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I can’t believe it’s already November! Crazy, right? Also – it seems like there has been a body image-related story in the news almost every day! So let’s get caught up …
FIRST OF ALL: Unless you’re just not totally obsessed with lady blogs, there’s no way you haven’t heard about the disaster that went down at Marie Claire last week. Writer Maura Kelly wrote a blog post about “watching fat people on TV” that basically sounded like some of the most superficial, hateful remarks from a junior high slambook. The post itself wracked up almost 1,000 comments, some of which were from Maura herself trying to defend herself. But she soon posted a lame-ass “apology,” saying that she thinks maybe her discomfort with overweight people stems from her own anorexia. (Uh, yeah, ya think?) Then, as if overnight, everyone had an opinion on the situation… I personally loved Dodai’s post at Jezebel, which called fat-phobics out as a bigoted idiots. Some of the comments actually made me tear up. For instance:
“I come to Jezebel nearly every day because it’s one of the only places I know of where I can honestly talk about body image with other people who (for the most part) get it. I’ve been able to talk about my struggles with showing my arms in sleeveless dresses, the hurt I’ve felt from my own parents sometimes, the judgement I feel when I eat in public – you name it. And yes, I’ve done all of this while trying (and succeeding, for the most part) to lose weight. Having a place to actually talk about it where I don’t get shitty platitudes like I do at Weight Watchers (“nothing tastes as good as thin feels”)has been a good thing. Hell, it’s been a great thing. I know it’s not here as a support group, but it certainly makes me feel like there are lots of other fabulous women who struggle too. And the fact that there is one little piece of the world that doesn’t judge me and condemn me for struggling all my life with obesity is glorious, indeed.” –erinfabu
Some thanked Dodai for her shoutout to women with PCOS, while others explain how much they used to hate their bodies when they were overweight, but they were still unhappy even after shedding a few pounds! It was once they learned to not equate their self-worth with the scale that they found themselves happier and healthier.
Reading these comments, I felt like I was surrounded (mostly) by other women who are all in the same boat: At various shapes and sizes, we’re all doing our best to be healthy. But sadly, a few self-hating skinnies with big, really loud media-backed megaphones don’t seem to have any clue what that looks like.
The fact that we’re often faced with their blog posts, advertisements, essays, feature articles, commercials, cover lines, books, etc. doesn’t help, when we’re already struggling with self-acceptance and body love. Hello, MORE news for ya: 40% of us are unhappy with our bodies, says a new survey by Glamour. And 71% of us “feel fat,“ even though only 46% are technically overweight.
Given the vitriol that one lone women’s pub (Marie Claire) seems to think is acceptable to spew about anyone who doesn’t fit into its fashionista definition of beautiful and healthy … is it any wonder that so many of us are paranoid and delusional about our own appearances? I mean, this isn’t exactly news to you, right?
Just look at Demi Lovato … The gorgeous young Disney star went to rehab this week for eating disorders and cutting, triggered by body image issues. This may be an extreme case, but it’s proof that the problem is out of control…
It seems to me every woman could stand to learn something from plus-size model Crystal Renn, who recently said, “I think that, you know, I will never be thin enough or big enough for anybody. So I think through this whole thing I had to just really be happy being who I am, and that’s when I found health.”
It’s not easy, that’s for sure. But I feel like, at least for me, it’s well worth the every pair of jeans, every glimpse of cellulite, every day struggle.
How ’bout you?
By Jean Stanula, Special Guest Blogger to The Body Logic
After an intense workout, I stand in front of the row of coolers in the 7-11, seeking a beverage to quench my well-earned thirst. My eyes scan row after row of liquid satiation searching for the 20oz that will really hit the spot. When my eyes trace the clean and precise curves of the Smartwater bottle, settle softly on the ocean blue label, an image of Jennifer Aniston – beautiful, confident, relaxed – seeps into my brain and I reach for the bottle. I know I’ve done it, and maybe I scold myself a little, but I think Jennifer Aniston is a trustworthy character, and she just wants me to drink this delicious, clean, perfect water.
It is an undeniable fact that celebrity and popularity affect every arena of our lives. This is nothing new – humans have been worshipping both Gods and men that seem to embody a betterness, a higherness, a coolerness, forever. In present times, we most often recognize the negative aspects of this hero worship – children killed attempting a professional wrestling move or a skateboard trick, young people acting out violent song lyrics, or our desensitization of domestic violence issues that we see so often in celebrity tabloids.
