I remember my mother telling the salesperson at the store that I needed dungarees in “husky,” which was the description used because “fatso” wasn’t good for marketing. I was young and, though not obese, not thin. I was chubby, and so I required “husky” jeans to fit me. Here’s the thing: I didn’t like the idea that I needed to wear husky dungarees, but that was my husky reality at the time.
I grew out of it somewhat, although I’ve never been a thin person. I never had washboard abs, I was never in the running for Calvin Klein underwear model. Yet, I somehow managed to attract the most beautiful woman in the world and get her to marry me. Life’s good. So I will not be anyone’s victim.
A Google search of “getting your body ready for the beach” produces hundreds of millions of hits, often accompanied by ads for products that promise to whip you into shape. Yet, as ever, modern women are pushing back.
The push back by “modern women” has some serious health issues involved, as very few can match the image of female beauty without doing significant damage to their health. And even with that, they can’t manage to be that beach beauty.
But what about men and boys?
Is it unfair that woman get to be victims but not men? So sexist, but now you, too, can be fellow victims. Yay!
Male body insecurity and body dysmorphic disorder have been central subjects of my scientific research and a focus of mine as a psychiatrist who has both treated patients and conducted clinical research studies. Nearly two decades ago, my co-authors and I distilled our findings on the depth of male body image insecurity in “The Adonis Complex: The Secret Crisis of Male Body Obsession.” Since then, the crisis has only gotten worse while public attention paid to it has not kept pace.
There are two things in there that are very different. There is “body dysmorphic disorder,” which as I learned from my pal, Brian Cuban, is a very real and debilitating mental illness. And there is “male body insecurity,” which is the cool new way of creating a problem by adding the word “insecurity” to the end and making it sound as if it means something scary.
If you have “body dysmorphic disorder,” you need professional care.* If you feel bad because you don’t have a beach body, six-pack abs, whatever it is that guys are supposed to look like these days on the beach, tough nuggies. We can’t all be Adonis, even if you work out eight hours a day and eat only acai berries.
So we would do well to stop pretending we can all have hot beach bods and come to grips with the fact that most of us are never going to rival underwear models? Nah.
To help mitigate this crisis, we can first acknowledge men’s body-image worries, which often go unrecognized. And among children, teenagers or adult friends, it’s important to remember that teasing, bullying or even negatively commenting on someone’s appearance in a joking way can be emotionally wounding and may contribute to the development of B.D.D.
If you have B.D.D., you need to get help. If you’re just not happy with your appearance, do something about it. It’s still not going to mean you can become an Adonis, because we’re not built that way.
But there is a dirty little secret lurking behind this attempt to align male body-image victimhood with the Patriarchy’s imposition of unrealistic body images on women.
A whole cottage industry has sprung up around who is the victim of what. And as the low hanging fruit gets sparse, more and more “surprising” groups must be written about ad victims. Until even middle aged white men like me are victims. This is the pathology of our day. But I’m not going to be a victim, I’m busy leading a fulfilled life. What can you do to against this trend? refuse to read and give credence to Zeitgeist articles like this. Whether you are gay, straight, black, white or female, it is your task to make the best of it and prove stereotypes wrong. But hey, if you want to abdicate that responsibility and whine about your victimhood, go right ahead, and make your life miserable.
If you’re a guy who isn’t happy with his bod, but don’t suffer body dysmorphic disorder and need medical care, then come to grips with your appearance and make the best of what you have. Claiming victimhood for your flab is never going to make you more attractive to the opposite, same or non-existent sex, so if you don’t want to spend the rest of your life complaining about the childhood trauma of wearing husky dungarees, get over it.
And surprisingly, you might even end up attracting and marrying the most beautiful woman in the world. I did.
*The author, a psychiatrist, says “nearly eight million Americans, more than 1 in 50, have body dysmorphic disorder (B.D.D.), a mental health condition that afflicts nearly as many males as females.” There is neither a cite nor link for that number.