The Skin You’re In

The French have an expression I love – bien dans sa peau.  The literal translation is “well in one’s skin”. It means to feel content, comfortable and at ease with yourself.

I love this expression because it conjures such a wonderful image of a strong, healthy, positive, happy person – a person without artifice, without self-consciousness, without acrimony.

The French seem to have a knack for it. So do some other Europeans. I haven’t seen it too much in North America. I suppose it has a lot to do different societal expectations. What is considered attractive in Europe is not the same thing as what is considered attractive here.

We seem to insist that everyone have straight, blond (unethnic) hair; an unlined, artfully made-up face; and be slim and gym-toned. In other parts of the world, different things are important.

Perhaps this makes it easier for them to be feel good about how they look, and because of how they feel, it makes it easier for them to look good. Because what is more attractive than someone who seems happy, healthy and confident?

Nothing, that’s what.

How about you? Do you feel comfortable in your skin?

It’s something to strive for, I think. And it shouldn’t matter what your shape or size is, or whether you look have the face of a model or a face that looks like a bag of hammers. If you feel strong and confident and healthy and happy you’ll feel good in your skin.

But can you still feel good about yourself if you believe others are looking at you and making judgments about you based on your wrinkles and bulges and other various and sundry flaws?

I think it gets easier as you get older to be more accepting of your body, regardless of what others might think of it. But there’s always something that causes a bit (or a lot) of discontent, isn’t there?

I usually feel pretty good about myself. I haven’t always. I was a shapeless stick until I was in my 20s. Then I developed some padding – not all of it where I wanted it, of course – but enough that people finally recognized me as female without a lot of intense scrutiny.

I don’t go in for a lot of fancy cosmetic products and like to keep my hair as natural as possible and that makes me feel good. But I have to say that I don’t feel so good if I don’t exercise regularly and eat right.  That padding I developed in my 20s seems to duplicate itself with each passing decade…. but still never where I actually want it, of course.

So, I have to be more careful about my diet every year and make sure I run regularly and make sure I get some strength and flexibility training in and just generally make sure I keep moving in between.

And when I get to where those habits become routine, I feel pretty good.  But then something interrupts that routine and I get lazy for a few weeks and then I don’t feel so good.

What do you suppose the secret is to feeling bien dans sa peau? How do those French do it? Coffee and cigarettes? Wearing black? Is it all a sham?  Do you know anyone who is truly comfortable in his/her skin? Can you ask them what their secret it, please?


44 responses to “The Skin You’re In

  1. I kind of had to get used to it pretty well off the bat, since 9 times out of 10 the first thing people notice–or, at least, comment on–is the blindness. Now, I just generally don’t care. I’m not 300 pounds and built like a dump truck, but I’m not about to fly away with the next breeze either. Long as I don’t hit either of those extremes, I’m not altogether too worried.

  2. “How do those French do it?”

    A 35-hour workweek, and good red wine.

    One good way to become comfortable in your own skin is to stop watching a lot of TV and reading a lot of magazines.

    I swear, half of the adverts are to slim you down, make you look younger, change your hair colour etc.

    The other half try to sell you shit you don’t need.

  3. Je suis relativement bien dans ma peau. Relatively. Most of the time. Funny thing is, I’m probably the most weighty I’ve ever been. And you know what? if people don’t like it, to hell with them. I have a wonderful partner who loves me despite my flaws (that always helps), and really, I’m at a point I don’t really care anymore what people think. I’m happy, I’m in love it’s all good, and a relief after my 30 first years of self loathing.

    One day, when I was grousing, he told me, ” damn I’m such an idiot to be with you. You’re fat, you’re ugly, I’m a moron”. It hit a chord. It shook me up, and he doesn’t even saying it.

  4. James – “the first thing people notice–or, at least, comment on–is the blindness”. I’m really curious to know what on earth they say. People you don’t know just comment on your blindess? But you’ve added a whole other dimension to the bien dans sa peau thing. Thanks

    Brett – From what I saw, the French work a lot less than 35 hours per week. I think that’s part of it though – that their individual priorities are also the priorities of their society as a whole. Here, we would all love to work much less, enjoy our families and the nice things in life more; but are forced to work much more, leaving us little or no time to enjoy the things we would like to enjoy.

