i unfollowed audreyhepburncomplex. i’ve thought about doing it a dozen times, but i hesitated because some of the stuff posted is really, really beautiful. i liked looking at it. i always went back and forth about it, but today i realized i needed to. it always feels empty, all style no substance. but it’s not the photos themselves that are the problem; it’s the subject. and the subjects make me feel upset with myself, repulsed by my body. with my ankles, belly, skin, legs. the photos posted aren't simply taken for the way the light was that day, or how wonderful that moment was; they feel contrived and obsessed with a certain reductive idea of beauty.
yes, there is a girl on a bike, but she is not riding it. she is posing in that spot, with that light, because it presents us with this certain idea of perfection, of beauty. she is ready to be consumed. she isn't telling me anything other than "my pretty dress matches my pretty bike and whoever is taking this photo knows what they are doing to make it look even prettier." photos like these only trigger negative thoughts in myself. jealousy, coveting, materialistic unimportant negative thoughts. this photo or any other photo you could find on audreyhepburncomplex, or the thousands of tumblrs or blogs or websites like it. i find myself thinking things like, my legs will never be that skinny, my skin has never and will never be that clear and smooth and pale, my arms will never fit into those sleeves, i will never own immaculate dresses like that, i will never be that person.
i don’t want to be that person. but more importantly, i don’t want to want to be that person. that’s what i like about me. i am a good person, i like to think. i try. i try not to get too caught up in thinking about what i look like, or about judging other based on what they look like. i try to surround myself with people who make me laugh and think and who i love and care about. i try not to be too hard on myself, while trying to keep my privilege in check and accept criticism with rationality, not defensiveness. i try to articulate the injustices i see happening around me and resist in the only ways i know how. does it matter what i look like while doing these things?
i don’t see myself as perfect, and i never will, and i never want to. perfection does not equal happiness, or vice versa. being happy with who i am and this body i occupy is an ongoing process, one i constantly have to remind myself about. unlearn this, julia, unlearn that. i like my strong legs, big jiggly thighs and all. i like my long fingers, my hands that often end up looking accidentally graceful, with lingering moments of teenage awkwardness. i like that i am tall and big, that my presence commands attention. my stretchmarks remind me that my body grows and changes and that that in itself is beautiful, not sad. i let go of the way my body used to look and try to appreciate it for what it is now, with all of its quirks and imperfections and limitations.
i’ve always liked the grit, the dirt under the fingernails, the beauty in awkward ugliness. i am attracted to the imperfections, the scars, the stories bodies tell us. i like the clothes that are falling apart, with the frayed ends, the stray threads, the holes in the armpits, the stains. memories of wine-soaked nights, who cares if the stain won't go away; it simply means the memory will last longer.
i like my hairy knees, the thick black hair of my armpits juxtaposed with my $5 yellow 1950s cotton day dress, with the hem falling out of course, and my crinoline falling down because the elastic is shot. i like it when my slip is showing. i like my goofy smile, because i am genuinely happy.
i hate the soft focus, the glow, the distractions. the world isn’t full of perfect sunflares, pretty camera lenses, the perfect poses made by the perfect bodies. it is real and it is dirty and digusting and it is fucking beautiful.
edited to add: i just recently realized how apt of a title "audrey hepburn complex" is. these unattainable beauty standards are suffocating us.