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Davis, California

Monday, May 27, 2024

Column: Memoirs of a go-go

“They want sexy,” said my friend. “You’ve been put on the list. You’re doing it.”

He was in the middle of last-minute planning for an event with a gay club in downtown Sacramento that would raise funds for our fraternity. The club needed extra go-go dancers for the night.

That’s what the list was for. I was doing it.

Now, “sexy” isn’t exactly a word I’d use to describe myself – and I can tell you two reasons why.

The first is a pair of love handles, evidence of a chubbier youth and a ton of failed attempts at getting rid of them. The other is my ass (or lack thereof). I want JLo. Sadly, I’m more of a flat-assed Kate Moss.

Needless to say, my bodily anxieties made me apprehensive to dancing shirtless in indecent undies in front of a crowd. I’ve seen the go-go dancers before; I look nothing like them, with their lean backs and plump rumps that fill their underwear nicely. Me, sexy? They must be kidding.

My friends think I shouldn’t obsess over my body. And maybe they’re right. To be honest, I am at the lowest weight, tiniest waist I’ve ever been. I generally like the way I look. But when in the mirror, I don’t always smile.

Sure, then, call me bodily hyperconscious. But realistically, I knew I wasn’t alone.

So I conducted a little survey of my own (thanks SurveyMonkey!) just to see how you honeybees (more thanks if you took the survey!) felt about body image. Turns out, I’m not the only one who isn’t completely satisfied with his or her reflection.

About 25 percent of survey takers (over 40 males and females, mostly between 19 and 22 years old) answered they felt “not so satisfied” with their bodies. No one answered body image was “not important” to them. Thirty percent chose “there are lots of things I wish I could change about my body” as an answer regarding self-perception. And every single one of them agreed to some extent that media affects how men and women feel about their bodies.

“We are constantly inundated with images of what the media portrays as beautiful and desirable,” said Ross, a male in Davis who requested to keep his age classified. (I respect that.) “Even if we overtly reject such messages, they are still present in our subconscious, whispering in our ear every morning when we look in the mirror.”

We all see the same ads, magazine covers, TV shows and movies featuring slim and toned models and stars – hot people are everywhere in media. And we, as humans, can’t help but compare.

Susan, a 22-year-old female in Davis, believes media “constantly presents certain standards normal people can’t rise up to. This makes average people perpetually feel bad about their own bodies.”

It even affects how we see each other. Paul, a 35-year-old male from Sacramento, says media representations don’t necessarily affect him, “but they do affect others’ perceptions of me. In turn, that affects me more than the portrayals themselves.”

Research shows that, more often than not, comparing oneself to an unattainable ideal could get ugly.

In a 2001 study, women felt guilty, anxious and depressed about their bodies after viewing thin models in the media. Magazines with skinny models, beauty tips and weight-loss articles support the perception that female happiness is tied to physical appearance, with thinness as the shining beacon of health, beauty and self-improvement.

But every beacon has a dark side; the “skinny is better” notion can drive anyone to disillusionment. Statistics show 85 percent of college women believe they are slightly or seriously overweight, and researchers found that underweight women were no more satisfied with their body than were overweight women.

And it gets darker: The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa & Associated Disorders states that one of every four college-aged women uses unhealthy methods of weight control, including skipping meals, excessively exercising, abusing laxatives and vomiting.)

Scarily enough, both men and women in my survey (73 percent) admitted to skipping meals for weight loss. And some (close to 20 percent) admitted to self-induced vomiting.

I, too, have taken drastic measures to get thinner, and not eating was one of them. But it’s not worth it – it hurts your body a lot more than it helps. I learned that the hard way. So, eat honeybees! No more skipping!

I know it can be difficult to be completely happy with what you’ve got sometimes and wanting to change a few things is normal. But don’t let that get the best of you! If you’re looking to get fit or lose weight, do it responsibly and intelligently.

As for me and the go-go experience, let’s just say I worked what my momma gave me (or didn’t give me, I guess), and had a blast dancing on the bar in skimpy skivvies – flab, no ass and all! 

MARIO LUGO assumes his love handles and little butt did a good job that night – they offered him a regular dancing gig! Should he take it? Let him know what you think at mlugo@ucdavis.edu.

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