    Jazz – But if Mr. Jazz wasn’t around any more for some reason, his wisdom wouldn’t disappear with him, right? You’d still feel relativement bien dans ta peau?

  5. Beautiful saying, I might have to do something crafty and hang that up in my home.

    I wish I was content and comfortable in my own skin! I think I come across as someone who is confident andI have no reason to not feel confident but I don’t! I am very hard on myself (to a fault) and it limits me in life. I realize this and yet I haven’t figured out how to change this about myself.

  6. That’s a lovely saying.

    When we were on vacation on Grand Cayman there were four women who lounged by the pool all day in their cute little bikinis. But not one of them was stick thin. In fact, they were all a little heavy and one had so much cellulite that she looked like she had recently lost about 50 or more pounds. But I totally admired them because they walked around totally un-self-conscious, salsa dancing in their bikinis on the pool deck. I was a little jealous that they were having so much fun while I sat on my chair re-arranging myself so my thighs didn’t look big.

    I wish I were always comfortable in my own skin, but I have to admit, as I’ve gotten a little older I’m getting better at it. I wear what’s comfortable. I take relatively good care of my skin, and I try to work out so I don’t have to deprive myself from what I want to eat. I’m finally starting to realize that life’s too short to care if I walk out of the house without makeup or if I’m a little soft around the middle.

  7. No real problems with my body – I’m a little fat (mostly a roll around the stomach) but don’t really care about that. What bothers me is my lazy eye – started about 5 years ago. I’m probably going to get surgery in January to correct this, but haven’t 100% decided as there is a risk of permanent double vision.

    In any case I don’t like pictures of myself due to the lazy eye unless I’m wearing sunglasses.

  8. Honestly? Not right now; not happy in my skin AT ALL! Wish I’d appreciated my youth when I had it. Not keen on the laugh lines I’m getting (I laugh a lot, it appears). My health is still good; not overweight (aside from a little over-45 pudge). There *are* good days, lol. Just going through a phase, I suppose. Attitude does have a lot to do with this; mine needs improving, apparently 8) (I blame the hormones.)

  9. @Xup: Mostly it’s primarily all about the amazement–wow, you mean you can actually cross the street by yourself? I’ve had other comments relating to that as well, and generally this idea that blind == incapable. I generally don’t get the remarks re: looks and such things until much later, if at all, and by then I’m pretty much already committed to tuning them out.

  10. My Twitter bio states:
    “I’m not so comfortable in my own skin.”
    I wish I could gain that confidence that should have come by now at the age I am.

  11. Cut and pasted the beautiful French phrase on the fridge. I’m filling the fridge with XUP wiseness. My new mantra because I do not feel comfortable in my skin – worse I’ve ever felt in my life. I’m working on it…

  12. I can tell you how the french do it.
    Its called moderation.
    I never got up from a dinner table in France stuffed to the gills after having over endulged in “All you can eat…”
    The french recognize that the definition of eating well isn’t calling a forklift to extract you from your chair but well prepared satisfying foods.
    As Bill Maher once said “How do the french do it? They eat butter, lard, white bread and red meat …. but they fuck like rabbits.”
    Admittedly being french and not being very rabbit like lately – I ballooned to 275 pounds. I’m slimming down but it took time to get up there and I desperately am trying to get back down.
    So….. I am not comfortable in my own skin.
    Just an FYI however regarding OTHER people’s skin – I find the North American moral code that equates nudity with sex to be very regressive. As the japanese say – Nudity is often seen but rarely noticed.

  13. The skin I am in, fits better now that I am happy doing what I do. I am dealing with a mild temporary disability (rotator cuff) that has prevented me from being as active as I like to be. This injury has however, made me appreciate that much of my body does work well and so I am reminded how fortunate I am which adds to me contentment.

    Today I had a one- on- one with my “boss.” He was doing a backbend over a yoga ball as we spoke- “Toto we aren’t in the call centre anymore!”

