By: Lauren Anderson
I’m kind of ashamed to admit this.
But if I can’t be honest with you dear reader, than what’s the fricking point of this right?
Okay, here goes. I used to play this game called “Mass Appeal”. There’s a good chance I’ve even mentioned it before, so bear with me. I made it up with a buddy a while back when we worked a lot of convention floors together.
It’s a game of compliments, but really it’s a game I started to pass the time when you find yourself in a crowded area, where you’re likely to be doing some people watching and wasting of time.
The premise is this:
Picture it, you’re in the airport, or hotel lobby, mall, ballgame… you get the idea. Every single person that walks by, you try and find something that you would genuinely compliment, given the opportunity.
“Great hair.” “Cool shoes.” “He has the height of Prince!” “Her smile lights up the room.” That kind of stuff. You know, things that you notice about a stranger as they walk by.
The more compliments that you can think of, and the easier you can think of it, the closer they get to “Mass Appeal”. Think of Mass Appeal Champions as people like, Beyonce or Idris Elba. You know, people that are just so universally attractive that 9/10 people would agree.
And the closer that you can get to this gold standard, in my stupid “game”, The better.
In other words, Mass Appeal wins.
Let me say that again…. MASS APPEAL WINS.
I used to play this game all the time. It was like, next-level people watching. Hell, I thought I was being kind. But now, even the idea of it, kind of makes me shudder. Cause gross right?
The game is kind of gross.
So, why am I icked out by my own game now? In the scheme of things, this game is not so bad. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be considered attractive to the masses? We were trying to be complimentary.
But isn’t that what cat-callers say when they defend themselves? (Uh no. Jesus Anderson…)
And then it dawned on me, I’m probably so skeeved by it now, because at it’s core, it’s people judging other people based on their looks. And that’s inherently gross. Even though we all do it, and attraction is based on physical factors, and there are scientific studies to back up the idea that humans seek symmetry etc. But still!
Who the F*CK am I to decide?! And then make it into a GAME?! Yuk.
And it wasn’t just who had attractive qualities from individual to individual, because taste is subjective! In the game we were trying to find people that had mass appeal.
Meaning that their ability to attract not one person but MANY was the point. The ability to attract MANY people was the prize. It was the ultimate marker of victory.
Let’s discuss a heterosexual cis-male example of this because– the patriarchy amirite?
But there is still this unspoken thing, that we must pick our partners based on the “Trophy Wife” idea. It still gets signaled in pop music and culture ALL THE TIME. And it’s not exclusive to heterosexual cis-men by any means, but it is perhaps the strongest case.
The idea is, one must not date someone that they simply find attractive.
They must date someone that has so much mass appeal, that when they bring their date to “da club” etc, they get high fives from their friends.
As if to say, “Good job Man! Who you have chosen is also attractive to me, therefore your mate has more value in our social circle. And you by extension, have more power because we now see you as a person that can attract the highly symmetrical.”
(Haha! I wish people really talked like that.)
I have had my share of good-looking boyfriends. In fact, EVERY SINGLE guy I’ve dated I have found attractive. Cause that’s how that works… duh.
But there were a couple who had extra “mass appeal”. And when I would introduce them to people, everyone would be weird and gross about it. Even my grandmother at the time was all, “Oooo! Good job Sweetie!” As if I had ANYTHING to do with how hot they were.
But somehow, I got praise for it. And it never, ever sat right with me. Cause GROSS right?!
And I don’t think the idea of Mass Appeal is even exclusive to looks. Our hobbies, our jobs, our clothing, our homes, even how our kids behave– are all are subject to this.
You know it when you see it reflected in art too. You can tell when a person creates music/sketches/pictures/content “to be liked” versus, “I have something to say that I am compelled to share.” The latter has more risk, to be sure.
But if artists are willing to share themselves, there is also MORE REWARD.
When I started weight-lifting at Solcana, for all the “Hell yeah! Get it!” shout-outs I received, I got an equal number of, “Be careful you don’t get too big. Or too strong.”
Because a girl with muscles isn’t as UNNIVERSALLY APPEALING as a girl who is small. FML.
(*bangs head on wall repeatedly mumbling “why do I bother?”)
But I’ve always been personally attracted to muscles. So it goes without saying that I would find this attractive in myself too. And I do! In fact, I have never felt more sexy than when I PR’d my backsquat.
But that’s weird for a girl… or is it? Ya know what?
I don’t f*cking care! I’m doing it anyway. Cause I think it’s hot.
But there are lots of people that don’t like this. They get worried around me and my body.
The population gets so mad at people who don’t care what other people think. Because it upsets the apple-cart. We Americans claim to want individuality, but do we really? Because, if those people aren’t beholden to the masses, then how do we control them?
And the answer is, YOU CAN’T.
* * *
So what am I trying to say? Well, a lot actually. Too much for a Tuesday probably, and I have no real conclusion. Only more questions. But as someone who HATES being told what to do, maybe asking myself these questions is the perfect place to start?
Perhaps in the quest for beauty and health and fitness, I think true body love sometimes gets squashed, because we are taught that our own opinion is secondary to the opinion of the masses.
And I don’t know if we are hard-wired that way, or if it is a learned behavior that is magnified by what we see reflected in our media. But there is undeniable external pressure to appeal, not just to yourself but to EVERYBODY.
(Half the videos on You Tube are proof of this.)
Whatever we want to call it, there is this not-really-talked-about idea that it’s not enough that we find ourselves attractive. Or that we are attractive to our friends and family and Significant Other.
WE MUST ALSO BE ATTRACTIVE AND APPEALING TO THE MASSES.
Then and only then, have we achieved acceptability. And that’s an impossible mission. We are setting ourselves up for failure.
Because the truth is, we will never be attractive to everybody.
And as I was writing this, my horoscope popped up on my phone. Each day it sends me a sentence to think about, or “observe” that day. It’s silly perhaps, but I like it.
Today it simply said, “You are not for everyone.”
On a darker day, this would’ve bummed me out. I would’ve felt weird again, or “too much”. But today it just made me laugh. Because I’m finally at the point in my life where that’s okay.
There is always going to be a contingent of people that think girls shouldn’t have muscles, or guys need to be a certain height, or that fatness equals ugliness.
There are lots of people out there that could take or leave Beyonce. I personally think they are Koo-koo banana pants, but hey! I know they’re out there.
Of course I’m not for everyone. Because if I was, I wouldn’t be very interesting right?
It’s like what I learned in my one lighting design class in college,
“If everything is lit, you see nothing.”
So maybe on my quest for total body love, it’s important for me to keep asking myself the question, “Am I doing this for me? Or am I doing this for them?” And then try not to judge my own answer.
Because let’s not get it twisted– there are clear, societal rewards in having Mass Appeal.
But sometimes those rewards can feel like a cage.
And cages aren’t for everyone. And neither am I.