Beating body vanity in Dubai

Why Dubaians are more vain than anyone, by Peter Feely

The Knowledge

Peter Feely dons his mankini and accepts he can’t compete with Dubai’s body beautiful.

I’ve come to realise that for various reasons people don’t tend to be overly pleased with their bodies. Blame it on the media, advertising and society’s zealous worship of youth, but most sane people seem to carry a number of different insecurities.

We live in a world where a small paunch on a holidaying Kate Moss is regarded as a catastrophic fall from grace – where post-pregnancy celebrities are analysed on the basis of how quickly they recover their model physiques. This, perhaps to a lesser extent, is no different for men. Magazines such as Men’s Health encourage silly things such as six packs and overtly prominent biceps.

Here in Dubai, this slightly unsavoury aspect of society is exacerbated for various reasons. Firstly, Dubai has a predominantly youthful society. Take to a beach in Britain and you’re likely to encounter quite a decent cross-section of ages – including folks who are the wrong side of 60, which invariably makes you feel reassuringly fortunate in the body department. In contrast, a trip to the beach at Barasti is a different affair. The youthful crowd don’t tend to swim much. It seems more de rigueur here to wade into the water to shin height and then just stand there, breathing in, with an air of indifference, while others can admire your slender frame.

Another reason you tend to encounter amplified body awareness here is that it tends to be quite hot. Invariably, unless you’re extremely fond of brunching or visiting a mall, you’re likely to spend a certain amount of time by a pool or on a beach. This is not really the environment for a three-piece suit, so you’re inevitably going to end up wearing rather less.

In terms of my own issues, they tend to revolve around the fact that I’m not particularly muscular. In fact I believe I’m what would be classified as ‘pigeon chested’. I guess I would also like to be slightly less hairy but not to the extent where I would resort to sculpting my chest hair. Yet the revelation I had recently was that, media pressures aside, these insecurities are generally related to my mood. If I wake up ill-tempered,
I tend not to parade by the pool.

Incidentally, this weekend I’m heading to one of Dubai’s swanky beach clubs. The trendier versions of these places are the possibly one of the posiest places you can venture. Yet when this discussion came up with a friend, he said he didn’t really care. He argued that people who devote inordinate amounts of time to their appearance tend to be narcissistic and subsequently not particularly interesting or engaging. Laughing at these people while they self-consciously pose was also pitched. On reflection, I’m in agreement and have decided I’m going to breathe out and have a chuckle.

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