  14. I feel best when I’m keeping in shape and getting my weight down to healthy levels. I never felt better about myself since I’ve moved to France. I feel pretty much invisible in the States but sort of attractive in France. I really think I feel good about myself because I’m happy. Not only with life in France but with my husband. I was complaining that I needed to lose weight because my jeans were too tight and my sweet husband said, “Why don’t you just get larger jeans?” I like his attitude. Can I just say though–I know many unhappy French people despite the quality of life here.

  15. Sometimes I feel like I’m too comfortable in my own skin. I used to be a bit obsessive. At one point in my life (my early 30’s) I took ballet, modern and belly dancing classes every week as well as teaching a dance fitness class. I think the reason I don’t feel fat although I certainly look fat in pictures, is because I’m so freaking limber. I have a very thin friend that never sits on the floor because she says it’s too hard to get up and hurts her joints. I sit on the floor every day. I can stand straight up and not only touch my toes, but put my hands flat on the floor. I guess if I had a more limited range of movement, I’d feel as fat as I am and I would do something about it. But I’m happy and have fun. I laugh all the time and dance around. Life is good. And like most women my age, I really don’t give two flying fux what anyone thinks of me.

  16. there is a blog i follow called the sartorialist – it is a fashion blog and the photographer captures awesome street fashion, many shots are taken in europe. i love reading the comments because what people comment on quite a bit are the physical features of the subjects in the photo, and many times they are commenting on how much they love someone’s unique look (i.e. a wonderfully crooked nose, pointy chin etc etc). i think confidence, and embracing your unique features makes you much more beautiful and interesting to look at than conforming to the north american ideal. i am a slave to fashion magazines/gossip rags and i find these models and starlets so boring to look at. there is nothing that makes them stand out.

  17. I was extremely athletic then got sick of the large amount of time and effort I was putting into it (I was sort of goal-driven and felt I’d gotten about as far as I could). I went sedentary for several years and completely deconditioned; got quite fat. Due to the relatively sudden contrast I felt like someone with a terminal illness – I could almost hear my body crying out in protest.

    I felt completely unattractive. This probably had something to do with the suddenness of my physical decline. My standards had not adjusted down to the level I could realistically aim for.

    (I won’t say the usual “I’m not shallow, but…” – I really think shallowness has nothing to do with it; evolution is nonsentimental.)

    Now I am back in shape. I accomplished this by learning the quickest, most low-maintenance methods. I advise everyone to do the same. Stickability over the long term is of prime importance. Four sessions per week at the gym may not be psychologically sustainable for you; certainly once you get old. You can get fit and stay fit with a short once-weekly workout – this requires a certain amount of knowledge, and that you work hard during that 20mins or so, but it’s much more stickable long-term, especially if you have a busy lifestyle or travel a lot.

    The French are generally preoccupied with glamour and appearance. In French cinema there is usually a strikingly beautiful actress. That is not unusual in itself; what is unusual is the degree to which her beauty – especially in the scene in which the audience is first introduced to her – is treated as an event in itself. American movies tend to consider actresses on a scale of generic hotness; French movies draw your attention to more specific aspects of individual style and beauty, like a fashion show. Even where the actress is less of a phenomenal runway model beauty, there will still be an intense directorial interest in her clothes, hair, complexion, trendiness, etc. In American movies she only has to look hot; you’re not supposed to especially notice anything about her in that sort of style/beauty connoiseur way.

    The French diet is healthy; the standard medical advice on nutrition is bad. Evidence is gradually coming out that fatty foods (like fois gras) and fermented foods (like cheese) may well be very good for you.

    What’s bad is to be fat, not to eat fat. Eskimos’ favourite food is seal-blubber; they eat almost nothing but meat, live active lives and don’t all die of heart-attacks.

  18. “We seem to insist that everyone have straight, blond (unethnic) hair”..

    Nowadays, blond is still pretty popular but supposed “optimal” skin colour has changed from pale to tanned and light brown. Possibly due to more diversity in mainstream media. Personally, I think that the skin colour you have is the most beautiful.

