The Meat Inspection

I am walking down the street, when that bottle-blond girl from my University class passes me. She hurriedly acknowledges me with a smile before hurrying onwards to the seminar for which we’re both late. I scowl; her smile is crooked and her bright red lipstick only enhances that. It draws way too much attention to her teeth, and as she walks away from me her behind jiggles — badly. She really shouldn’t be wearing those leggings like they’re a pair of jeans — they’re not — and just like everyone else she can’t pull it off.

During the seminar I find myself getting bored. My teacher has not prepared for her classes once again; the fact that she’s trying to hide it by reading passages from “The Bingo Palace” out loud really does not make up for it. I start doodling in my notebook, writing out a grocery list. Half a minute later, though, I’m done with that, so my eyes divert from the book and I scan my classmates. My eyes linger on that same girl again. She silently laughs at some kind of joke that her neighbour makes, mouth wide open. Why did her dentist never advise her to get braces? Inwardly, I shake my head. Her teeth make her look really, really unattractive. Come to think of it, she kind of reminds me of a horse, with that dead-dyed blonde hair and her mouth hanging open.

When she stands up during the lunch break I notice that she is actually wearing something over the legging: a long shirt that only just covers her butt. I shake my head and nudge my friend who’s sitting next to me. Nodding towards the girl I joke, “Someone forgot one or two pieces of clothing today.” I snicker, and my friend smiles at my joke. An hour and a half later, I leave the seminar and notice two of the guys in my class staring after her as she leaves. I frown. What the hell? They probably just think she’s easy. Yeah, that must be it.

As soon as I step out of class, she’s forgotten. She was just another girl in my class, and just another face in the crowd. I don’t care about her; I don’t even know her. Yet I scrutinised her, and half a dozen other girls in a similar fashion, on my way to University and on the way back home.

The meat factory

The story above must be familiar to most of us ladies because, let’s face it, whether or not we have a tendency to swing to one side or the other, we women have a tendency to check each other out. Whether it is a cursory glance in someone’s direction or a blatant stare, for some reason we analyse and criticise our fellow girls. It’s something we all seem to do, and we don’t even seem to be able to help ourselves. Why is that?

I have noticed that I tend to analyse women who have a similar fashion sense to me but are either a lot skinnier than I am, that look striking in general, or (in my estimation) look mean. It is all part of a subconscious sense of competition. When I make mental remarks along the lines of “her butt is too cellulite-ridden for those shorts,” I am really just trying to brush off the knowledge that she is, in fact, 40 pounds lighter than I am. Even now that I am happily married to the man of my dreams, I still often find myself looking at other girls and comparing myself to them. Pointing out their flaws makes me feel better about mine.

At the same time, I spend hundreds of dollars on hair products and nail polish colours, even though I know my husband doesn’t mind if my curls are a little frizzy and couldn’t care less about the way my nails look. I care about it because I care about the way I am perceived out on the street, and on a subconscious level I realise that girls, not guys, are the ones who will mostly notice. And let’s face it: when it comes to fashion our partners are usually not hard to please. Put on something that hugs your curves and shows off your assets et voila, they’re happy. No, when it comes to dressing, most of us try our best to everyday look our finest in public, because we know we’re going to get judged by our peers and we do not want to fall short. And one of the biggest compliments of all? When another girl comes up to us and asks us where we got that skirt.

Body image is a peculiar thing, and “the meat inspection” is one of the games that is a part of it. It is in our nature to check out other girls and judge them, bearing in mind what the media tells us is beautiful. It’s also normal to have a tendency to try and one-up the competition. But it would be far more satisfying to just do our best and be pleased with how we look. There’s something striking and beautiful about all of us. We should focus our energy on bettering ourselves for real,by just letting go and having fun. As for me, I am thinking about finally finding a hobby that I’ll not get bored with after a week or two. Maybe I’ll try learning a new language, instead, or start making jewellery again – something that will enrich my life and keep my mind occupied while I try to fight this part of my nature that wants to  judge others as a way to compensate for my own insecurities.

Photo by John Robert Charlton

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