Friday, June 6, 2008

Popular Folklore of America

I picked up the most fascinating book in the Nola Brantley Library today. Poplorica: A Popular History of the Fads ... is an aptly named book that tells "the rest of the story" behind America's greatest "fads, mavericks, inventions and lore", for example, disposable diapers, TV dinners, and how the sexual revolution of the 60's and 70's all started with a man named Kinsey.

However, with all the cool and disturbing stuff, the fad that perturbs me the most is 'How Thin Became "In"'.

It never occurred to me that Americans, especially women, didn't always have this drive to lose excess bulge, which I lovingly call "curves." The Battle of the Bulge used to be a concern reserved for the extremely weathly. And now for only pennies, all of America could read Diet and Health, With Key to the Calories, by Dr. Lulu Hunt Peters. Dr. Peters wrote the first best-selling weight loss manual. As a child of the early 80's, it's hard to believe that dieting didn't start with late-night infomercials of Tony Little and Susan Powter.

The bad news first: She preached to women specifically and spoke of the "evils of excess flesh, proclaiming that extra pounds were not just unattractive but immoral, and that fat people suffered from a lack of willpower." Some of these things have some truth, but it was her overwhelmingly negative spin on body image that helped create eating disorders for many women . She pushed the 1200 calorie-day-diet and forever equivocated happiness with the right diet. And ladies, that was in 1918!!! It's almost 100 years later, and we all still feel it, even men.

Now this isn't a tirade against T-shirts that unabashedly state "No Fat Chicks," however, I have always wondered how America came to favor the ever-worshipped 'thin' versus the pleasingly plump body, which used to signify wealth and status. I have always fought my weight, as has every woman in my life, but I'm learning that I'm Good Enough, I'm Smart Enough, and Doggone It People Like Me;) Good ol' Stuart Smalley skits of Saturday Night Live still cracks me up.

A little known fact: Around 1904, Lillian Russell was the picture of sexy and healthy, at as much as 186 lbs. (I, myself, have weighed more than this) and 5'6''. She was a Broadway actress and singer.

So if you ever get down on yourself, remember two words: Balance (in your lifestyle) and Confidence (in your step). Oh, and fat days…we all have them!

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