The Shell

‘Never comment on someone’s appearance.’ – Magda Szubanski

Magda said this in a TV interview the other day. I don’t even remember what the interview was about because these words hit me with such impact. Such wise words and how I wish I had heard and heeded them decades ago.

I’ve never been one to really obsess about my looks, possibly because I am very average and no amount of primping and priming would give me model features. Plus, I am far more into doing and accomplishing than appearances (which has its own set of drawbacks too).

So, when I see people getting implants and Botox and surgery and spending so many hours and dollars on fake eyelashes and haircuts and clothes, I just don’t get it and, to be honest, I even get a little judgemental. I mean, don’t you know what foot problems you are going to have in years to come if you keep jamming your feet into stilettos? As I said, I don’t get it, so each to his or her her own.

But Magda’s words really got me thinking. I have often received comments such as, ‘Oh, you’re so skinny!’ Or, ‘You need to eat more!’ Or even worse, ‘You’re so LUCKY to be so slender!’

Yes, genetic luck does have something to do with it. I take after my Mum, who was tall and slender, rather than my Dad who was an apple. But part of my skinniness is also that I have had a lifetime of Crohn’s Disease which has meant chronic diarrhoea, food sensitivities, anxiety and…did I mention diarrhoea? If you don’t know a person’s story, shut the f*** up! I sure wish I had a bunch of times in my lifetime.

Now that I am really sick with cancer the skinny thing and the ‘put more meat on your bones’ thing REALLY pisses me off. I WISH I could eat more but I can’t and it’s getting less every day. As Magda said, just don’t comment on someone’s appearance.

We often think this only applies to ‘fat’ people or people with disabilities but what about skin colour? I see and hear comments about how certain people don’t ‘look aboriginal’ or ‘look Muslim’. Now that I really can’t judge because I used to think that too, although I certainly never said it. But the bottom line is that, again, we are commenting on the shell of a person. These days, especially since hearing from wise Magda, I catch myself throwing those thoughts out in total disgust when they, through cultural programming’, still pop into my head.

But what about commenting on beauty? That’s outward appearance too, the shell which that particular person wears. If a person is pleasing to the eye of whatever culture we live in, should we draw attention to that? Are we reinforcing a pressure to be beautiful or even just drawing attention to the outer surface of the human? They will still be the same person if they are disfigured through an accident.

Perhaps Magda’s words ring truer in my brain now that I am facing a shorter mortality and am losing my looks at an even faster pace. (Can we say disappearing boobs and butt?) I would gladly trade all of my looks for health and a few more years of riding my horses. I want to scream at people, ‘Don’t worry about your looks, just be healthy!’

I don’t think it’s about being politically correct; I think it’s more about what is worthwhile and has true meaning in life versus what is merely the shell we put on and decorate and get to wear for this temporal existence.

Perhaps I’m biased at this stage, but then again, perhaps it is just wiser not to comment on someone’s appearance either. It has certainly made me think a lot differently and speak far more carefully. It’s about time too. Thank you Magda.

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