With summer here, everyone I know has suddenly decided they have to lose weight, and fast. Some have stopped eating three meals a day, and eat just one: crazy, if you ask me. Others head to the gym every day and spend at least three hours there. You can imagine how moody a lot of them have become, between too little food and too much exercise. Whenever we get together for a meal, it has become a battle of the bulge. The men compare the size of their bellies by clutching and measuring, while the women check the width of their thighs. Talk about stressful meals. No one is ever happy after talking about their weight - unless they've lost some, of course.
"I've lost more than nine kilos!" my friend's husband declared. He has been starving himself for the past two weeks and spending most of his time at the gym. He claims he is surviving on "solar energy", which he absorbs by sitting in the sun for about an hour each day. He is competing with his wife's brother; the winner is the one who loses the "big belly" first. I don't understand what the hurry is. Some of my friends are in such a rush to lose weight that they headed to the cosmetic surgeon, either for that operation that reduces the size of your stomach, or liposuction, particularly around the hips and belly.
Of course, it's nothing new that people want to look good in their swimsuits, but what I find particularly disturbing is that a lot of the people I know who went to the surgeon were encouraged to go by their parents. I have a 22-year-old friend whose parents told her she was getting "too fat", and she should have a ring surgically implanted in her stomach to lose weight fast. And she is not the only one. In the past five years I know of entire families who have gone for lipo together, and got a good "family discount" for it too.
What happened to that old belief that your parents should "love you as you are"? And what is wrong with a bit of flab anyway? It shows character to learn what kind of clothes work for your body type and what kind don't. Well, that's what I like to believe. * * * * * For politicians, of course, it's different: for them, image is everything. And the current election campaign in Lebanon means big business for billboard and advertising companies, with digitally enhanced close-ups of the all-too-familiar faces of old politicians gazing into the horizon against a crisp background of the party colour and one or two scripted policy lines.
One that breaks the mould is a billboard for the Future Movement, which features just plain blue sky with a warning in Arabic: "Ma beyarjaou wa alsama Zarqa" (They will not return as long as the sky is blue) - referring to the return of Syrian troops. It's one of the few billboards without a politician's face, and is considered all the more creative because of that. In every political movement in Lebanon it seems to be the personality that matters, not his policies or platform. The billboards are all about how they look, plus one or two witty lines that someone else wrote for them. Maybe that's why the political sphere in Lebanon is so unstable: it changes depending on the personalities running the country, instead of being based on a foundation of principles and values.
One billboard by the Free Patriotic Movement caused quite a stir. It featured a pouting model calling on women to "Be Beautiful and Vote". Women's rights activists launched a campaign against the ad, denouncing it as sexist and offensive, and fought back with their own counter-slogans: "Be Intelligent and Vote Blank", and "No one cares about your rights". That's what I love about Lebanon: expect the unexpected, and even counter-attacks are done with style.
That 12 women are running in the elections is impressive, though I could swear a lot of them look a bit different from the last time I saw them or met them. Besides the digitally enhanced photos, they have obviously put the effort into getting in shape, and some may even have visited the beauty doctor for a nip here and a tuck there. I just wish some of the male politicians had bothered to do the same. Frankly, some of them could do with a little help.