Friday, March 13, 2009

the nastiness of bodies

the other night sara and i were watching a comic named Retta on comedy central. one of her routines was on her call for men to shave their armpits -- or at least to use aerosol deodorants. this thought occurred to her years before when she attended an LL Cool J concert and he, shirtless, raised his arms. she recoiled at the sight, not of the hair, but of the caked up bits of deodorant dangling from the hairs. how she described her disgust was to resort to food comparisons: J had "crumbled up a double-stuf Oreo" and mashed it around; he was indulging in "feta cheese." the cheese comparison closed the piece, and was meant to hit us in the gut with the utter nastiness.

sara, next to me, said, "you americans and your food thing." we often turn to food comparisons to magnify and describe the disgusting nature of the human body. she had mentioned this to me before, and it makes me wonder what is at work culturally. saying a woman has "cottage cheese thighs" is not only meant to depict a woman as fat but to make the fact of fat utterly nauseating to the listener. i am sure there is also a moral element to this all, something maybe from the puritans, a disgust for the body in general but especially for a "lazy" body (as if fat people do not work).

feta cheese, oreo cookies, and cottage cheese do not cause revulsion when mentioned in normal contexts. but a strange alchemy occurs when they are used to describe the body.

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