Saturday, May 16, 2009

meditation: i'm feeling grande

In a Starbucks world, things are no longer small, medium, and large. Nor are they medium, large, Biggie, and Extra Biggie, and i'm talking to you, Wendy. I now think of everything in terms of tall, grande, and venti.

And right now, in the sphere of my skin, i'm moving from venti back into grande.

Whenever I blog, I always do a final read-through before posting to streamline things and I try to take out any references to weight, clothes fitting, or dieting, because I find women who speak constantly of such things... well... boring. But it's constantly on my mind, because I am a woman, because I am an American, because I am exposed to "the media", and because size is simply an issue. And I despise the fact that it's so heavily on my mind.

My own experience. I was an athletic kid who ran to pudgy when I abandoned athletics for the arts. The arts, and Pixie Stixx, and late night Krispy Kreme runs. In high school, I was "curvy", and my drivers' license said 130 and 5'4". Whether or not that's the truth, I have no idea. My family didn't own a scale. But I remember that size was always an issue. The only thing I wanted more than a horse and a Johnny-Depp-lookalike-boyfriend was to fit into my best friend's size 4 GAP shorts.

I was 0 for 3 on that list.

When I was 16, a guy told me that I was "a woman of very definite curves", and I took it as a compliment. Years later, remembering his previous girlfriend, a size 2 bulimic, I wonder if I was a bit optimistic about his feelings.

In college, I wore men's jeans and steel-toed boots and baggy shirts and horrid glasses, but I was still never lacking for male company, so I didn't give my body much thought. My only workout was running to the bus stop in the rain, an asthma-inducing 100 yards. In hindsight, I was blissfully unaware of my body, and I was mostly banking on the fact that anyone lucky enough to see me naked wasn't going to complain.

And then the real world struck. I had to buy "office casual" clothes for my first job, a terrifying experience. My mother had never dressed this way, and What Not To Wear was not yet bombarding the populace with shrill sound bites about neutrals. I was stylistically bipolar, bouncing from a frumpy linen dress and jacket to a stretchy miniskirt and tank top. Funereal on Monday, strip club on Tuesday. I had to seriously start thinking about my body as an adult and all that it represented professionally and personally.

Unfortunately, when a woman tries to learn about fashion and dressing in America these days, she's almost always in for a rude awakening. Unless she's a size 4 Jennifer Aniston clone, the news is generally bad. Magazines, TV shows, movies, advertisements-- they bombard us with unrealistic images of beauty and size and fashion, and very few women have the mental, physical, and financial means to keep up.

The good news is that I learned much about proper nutrition and exercise. Through diet and drinking water, I solved 75% of the health problems that had plagued me all my life. I was able to comfortably and happily go from 150 pounds to 135 pounds, and I was healthier than ever. I also learned how to buy jeans that actually fit, apply makeup, and wear accessories.

Yes, I know most women learn these things at 13, not 23.

I was a late bloomer, dammit!

But the dirty secret is this: I've never actually been happy with my body since then.

I'm 5'5", average build, curvy. I have vascillated from 126 when nearly starving myself to 177 on the days each of my children were born. I'm happiest at 140. I'm currently 156 and on a diet and nursing a baby. I'm intelligent, passionate, happy, quick to laugh, confident, creative, and practical. I know how to eat healthfully, and I know the effect of genetics. I'm freakin' enlightened and meta and self-aware, and I know the lies behind Photoshopped celebrities and personal trainers and LA chicks barfing up lunch in the posh bathrooms of restaurants. I know it all.

And still, i'm never happy.

I see the faults. The effect pregnancy has had on my body. My scars and scrapes. The ravages of aging at the ripe old age of 31. I see the scar from my daughter's birth. I see sun damage. I see a pudgy stomach that has been a lifetime disappointment to me every single day that I was not pregnant and tautly spherical. There's something weird about my neck. I have great legs and bad thighs. I'm just this heaving, sweating, hair-growing machine, and sometimes I despise myself for never living up to my own hopes and for having such artificially high hopes in the first place.