Once in a while, and I’m not saying Jennifer Aniston’s promotion of Smartwater counts in this camp, we find celebrities using their influence as positive leadership. I’m talking about the great global goliaths who have raised money and brought awareness to important issues such as Lance Armstrong, Bono and Bill and Melinda Gates. When celebrities find causes close to their hearts and use their influence to get us to wear yellow or buy red, their influence manifests itself as philanthropic guidance rather than the useless over consumption that results from sneaker ads or car endorsements.
Sadly, it seems that many non-profits and important causes can’t get proper promotion or financial support without the backing of an actor, athlete, or recording artist. I picture all of these organizations like puppies huddled together in a cardboard box, pawing and whimpering, stretching to be seen and plucked from obscurity by someone whose face can be found on a t-shirt. I wish consumers would also pay attention to organizations without celebrity endorsements, but I certainly can’t deny the effectiveness of such … If Lance Armstrong could do for poverty, homelessness, religious intolerance or issues of equality what he did for prostate cancer in this country, there is no doubt we would be living in a better world.
All causes can’t be as “popular” as HIV/AIDS or breast cancer, but some celebrities took a stand this past week to bring attention to really important issue – the portrayal of women and girls in the media. Joining together with worthy organizations, Girl Scouts of the USA and The Creative Coalition, a handful of celebrities such as Felicity Huffman, Seth Green, Rachael Leigh Cook and Chuck D. spoke out. They even took the time to recognize their absurd power in media, asking viewers to “Watch What You Watch.” Here’s the video:
It is awesome to see these recognizable faces taking on the issue of the media’s portrayal of women and girls. And, I have to say, it’s great to see men taking part in the promotion, too, which reminds viewers that an issue about women isn’t solely a women’s issue. They urge us to be more socially conscious, more media savvy, to take off the blinders we all sometimes wear when we want to just “enjoy” TV, magazines and movies. The campaign reminds us to filter and reject some of the media stream in which we are constantly treading because we do what celebrities say (right?) so we should do this too. We should be smart. Think smart.
As a strong supporter of the Girl Scouts (an organization which, for the record is not at all affiliated with the bigoted Boy Scouts of America) I am happy to see them enjoy a little celebrity backing. The issue of the mental and physical health and safely of women and girls should be just as “popular” as some of America’s favorite charities. Hopefully, this campaign, and others like it, will stick in the minds of consumers when they witness inappropriate or offensive portrayals of women in media (just like Jennifer Aniston does in mine when I see a bottle of Smartwater) and inspire them to think twice about buying what the media is selling.
Jean Stanula is a non fiction writer, blogger and nonprofiteer with an interest in issues of equality. She is a weekly columnist for The New Gay, where she writes under the catchy pseudonym Not Your Average Prom Queen, and sporadically records her
personal ramblings and creative writing at That Makes Me Nervous.
When I was 12 and again when I was 18, in the process of losing a significant amount of weight, I’d hear it a lot. “Wow, you’re so thin!” – “Your belly is so flat.” – “Your thighs got so much slimmer!” I’d beam upon hearing those words, but I didn’t know how to respond. I wondered how the person delivering the “compliment” expected me to respond. But I would quickly translate the comment to mean, “You look better / prettier / hotter / more worthy of my attention or affection.” Given that, the only way I could think to reply was with a genuine “Thank you so much!!!”
Every day, interactions like these have young girls and women on the fast-track to associating their weight with their worth. But at least now, there’s a growing conversation about the problem … specifically in Good Girls Don’t Get Fat by Robyn J.A. Silverman, Ph.D. Based on the dissertation she did at Tufts University, the book looks at the various forces that chip away at girls’ body image and explains to adults how they can best influence daughters, nieces, sisters, cousins, students to embrace varied body types and “thrive at any size.” While the book seems to primarily focus on the body image challenges facing adolescent girls and young women aged 16 to 21, I bet — for better or for worse — women of all ages can relate to the “Good Girls Don’t Get Fat” myth.
