Yesterday I wrote about those contradictory things in time. Truthfully, I could write for days about nothing but the juxtrapositions and contrasts which fill this world and make it more interesting, less perfect. Today, when reading about eating disorders, I was not surprised to read that one of the two jobs you'll find the most sufferers of anorexia in is modelling. We all know how the vogue is for super-thin, and the pressure that those in the modelling world feel. Nevertheless, I find it hard to get my head around these constantly contradicting ideals about beauty. There are so many photos out there of anorexics with horribly sunken faces which I'm not going to post because frankly, they are repulsive. A few centuries ago, classic paintings depicted women who would probably be seen as overweight by today's standards.
But what is fashionable is always going to change, in terms of the colours which are in this year as well as the body shapes. Weirdly enough, Oscar Wilde said that 'fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months' - maybe he's right and what is now commonly perceived as beautiful, because it works with what is fashionable, is in fact hideously ugly.
Anyway, there are always different people with different opinions. I still know several people who maintain that curvy is more feminine, others who would prefer healthy muscles to the Auswitz look and those who want to be petite and delicate in size and manner. After all - beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
This is why I found it even more startling to learn what the other high-risk job in terms of eating disorders was - being a ballerina. Maybe I shouldn't have been so surprised, especially considering that my first encounter with eating disorders was a Baby-sitter's Club book revolving around an anorexic ballerina storyline. Nevertheless, there is something so strange about it all.
Consider this: ballet is one of the most physically strenuous career paths one could possibly choose. Long hours of exercise, and the excruciating difficulty of dancing on pointe mean that you have to have a lot of strength. Today I read about one sufferer of anorexia who fell into a coma after attempting a 1 minute jog. How can you be in that situation to do something like this?
So, there's this incredible strength which is normally associated with athletes who, although very lean are not at all small. But then, as this image demonstrates, ballerinas have to look so light that you imagine that they might be able to fly. Serena Williams looks beautifully healthy, but she could never convince you of that.
Before the rise of feminism, trousers and Suffragettes women wore corsets to exaggerate their womanly curves, and as a result became very weak and gained a reputation for dramatically fainting. This was appealing to men who could assert their manly superiority by protecting their weak little lady. Ballerinas need that stereotypical sense of feminity, fragility, so that the male lead can twirl and support and lift her.
However female ballerinas are not renouned for their curves, and their busts are rarely very much more protruding than their male counterparts. So how does this whole old-fashioned ideal of feminity fit in with their boyish physique?
This is just one example of the different expectations society expects met - take today's news, with the fantastic result of Obama as the democratic President-elect contrasted with the disappointment of Proposition 8. Juxtaposed together, how ridiculous does everything begin to seem? I can now clearly see why ballerinas feel the pressure they do; contrasts can be intellectually stimulating as well as very beautiful, but they are also overwhelmingly confusing.