    Anyways, to answer your question-No I don’t always feel comfortable in my own skin. But like you mentioned, exercise and relaxation techniques like yoga really help me to forget about any surface “flaws” and make me feel beautiful from the inside out. 🙂

    What we need is more sizes, shapes and ages in beauty media. I think that would help women feel better about themselves, because we often compare ourselves to other women.

  19. @XUP,

    And so much of the work we do is “busywork” – pointless work, work created to keep others employed (you must know this too, as a gov’t employee), checking email, filling out reports on reports on progress reports… We follow Parkinson’s Law to the letter where I am employed.

    I can honestly – seriously – meet all of my targets by working 2 hours a day. So basically, if I turn the ringer off on my desk phone, leave Outlook minimized (or closed), and close & lock my office door, I could finish what I need to finish by 10:00 and spend the rest of the day staring out the window.

    In fact, that would be better as after a few days clearing my mind of the administrivia and bulldust, I would be even *more* effective for those first two hours.


  20. @Brett: I agree. Parkinson’s Law is a good one and has many corollaries in other contexts, like how the hardware requirements of software always increases as the hardware gets more advanced. Why does my laptop often slow down to a crawl when I play a Youtube vid!? Computers have been capable of playing videos for a long time now! And don’t get me started on Vista… harrumph.

    Speaking more philosophically, I would like to see a survey of how much of human labour is actually productive not only in terms of efficiency and timewasting, but also the actual ends of the labour – I mean, how much labour is dedicated to things that are needful, useful, or enriching..? Seems to me that 90% of human labour is about shifting wealth from one competitor to another (or from ordinary people to a small elite) rather than actually benefitting anyone meaningfully. Even nominally benign professions like teaching, medicine and policing are bogged down by careerism and self-interest.

  21. Amazing how many people equal not being fat as helping them feel “bien dans leur peau”. When I grew up, I was rail thin, tall with dangly limbs. I was always at the back of the class, back of the line because I was tall. I spent my teenager years looking down so I could be shorter. My 20s weren’t much better. My 30s were horrible. Loathed myself, my image, my hair, my lack of social skills, ambition, my stuttering, everything was a reason to hate myself.

    My 40s got better. I lost the life schedule but still cared about my image and what people thought of me. In my early 40s started to “come together” which probably coincide with the time my second long term relationship ended. I developed a fashion sense, I smiled more, I moved downtown, discovered yoga and exercise. I made new friends. I entered into a disastrous relationship but it didn’t destroy me. I was much stronger so rebounded from it quickly.

    Late 40s, I discover running. It became a passion. Since then, I run, exercise, and eat well. I also really don’t give a flying fuck as to what people think of me. I KNOW I am good. I KNOW I can do things. My self confidence has grown and in turn, I feel “bien dans ma peau”. To me, they are closely related.

    Now I’m probably loving the endorphins that working out create but when I think about it, if I feel this good, why would I destroy it by eating crap and beating my body (i.e. excessive drinking, lack of sleep, no exercise, etc…)? It makes no sense.

  22. Sylvie, old people seem to feel on average more comfortable in their own skin even though they are physically worse off – I belive it has to do with letting go.

    I often see severely disabled or disfigured people who seem to be happy enough, and I will point out the contradiction to people who are positive about disability or about the attractiveness of, say, fat people, and make the point: ‘so why are you brought so low by a crooked nose or wonky teeth, or a slightly fat bum?’

    I would say though, there are differences between despair at oneself and despair at feeling that no one will want you. Whether these are well-founded beliefs or not, they are different. I think some people are not so much aggrieved at being fat per se as they are at not getting much sexual attention. When I was fat I barely got looked at; I was never short of attention before.

  23. G, I totally get it. However, must point out that even though I am thin, I do not get more sexual attention, in fact, I get none 🙂 Maybe I’m the odd ball or it has something to do in scaring off the male population as was pointed out to me once. I come off very strong and self assured and I guess it unsettles them. Who knows… I’m not here to prove a point to anyone.

    I’m in my early 50s and mostly hang out with runners. These people are of all ages and yet, even in that group there are who will have insecurities. So to me, based on what I’ve seen and experienced, etre bien dans sa peau is very much at par with your self confidence/self worth. One cannot be without the other.

