Diamonds and pearls: the Met Gala, Kardashians and patriarchy, and everything wrong with this country

I used to be obsessed with fashion. Staring at magazines, learning new trends, it was exhilarating.

It also fueled a skinny girls deathly desire to be thin.

I watched celebrity award shows and the Met Gala with stars in my eyes. Glittering gowns cascading down red carpets. I dreamed of beauty and pearls and diamonds.

Designer fashions sparkled, a rainbow representing everything I thought I wanted. Envy filled my gut, a heat expanding. I wanted to slide into a size 4 gown, silk slinking down my body. I stared and stared and stared, wondering why I wasn’t thin enough.

At the time, I was a size 0.

In 20 years, I’ve come a long way from that lost girl. I think. I understand what healthy thinking is. I even know how to mimic this behavior. But it never took root. It lies loose, wilting, never fully blossomed.

Anorexia holds a tight grip. It never leaves; you just learn to ignore it. But it digs deep, incessantly whispering, taunting. You hold it at bay; some days are better than others.

Sunday night was the Met Gala. Celebrities parade in absurd designer creations, themed by Anna Wintour. This year’s theme was gilded glamour. Millions and millions of dollars saunter down this red carpet and are entertained inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Proceeds go towards keeping and restoring the fashion wing of the museum.

Yes, you heard right; millions of dollars keep old clothes alive.

Sure, just down the street there’s probably homeless people and families facing food insecurity. But you know, gotta keep fashion alive.

I don’t know why the Met Gala ever enthralled me. The spell is broken. Now, it seems to represent all that is wrong with this country. Gilded glamour is a fitting theme. These celebrities drape themselves in expensive garments and gems, a gilded haze encompassing them. Outside the golden haze is a dingy world desperate for relief.

What really triggers me though is Kim Kardashian’s weight loss journey to fit into a 60-year-old Marilyn Monroe dress.

As if the opulence of this evening isn’t stomach-turning enough, Ms. KK gloated about needing to lose 16 pounds to fit into the Marilyn Monroe gown the late performer wore to sing “Happy Birthday” to President Kennedy in 1962. She did it in an astounding three weeks, eating little and obsessively exercising.

This fact alone made me vomit in my mouth a bit. But what’s worse is that entertainment news outlets and fellow celebrities are applauding Kim, as if this is an accomplishment. No one seems to recognize this as gross and triggering, and upholding patriarchal standards of beauty and bodies. And calling it what it is: unhealthy and entering eating disorder territory.

This story is stuck in my throat. Every time I hear about it, I choke. My head pulses, my face flushes, and I can’t fully articulate why I feel this way.

And deep, deep down, a sunken thought resurfaces. I wonder how she did it. I wonder if I can do it.

My now size 10 craves a size 0. It licks its lips, prowling, waiting to pounce. I hear its low growl.

I feel her slender grace inside me. I tug and tug and tug, renting her from my body, but she is stuck. She haunts my dreams. I wake, reaching out, desperate to be her again.

And this is what Kim Kardashian has done. This is what society has done. This is what the patriarchy has done. Instead of being appalled and concerned that an already thin woman felt the need to lose weight in a very short amount of time just to fit in a dress, we applaud the endeavor. It’s praised as an accomplishment.

An accomplishment we keep telling girls staring at fashion magazines that they can have too if they just try hard enough.

An accomplishment spiraling 40-year-old women down a dark abyss, wondering why they aren’t good enough. Women placing their value in a size, a body, sure they are not worthy, because this accomplishment seems out of reach.

By Imperfection

Bridgit Kuenning-Pollpeter is a mom and writer from Omaha, Nebraska but recently relocated to Urbandale, IA. When she’s not chasing children, picking up messes or reorganizing the house, she enjoys yoga or reading to relax. In her spare time (A.K.A. her dreams) she’s a Broadway star. Kuenning-Pollpeter is a freelance marketer during the day, a creative writer at night. Her work has appeared in the Brevity blog, The Omaha World Herald, 13th Floor, Misbehaving Nebraskans, Hippocampus, Emerging Nebraska Writers and Random Sample Review. She has her BFA and MFA in writing from the University of Nebraska Omaha. Her essay “The Body” was a McKenna Fellowship finalist, and her essay “Imperfection” was a 2020 Best of the Net Nominee. She is blind and writes frequently about disability. She’s working on a memoir about the disabled feminine experience. With the kids though, expect it in stores in about a decade.

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