I’d like to pretend that I’m not one of those easily influenced women, the type that doesn’t fall victim to flashy ads or well-thought-out displays. The sad, unfortunate truth is that a little bit of clever advertising goes a very long way, and that I will, inevitably, desire to dress in period costume for at least a week after seeing anything set in 19th century England.
That being said, I like TV. It’s safe, only mildly influential, and not necessarily in a negative way, and the only danger comes from seeing a commercial for something I absolutely cannot live without.
The Biggest Loser inspired me to slim down. I imagined myself on TV in spandex and a sports bra, fat rolls bulging and thunder thighs straining the tight, black fabric of those ugly shorts. I began to diet (passively) and exercise (actively). I started belly dancing, and moved into boxing. Always, there was the elliptical machine, harbinger of misery. So far, I’ve lost twenty pounds, all without a Nazi trainer and dietitian. Suck on that, Jillian.
The Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll inspired me in a different way. The show name was pretentious and annoying. Robin Antin was (and is) scary in a very Janice Dickinson way. The contestants, vapid and largely untalented, were clones, each dressed in The Pussycat Doll Style (varying degrees of stripper), proving to me that the clothes make the Doll. Aside from that, you must have long hair and be remarkably flexible. You must be able to sigh alluringly on command and strut in stiletto-heeled boots. I began to think that I could be a Pussycat Doll. My hair was long and tossable, and I could dance in heels with the best of them. I can sing; I can certainly sigh on cue. My inner diva began to make her presence known. “I can do what those bitches do,” I’d say. “It’s not hard to dance on a chair.” In the end, I realized that I don’t look like a Pussycat Doll so much as I look like a whale, and so those aspirations were short lived, even if I can cage dance. In heels. For hours.
There are safe shows, though, mindless ones that don’t affect or influence me. Scrubs never made me want to be a doctor; Project Runway never made me yearn to design anything at all. Shear Genius did not inspire me to try my hand at cutting hair. Sex & the City was entertaining, but something that was fictional, something that I couldn’t relate to. Until recently, I believed America’s Next Top Model to be mindless and safe, lacking any real influence.
It started innocently enough. I’d been sitting at my desk, applying makeup and watching America’s Next Top Model, eager to see if Tranny Ferocia had made it through another elimination. When the episode ended, one of my favorite contestants had gotten the ax, but Isis remained, and, after thirty seconds of sheer outrage on Brittney’s behalf, I trudged to the bathroom to make sure that I hadn’t botched my makeup by applying it using a compact-sized mirror and while engrossed in a TV show.
It was fine. Actually, it was almost perfect. I made a few final touches, making sure to blend well and to set the foundation with an oversized brush and loose powder. I used my finger to delicately wipe beneath my eyes, making sure to clear away any excess eyeshadow, before applying a sheer, work-appropriate lip gloss.
Generally, at this point in my morning routine, I’d fluff my hair, grimace at the orange t-shirt I’m forced to wear to work, sigh, and leave, grumbling about foolish people and their inability to master the technology they insist upon. As I speed toward the mall, toward another day at the Apple store, I’d wonder what new horrors were in store for me, or if this day would be monotonous, a repeat of yesterday and every day before it. Would someone throw an iPhone at me? It wouldn’t be the first time. Would today be the day I finally snap and bludgeon someone with MacBook power adapter?
This morning was different. I was more tired than usual, distracted; the light caught the subtle shimmer artfully applied to my brow bone, and I turned to catch my full reflection in the mirror. Rather than turning away, marveling at my own vanity, I found myself squinting seductively through dark, sooty, perfectly mascara-ed lashes, sending my smoldering, green-eyed gaze into the mirror as though I could melt it with sheer sex-appeal.
I’d like to pretend that this has nothing to do with Tyra Banks or America’s Next Top Model, that I’ve never in my life witnessed Miss Tyra’s demonstration of The Fierce Eye. I’m afraid this is not the case. I do watch enough ANTM to have seen all of Tyra’s important lessons and to have seen those skinny girls ignore them, and I did pay particular attention to her lesson in The Fierce Eye.
I justified it, of course. I have stunningly green eyes and mile-long lashes; my eyes are easily my best and most striking feature. Even my hair, which is awesome, isn’t as awesome as my eyes. Why shouldn’t I know how to best present them? Not learning to do so would, clearly, be a disservice to myself.
And so, under Tyra’s in absentia tutelage, I absorbed the theory behind The Fierce Eye and added it to the bank of acquired feminine wiles. I am not ashamed of this. But then I caught myself moving from theory to practice, and it was at this point that the shame began to set in, though I don’t know whether the embarrassment is due to catching myself being so vain, or because I displayed a savage natural aptitude for it.
I can’t help but feel that this knowledge would be best put to use as a Pussycat Doll.