Below, a powerful trailer for the book that really drives that message home …
I love that Dr. Silverman doesn’t seem to think it’s fair to place the blame solely on anorexic actresses on primetime teen soaps and reality shows; damaging “Be/look/act skinny!” cover lines on magazine covers; Hollywood or even the fashion industry. As she notes, we’re also to blame for our daughters’ and our mothers’, friends’, our sisters’, our daughter-in-laws’ poor body image and low self-esteem. So what can we do?
Today, tell a woman you love why she’s beautiful … inside. Tell her that she’s witty, she’s brave, she’s charming, she’s brilliant. She might just start to feel like a rock star.
“Girls who see themselves in terms of strengths, who feel supported by those they love and have come to a place of acceptance about their bodies, are the ones who flourish,” writes Dr. Silverman.
Are you flourishing?
By Megan Monique, Special Guest Blogger to The Body Logic
“Well, shit.” I thought as I weighed myself this morning. I had gained a pound from the last time I weighed myself two days before.
I knew what the scale was going to tell me before I even stepped on. My monkeys had already talked to me about before I had a chance to pull the covers off myself and get out of bed earlier that morning.
They sounded something like this:
“Really, Megan? You are going to have ANOTHER chocolate covered graham cracker? Are you sure that is the best idea? I think I saw a new indention of cellulite on your thigh yesterday. That one last graham cracker just might be enough to break the seal. The next thing you know it you will be one giant ball of cellulite. Then who will love you?”
I sat in a pool of pity for a moment until I heard the last part. “Who will love me?!”
I will love me, dammit.
It is time for me to do away with the monkeys in every area of my life. They don’t only show up when I gain a pound. They also show up when I make less money than I want, or when I have a big dream I am working toward. (Lately it’s been becoming a life coach.)
But what purpose do these monkeys serve? They only keep me playing a small game.
I decided to create a mental box. When the monkey chatter starts happening, I mentally duct tape the monkeys mouth and put him in the box. I only let him come out if he is saying things that HELP me in my process of creating the life I love.
So what if I have cellulite. The only way I can rid myself of it is by making healthy choices, one by one. Inch by inch. Meal by meal. Listening, and more so BELIEVING the monkey chatter will only keep me in the same place I have been trying to move away from.
Armed With a Roll of Duct Tape,
Megan Monique is a writer & Lovemuffin Extraordinaire for Owning Pink and so much more. Her most prized piece is her personal blog entitled If I Were A Rainbow I Would Be Chocolate where she shares personal revelations and life adventures with her audience. Megan is also a life coach who focuses on living life creatively and abundantly with no limitations.
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I usually get a lot of flack for my unending love of the original, the ultimate ’90s teen primetime soap Beverly Hills, 90210. I can’t help it. I grew up watching Brenda follow her dreams all the way across the pond. I aspired to run the school newspaper like Andrea Zuckerman. I wanted a boyfriend who had sideburns like Brandon’s. (And I found him!) The show lasted an entire decade! And I’ll admit, I ditched it for Dawson’s Creek once Jason Priestley left and it got kind of intolerable. (I mean, really, how many awful things had to happen to poor Kelly Taylor? My friend Elizabeth and I agree that after she had been burned in a fire, sucked into a cult, addicted to coke, almost killed by a mixed-up sociopath, raped twice and shot, the girl must have been from Hell.)
Still, I will always sing the praises of the show’s earlier years, because it was the first hour-long drama to take teens seriously (sorry, Saved By the Bell, that wasn’t you). The story lines of the West Bev crew touched on important, timely issues that applied to ’90s teens—from AIDS to suicide to premarital sex (oh, Donna Martin, you goody-goody) and even the consequences of drinking too much champagne at prom. Where’s that show today? Oh, right, there was nothing but a pile of sugar-coated, Hannah Montana crap—so the CW had to just remake 90210.
At any rate, today is actually 9-02-10! To commemorate, I thought I’d spotlight just a few of the show’s life lessons on body image, love and sex.
Diet pills suck – Remember Kelly Taylor’s friend who came to Brenda’s sleepover but acted way too cool? Well, she was actually just a grumpy ex-chubby girl who was on loads of diet pills. And beautiful but insecure Kelly herself later abused diet pills. The show portrayed pill-popping to stay slim as sad and scary. Maybe this stuck with me, because years later, I found myself trading a bottle of Metabo-Life for a healthy lifestyle change with Weight Watchers.
