According to a study of British women's measurements interpreted with great nuance and restraint by the Daily Mail's Victoria Lambert, women are bigger in almost every dimension than they were the last time such a study was conducted, in 1951. With measurements of 37-27-39, the average British woman in 1951 "was the classic hour-glass, not far off Hollywood standards." But now "our hour-glass has rolled into a barrel-like 38-34-40." Says Lambert, "our vital statistics don't just carry implications for how we look - they are crucial to our health."
She goes on to write pretty much the obesity-panic piece you might expect. Despite the fact that average BMI has actually gone down in Britain over the past 60 years, and is still in the healthy range, British ladies still need to worry about those "vital statistics" because their waists are now unhealthily large. Even an increase in foot size is apparently cause for concern: "It's definitely a bad thing if the reason is weight related because it can lead to increased pressure exerted through the foot and lower limbs and back, causing additional wear and tear on joints and soft tissues such as ligaments." And of course, men don't make passes at girls who look like barrels — British hips haven't kept pace with waists, and "wide hips have been traditionally seen as attractive to men because they denote fertility."
British women's life expectancy has risen by 10 years since the 50s, but Lambert's message is clear: the average female body is unhealthy, and unattractive. By all rights, it seems, women should be filled with self-loathing. But at least according to her fellow Daily Mail writer Lucy Taylor, women today are totally full of themselves! Taylor uses a painfully oft-cited US study on narcissism as a jumping-off point to make some questionable claims about women and their egos. Did you know that narcissism has grown by 67% in the last 20 years, "mainly among women?" Or that a full 10% of the population now "suffers from narcissism as a full-blown personality disorder?" Apparently all this self-regard is bad for women, because we actually kind of suck, and will never get a man if we don't acknowledge it.
Dating service founder Margot Medhurt tells Taylor she's seeing more and more women who don't understand where they fall in "the eligibility stakes." She says,
They tend to be in their 30s, and there is a wide discrepancy between how they perceive themselves and how others see them. They are often very plain, but see themselves as being absolutely fabulous, exceptional people. They invariably reject every guy's profile I send them. But if a guy rejects their profile, there is all hell to pay. There is disbelief. They are really saying: "I'm so fabulous. How dare he turn me down?"
Men are noticing this "phenomenon" too. Says management consultant David Baxter, who admirably admits that "he's not perfect, but is told he's an eligible and pleasant guy with a lot to offer," says,
I've had three successive dates recently with ladies in the late 30s to early 40s age bracket that have left me dumbfounded. [...] You sensed that they absolutely worshipped themselves, though none of them was drop-dead gorgeous or had amazing personalities, jobs or anything else to set them apart and elevate themselves into some superior position. I also thought it was quite telling that none of them had ever been married, engaged or had recently - or perhaps ever - been in a long-term relationship. I got the feeling that these women were living in a Sex And The City-inspired fantasy world. I also sensed that nobody would ever be good enough for them.
If you're a woman, being overcritical or getting angry at rejection makes you narcissistic. But if you're a guy, it makes you a sociologist. Taylor lets "professional golfer-turned-financial consultant" Neil Hay close out her article. He says,
I spent three hours on a date with one woman. I thought we got on brilliantly, but then she said she didn't want to meet again. This has happened a few times. It makes me think that if you don't live up to their perfect fantasy, then that's it. It's game over before you've even had any chance to begin to get to know each other. It does dent your confidence. I'm left thinking either that there's something wrong with me or that I'll just never be whatever it is that these women are looking for.
It's tough to be a man these days, forced to live up to impossible standards. If only there were some way to make women feel a little worse about themselves, so they'd recognize how plain they were and stop turning down perfectly good blokes. Perhaps some sort of study that scrutinized every aspect of their bodies, all the way down to the feet, and pronounced their very measurements dangerous and unappealing. Then again, those deluded women would probably just ignore it — as Hay says, "it's easier for them to believe their own myths than to face reality - that they are completely ordinary."
How Women's Bodies Have Been Transformed In The Past 60 Years... With Huge Implications For Our Health [Daily Mail]
The Ego Epidemic: How More And More Of Us Women Have An Inflated Sense Of Our Own Fabulousness [Daily Mail]