbalances that i don’t have the energy or motivation to hyperfocus on certain people, yet i feel that the world is hyperfocused on me and my self-imposed imperfections.
i realize that for people suffering from intense, physical illnesses, like cancer and aids, that some middle-class girl in los angeles crying about how ugly she is seems like a steaming fart in the face. but, imagine going through life denying an integral part of who you are (sure, some people say we shouldn’t give a fuck about what we look like, but face it — your face, your body, your physical presence, whether you’ve decided to accept/change it or not, is a part of your identity) and having to come to terms with the amount of patience and effort it takes to stop the debilitating cycle of negative thoughts, all the while feeling like it will never end. it’s one thing to have a medical issue that’s completely out of your hands (not that i’m minimizing the trauma of physical illness!!), but to suffer from a condition that you know you have the ability to control with the right tools and frame of mind is really a blow to the head. i can’t even begin to tell you guys how difficult it is to get to the nucleus of deep-rooted shit like this.
fortunately, thanks to healthy doses of therapy, exhaustion (aka being too tired to care), and just plain growing up, my body dysmorphia has lessened to a more manageable degree. growing up means more responsibilities and more responsiblities means constant focus on matters outside of my face and body. i’m relieved to say that i can now walk outside without impulsively reaching for a brimmed cap in an attempt to shield my mug. i’ve stopped spending so much time pinching at my nose and belly fat. i no longer obsessively research plastic surgeons and the procedures involved in cosmetic reconstruction. and i can’t wait for the day where i can publicly post a photo of myself without having to huff and puff into a proverbial paper bag to ease my anxiety. it’s not easy, but i’m getting there.
…okay, very slowly!
if you’re interested in watching the full episode of true life: i hate my face, i’ve embedded it below. be warned, though — one of the girls is not very likeable and tends to blame her laziness and selfish behavior on her body dysmorphia (it’s not likely for bdd to hinder you from performing household chores, pamela!). check it out, and be sure to watch with an open mind!
man, living in america is sorta alright sometimes. i just finished watching white christmas and a charlie brown christmas back-to-back, and in just a few moments it’s a wonderful life will be playing on nbc. i’m stuffing stockings and baking cookies for sandy claws to the tunes of the vince guaraldi trio. incredibly cheese, but it’s reaaaally hitting all my soft spots right now.
tomorrow will be filled with gift-giving, tummy-stuffing, and true grit-watching. what are some of your favorite movies to watch this time of year?the nightmare before christmas, jingle all the way, and home alone are always in my rotation.
well, my mac has been toast for over a week now (i hate those system updates, they kill my computer nearly every single time), so posts may be sporadic for the next week or so (as if they weren’t sporadic already, haha). i’ve been using my wittle bitty pc laptop that’s about the size of a sheet of paper. it works fine, but the keyboard’s so small and i have a pair of pretty hefty paws, so it’s really uncomfortable to type on and i haven’t had the patience or motivation to deal with this adorable yet frustrating machine.
anyway! dude, i’ve been neglecting my well dressed men. between the excitement of mission: organized chaos and cognating (is that even a word?) over my lack of love life, i’ve put my dapper fellows on the back burner. to make up for my negligence, this edition of wdmiwmf will feature a man who is arguably the most well dressed man ever caught on film: sir michael caine. a few months ago, my friend anna (of d16) and i swooned over m.c.’s style in the very first edition of wdmiwmf. instead of featuring him in a list alongside other well dressed actors, i decided that he is so stylish… so elegant… so debonair that he needed a list of his own. seriously, have you ever seen a photo of him where he’s not well put together?**
as harry palmer in the ipcress file (1965)
“you didn’t come here to talk to me about button mushrooms and birds.”
(i need these glasses in my life. i’ve been searching high and low for a pair that’s as close to them as possible. they’re the perfect “statement” black-rimmed glasses, without going into ironic-hipster territory.)
as lieutenant gonville bromhead in zulu (1964)
“fear certainly dries the throat, doesn’t it? i was never so thirsty in my life!”
as milo tindle in sleuth (1972) andrew: so, i understand you wish to marry my wife. milo: with your permission, of course.
as charlie croker in the italian job (1969)
“you wouldn’t hit a man with no trousers on, would you?”
as jack carter in get carter (1971)
“you know, i’d almost forgotten what your eyes looked like. they’re still the same — pissholes in the snow.”
as cutter in the prestige (2006)
“obsession is a young man’s game.”