    When you let go of it, you let go of everything, whether you are thin, fat, young, or old.

  24. The key to happiness is beer and cigarettes! At least, that’s how the Quebecois do it, right? And they must have learned from the real French, right?

    Just a thought 😛

  25. @G,

    Exactly on all of your points.

    BeOS was capable of playing six movies simultaneously on the faces of a rotating cube, with sound from each one, in the 1990’s… a neat parlour trick, perhaps not useful, but it blew away anything Microsoft could do then (or Apple, for that matter).

    My main computer has two cores (yeah, it’s old, 2008 vintage), each running 200 times faster than the single core CPU in the computer that got me through engineering in the early 1990’s.

    I am not 200 times more efficient today, when I write documents. Yes, the new machine would be a lot better for finite element modelling, but I don’t do that!

    And to your philosophical point, I say this (applies can opener to tin of worms):

    The sooner we do away with the monetary system, the better. Money truly is the root of all evil in our society.

    Money, and lack of money. Greed. Envy.

    This planet has more than enough wealth and resources to support everyone, and keep them happy and healthy – so long as they don’t want to keep accumulating stuff they don’t need.

    Perhaps it isn’t poverty or war or disease we must eliminate in a Utopian future, but greed.

  26. Pingback: The Skin You're In « XUP

  27. Betsy – It’s a good saying to post somewhere in your house as a reminder. Maybe you could figure out what’s keeping you from feeling comfortable in your skin and work on it??

    Mo – Were those bikini women Americans? And yes, one of the great things about getting older is that you learn to accept and even love yourself exactly the way you are and you don’t have to make yourself crazy fretting over every little detail. I keep trying to remember what it was like when I was a teenager when I see my daughter working so hard every morning to get herself looking just right before she dares leave the house – and she’s already beautiful when she rolls out of bed! And she has a lot of self-confidence for a teenager. But she still needs to get into her “public skin”.

    Sean – I can see how something that afflicted you just recently could make you self-conscious. I’m sure if you’d been born with it you wouldn’t give it a second thought at this point. How does something like that happen all of a sudden?

    Davina – You don’t like your laugh lines?? Oh my. They’re a badge of honour. You should wear them proudly, telling the world that you’re a woman who has a lot of joy and laughter in your life. Joy and laughter are extremely attractive.

    James – I guess that’s why the term “disabled” isn’t favoured much ..since it implies you are incapable

    Finola – You’re so fit and beautiful and healthy-looking — the casual observer would think you’d have every reason in the world to feel happy and confident with yourself. Of course, we don’t know you well enough to understand where the lack of confidence you say feel comes from. Just goes to show you, eh? It doesn’t matter what your shape or size or looks are — the bien dans sa peau all comes from a completely different place.

    MM – You and Finola both — so young and gorgeous. You should be revelling in your youth. One day you’ll be 60 and you’ll feel very comfortable in your skin, but part of you will still be wishing it was the same skin you had in your 30s. You should do a blog post about your fridge. I’d be interested to see what else is all on their aside from my brilliance!!

    Lebowski – I think the sitting down and enjoying a meal without getting stuffed is not “the” answer, but rather a symptom of the overall attitude. Seeking out quality over quantity in all things. One exquisite pair of shoes is more important than an entire closet full of shoes of every description. One tiny apartment decorated with patience and care over years is more desirable than a McMansion filled with every imaginable thing brought in by the truckload from the nearest big box store. In the same way, I don’t think the French are physically perfect. It’s not about their size or shape, it’s how they carry themselves. It’s how their peers are interested in their conversation, their style, their uniqueness rather than the 10 extra pounds they might be carrying. And it’s not so much that you don’t feel good in your skin right now because you have a few extra pounds; it’s that you didn’t feel good about yourself and/or things going on in your life to begin with — the extra pounds just accumulated as a result of that.

    Jay – Where do you work? Sounds like a groovy place. Can you share your wisdom with us? What’s your secret to feeling bein dans ta peau?

