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Neccessary Excerpts From The Vogue Body And Beauty Book

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“All women have bones, flesh, fat, skin, and hair,” begins The Vogue Body and Beauty Book.“All these present problems in varying degrees.” While to go so far as to call the body problematic seems a little drastic, the 1977 book by health and beauty writer Bronwen Meredith deals with the various issues of self-maintenance in 350 in-depth pages. Full of images, recipes, and tips, Meredith’s self-possessed prose lends massive entertainment, if not unwarranted leniency in its endearingly old-fashioned tone. Stern-yet-supportive, rigorous-yet-glamorous, some suggestions are wonderfully amusing. In the forward, Meredith reminds us that “the pursuit of beauty is not narcissistic, it is an essential way to build up confidence without which there is little achievement in anything.” In which case, jump on down to the highlights below (with some internal reading monologue from me). Reactions from you in the comments, please!

Part I: The Basics

“The average woman has 206 bones in her body, but not always. She, like Adam, sometimes has an extra pair of ribs.” Does she, like Adam, receive this information from God? Or does her OB/GYN present them at birth? How will she ever know?! (Self-examination??)

“The habit of good posture can mean a young-looking figure for life; it creates an impression of vitality, confidence, and attractiveness.” True, cheap, easy. Co-signed.

“Be wary of anything white—white flour, bread, pastries, rice, sugar.” An admirable sentence.

On Crash Diets (what follows are a few diet plans, free of charge)

Wine and steak / Five days / loss: 5 pounds

Breakfast

- Two hard-boiled eggs or 4 ounces grilled steak

Lunch

- 4 ounces grilled steak

- One glass red wine

Dinner:

- 4 ounces grilled steak

- One glass red wine

Black coffee or lemon tea allowed as you like, no sugar though. Seasoning and herbs for steak, but no salt.

Presumably, the wine and steak diet is very rich. I mean this in fat, protein, and antioxidant content. But also, only for the very rich. I doubt Meredith would endorse a Two Buck Chuck or discount skirt steak. I imagine her saying purchase only the freshest, most organic meat and authentic ( meaning French ) wine. If you wish to eat out—and inevitably, you will—order the most expensive options because you value yourself highly. So really, an additional loss remains unaccounted for: your money.

Drinker’s Diet / Seven days / loss: 5 pounds

Breakfast

- One hard-boiled egg

- One portion of cottage cheese

- black coffee or lemon tea

Lunch

- up to 5 ounces white fish—not fried

- One small green salad or one portion green vegetable

- Two drinks—whisky, gin, vodka, or white wine

Dinner

- up to 5 ounces lean beef or chicken

- One small green salad

- 1 ounce hard cheese

- Two drinks—whisky, gin, vodka, or white wine

- black coffee or lemon tea

Drinker’s Diet, what beautiful alliteration. Although, you must probably forfeit employment to follow it—or take very, very late lunches. And while I conceptually grasp the slimming benefits of alcohol (mainly, dehydration), what if alcohol confers that severe affliction, the drunchies? In that case, the loss of 5 pounds seems unlikely. Unless, of course, that’s how much dignity weighs.

On Exercise

“Exercise is vital to overall health...the reason we do not devote more time to it is because of laziness and boredom.” But, exercise remedies laziness and boredom! Even thinking about exercise makes me lazy and bored! And on and on it goes.

Bed Exercises (see Photo 4)

“If you have trouble getting up in the morning, these exercises are for you. Prime requisite is a firm mattress. Although most exercises are performed lying down, they require more muscle effort than you would think.”

I’ve always tried to be a morning-exercise person and failed. Only because getting out of bed in the morning is soooo hard! What an excellent alternative. There’s the “Air Walking” exercise, where your upper body remains on the bed while you kick your legs (like in swimming). Or the “Almost Up,” where you engage your abdomen and hold your legs and arms off of the floor. And “Bed Scissors!” Which is absolutely not as sexual as it sounds. (Basically, side kicks.)

On Sexuality

“Orgasm...is a powerful tonic to looks and health. If you make love you will glow and look more beautiful.” We’ve reviewed the products that simulate that post-coital glow, but we should consider reviewing the tonic that actually gives you that postcoital glow! Sephora wouldn't be able to keep it on the shelves, I'm sure.

“Most women know every pore on their face and what to do about it, but have no idea of the shape of their bosom nor how to take care of it.” See: Nora Ephron’s breast advice, then thank me later.

On Natural Deodorants

“These help counteract odor but cannot control wetness...Rub underarms with leaves of parsley, watercress, outer dark lettuce leaves, tops of beets, or radish.” Reduce, reuse, recycle. This Earth won’t regenerate and neither will your body odor regulate itself.

On Nerves and Tension

“To help control anxiety...live from day to day; don’t look back, don’t peer into the future...Try to make one positive decision a day, starting with little things such as choosing a new lipstick.” Keep calm, carry on, buy new lipstick.

On Aging

“Fifty years ago a woman of 40 was finished...What we call aging is not the same for everyone; one woman’s 40 is another’s 60...biological age is what matters and this can be self-determined and adjusted.”

“Finished” is an ambiguously strong word. Does Meredith mean women were literally “finished”? That they had “expired”? Or does she mean socially “finished”? Or sexually? Making “finished” a synonym for “ruined”? Be specific! Regardless, vicious dedication and that hackneyed koan, “perception is reality,” remain indispensable when it comes to age and appearance.

As they say, you can’t put a price on beauty, but you can indulge your hedonic side for $2.04 on Amazon. For a mild, amusing sedative to the world, I highly suggest purchasing The Vogue Body and Beauty Book. Happy reading!

—Alexis Cheung

Photographed by Tom Newton. What are you reading? We want to know.