as elliot in hannah and her sisters (1986)
“for all my education, accomplishments and so-called wisdom, i can’t fathom my own heart.”
as alfie elkins in alfie (1966)
“i don’t want no bird’s respect — i wouldn’t know what to do with it.”
this just might be one of the greatest muppets-related things i’ve ever seen. i’m a fan of reservoir dogs, even if only because i have a crush on 5 of the 8 lead characters. thing is, the film gets kinda old after the first couple dozen watches because all the surprises are gone. this clip is exactly what i needed to fully restore my dogs love — kermit and the gang from muppets take manhattan (one of my favorite muppets movies) re-enacting the infamous tipping scene from reservoir dogs (which features some of my favorite dialogue from any movie ever). by the way, if you don’t own the reservoir dogs soundtrack, what are you waiting for? get on it! who knew “stuck in the middle with you” complemented cop torture so well?
remember that drew barrymore movie that came out in the late ’90s with hunky michael vartan and david arquette? never been kissed, that’s the one. in nbk, drew played josie geller, a copy editor for the chicago sun-times who is handed an assignment as an undercover reporter for her former high school. josie was less than popular during her high school career, enduring constant cruelty and criticism from her classmates, being dubbed “josie grossie,” yadda yadda yadda, you get the point. a good chunk of the movie follows the general high school rom-com formula, but the most important plot point (for my purpose, anyway) is that josie was a twenty-something who had never been kissed. her love life was and had been non-existent due to her own crippling insecurities.
lately, i’ve been feeling like the josie geller outside of the silver screen. come the tenth of december, i’ll be 22 years old, and i have never been kissed. never held hands. never had a boyfriend or anything remotely close to one. and never given it much thought until recent months. i don’t have and have never had any romantic life to speak of (or at least not one that’s mutual), and though i had a relatively normal american adolescence (as normal as you can get in los angeles, anyway), i managed to make it to age 22 with virgin lips. i’m sure some of you are wondering, “well, what are you waiting for?” i dunno. i can’t even tell you why i’m a spinster-in-training. i’ve always just thought of myself as a late bloomer in every sense of the word, but i think it boils down to a combination of circumstance, choice, and the teeter-totter that is my self-esteem.
i’m not embarrassed at all by my kiss-less existence — well, i’m not embarrassed until i have to defend myself whenever an extended family member asks me if i’m finally attached to someone — and it doesn’t exactly grind my gears that i have approximately zero experience when it comes to being someone’s steady. i’m 100% sagittarian when it comes to being tied down, anyway — it makes me shake in my $178.62-with-tax jeffrey campbell boots. but ngl, at times i find myself getting a little wistful when my friends come to me as their relationship therapist and i know i can only offer them a bit of armchair philosophy when it comes to cupid.
sometimes i get caught up in the tug o’ war of what i “should” be doing at my age and what i want to do. society makes me feel like i’m doing something wrong. i’m 21. i’m young. shouldn’t i be putting some kinda effort into socializing? shouldn’t i be talking to boys? shouldn’t i be “seeing” people? shouldn’t my first kiss be a thing of the past and not of the future? but in my reality, i’m actually content with keeping my mini menagerie, gearing up for film school, and tending to my solid friendships. and if i’m being completely honest, i dunno if i’m even ready for or genuinely interested in having a boyfriend right now or if i just want external validation that i’m attractive, loveable, and spank-bank worthy.
my nonchalance about all of this makes me wonder about myself. maybe i’m on some dr. laura berman shit. maybe i’m afraid of love. maybe that’s why i gravitate towards crushing on celebrities and people i’m less than likely to meet. don’t get me wrong, i’ve crushed on “irl” guys, albeit only enough to count on three fingers — my close friend in middle school, one of my first college professors, and a kid i befriended earlier this year — but there is one big difference when it comes to crushing on the men on the big screen as opposed to a special irl someone. you can manipulate a celebrity crush in your mind, but once you pine for a boy that’s attainable, the fact that you have little control over what they do or how they feel about you becomes all too real and downright scary.
as of right now, i’m too jealous, sensitive and insecure for all of that, and sadly, i’ve taken those 1990s teen movies to heart and it’s not very hard for me to convince myself that all i am is a bet — a fucking bet between a freddie prinze jr., a dulé hill and a paul walker.
i dunno when i’m going to be ready for my first kiss or my first boyfriend, but my grandpa used to tell me, “sometimes the best races are run by the horses who don’t sprint right out of the gate.” well, while i trot, let’s all collectively cross our fingers that when my time does come, i’ll experience that moment: