I Don’t Know What You’re Talking About, You Big, Giant, Talking Cigarette

Chandler: Ok, I’m just going to go outside.
Ross: Whoa, whoa, hold it.
Chandler: Don’t worry. I’m not going to run away again. I just want to get some fresh air.
Ross: Ok.
Chandler: [exits into hallway and lights a cigarette] Ahh, fresh air…

Why God WHYYYYY!!!! I was doing so well! I was being so modestly smug, telling people I had quit smoking for good, that it was disgusting, that the smell now annoyed me, all with a composed winning smile, a poised demeanor, a whole attitude that screamed “Look at me! I am so great! I quit smoking without a patch! Where are the photographers? why isn’t my face on the cover of magazines?”. I thus felt I deserved a big hoopla only for stopping poisoning my own body with Cancer on a Stick. 

And here I am, nine months in.

Nine months, I barely made it nine months before breaking the cigarette fast and having one today.

You see, it is not that I didn’t try. I tried relieving myself from the stress by eating chocolate (marvellous, for about 36 Kinder, until I started to feel nauseated by all that good milk so healthy for my bones). I then tried green tea, walks; a friend of mine even suggested that I actually do sports, which, let’s face it, is very funny. I mean, the idea of me running after nothing, just to move, is beyond ludicrous. Let us be clear here: i run only if a pair of reduced Louboutins is looking at me and the only way to get it is to beat the hordes of red-sole hungry other lunatics competing in the same category as me: shoe crazed freak. No 12 cm peep-toed delights, me no run. End of Story.

So I decided that I was strong enough to deal and cope with the stress by myself, without the help of anything, just me and the 6 seasons of Sex and the City (by the way, I realised that the first episode was aired 14 years ago. Can you believe it? Yet Carrie Bradshaw’s style is still spot on trend, any way, moving on). That resolution was all well and dandy until a strange thing happened. My colleagues’ shapes were slowly blurring and started to look like big giant cigarettes explaining one thing or another to me. I started understanding Marlboros in Hellos and forgot the actual meaning of the word Merit, only to remember I used to smoke Merits in my beloved Cairo (don’t ask, i just saw the yellow merits suited Cairo).

Why is this happening to me now? Couldn’t have had withdrawal symptoms like every other normal human being, at the beginning of me quitting? When it got to the point where I was actually gonna light my boss, I decided I needed to keep my job to be able to exercise a bit in my shoe-pursuit sport, so I just went and pleaded (I mean it. The subject of the email was HELP!), yes pleaded with a colleague of mine for her to hand me that ciggie.

It was like a seedy affair you don’t want people to know about: I smoked it, yes, and I had pleasure doing it, but I felt guilty afterwards (well, more than I usually do anyway).

After I put it one, my fingers smelled yucky, I was coughing and my heart was beating too fast for words, increasing my stress. Was it worth it? Oh No! It is the last time EVER! (Smug, unstressed self, happily writing from the safety of her bed)

You just wait, says my other self, when I stress you tomorrow. DOn’t be more self-righteous than thee.

I really don’t know what you’re talking about, you big, giant talking cigarette.

Look in the Mirror, Tell Me What You See

Ahem, have you gained weight? Is a question I’ve been hearing more than I care to mention since I’ve been back to Lebanon. Mind you, it’s the kind of question I hear EVERY time I come back to Lebanon, so much so that if it were actually true, if I HAD gained aforementioned weight, I wouldn’t be able to go through doors now. And last time I checked, I was well able to. Talking about weight is at the same time commonplace and taboo. I mean, look at the amount of ink and saliva spent on talking and writing about diets and whatnots, yet people give each other sideways glances to assess weights, gains or losses of it, and think twice before making any comments (that is, if they have an ounce of good manners, which sadly is becoming less of a norm lately).

Usually, when such comments are directed my way, I obsess for two days (I’m an elephant and I’m never, ever getting nowhere near chocolate again. Ever) then I happily bite my manoukche back. But not this year. This year, comments made me wonder about neurosis related to weight, body image hysteria, and the obsession of bodies so slim you’d mistake them for visa cards. You see, the fact is, I have actually lost weight, about 4 kilos of it (clearly people whining about kilos haven’t experience the “let’s organize a wedding with a Lebanese mother” diet) and while I have to admit I was happy with the news (yes, even I fall pray to the feeling of happiness whenever I lose weight, although I know it’s a constructed feeling, not a genuine one, it was given to me by the media and by the Lebanese mentality that a woman has to be slim, something I try to fight, but clearly, haven’t been able to cancel altogether as of yet), I’m being very, VERY, careful not to lose any more of it, because one I do like my curves,  two, whenever I lose too much weight my spasmophilia goes haywire and no thank you, it’s bad enough as it is and three, I love food. I do, and I live in Lebanon, land of the delicious food, and Kate Moss can pout and tell me that nothing tastes as good as being skinny feels, I’m thinking, fuck that, clearly the woman has never tasted hot Knefeh in the morning.

The fact that these comments emanated from two über slim girls was not lost on me, and I started wondering if they considered themselves too slim, normal, or fat, and how distorted was their vision of their own body. I don’t think we ever see ourselves as we truly are: I have a friend who’s constantly on a diet, yet she’s one of the most beautiful girl I know and has a fine, healthy figure, while another one shocked me by telling me she was fat. I mean, you could fax the waist of this girl, and here she was, trying to convince me that she was, indeed, overweight.

I know everyone blames the media and people get tired of it, but the media IS to blame, so until they make an active step towards change, we’ll continue bashing them. However, I do think it would be wrong to think of the media as a separate entity hovering over women’s heads, dictating them what to do, what to eat, what to wear. We’re not victims, and difficult as it might be to disentangle ourselves from their messages, it’s an effort that is both worth it and needs to be done in order to reshape the media to a size that fits (yes, pun intended). Media productions are nothing but a reflection of the society they belong to: once society changes the way it thinks, the media, in order to sell, will simply have to follow. Especially if there is a boycott involved: perhaps one day the disappointing sales will prevail over the astronomical amounts paid by brands for advertising, and magazines will review their policies. The economic components and stakes of weight loss are huge: by showcasing unattainable standards of beauty (Perfect super big boobs, tiny waist, never ending legs) the media urges you to buy that cream that’ll make your cellulite go away, which you will do, because that’s the look you’re supposed to have Dahling if you want the perfect job, perfect man, perfect life. Lose 5 kilos and your life will be perfect, perfect, perfect. What no one tells you, however, is that you’ll feel hungry all the time, hence miserable and irritated, and that you’ll spend too much money on useless creams (I’ll say it once and for all: They.Don’t.Work). So let’s summarize: you’ll be grumpy, hungry and broke. Clearly, the recipe for happiness. Not to mention the constant guilt that will accompany each bite you’ll allow yourself to swallow: since when did food stop being enjoyable and NECESSARY TO THE MERE FUNCTIONING of your body to become this evil thing that is to be feared and loathed and agonized over?

In the Middle East, not only the pressure is to have a certain body shape, but cultural imperialism and integrated imperialism by local populations mean that dark skin, frizzy hair and every type of nose that is not tiny, straight and slightly going up are deemed unaesthetic and should be corrected with the help of creams (Fair and Fucking Lovely, I ask you, who wants to be stared at by some creep in a library?), serums and doctors (Come, said unethical doctor, let me make you look like everyone else (that’s if you’re lucky, otherwise you’ll just end up looking like late Michael Jackson)).

 The thing with resistance, is that it works. Madrid has cancelled too thin models from its fashion week in 2006 and some magazines and brands have showcased non photoshoped and regular women. These trends, while despised by the cosmetic and fashion industries, are welcomed by the public, and are to be encouraged.

Until the media changes, maybe it’s time to make our own internal revolutions. So here’s the first five points of the manifesto:

         People come in all shapes and sizes: trying to look like someone you’re not is a mere waste of time that could be used for something else. Like living your life, for example.

         Food is necessary. Unless you have a special condition, bread won’t kill you. Not eating will, however.

         You were born with a specific set of genes and bones, and modifying them is like getting Katie Holmes to smile. Go on, try.

         Health is vital. Cosmetic surgery isn’t. Heard about breast implants preventing doctors to detect early tumors, post surgical complications, teeth being removed from your gums because of the vomiting, iron and vitamin and magnesium deficiencies?

         Last but not least: you’re precious. Take care of yourself, eat tasty, healthy food, go for a relaxing massage, do absolutely whatever you feel like, as long as you’re the one feeling like it and not your ugly, guilty, influenced-by-media-and-mentalities (or mother) conscience whispering that you’re dissatisfied with your life because of measurements. Honestly.

I’m a Lebanese Doctor and I want to make millions on women low self esteem

This is the tag line that could (and should) be written under Dr (Although I wonder why I even bother calling him that) Dany Nasr and the obscure “beauty” consultant Fabiola Mendelek, who have gratified us with this (thanks to Ivy Says for pointing it out in her by the way excellent blog):

Now that we’re done gagging, I’d like to outline one or two things to these dangerous people:

1) First and foremost, “Doctor”, with the catastrophic rate of breast cancer happening everywhere in the world and affecting more and more young women, and the disappointingly low rate of women who actually go and get checked, the only ad for breasts you should be running is an advocacy campaign encouraging women to go get mammograms and echographies so they can enjoy a healthy body.

2) Encouraging women on billboards to go and get plastic surgery doesn’t exactly scream competent doctor with a strong sense of integrity to me. Perhaps you have early Alzheimer’s (and I’d strongly encourage you to have that looked over) but plastic surgery is no walk in the park, it’s not a “fun” thing to do as you seem to be implying, it entiles a medical procedure with all the risks that it brings and all the possibilities of failure that go with it. And since you’re clearly more interested by making money (for who else would order and agree with such a despicable, condescending, greedy ad?) than by your patients’ health, I would definitely not entrust you with my body (not even with my little toe, and God Knows I’m not a huge fan)

3) In a country where people struggle to make ends meet, in a global society where it seems that everything is for and on sale, you, as a doctor, should take a stand against this trend of the merchandisation of the human (and more often than not) of the woman’s body. You’re basically sending out the message that no woman would ever be complete without your intervention on her breasts, and who doens’t want to feel complete? What if I don’t have the money to pay for your next Prosche Cayenne? Well, fair enough, I’ll take a loan/Papi will give me/ Saudi Sugar Daddy will provide. Bravo, Dr. Nasr, spot on in supporting the development of your country.

4) Last but not least, it’s the incredible (stricto sensu, as in, I can’t believe it, can’t get my head around it, can’t fathom the fact) message that you’re sending out to women that bother me the most. So women’s body are “a work in progress”, they’re simply awaiting your holy hands to shape them, to make them beautiful. As a doctor, your duty is to heal body and mind, not to fuck up the mind while possibly maiming the body. Instead of encouraging women to be healthy and accept themselves the way they are in all their glorious diversity, you and your colleagues seem to be on a cruisade to have Lebanese women all look alike, with the same boobs, bee stung lips, cheekbones and thighs, and by the scary Mondanités pages, my God but you’re doing a crap job. According to your ad, women always have room for improvement (while men and their pot bellies and hairy backs are ok) and the salvation will come from you! Thank you God My chest is saved!

Do you know what Dr.Nasr, I’ll first and foremost tell my publicist that in proper English Médecin is Doctor and not Medecin (WTF?) and I’ll make the consicous decision to be freaking fabulous by my own self confidence, which doesn’t require the hands of any so called “Medecin”.

I rest my case.