I (sort of) love Instagram. It’s complicated.
But however I choose to define my relationship with the Gram, I love looking at pictures, and I spend a decent amount of time on the social media site. And thanks to my codependent relationship with IG, I’ve come to the realization that we are living in the Era of the Butt.
If you need any more proof, just take a look at the music video for Nicki Minaj’s hit(?) song(?) Anaconda. I’ve never seen more butts in one place in all my life.
But for real though, what’s up with all the asses? I can’t be sure because I grew up in a pretty sheltered environment, but I am like 99.9% sure that butts were not such a huge deal 10 years ago. I simply cannot scroll through the Instagram fitness hashtag without a barrage of bottoms assaulting my eyes and my mind.
Look, butts are great. I happen to like them very much. But there’s a certain point where something becomes an obsession – where a totally innocuous practice tips over into being ridiculous…and I think we’re seeing that right now. With butts.
Butts are popping up all over the place. They’re materializing out of the thinnest and most petite human specimens with squat regimens and protein shakes. They’re making appearances at beaches all over the world, as it has finally been discovered that the Brazilian bikini cut (in Jamaica we call them ‘batty riders’) will make anyone’s butt look bigger.
They are being worked on, paid for and talked about like never before. Cake, peaches, #yogabutt…call it what you will. The derrière is officially a big deal.
But let me get off the high horse that was required for that intro and talk real. We are all complicit in society’s trends and obsessions. We all make the world the way it is, whether through action, or the lack of it. The fact that I’m writing about butts is only going to further solidify how important they are in our world right now. I’ve accepted that.
And despite that, I press on.
Because there’s something that the world’s seemingly collective obsession with butts has brought to the forefront of my mind, and I couldn’t have come up with a better excuse to talk about it.
Because, really, what’s better than butts?
A Study Of Our Love of Butts
Thanks to the kind of technology we have available at our fingertips, it’s never been easier to broadcast yourself. Some people argue that technology is making us more narcissistic. I’m pretty sure this isn’t what’s happening. Human beings were always self-absorbed; the technology has just made it much easier to see.
But we find ourselves in a bit of a quandary. We want to be seen as unique individuals, but we also belong to communities and seek approval. We’re always striving to maintain a balance between standing out and fitting in. And so, to appease that paradox, we’ve co-opted a word to explain away our current obsession with taking pics of our butts. And boobs. And abs. And guns.
That word is “fitness”.
But let me set the record straight real quick.
This is vanity.
And I don’t mean ‘vanity’ in the fire-and-brimstone, weeping-and-wailing kind of way.
But in other ways, yes.
- It’s vanity in the philosophical sense…
…in that it’s a way for us to bolster our egos. The word “ego” has a somewhat negative connotation in popular culture, but the original definition just referred to your sense of self. It’s not actually a big ego that causes someone to act traditionally ‘egotistical’, but a weak one.
Building your ego and your sense of self – your true self – and having pride in what you have done and can do, isn’t an inherently bad thing. There’s no way to tell by looking at someone whether or not they’re actually obsessed with their appearance, or just proud of who they are.
And in the end, unless it’s actively affecting me, it doesn’t really matter to me one way or the other. I’ve got more important things to worry about – like my own growth.
The vanity of showing yourself off for the world to see – when taken at face value – is neither good nor bad, like everything else in the world. It just depends on how you choose to look at it.
It was Neitzche who said, “The vanity of others runs counter to our taste only when it runs counter to our vanity.”
And since I just quoted Neitzche, I’ll take my round of applause and settle with ending that point right there.
- It’s vanity in the existential sense…
…in that it is actually, truly, totally pointless.
Because I’d like to remind you that I am talking about BUTTS here.
“Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2)
He meant that everything is pointless, fruitless, meaningless. Ultimately all our greatest strivings will be consumed – if not by death, then by time.
And while I’m not generally as nihilistic as Solomon was on the particular day he wrote those words, having seen picture of butt… after butt… after butt, definitely gets me as close to that feeling as I can possibly imagine.
Let me ask you a question.
Imagine you were walking through the park one day and you passed by someone drowning in a lake. (I put a lot of effort into this object lesson so please stick with me here.) You dive in and, with your excellent swimming skills, save the person’s life. Naturally, the person is exceedingly and overwhelmingly grateful.
As it turns out, they’re actually a multimillionaire. They want to repay you – as anyone would – but since they’re a multimillionaire, the payment is extraordinary. Mystery Millionaire takes a ring off their finger and offers it to you and – for the sake of this lesson and continuity – you accept.
Now you don’t know anything about jewelry and precious stones but you can tell that this particular stone is probably worth more than every single thing you own at this point in your life. Mystery Millionaire starts to mumble they don’t want you to lose the stone, but all they can find to put it in is a dirty old paper bag lying on the ground beside you.
Do you take the bag or leave it?
Stupid question, right?
But yet, so many of us are housing mega-watt, indescribably priceless jewels…and are overly concerned about the paper bags.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all about that healthy life. I am one hundred per cent here for taking care of my body, for working out, and for looking and feeling good. Mi deh ya fi it. And I acknowledge that our bodies and minds are connected in more ways than we can possibly even appreciate right now.
BUTT (see what I did there??) when you are confronted with the reality that “All is vanity”, that you are going to die fairly soon, and that your existence is going to be exactly what you make it…time spent worrying about and obsessing about a butt (or any other body part for that matter) inevitably feels not just pointless, but cruelly wasted.
Earlier on, I asked the (rhetorical) question, “what’s better than butts?” And now I want to answer it: A LOT. A whole lot.
I’ve learnt to love my paper bag. I try to take care of it. I try to clean it up and keep it clean. But I’m striving to never forget the jewel that lies on the inside. And that’s what I want to make shine.