Sunday, June 21, 2015

What Brand of Snake Oil Do You Use?

Do you ever outgrow being self-conscious? Do you ever reach a point at which you are rich enough, beautiful enough, or successful enough that you no longer care what people think or where you fit in on society's roster? When A-Listers photoshop their Instagrams, when a candid photograph requires twenty-four minutes of preparation, when the bra strap peeking from beneath your sleeveless dress is cause for a social media frenzy, when how one looks when captured by the paparazzi is paramount to actually enjoying the event itself, I think it's obvious. If you think the person sitting next to you on the subway has a better life because they are married, or thin, or successful, or rich, or popular, or young -- think again. We are being conditioned to fret over what others think of us, and to know with certainty we will never be "enough." And we are being conditioned to measure others by the self-hatred we have in our hearts.

The media, the mean girls, the brokers, the lawyers, the celebs, the stylists, the experts and gossip columnists and plastic surgeons -- are spin doctors and frauds, practiced in the art of deception and all seeking to sell you something, something they want you to believe you need: equality with their standards. They are as insecure and un-coiffed as you are, my friend -- they've just taken a different approach. Years ago, night after night, they stood alone staring into the mirror taking inventory of the way they didn't stack up, much the same way you do now; their dissatisfaction with themselves eventually married their fear of failure and gave birth to hatred and self-loathing -- a hatred and self-loathing they now project on others for their own profit.

Do you need to be thinner? "Yeah, you probably do. Because, if you're a bit too fat, and I can convince you of that, I don't have to be alone in feeling inadequate and socially unacceptable."

Or maybe you can use a few more curves. "Yeah, I know a guy who's really great for that. He's a little expensive, but if I can get you to go under his knife, I won't feel so bad about being up to my tucked little eyeballs in debt for the work I've had done. Plus, he'll cut me a break on the C-cup he recommended."

"Oh! Well, if it's debt you're worried about, just open another low-interest credit card and transfer your balances. But keep that credit score up. And save for retirement. And maybe flip a house or two for a quick profit -- anyone can be successful in real estate. And make sure you're saving for your kids to go to college -- after all, you don't want them to have to pay for their own education when they're adults, do you? Oh, and no pressure, but are you sure you have enough life insurance -- you're not getting any younger, you know? How would it look if your family couldn't afford your funeral with an expensive luncheon afterward?"

"Have you ever thought about going back to college? Successful older men look for women with degrees, who've proven themselves intelligent, go-getters; self-sufficient, who aren't scared of a pre-nup because they have just as much to lose. Then you could stop spending every Friday night with your cat, and Saturday nights with the homeless."

It never ends, folks. Perfection in this life, based on this world's standards is a myth. The Kylie Jenner pout, the belly button challenge, Powerball, double and triple college majors, contest after contest, pursuit after pursuit. And the Bible says it is all vanity:
"Vanity[a] of vanities, says the Preacher,
    vanity of vanities! All is vanity."
  1. Ecclesiastes 1:2 The Hebrew term hebel, translated vanity or vain, refers concretely to a “mist,” “vapor,” or “mere breath,” and metaphorically to something that is fleeting or elusive (with different nuances depending on the context). It appears five times in this verse and in 29 other verses in Ecclesiastes. (I've included to footnote for relevance)
Chances are my life is more than half over. I can't imagine standing before My Maker wishing my bank account had been bigger or my waistline smaller. I can't imagine explaining that I would have gone to church more often if I hadn't been training for my twenty-eighth marathon, or if the women there had been a little more educated and upscale. I can't imagine explaining that I hated my neighbor because his skin was darker than mine or his religion was inferior.

Life is a vapor, and within it, perfection an illusion. There is something more beyond this wisp of an existence, and perfection is a qualification for enjoying it. May God have mercy on our souls.

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