Dear Women’s Magazines,
Congratulations on an excellent job promoting body confidence to women everywhere with your consistent covers featuring naked celebrities who are comfortable enough with their bodies to put their dumpy, veiny, stretch-mark-covered selves on full display. Of course, their cottage cheese thighs, waddle necks, and dangly, bat-wing arm fat are not at all visible in the flawless photos you publish, but regular women like me know they’re there because of helpful headlines like “Love Your Body As It Is!” and “On Her Own Terms: How This Hollywood Actress and Mom of Five Finally Made Peace with Her Body” and “The Fifty-Six-Year-Old Supermodel Who Dared to Look Her Age!” You don’t have to spoon-feed us with messaging that aligns with the accompanying photos. We’re smart. We get it.
My first reaction to such images used to be, “Wow, these flawless, glowy, perfectly toned celebrities are nothing like me, a Gen-X mom of four teens whose body exhibits many of the normal signs of aging that accompany a love of food and the privilege of not being dead.” But then I’d read about their struggles to cope with Hollywood’s punishing beauty standards and its practice of relegating into obscurity women who had the audacity to look human; I’d learn of how they’d empowered themselves to shun those unsustainable standards by deciding to live on their own terms. Terms that were more or less the same as the old Hollywood ones, only theirs. Terms that they establish by simply going on the record as saying, “I am now living on my own terms.”
If these celebrities can accept—no, LOVE—their bodies that have been ravaged by motherhood, time, and carbs, then so can I! In a recent interview, a beloved actress and mother of three proudly announced that in her house they ate butter, sugar, sodium, and oil because food played a big role in their joy, and I was like, “Samesies, girlfriend!” She has a bunch of kids and a personal trainer and a stylist and eats real food! Celebrities: They’re Just Like Us!
Being a Gen-X woman edging towards fifty, I felt especially seen by the cover story featuring an internationally renowned supermodel I’d been obsessed with throughout high school and college. The headline, which heralded her as the rare woman who, at fifty-six, dared to look her age, was the perfect accompaniment to a photo of a lithe, naked (obvs), “makeup-free” beauty whose skin shimmered gold (a naturally high metal content in her bloodstream, perhaps?) and shiny, luscious, mermaid tresses cascaded over her breasts. Just like other women her age! Talk about daring!
What I love most about your confessional, “keepin’ it real” content, however, is when celebrities admit their bodies—the ones they fully accept despite the effects of aging, having kids, and mainlining sodium-laden potato chips—don’t really look IRL like the borderline-porn images we regular women have been zooming in on in search of a wrinkle, scar, or sign of humanity. They want us to know that it takes makeup artists and stylists to achieve their C-3PO-esque glow and the most flattering positions, the implication being that without a team of professionals, they would look like Jabba the Hut. In other words, like me.
Women’s Magazines, these are exactly the kind of transparent celebrity profiles we need right now. They’re an antidote to the story about Kim Kardashian refusing carbs and anything other than tomatoes for a month before the Met Gala so she could fit into Marylin Monroe’s iconic dress. How unrelatable is that, starving yourself for an event that lasts only a few hours? I’d rather be like the actress who chomps on sticks of butter and eats her way out of a cotton candy machine, enjoying life while ALSO proudly flaunting the body she has, which resembles identically the satiny, bronzed, and edited-to-within-an-inch-of-its-life photos on your glossy pages.
And what better way to communicate to the masses that you’re proud of your saggy knees, pendulous breasts, and ripply hips than on major national magazine covers and eight-page
photoshops —er, I mean photo shoots. So moved am I by your endless messages of body positivity, I’ve decided to live more of my life in the nude (weather permitting, of course). Neighbors will see how proud I am of my middle-aged body as I wobble, naked, down my driveway to put the garbage bins out for collection and my teenage kids will be inspired to be comfortable with who they are, which will now be “that family with the naked mom.”
I would be remiss, Women’s Magazines, if I didn’t acknowledge your dedication to promoting the importance of good mental health. No SSRIs, CBD oil, or meditation app has had as profound an effect on reducing my anxiety as seeing famous, successful mothers my age exposing their decimated bodies to the world. To paraphrase the words of a celebrity mom who recently posed in her birthday suit, the most important thing is to work on our insides. Upon seeing her mercury-smooth body in pose after flattering pose I thought, “Now, there’s a woman who really works on her insides!” Way to stick it to Hollywood with that shimmering body that sort of resembles an Oscar statuette!
Thank you, Women’s Magazines, for using your substantial reach to remind women that when it comes to loving ourselves, we are limited only by our own insecurities, not the image-obsessed culture that media engenders.