Oh, and did I mention my thin, muscley husband who could eat lard with a spoon all day and maintain his perfect physique? And he doesn't even like birthday cake. Blasphemy.

It's just impossible. Sometimes, I want to burn all my magazines in a bonfire and dance around it naked and smeared in blood, holding a machete made out of digital scale components and howling at the fat lady in the moon. Sometimes, I want to throw out all the poorly fitting clothes I hate so much and buy an entirely new wardrobe of pretty things that actually make me feel beautiful, and get a pedicure and a manicure and a completely different haircut. Lots of the time, I just put on whatever jeans make my ass look good and a shirt that currently fits, sigh deeply, and pretend that the world has put me on hold until both of my children are walking independently.

Why did I start this meditation? And where is it going?

And why isn't it funnier?

I have no idea. I just feel like I should be above the body issues that plague womankind, that I should be able to transcend them. But I don't know how. For my daughter's sake, I have to find a way to love my body more, to give her a role model free from this horrible self-hatred. Right now, I feel like if I can just get into my favorite size 9 jeans, it'll all be better. But I don't know yet if it will.

I apologize for the lack of teh funny. Got serious on this one. May erase it later. Do I really want to crack my head open this much for you guys? Can't I just Photoshop some thought balloons onto my kids and call it a night? Do I really want my days to hinge on the numbers on a scale? Is life without cake worth living? Is the Loch Ness Monster real?


Sybil said...

You said it better than I ever could.

Tammy Howard said...

Oh, honey.

I am so much bigger than that.

And healthy.

And trying so hard to love myself as I am.

Some days that goes better than others.

We're just so bombarded... but you went into all of that.

Not fitting that norm (or even being anywhere close to it) has an effect on every aspect of my life.

But diets don't work and I end up heavier (longterm) after each one. Me and Kirstie Alley. Who also needs to quit beating herself up.


Beautifully written post, as always.

MindfulMama said...

Oh D. THis is perhpas the most honest and authentic thing I have ever read on your blog and it is a refreshing change from the funny. I like the funny, but I love your truth.

Every woman can identify with everything you shared. So thank you.

charissimo said...

As a fellow reubenesque also married to a lean-as-a-rail-metabolic-freak, I'm just sayin... I feel you, sister.

Lynn said...

Well put. When I turned 40 my gift to myself was that I was going to stop worrying about my weight for once and get on with living. Then I got pregnant again and yikes! It's been hard to keep that promise to myself. Even my skinny friends complain about their bodies. It's epidemic. When did it start? Did women always do this to themselves, but just kept it secret before? Here's something crazy: My sister had breast cancer and you know her biggest worry while she underwent chemo? The weight gain that came along with it.
Anyway, I love your truth too. Thanks for sharing.

stinestrain said...

I think you are gorgeous and should go with the plan of "buy clothes that make you feel gorgeous"

I'd tell you to stop worrying about it, but even if you did, there's always something else to worry about!

For the record, I not only didn't learn how to apply makeup and accessorize when I was 13, I've still never learned it. But my worries are more about what people think of my personality or whatever, so like I said - six of one, half dozen of the other.

let's make it an even dozen. of cupcakes :P

EttyOop said...

Well written... and I think it's the truth for all of us (well, most of us) who call ourselves women.

I had a baby one week less than a year ago. It took 9 months before my HIPS even went back into place. The bones weren't right. I couldn't get anything up over them. And I hated myself and thought I was fat and gross because of it. MY BODY HAD SHIFTED BECAUSE OF THE BEAUTIFUL MIRACLE OF CHILDBIRTH, FFS!!! But it is drilled into us how we need to be thing to be beautiful.

Guess what? The most beautiful and sexy size a woman can be is that which makes her feel happy and confident. If you have jeans that you think make your ass look great, why the hell should it matter what size is on the label?

And yet... it does, doesn't it? *Sigh* It's nice to read that I'm not alone in my insecurities... thanks for your honesty in this post.

Oh, and I still can't really put on makeup. So I don't wear it.
I'm 35.

bibliophiliac said...

Thank you for your insightful commentary. I linked to this post on my blog. If unacceptable, let me know.