    Linda – I imagine there are unhappy people everywhere. Just because they’re French doesn’t mean they’re not human. Humans have trials and tribulations and jealousies and greed and misery and gripes and complaints the world over. But I have to believe that the lifestyle supported, encouraged and engaged in, in France and other European countries is more condusive to contentment. The slower pace, the higher quality food, the emphasis on liesure time, the insistence on art and beauty everywhere; the small-scale living as opposed to the “living large” promoted here…and on and on. Your last post, for instance, seriously made me weepy it was so beautiful. I could search for years and never find a moment like that in this part of the world. I’m so glad you’re so happy over there. It shows in every post you do. And what a wonderful man you have, too!!

    Geewits – I’m not the least bit surprised to hear you say this. You always seem very comfortable in your skin. It comes through in your blog. And yes, I think being good and bendy can definitely keep you feeling strong and healthy. I’m not naturally flexible, but I make sure to do some yoga stretches every day because it makes a huge difference. And, btw – you don’t look fat in any of the photos I’ve seen of you.

    Meanie – I totally agree about the homogenized look of models and even Hollywood stars. Most of the time I can’t tell the difference between them. They’re all trained by the same personal trainers, so they’re all the same size, they get surgery to correct anything that’s not “perfect”, their hair and make-up is done by the same people so they all can achieve that same look. Not interesting. Thanks for the link. I love stuff like that.

    G – The Innu also live in a very cold climate where they need extra layers of fat to survive. A skinny Innu would perish, I think. I’ve never seen one. However, the standard, government-issued food guide has certainly been leading us down the garden path for too long — or rather they’ve been leading us as far away from the garden path as possible. Nobody eats real food anymore. Nobody wants to take the time or spend the money to choose high quality products and cook them. It’s so much easier to just get ready-made…which are loaded with a whole bunch of stuff we don’t need. I’d be interested in hearing about your magic 20-minute, once a week workout, by the way.

    Pauline – That’s what I meant by societal expections. We grow up believing that beauty is what we see in our magazines and on TV and movies. Like Meanie pointed out, it’s a homogenized picture of beauty — nothing real, no interesting flaws or even differences. In Europe the unusual, quirky, character stuff is considered beautiful. A plastic doll is not interesting there like it is here. Women rarely colour their hair once it goes grey, for instance. They’re not gym/spandex obsessed – curves and flesh are interesting, flat and lanky is interesting. I suspect one of the reasons Linda (Frenchless in France) feels so much more attractive in France and so invisible in the US is because she’s no longer 20 nobody looks twice at her in the US, but in France men and women check each other out appreciatively. Although we don’t generally spend our time waiting for people to look at us, it’s very noticeable when you’re used to being invisible to suddenly have people looking at and seeing you again. I notice that whenever I’m in Montreal even. You’ll know what I’m talking about when you hit 40 or so.

    Brett – You have 2 whole hours of work to do every day?? Wow! You must be important. I have about 30 miniutes on a good day. And there are so many more interesting and fun things I could be doing 8 hours a day rather than sitting here keeping my chair warm.

    Sylvie – I was actually thinking about you when I was writing this post — not that I was writing this post just because of you, but you came to mind when I thought of people who seemed very happy and comfortable in their own skin. Now you need to go be some place where the men will appreciate a woman who is comfortable in her skin

    LGS – Ewww squirrel coats. What kind of person would wear a squirrel coaT…unless they’re a squirrel of course…

    G – I hope you’re noyt calling sylvie an old person!! She’ll come over there and whupp you for that. And I don’t know if it’s letting go exactly. That has connotations of “letting yourself go” — as in you just don’t care anymore. I think in order to feel good in your skin you actually do have to care very much for your skin — not so much about what other people think of it. The difference between teenagers who will abuse themselves with junk food, not getting enough sleep, drinking too much, etc… but spend hours getting their hair just right, spend tons of money on make-up and hair products and just the right clothes —- compare this to the older person who, if they feel good about themselves, it’s usually because they take care of themselves from the inside out and stop worrying so much about the façade.

