FLAWLESSNESS is overrated.
Cindy Crawford has a not entirely taut stomach.
Beyoncé gets the occasional spot and the Duchess of Cambridge has a few greys hidden somewhere in that magnificent mane. But you could have guessed that, right?
If your common sense hadn't already alerted you to the fact that real human bodies are lumpy, bumpy and sometimes saggy, then the un-retouched pictures from Lena Dunham's Vogue shoot in 2014 should have.
Or Lorde's make-up-free Twitter pic. Or Kate Moss's belly on the beach. Or any of the many other similar images which are eagerly sought and gleefully reproduced on a daily basis.
Judging by the reactions to last week's bumper batch, however, the human body in its natural form retains the power to shock.
Cindy and Beyoncé were both praised as "brave", despite the fact that the images were disseminated without their prior knowledge or permission.
The Daily Mail followed up their front-page splash on the grey hair shocker with these kind words: "There can't be a single woman who, after seeing the pictures of the Duchess of Cambridge's grey hairs yesterday, felt anything but sympathy for her." Yeah, sure, "sympathy", that's what it's about.
Here, again, is the disingenuous little dance we do whenever unflattering pictures of beautiful women appear in the media. It's not supportive or sisterly; it's just spiteful.
Children and teenagers may struggle to tell the difference between fantasy and reality, but not grown-ups.
The truth is consenting adults choose to buy into the fantasy of glamour because, for the most part, it's enjoyable. So why do we keep up the pretence that exposing flaws is either reassuring or revelatory?
Women learn early that they must skillfully self-deprecate if they hope to be considered likeable, but showcasing your flaws for public view isn't any healthier than striving for unattainable perfection.
"I hate my fat thighs," one would say. "Oh, no your thighs are fine," her friend replied. "But my skin! Urgh!" And so on.
I also remember the surprising occasion when one girl said, actually, there was nothing about herself she'd change.
She was quite happy with the way she looked, thanks very much.
Now, I appreciate the strength of character behind that statement. At the time, no doubt, we dismissed her as a stuck-up bitch and got on with comparing body fat percentages.
So the Beyoncé-style myth of "Flawless" is a lie - of course she didn't "wake up like this" - but so what?
These lies have their uses as an armour which helps women to resist the steady pressure to feel terrible about the way they look. Never put yourself down, my stepfather used to say. Other people will do that for you.
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