miércoles, 16 de marzo de 2011

Fitness in Lebanon

There is something that continues to blow my mind in Lebanon, even after 8 months of being here: people's obsession about their appearance.

I mean, I have never seen women (and some men) more done up in my entire life. Let me explain a bit more.

When I go out to the supermarket, I usually wear jeans and a T-shirt (especially on Sundays!), and find myself not only under-dressed but also under-makeuped.

When I get in the elevator, I can forget about my perfume, since all I will be able to smell for the next hour is the perfume of the woman or man who was there before me.

When I go get my nails done at this beauty salon, I need to have a 10 minute discussion with the girl who works there explaining why I a) don't use acrylic nails, b) don't want to bleach my arms' hair (sorry for the visual there) and c) only come every other week. O a side note, it seems like 9 times out of 10, there are men getting their nails done at the beauty salon as well.

In downtown Beirut, you can find pretty much every big fashion brand, and the most expensive ones. If you go to the mall, all girls are wearing at least 9- inch heels. And if you go to a club, forget it, it is a freaking fashion show.

Please don't get me wrong, I am someone who loves make up and cool clothes. I have walked the streets of Paris, London and New York. I like fashion, and actually follow it up a bit. But style in Lebanon is far beyond anything I have seen.

I think we are all fashion victims to a certain extent (even those who say they aren't because they are obsessed with not looking like they're fashion victims). We are after all bombarded constantly by advertisements, and taught on TV, magazines and movies what looks cool and what is out.

But in this day and age looks, go actually beyond clothes, as it includes-especially in Lebanon- the way a body should look like.

To be fair, I believe that every woman in the world (and I think now more and more men) has experienced the pressure, the need or the desire to be "fit". It is common knowledge that to be "fit" is equated to be thin, healthy, athletic or just look good.

But, if you think about it, the word "fitness" actually means "the quality of being suitable". So in this context, far from coming from a desire of being healthy, when we talk about being "fit" , we are actually concerned about our ability of being adequate, suitable, or up to standard.

Suitable for what? you might ask yourself.

Lebanon is the country with more plastic surgery in the world. Some even say that one out of 3 women have gone "under the knife" in Lebanon. It actually has 1 million and a half interventions a year, seven times the rate in France! And in Lebanon there is actually something called "Plastic surgery tours". In some Gulf countries plastic surgery is considered taboo, so people come to Lebanon to get the procedure done. Europeans often come too, since Lebanese surgeons are professional and cheaper.

But why Lebanon though?

According to some, the plastic surgery boom came after the civil war, when people were disfigured. Also, since there were more women than men, women became obsessed with their looks to find suitable husbands. Another theory is at since unemployment is high, looks have become an important criterion to raise the chances of getting recruited.

But what actually surprises me the most is that I actually think that Lebanese are very attractive already. So I just don't understand where this need to look a certain way comes from.
I wonder if it comes from the fact that the Lebanese seem to be living only for the "now", as the future is so uncertain in this country. Or maybe this comes from a nostalgic idea of things needing to look a certain way, to compensate for what has been lost... Who knows.

The one thing I know is that my "expat" colleagues and I oftentimes that we are getting our hair and nails done more often here than ever in our entire life. But the reality is that no matter what we do, we will never look Lebanese. For good or bad. It's just too much work.

6 comentarios:

  1. Oye Maria, hay mass comentario sobre este post en mi blog (Link debajo)..


  2. great post, and to the point! :)

  3. I love the post! I'm a Lebanese girl who loves simple stuff. Whenever I decide to go out in very casual clothes or no makeup, I end up changing my mind in order not to feel uncomfortable with all the fashion and style around.

    I believe that a girl should take care of her appearance just to feel good about herself but the Lebanese society puts so much pressure! Everybody is so obsessed with body shape and it's so annoying!

    I do my nails and hair quite often but no 9-inch heels or fancy makeup and clothes. It's always a burden when I need to dress for an occasion or an event. And God knows how much we do not need an additional reason to stress in this country!! LOL

  4. The observation of this Lebanese obsession is spot on. I'm sure you'll agree though that the reasons put forth to explain it are little more than people rationalizing away their insecurities. The need to look good, albeit universal, is acute in Lebanon far beyond nose jobs and high heels. It crosses all social classes and definitely crosses the line of gender. You should see the scene when I hand over the keys of my bust-up Kia to a valet parker. The pity/disgust makes him almost hesitate to take my 5000LL.

  5. One thing I find rather odd is the sub-genre of Lebanese male who has a super-built-up upper body, and then tiny, tiny legs. Supposedly, doing this makes your upper body look even bigger, but to my perspective, which comes from a background where symmetry and proportion are more valued, it looks rather cartoonish. Definitely not healthy to have major disparities in strength between parts of the body.

  6. El Chief Marketing Officer de acá de donde trabajo es Libanés. Es el vato mejor vestido de Amsterdam. Punto. A mi me da pena entrar a su oficina. Siempre esta super chic. Salido de una revista GQ. Imaginate, somos puros pandrosos de merca y él es el unico que viene tan elegante. Es tan pero tan elegante que hace sonrojar a luismi en una noche de gala en el auditorio nacional. Ah!... y en su oficina tiene una Nespresso. What else?