Tag Archives: body image

My figure, female

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My figure, female

Getting out of the shower today, I caught a glimpse of myself in the medicine cabinet mirror. That same bathroom medicine cabinet that is filled entirely with products meant to highlight this and hide that, smooth this and lift that. Every product’s purpose is to address the imperfections which are just a tiny part of the imperfect whole. So it’s no wonder that I am dismayed by what I see projected onto the bathroom mirror. The swell of age and babies, the wrinkles, the scars, the bulges. The aged skin stretched awkwardly over underworked muscles, looks tired. Tired as the face that stares back and sighs. I wish I was younger, forgetting I will get older. And I wish I was bigger here and smaller there, smoother here and also there. Every part of me seems to hold some opportunity for criticism, an opening for attack. Smallish toes, inappropriate scalp, improper arm pits, inadequate knee surface area, unseemly nails, unsightly calves…pieces and parts of a Dali painting, putrid crayons melting on asphalt.
Recently I have had particular distaste for my stomach. It’s bigger now than it was a decade, or perhaps two, ago. It reminds me of leftover biscuit dough. I love biscuits, but this doughy mess makes me sigh. Maybe I could use my belly button to store flour, or acorns. I open the medicine cabinet door, so the mirror faces away.
Just this morning, my daughter said, without provocation, “You look good, for someone who’s had three kids. ” and I’d possibly agree….but there’s that modifier. And others. “For my age”, is another one. These are good and real compliments, that feel rather like getting a free sample of uncooked chicken skin.
It’s not as though I am simply a decoration that has seen better days, a balloon animal that has come untwisted. I am certainly more than the sum of my thighs, my weight, my age. On good days, I don’t need to be reminded of that. But I am often caught off guard by what I see in the mirror, in the curve of a spoon, in photographs and then I’m brought back to the universe where my body is the sun and all of, what might be remembered as amazing parts, are just distant planets orbiting around.
My womanly frame, of wrinkles, and unwanted bulges and sags and curves and joy and creation, needs a break. It is not as though having better thighs would make my life easier anyway. If my hair was thick and curly (which I wish for almost exclusively because it is flat and frizzy) I wouldn’t accomplish anything more. Larger boobs wouldn’t make me smarter, or more compassionate. Having toned triceps won’t get me any closer to finishing my prize winning novel. And anyway, these wobbling bat wings embrace my lover beautifully. These over-sized thighs lift me with ease upstairs and downstairs and all around. Belly laughs and gestures and hand puppets and scowls of disapproval are all possible because of the wonders of facial muscles and skin stretched over bones and cartilage. I can still do magnificent things with this flesh suitcase of mine. It is the case that this amazing human machine has created the three people I love most in the world. How much more impressive can a bag of skin and bones get than that? It makes people! I’ve got a blender than can make kale smoothies that I give more respect and adoration than my whole body.
But I’m not writing an essay about learning to love the sags and bags and wrinkles and fat. I’m not headed out to have midlife nude pictures made, I’m not going to hang inspirational quotes on my bathroom mirror reminding me that I am a beautiful flesh portmanteau capable of amazing things. Twenty year-old feminist Ami, I’ve got disappointing news–you are never going to learn to love your body. I appreciate women who do, and women who are trying. Bless each and every one of you. It’s hostile territory to even consider self-love, for many people. I can admit that there are several parts of my physical appearance that I tolerate. I attempted to love my body, mostly by trying to change the shape of my body, but it seems that loving my body is just another unattainable goal. So, I think we are going to try to just be friends. And as friends we are going to agree that there are many, many more important areas of the universe that we should be putting our energy into. Fighting Sexism, for example.

The simple act of learning to love your body is a radical act in a society that makes a living off of telling you that there is always something wrong with you. But I have begun finding the task of learning to love my body as exhausting as hating it. So instead of putting up inspirational quotes about loving myself, I am going to tack up a photo of a penguin. Penguins could give two fu$ks about the size of their beaks, the amount of black spots verses white spots, or that they make a weird noise when frightened (it’s true, look that up). This is the year that I turn my attention to something other than embracing my wrinkly elbows and I stop trying to love my laugh lines. These are, after all, just things. And if, periodically, I am startled by the unwelcome sight of my monstrous thighs, my bellowing belly, my pizza dough triceps, I will offer a figurative tip of the old fedora and go along my way.  As long as the sun shines, perhaps the most radical act of all will be saying, “what body? I have a body? Huh, I hadn’t really noticed, but now that you mention it I was wondering how I was able to dance to that funky James Brown song, make this delicious Quinoa and resist this crazy patriarchy.” So lets get our thighs out there, whale-sized or bird legs, and raise our pendulous arms to those things that are greater than our flesh duffle bags. Do something really radical today.  Don’t think about your body at all.

 

What’s your hat size?

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What’s your hat size?

