Many years ago, a friend mentioned in passing that she never wore shorts because of her fat knees. I had never given the girth of my own knees a single solitary thought, but I immediately began scrutinizing them. And yes, they were saggy and weird and kinda fat-looking. Now, I had something new to worry about.

Over the course of this blog, I’ve received several comments and e-mails instructing me to “get a tan.” Rather forcefully and with the implication that my pasty whiteness was an absolute affront. It had never occurred to me that my pale skin was marking me as an unstylish person. Now, I had something new to worry about.*

A few months back, Dove launched a new campaign for their Ultimate Deodorant. In it, they informed us that the VAST majority of women believe their own underarms to be unsightly and assured us that use of their deodorant would give us the pits of our dreams. And I totally get that underarms can break out and get discolored, and that some folks may be THRILLED to have a product that’ll help. But, again, I found myself thinking, “Holy crap, I’ve never even looked closely at my own underarms.” Now, I have something new to worry about.

I use concealer on my zits and dark circles. I pencil in my brows. I shave my legs and paint my toenails and someday I’m fairly sure I’ll dye my gray hairs. And I’m generally pretty grateful for the products and procedures that I utilize to gently alter my appearance. But I try to keep an eye out for manufactured discontent, stealthy marketing that targets my body confidence. I try to be alert for messages that purport to be helpful but are really just insidious ploys to inspire inferiority complexes, and encourage spending to cure them.

It’s one thing to work with what you’ve got, it’s another to eradicate what you’ve got and replace it with something far less unique. We’re humans. We get to look like humans. Bumps and ridges, bulges and wrinkles, curves and planes and hairs that stick out at odd angles are what MAKE us human. When we accept that we should hate those things and take pains to change them, we are agreeing to make ourselves less and less human.

Knees are fat, even on celebrities. Without saggy folds of skin, we couldn’t WALK. Skin comes in a huge variety of shades and tones and textures, and all of them are gorgeous. Underarms are lumpy and prickly. And unless you spend all day reaching for stuff on high shelves in full view of highly critical beauty experts, it doesn’t matter at all.

Most of us struggle enough to love and accept our bodies without manufactured discontent. Keep your eyes open and your shields up. You don’t need that crap.

*OK, not really. I could care less if people think I’m too pale. But those comments made me pause, and cock my head, and consider a previously ignored aspect of my physical form in a new light.

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