You don’t have to wait ’til marriage—just ’til you fall in love – Before Brenda and Dylan did it at the Spring Dance, she gushed, “How many girls get to have sex for the first time with someone they love?” That scene likely shaped my own and many other girls’ views of virginity. Why do it with someone I didn’t love? But that didn’t necessarily mean having to wait until marriage. (Besides, it’s not like I’m Catholic, like Donna. Oh, wait, she had eventually did it with David before they got hitched!) Turns out Brenda’s swiping of the V-card was pretty revolutionary, too: According to an article in Slate, “The most shocking part was that she shows no remorse. A teen girl having sex—even if she used a condom—and gloating about it didn’t go unnoticed (or unpunished).” …until of course they wrote in Brenda’s pregnancy scare of season 2. Whatever. Sorry, Jim Walsh, she just wasn’t your little girl anymore.
Andrea Zuckerman was beautiful – She may have started out as the geeky girl with the hopeless crush on Brandon Walsh. And granted, she never got that guy, she was still adored—by Brandon, Steve and many a hot (and often older) dude. In her all of her straight A-earning, editor-in-chief of The Blaze, getting into Yale while wearing high-waisted jeans glory, the Jewish girl from the wrong side of the tracks was truly aspirational.
Put your sisters before misters – Really, what the heck, Brenda and Kelly? Dylan had that sexy James Dean thing going on, but he was also super screwed-up on booze, coke and later, heroin. Not hot. And definitely not worth throwing out your BFF bond.
Being a model is not worth sleeping with some sleazy French guy – That is all.
Be yourself! – This was a running theme, of course—being a teenager is all about figuring out who you are and staying true to that. But the most literal lesson on being yourself may have been when Brenda pretended to be French with hottie-pa-tottie Rick (played by Dean Cain) in Paris. The ruse got her in a lot of hot water back in Bev Hills once “Reek” showed up to attend UCLA—classic! After attempting to enlist mom Cindy and bro Brandon to play along, Brenda quickly learned that she was better off calling the whole thing off and just being herself—the all-American Brenda Walsh from Minnesota. She could save random accents for the stage.
More hilarious life lessons from 90210.
I admit—I tried on approximately 3 outfits this morning before settling on a bright turquoise and pink dress that I picked mostly because it was sans stain, sans wrinkles and when I looked at myself in it, I didn’t feel like I was walking through a hall of carnival mirrors. Blame hormones, our boyfriend for throwing a dry-clean only top into the dryer or a full moon (we’re feeling the effects of one right now, btw). Whatever the case, sometimes we just don’t like how we look. Sadly, according to one survey, at least 80% of women are unhappy with what they see when they look at themselves in the mirror. Seems like we could all use a self-confidence pick-me-up…or several. Here are 10 quotes to inspire us to love our reflections—and ourselves—a little more today.
1. Margaret Cho – “In our culture, we don’t see people out there with normal-looking bodies. We should all feel beautiful. If you feel beautiful, you will be more political, more active in trying to stand up for yourself, you’ll be in more control of your life, have more sense of power over what you’re doing.”
2. Drew Barrymore – “God made a very obvious choice when He made me voluptuous; why would I go against what he decided for me? My limbs work, so I’m not going to complain about the way my body is shaped.”
3. Gloria Steinem – “Each individual woman’s body demands to be accepted on its own terms.”
4. Christina Hendricks – “I guess my mom raised me right. She was very celebratory of her body. I never heard her once say, “I feel fat.” Back when I was modeling, the first time I went to Italy I was having cappuccinos every day, and I gained 15 pounds. And I felt gorgeous! I would take my clothes off in front of the mirror and be like, Oh, I look like a woman. And I felt beautiful, and I never tried to lose it, ’cause I loved it.”
5. Lucille Ball – “Love yourself first and everything falls into line.”
6. Lady Gaga – “When I say to you, there is nobody like me, and there never was, that is a statement I want every woman to feel and make about themselves.”
7. Sophia Loren – “Beauty is how you feel inside, and it reflects in your eyes. It is not something physical.”
8. Amber Riley (from Glee) – “You’re not your dress size, you’re not your shoe size, you’re not your pants size. If I’m going to wear a name tag, it’s going to say ‘Amber Riley,’ not ‘Fat Girl’!”
