Friday, November 9, 2012

Guest Post- Jennifer Laurens

Today, in honor of her newest book, Grace Doll, author Jennifer Laurens is chatting with us about society’s obsession with beauty; why we crave it, and whether it’s good thing or a bad thing.
I come from a long line of beautiful, vain women. It's been hard to live with. I grew up with people raving about my mom looking like a Barbie, or a movie star. My grandmother (still thriving at 96) is still glamorous. My mom (73 and stunning) has had two facelifts to maintain her standard of beauty. I don't have a problem with people choosing to look their best whenever they walk out the door each day, but I've tried hard not to impose an 'ideal' on my own girls. Unintentionally, my mother's insistence that she "put her face on" and "get dressed up" before she saw a soul made me think that my natural self was unattractive. I needed makeup and hair to be beautiful. I should be slim. Pressure built, and, at 15 I developed anorexia. This was back before the disease was so rampant. One other girl in my high school looked emaciated like me--that was all.
Anorexia (in my case) was a direct result of my need to control my life and myself from the inside out, not feeling like I had to 'be' beautiful or thin.
In today's society of 'you can never be too rich or too thin' - (Wallace Simpson, Duchess of Windsor) think about the implication of that phrase and it’s so very temporal. There's nothing about who we really are on the inside in that statement. What about: you can never be too compassionate or too loving. What a difference two words make.
I'm concerned that the world seems to rotate around a two-sided, magnifying mirror. Every image placed before us is young beauty. Every reality show stars young hotties. (Heaven forbid middle aged or seniors be portrayed as vibrant hotties --- the thought makes us cringe) Should it though? It shouldn't, but it does because we're submerged in a media force that only pushes young, supple, sexual images at us. As if life ends at 42. Or 38.
Any obsession ( as you mentioned in your above question ) with youth and beauty is dangerous as most obsessions mimic addictions and often create unhealthy spawn.(i.e. eating disorders, obsession with plastic surgery to name a few ) A society where beauty is ranked so high on the list of priorities fails, as beauty fades and bodies die.
As a writer, I feel a responsibility to address social topics like this with care. Writing YA means portraying characters that stand at the precipice or at the peak of self-awareness (or even someplace in between) and every character, just like every human being, is different. It's a challenge to create characters readers can relate to while still maintaining the integrity of the character I see in my head. But I love that challenge! For me, Grace Doll was this challenge: a woman who is mature beyond her teenaged body years.
I doubt the world's fascination with beauty will wane any time soon. In today's world of "five minutes of fame" reality TV stars who prostitute themselves via television shows, product endorsements, etc. just because they're attractive and willing, the message these media-producers are sending is "You can have this too, if you're willing to do ANYTHING."
Connect with Jennifer here:

Remember to check out Grace Doll, and let me know what you think!

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