    Junkie Monkey – Beer and cigarettes, eh? Well, the Francophones in Canada don’t seem to have learned very much from their French roots. Most of them have horrible diets of grease and junk and, as you say beer and cigarettes. The French smoke a lot, too — but prefer wine over beer and have a diet, for the most part that does not include poutine. Having said that, I will add that if beer and cigarettes make you feel good and comfortable in your skin, then by all means, go for it. There’s no magic formula that works for everyone. People each have to find their own way to be content with themselves.

    Brett – Poverty, war and disease will all disappear if we do away with the entire monetary system. Do you know of any society that functions without money? I’m not disagreeing with your assertion, I’m just trying to picture the alternative.

  28. XUP, my computer crashed when I hit ‘submit’ so this is the short version:

    No, I was not calling her old.

    That’s not what I meant by ‘letting go’; I meant in the spiritual sense – acceptance.

    It works, though I always say to people that no matter what the magazines say, you need to endure hunger if you want to lose weight; even doing things to burn more calories, like running, will do so by inducing hunger, which is the signal of a calorie-deficit. You starve (sensibly) to get trim; exercise to get fit. Sumo-wrestlers are fat and fit (though they may still have some obesity-related problems); runway models are thin and generally unfit.

    Also, I am all for old people enjoying their style, beauty and sexuality of they have a genuine urge to – seems healthy.

  29. P.S. Brett’s alternative was already envisioned by the creator of Star Trek. I don’t mean that to be mockery; it’s just true. A more grown-up version is the Culture novels of Iain M Banks.

  30. It’s the key to happy life that- but pretty hard to achieve. I worry too much about what people think of me. I’d like to think that when I get a bit older I’ll be more like my gran in the respect you talk about. She couldn’t give two hoots. Not to say she didn’t make herself look nice when she was going out- she most certainly did. But she just was unashamedly her. Of course she took it a bit too far in the latter years when she would spout forth hometruths like they were breaths of air…but even then, I quite like that.

  31. @XUP,

    Well, I *am* a senior engineer, I’ve got to pull my weight, you know 😉 j/k

    I do not know of any historical society that existed without money, no. I was doing a bit of research on it before answering your question, it turns out that the word “shekel” originally referred to a unit of weight, specifically barley – so it seems the Mesopotamians traded in barley.

    Perhaps a little closer to something that made sense, than what we do i.e. something physical and useful.

    G is right about Star Trek, I was thinking that when I wrote my comment actually.

    The way I figure it is this:

    If what you’re doing isn’t working, do something else. Do anything else.

    Sure, the monetary system works for some people – the richest 5 percent of the planet. It fucks over the rest.

    I once considered working in the pharmaceutical industry, then coincidentally I read an article about Pfizer. They had created a new medicine that could eradicate sleeping sickness, painlessly (the current “antidote” is quite painful, and often fatal to the patient).

    But they realized there was no money in it. So they decided not to produce it.

    Makes financial sense I agree.

    Bunch of inhuman bastards. Sitting on the formula, instead of releasing it so a generic manufacturer in one of the affected countries could make the product.

    Yep, we sure are “advanced”, aren’t we.

  32. XUP, Brett: according to Christopher Columbus’s own diary the people he encountered were happy, agreeable and kind; model human beings who had no concept of ownership and who lived in cooperative harmony. He really waxed lyrical on their many virtues. He then went ahead and exploited them anyway, employing a kind of doublethink in which he reasoned that although they were so praiseworthy, they were still only savages (whatever that means) and therefore deserving of being enslaved, robbed, worked to death, raped and killed for sport.

  33. G – I think I like it better when your computer crashes and we get the succinct version! Ha ha. That’s what I thought you meant by “letting go”, don’t worry. And thanks for the link.

    Misssy M – All you young whipper snappers feeling uncomfortable in your firm young flesh and wrinkle-free complexions. Cry me a river! It’s interesting though that all the younger commenters are saying the same thing, isn’t it?

    Brett – You wanna talk Pfizer? How about all the diseases they invent just to sell drugs? It’s called disease-mongering. Stuff like “over-active bladder” (Is your sleep interrupted by having to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night? You may have overactive bladder. As your doctor about Tolterodine) There are a whole host of “diseases” that don’t really exist that people are taking meds for and a whole host of natural functions that drug companies have medicalized to sell drugs. It’s a horrifying scam that doctors are in on for kickbacks. Anyone who’s never heard of it should google disease-mongering.