9. Laila Ali – “By being an athlete, I have uncovered so many other ways to express my beauty. Being a strong, fearless woman makes me feel beautiful.”
10. Dr. Lissa Rankin – “Believe in yourself. Love yourself. Be whole. You know you already are.”
What makes you feel beautiful?
Last week, all the buzz was about vaginas. This week, I’m wondering about penises. Maybe that’s because my friend, Lissa Rankin, recently posed the question on her Facebook: Does size matter?
Immediately, I thought of this clip from Sex & the City, in which Samantha is crying to Carrie, Charlotte and Miranda that the man she’s dating is too small. Remember?
When I shared the clip with Lissa, she pointed out that it was sponsored by ProExtend, “a penile enlargement device and adjustable traction apparatus,” which she noted, feeds off the insecurities of men. It’s true that there’s an entire industry of gadgets, pills, supplements, exercise regimens, etc. aimed at guys who are self-conscious about their size.
I started to think about how there are so many double-standards between the sexes when it comes to what’s attractive. We all know how screwed up it is that chubby Seth Rogan is considered geeky-sexy and gets cast as the endearing lead in a rom-com. And in Superbad, gorgeous Emma Stone fawns all over tubby-as-Hell Jonah Hill. Doubtful we’d ever see hot guys going after a similarly overweight actress. (With the exception of John Waters’s nutty Hairspray, of course.)
But there’s one case in which big is in. When it comes to what’s in our pants, it’s true that men have to put up with more pressure to conform to some unrealistic Boogie Nights size standard. Granted, we women have to confront other absurd ideals having to do with Brazilian waxes and odor, etc. But these issues don’t get nearly as much screen time as the penis size meme.
I do feel bad for guys who feel like they have to measure up (pun intended) to what they see in movies or porn. They should feel confident and happy with their packages. (Because women usually are!) But, honestly, I kinda don’t feel like spending too much time boo-hoo’ing for them. We ladies are targeted with images that aim to chip away at our body confidence just about all day every day—from cover lines that scream, “How One C-List Celeb Dropped Her Baby Weight in 5 Seconds!” to Facebook ads that tout breast implants, lipo or even wrinkle cream. From the time that we’re able to dress ourselves, we’re almost on autopilot, trying to amend what isn’t up to pop culture par about our outward appearance. At least guys can keep a VIP (Very Insecure Penis) under wraps in public.
What do you think—am I being too harsh? Maybe we should start a campaign for Penis Confidence? 🙂
On Friday afternoon/evening, I got swept up in what can only be described as a brilliant, bold, Twitterific takeover of Midtown Manhattan by over 2,000 lady bloggers aka BlogHer ’10. My friend and associate (I edit her magazine column at First for Women), Lissa Rankin was one of the keynote speakers at the Voices of the Year Community Keynote, and she graciously invited me as one of her guests to see the speech and party afterward at the BlogHer Gala.
Although Lissa and I hadn’t discussed any of the details of what she would be presenting in her keynote, I nodded knowingly when she began reading her Op/Ed post, “What? We Can’t Say ‘Vagina‘?” If you don’t recall, this past spring, there was controversy regarding a Kotex tampon commercial that featured the word for the body part that tampons are for. The company had two choices: Give up the “vagina” or bury the spot. In her post, Lissa wisely weighs in and calls out the irony and insanity of our squirminess as a society to verbalize the female genitalia—especially in the Kotex context. The response? She had a blogger-filled ballroom literally standing up to those lame-o TV execs by chorusing, “Vagina! Vagina! Vagina!”
You can check out a video of Lissa reading her post at BlogHer here.
I’m always talking about loving your body. And for the most part, when talking about body confidence, we tend to think of curves, muffin-tops, jiggly thighs and maybe breasts. But what about the part of our body that TV networks would prefer to shroud in secrecy? The part of our body, which as Lissa points out, is where all human life comes from! After Friday night, I started to think … Maybe it’s about time we start cultivating our vagina confidence! We could have a soap company sponsor a “Campaign for Real Vaginies” and Jessica Simpson could have a show on cable called “The Price of Pretty Coochies.” 🙂
But in all seriousness, we need to take more pride in our “private” parts. I know, I know, it all stems from this backasswards Puritanical idea that we perpetuate as Americans that boobies and vulvas are to be bleeped out, covered up, blocked out with black boxes when shown on TV and slapped with an X rating (whereas blood, guts and guns—that’s just PG). And I’m not advocating that we start throwing “bottom-less” parties a la Harold and Kumar. But we should really listen to what Lissa’s saying and work toward being comfortable and confident as women with saying “vagina,” “vulva” or even a euphemism when naming our own normal, perfectly beautiful genitalia. Communication breeds empowerment, and no one else is going to own your health, your sexuality and your well-being like you can. So, let’s do like Lissa and start a vagina confidence revolution. One defiant chant of “Vagina! Vagina! Vagina!” at a time.