Ok. Stop calling Robyn Lawley plus-sized! For those of you who don’t consider Facebook your source for news, Robyn Lawley is a 6’2″ model featured in sports illustrated’s famous swimsuit edition. She wears a size 12, which means relatively nothing, since she’s 6’2, except that for some ridiculous reason, in the “fashion world” that makes her “plus sized”. Forget the fact that this is an amazing looking, healthy woman with a enviable body, She wears a size 12, most likely because her ankles would show in a size ten because she’s 6’2″.
So several thoughts flood my brain at once (warning: my brain uses very adult language): 1- fashion industry- go f&$k yourself. The average American woman is a healthy size 14. You get 0 points for putting average (or smaller than average) sized women into the category of “plus sized” and then imagining that you’re being progressive. 2- plus size is a label that in recent history carries a lot of negative baggage. F$&k that. It’s another label in the long list of labels that keep women obsessed with their appearance. 3- f$&k Numbers, size 12, 175 pounds, 2500 calories, 10,000 steps. These are just a few numbers many women keep constantly in our heads every day. You might be eating dinner, we are figuring out how many calories are left in our daily allowance to see if we can drink the rest of our red wine guilt free or if we will need to go to bed hating ourselves. It’s a constant math problem that has turned food into an equation. And it leaves out the most important part of the equation….are we healthy?
When we are constantly presented with the idea that a size 12 is exceptional beauty and that size 2 is the ” norm” we lose sight of what’s really important. Curvy, skinny, thin, slender, average, romantically curvy, super skinny, size 16, size 0 or size 12, these are just labels. And they don’t even mean one consistent thing, nor do they address your heart health, your blood pressure, or your overall health and well being. They are exclusively about the way you appear on the outside.

I suggest you go to the mall, just for the experience of walking past store windows. Every single mannequin is a size 2-6, all about the same height, and proportions (and even though they are featureless, most of them are white) Make your last stop Victoria’s Secret, and don’t bring your kids, because there are Giant! pictures of naked ladies. Then look around the mall. The people in the mall are all sizes, all shapes, and many colors.
So why is this one version of women used over and over again? Why is it so extraordinary that a woman who wears a size 12 is featured in a swimsuit spread? If you’re foolish enough to believe being constantly bombarded with these images does nothing to a person, ask my nine year old why she believes the skin on her stomach is “fat” and “gross”.
I think about my weight almost every day. Right now I’m a size 12. Some days I eat whatever I want. Some days I try to eat a certain number of calories. I rarely focus on reaching some health goal, but I frequently think about getting to a certain number on the scale, or getting to a certain pants size. I’m stopping that today. Today I am going to fake loving my body, until I love my body. Or better yet until I think of my body as a healthy package that carries around my beautiful self.
A couple of notes for clarification, I know men have body issues too. I know the images of men’s bodies tend to be one dimensional and not representative of the average man. I don’t hate skinny women, or beautiful women. I hate advertisers and capitalism.
Finally, I want my daughters to grow up in a world where they value who they are more than how they look. I want them to recognize that the content of their soul is more important than what dress size they wear and that being healthy is the goal above fitting into some arbitrary norm.

An ex-feminazi goes to Victoria secret

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I went bra shopping today, which is second only to bathing suit shopping on the scale of things not to do when you’re feeling depressed. It doesn’t help that the place is covered with photoshopped pictures of beautiful women.   I want to love my body, I really do. When faced with a three way mirror though, I see every dimple magnified, every imperfection, every bit of the results of eating doughnuts. I stop seeing myself as a whole person.  True I’m 41 and I certainly couldn’t work out much less, but I don’t see myself with the same eyes that I see other women. Women are beautiful, all shapes and all sizes. Why do I look at myself with such a critical eye?  Or a better question, how do I change the way I see myself?
  I have three daughters, and I work with young girls all week.  I have a very real responsibility to change the way the next generation of girls looks at themselves. And trust me, I talk the talk with them.  However, I have a sneaking suspicion that they will do as I do, not as I say. Dammit. 

I guess it’s time for what my dear friend AH calls fake it until you make it. I know she didn’t invent the term, but she’s one of those parents I’d like to be when I grow up.  She’s one of my hero moms.  I’m fortunate to have a powerhouse of real life female heroes all around me.  My friend Wyndi is one of my hero women. 
I met Wyndi when I went to college.  She helped introduce me to the idea of feminism and gave me a heads up about the fact that the sexual revolution wasn’t over yet.  Wyndi has (and had) a knack for gathering together strong and potentially strong women. She held meetings at her apartment and talked about politics and women’s rights in a way that opened my eyes so that i could really see the world. I could probably tell you a story about the time we hung bound, gagged and blindfolded Barbie dolls around the college’s central cistern  to protest the graduation ceremony.  But I’ll save it for another post. 
During that time Wyndi assembled a group of smart, self-assured, fantastic women for a feminist theatre piece.  The whole production was overwhelmingly full of opportunities to express ourselves as strong women and challenge our personal ideas about the status quo. My costume for the production was a black Lycra cat suit, which was the onstage equivalent of a three way mirror.  At the top of the show we had to say these empowering statements about our beautiful bodies. My line-“I am comfortable with the size of my body.”  On the night of dress rehearsal, I opted to wear black jeans over my cat suit. Ironically I was not comfortable with the size of my ample butt. Wyndi had no trouble pointing out this irony to me. On opening night I strutted out in my shiny cat suit and acted like i loved the hell out of my entire body. It didn’t entirely change the way I saw myself, but it provided me the opportunity to fake it. And that provided me the opportunity to embrace my curves and redefine them as real, and as me, and as OK. 

I may not be ready to stare down the reality of the three way mirror and love all that I see. However, If you see me out you might notice I’ve got a little extra swag. Don’t be hating.  I’m faking it until I make it.