If Cellulite Was Sexy

Like most young women of my era, I have been googling variations of ‘how to get rid of cellulite,’ ‘the quickest way to eliminate cellulite’ or ‘why do I have cellulite?’ on a semi-regular basis since I hit puberty.

But around the age of 25, I finally couldn’t be bothered anymore.

If you are still googling these things, I do not blame you. But, just to be clear, the idea that Cellulite is ugly is extremely recent, and it’s arbitrary.

It comes from a stream of advertisements featuring skeletal women with airbrushed legs and cellulite reduction creams. It comes from the people selling us electric vibration anti-cellulite courses (whatever the heck that is), and from our loved ones saying that their own cellulite is disgusting.

It comes from an endless stream of literature telling us things like this:

‘Cellulite, the bumpy skin that resembles cottage cheese, is a major aesthetic concern for most women. Seen on the hips, thighs, and buttocks, it can be especially worrying in the swimsuit season.’

I do not know where to even start picking apart the toxicity in that definition from a Manhattan plastic surgery clinic, and one of the top search results for someone asking what has caused their cellulite.

Our bodies are amazing. They can climb mountains and create life. Isn’t that more important than how smooth our upper legs are? Photo with thanks to Sasin Tipchai.

Let’s make this clear: the only reason that cellulite is ‘worrying’ at all is that we have been told to worry about it. There are no health implications from the condition. (If you can call it a condition. Is having curly hair a condition?)

If I were born into a society where cellulite was considered sexy, I would believe it was sexy. This might sound a little far fetched, but stranger things have happened. Such as the incredibly modern idea that being thin is equal to being sexy and appealing, an idea that would have been laughable to our ancestors.

Roman soldiers would pray to the Gods that they would not come home to a skinny wife, much preferring a woman of voluptuous curves. Throughout human history, a larger woman was considered ideal. A woman that could bear healthy children, a woman that was wealthy enough to eat well, a woman that embodied motherhood and sensuality.

Not that what society thinks we should look like has anything to do with our inherent worth and beauty. Skinny shaming sucks too. I merely point out that what is considered ‘beautiful’ or ‘repulsive’ is a dynamic, shifting fashion rather than a universal truth.

Indeed, this association of thinness with beauty, and fatness with laziness is merely a modern, Western hang up.

Right now you could go over to Tonga, Kuwait, Fiji, Afghanistan, Jamaica, Hawaii, or Mauritania and see an entirely different picture. Even in the West, thinness has been a highly ‘undesirable’ trait in women for thousands and thousands of years. Girls were scolded by their mothers to eat more and get chubby if they had any hope of seducing a man and were bundled into buttresses and hoop skirts to create an illusion of extra flesh.

There is a brilliant advertisement poster from 1895 that shows a plus-size woman draping herself seductively over a package of Lorings-Corpula, a food product designed to help women get fat. Beneath it, a simple and effective slogan promises you will ‘Get Fat on Lorings.’

Come on girls – it’s nearly Bikini Season. Don’t want anyone to see your skinny bits!

Flash forward a couple of generations and thinness is just another bullet in the Western arsenal to say that you are not good enough.

You have been told this message thousands and thousands of times over your life. At the same time as being fed this garbage about not being enough, you have been sold the lie that you can purchase your way to being good enough if you just part with enough cash.

Buy more makeup, cooler clothes, a new razor. Buy a shinier car, a bigger house, get liposuction. Buy a home tooth whitening kit, a spray tan, a designer watch. Buy an online yoga course, a weight loss tea, a place on a round-the-world cruise.

“Buy all of this stuff (and don’t think about the impact it has on the Earth) and you might be less of a shitty person.”

But we aren’t buying these ‘tools for improvement’ just with pieces of paper called money. We are buying them with the sacrifices we made to earn those pieces of paper. The hours we spent doing overtime instead of enjoying a meal with our family, the time we spent studying desperately to pass exams instead of playing football with our friends, or swimming in the ocean.

At the same time that we are sacrificing our precious life, we are buying more than a product. We buy the cutting of the tree, the mining of the ore, the 500 years that the packaging will take to disintegrate in our polluted waters. We buy into the idea that we are not perfectly fine as we are.

Don’t get me wrong, you deserve financial security and lovely things that bring you joy. But you also deserve a healthy Earth and a healthy mind. At the moment, we have lost that balance.

Photo with thanks to Joshua Choate

I constantly see advertisements where half-naked girls with ‘perfect’ bodies have pillow fights in black and white, tossing their ‘perfect’ ringlets in delight. How carefree they are, how thin and lovely. If we buy that perfume perhaps we could be that carefree, thin and lovely too.

Let’s be honest.

If everyone in the world started feeling good about themselves, we would only buy a fraction of what we do now. Because when we buy these endless age defying potions and makeup fixing sprays and perfumes and suck-us-in panties, we aren’t buying the product, but we are buying into the idea that the product will make us a better, happier or more attractive person.

If we decided that we didn’t need to invest in a brand new serum with 45 proven benefits to apply to our eye circles every morning, we might be able to work a lot less, and sleep enough to solve the perceived problem anyway.

I am not saying that no one benefits from makeup or moisturizer. The path to self-love and sustainability looks different for everyone, and that’s OK. We should follow our guts to a more nourishing life, not get caught up in judging ourselves or other people.

I like wearing makeup sometimes and moisturising my skin can be a wonderful act of self-care. However, when we take a step back and look at all the products overflowing in our bathroom cabinets, it can be an eye-opener.

How much of this stuff do we actually need? How much of it makes us feel good? Photo with thanks to Siggy.

Not only do we fritter away a huge amount of money on products that we don’t need, but we wreak absolute havoc with the natural world through their production. From the chemical production waste to the carbon footprint of transporting products all over the world, to wild spaces given over to factories, and the millions of little plastic tubs and tubes that will continue to pollute our land and ocean for thousands and thousands of years.

And when all is said and done, can we say it was really worth it? Did we find ourselves to be more worthy of love, or happier in our skin after we bought the latest wrinkle cream? Did we suddenly feel good about ourselves after sucking the fat out of our legs?

The answer is usually no.

Because you can spend a lifetime trying to make yourself ‘more beautiful.’ But if we never teach ourselves how to appreciate how we already are, we are never going to feel like enough.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article! It is adapted from an extract of The Highly Sensitive Nomad eBook – the story of how I gave up everything to carve out a life on the road.

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Published by rph_writer

Freelance writer and Journalist. Author of Highly Sensitive Nomad.

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