My boyfriend has iPhone envy, and sometimes when I’m brushing my teeth and he’s already in bed, he’ll tuck into my New York Times or CNN apps to catch up on the day’s news. Last night, he read me this story, from The Frisky, in which Anna Sophia Martin tells her tale of a first date gone horribly wrong. Dan thought I’d get a kick out of it, because I was the Queen of Online Dating until he and I met on JDate in late ’06. While Anna had spent a few months pointing and clicking in search of a soulmate, I spent a few years scouring guys’ profiles in Boston, L.A., Chicago and New York. I was even bi at one point—coastal, that is. And all I can say is, I feel the girl’s pain—and her pride.
Anna went out with a guy named Dan who sported “a round, waffle-sized bald patch” and 20 extra pounds (which he claimed was muscle, mmk…) She wasn’t into it. And neither was he…sort of. He chose to e-mail her after their first date to explain where he stood. He confessed that he just doesn’t have chemistry with “very curvy women.” He inquired as to whether or not she was planning to “embark on and commit to a process of a transformation”… If so, he’d be down to go out again.
As my (very unbald, extremely handsome, respectful, considerate, etc.) Dan read Anna’s tale aloud, I couldn’t help but laugh, shake my head and groan. I flashed back to various cringe-worthy or ridiculous moments of my dating career, in which I experienced similarly outrageous encounters regarding men’s superficial, unjustified expectations. A couple of my horror stories for your entertainment:
Whackadoodle Dude #1: Not long after I moved to L.A., I met Kyle* online. He was getting his Masters in New York, so I ended up flying across the country to a.) visit my friends at NYU and b.) go on several dates with Kyle. He was a theater geek who religiously watched “Battlestar Galactica” and who didn’t seem to have too many friends or much of a life outside of school. But I shrugged all that off, because he looked a bit like Fred Savage and seemed like he could be a nice Jewish guy. And he was quite the gentleman…until we were hanging out in person for the second time, and out of the blue, he said, “Promise me that you’ll never turn into a fat Jewish mom.” As you might imagine, my head nearly exploded. “WHAT did you say?” I responded. He laughed hysterically. I wasn’t amused. I hailed a cab and left him to find someone else who wouldn’t mind passive-aggressive requests regarding her bagel eating habits and circumference of her thighs 10 years from now.
Whackadoodle Dude #2: I once started chatting with a guy online who fired questions at me via IM as if I was interviewing for a six-figure corporate job. He felt he had the right to know how often I worked out, did I consider myself fit, how much I weighed? Although with that last Q, I should have just closed out of the conversation, I found myself wrapped up and trying to prove a point… That I was attractive. That I consider myself a work in progress when it comes to my fitness. (Aren’t we all?) That when it deciding whether or not to go on a first date with me, my recent, clear-as-day photos should have been enough—my body fat percentage, on the other hand, was a non-issue. Mostly I just couldn’t believe he had the audacity to request this info. He argued that he was “looking for the whole package.” Meanwhile, the guy didn’t even have a photo of himself on his profile. I didn’t waste much more than a second or two before hitting the good old X button.
I’m all about being forthright about what you want in a relationship and from a potential partner. And I don’t deny that physical attraction is crucial. But telling someone you barely know to go on a diet, hit the gym daily or vow to never become a nasty stereotype is just plain crazy. And having deliriously high standards and/or acting like finding a significant other is the same thing as placing a customized order at Starbucks is a prescription for eternal singledom. I’m really just baffled as to where these guys get off. But I’d take a wild guess that Anna’s Dan and my own delusional dates are destined to be alone until their attitudes—and likely subpar looks—seriously shape up.
*=Surprisingly, I never dated anyone with this name! So it works as a pseudonym.