    G – Hurrah for civilization.

  34. I dunno..I’d rather carry a five-dollar bill in my pocket, rather than have to lug around a bushel of barley.

  35. Like vintage cognac, I think I’ve aged fairly well. I am probably more comfortable in my own skin now than I ever was at an earlier time. Or, maybe it’s because I truly do care less about the impression I make. I like to be well turned out, but after that people can judge me as they choose.

  36. Friar – I’ll see your bushel of barley and raise you 5 plump piglets.

    Mrwriteon – I think that’s sensible. You make the best of your assets without too much artifice…vintage cognac, eh??

  37. XUP, I *can* say that I am more comfortable with who I am as a person now than when I was younger. As for my “skin”, I’m remembering one day not too long ago that some “lady” (being polite, here) approached me to try to sell me Botox treatments. Argh! “The nerve,” I thought. That is something I will never have done. I’ll get used to this; it’s only become really noticeable over the last year or so.

  38. @G,

    Hmm. It must have been almost a paradise here, until “we” (Europeans) wrecked it.


    I’d never heard of it called that, but you really notice it when you watch American television (sorry, any Americans reading this).

    Because we have health care in Canada, I don’t see it as much – we seem to have a different kind, though – a lot of “funeral coverage” insurance, retirement planning, etc. – playing on the fears of the baby boomers etc.

    (Personally – when I’m dead, I won’t give a rat’s ass what happens, if I didn’t leave enough money for them to put me in a gold box, throw me in the compost heap!)


    Yeah, I guess, eh… but that wasn’t really the point, it was more of a “fair trade” thing.

    A guy who can fix your computer or your toilet who lives in India shouldn’t really be making less money than the same guy in Canada.

    I know “that’s the way it is”, but if we’re thinking on a global scale of fairness – I mean, if you lived in certain parts of the world with your Ph.D., you would make less money than the guy who sold you that burger at Burger King last time you were there, and you would never be able to save enough money to claw your way out of there and get to Canada just to get that job at Burger King.

    If you think, “oh well, that’s life”, well then… see, this is where capitalism = greed.

    We’re pretty lucky to be able to sit here and debate this kind of thing on our high-speed internet connected laptops in our air-conditioned homes with electricity and running hot water, eh?

  39. @Brett

    Oh Geez!

    Yes, it’s a good topic for debate: the distribution of wealth on the planet, with respect to the haves and have-nots.

    But I”m not in the mood for that right now.

    All I wanted to do was to crack a joke about it being easier to carry a bill in one’s pocket, than to carry around barter items like chicken, sheep or barley.

    That is all. 🙂

  40. Yes, I’d say the older I get the more comfortable I get in my skin. If people don’t like, their loss.

    At the same time, photos are a double-take. On good days, I somehow expect to be half my age and male. Or on an exhausted day, retired female, not just tired again.

  41. by and by i’ve learned that if i am myself that is when people seem to react the most. i’ve become more confident each passing year from looking back at younger me and think i was pretty hot. at the time though, i thought i was gross. so, i’ve used that to appreciate myself more and more.

    now, i still get days where i’m the biggest person in the whole world, ugly and no one will ever “really” love me.

    having never met you in the person, i find you to be a very beautiful person through our communications. like epic-ly beautiful. i usually like a person for their insides anyway, that’s what i’m drawn to. my friends come in all shapes and sizes and colors and i love that.

  42. I wish I could say I’m comfortable in my own skin, but unfortunately I can’t. Maybe that will change over time. I sure hope so. I think a lot of what makes us uncomfortable with our own skin is how society says we should be. If society wasn’t so big on people looking and acting a certain way, I think people would feel much better about themselves. I’m comfortable with the fact that I’ll never look like Barbie, but I still beat myself up for quitting college and getting that “great” career my family and teachers thought I should have. So it’s not just looks that we have to be comfortable with, it’s also what we’ve done and how it’s shaped our lives, I think. I hope I’m making sense here.