In Praise of Dimples

By Elizabeth Palmberg 03-24-2009

There are just a few days left to share your thoughts about eating, body image, and faith in our society -- don't forget to send your two cents to interact@sojo.net!

One thought I have (which didn't fit into Body Language, in this month's issue of Sojourners) is to realize how profoundly strange and useless the word "cellulite" is. A grown adult woman, to be healthy, must have some body fat, which will generally show up in the form of convex places and dimpled skin. Of course it's possible to have too much of a good thing, but this is no reason to adopt a zero-tolerance policy toward an essential body ingredient.

Yet dimples anywhere but the face have been redefined as "cellulite," which sounds like an extraterrestrial species or some synthetic packing material. Whole countries full of women now apparently believe that their skin should have the texture of a barely pubescent girl's, or possibly a shaved greyhound's.

I have some perspective on this because I spent a number of years getting a doctorate in Victorian literature. I am not holding up the Victorians as models of feminism or emotional health, but at least they didn't aspire to have entirely stick-figure arms, or "buns of steel" -- a goal which, if you think about it, should appeal only to cyborg fetishists. So, without endorsing sentimental depictions of women as angels in the house (or, the specific context of the following passage, lusting after your fiancée's cousin), I wanted to share the Victorian novelist George Eliot in praise of dimples:

Who has not felt the beauty of a woman's arm? The unspeakable suggestions of tenderness that lie in the dimpled elbow, and all the varied gently lessening curves, down to the delicate wrist, with its tiniest, almost imperceptible nicks in the firm softness. A woman's arm touched the soul of a great sculptor two thousand years ago, so that he wrought an image of it for the Parthenon.

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