this is a post i referred to wanting to write, but then vacillated about for reasons that are not particularly compelling. i feel like this topic is decidedly girly, and variously under-addressed and talked-to-death. lots of women struggle with issues about their bodies, and as much as i wish i was above this, i will just get over the shame of it all and admit that i am not.
when i turned 40 i tried to decide that i was over it all. i tried to decide that the time had come in life to really let go of trying to conform to a certain external idea(l) of what was beautiful or acceptable or desirable and instead focus on being stronger and healthier and more content with whatever shape that would result in. i tried to really reinforce that message to myself and be very selective about what influences i exposed myself to. gone would be the secret notebooks with the pictures of “perfect” bodies that i could aspire to if only i did another 8,000 exercises or starved a bit more. i would eat in tune with what my body needed and indulge lovingly in cravings, knowing that if i treated myself well, that my better emotional health would result in a better body- however it looked on the outside. i would stop listening to the inner maniac that was so punishing about every bite and every outfit and every choice and just try to be happy with my short, squat, hungry self.
because there is so much more to me than this body that i live in.
but here’s the true confession: i still look at every single other woman and literally one of the first things i see about her is her body. (here i should insert a caveat that i don’t consider myself a shallow person AT ALL. so this is all a little weird for me to talk about. because i am kind of admitting to things that are the antithesis of who i think i am as a person. but, here it is…) when i see someone thin, i automatically attach all sorts of suppositions to her life that may or may not exist, but on a pretty deep level, i am pretty convinced that they do. so i will assume that her life is so much more carefree than mine because she doesn’t have to worry about sucking in her stomach. i *know* she feels better in her clothes because they drape so casually over her flat stomach. i imagine her having easier relationships because during conversations she isn’t preoccupied with whether her fat rolls are showing or whether her stomach is poufing out over the waist of her pants or whether she should eat just one more thing before bed or go to sleep hungry. i picture- like a TV commercial for Happiness- her swinging on swings in the park or sliding down a slide in a water park or laying on a chaise lounge by a pool- always with a flat stomach and smooth thighs. and of course she is serene because she never has to worry about how her body looks because it always looks great.
i imagine that she can eat regular food when she is hungry, when i have coffee in the morning and then try not to eat all day long (which i know is unhealthy in 2,000 different ways, thank you). i imagine that she stops eating when she is not even quite full because she is just blessed with not having “food issues” when for me every meal is a battle ground of willpower over need. i imagine that she doesn’t even think about how to dress to hide her body, but instead just buys clothes she likes, and i think about how strange but how free that must be.
i watch thin people like i would watch a unicorn- with a sense of wonder and fascination. i watch how they move and how they bend. i study them, for no particular reason, because their mechanics are about as relevant to my life as those of a real unicorn, but i can’t help it. i’m jealous of them to the point of embarrassment, although as a full-grown adult with actual common sense i am at a loss to explain rationally why.
i will tell my daughters with 100% conviction that skinny actresses are constantly getting dumped and cheated on, so clearly external beauty and thinness are not predictors of happiness. i will convincingly tell them that character matters so much more in life than how you look; that looks fluctuate over time whereas character draws people to you and determines the quality of your life.
but then i will secretly envy people with certain diseases that make them thin.
yes, i am a person with chronic illness who complains bitterly over my compromised quality of life, and yet i wonder from time to time if maybe there would be a pay-off if i got very slim…
it’s quite sick , isn’t it?
so why i am i writing this post?
a big part of it is that i have a sense that there are so many women out there who feel the same way. and this is such a shameful secret, the degree to which we have bought into this idea that thin=happy and i can know intellectually that it is literally crazy, but that doesn’t free me from it.
i have friends who are smart and beautiful and contributive and they want to crawl into bed and die if they gain 5 pounds. i know women who sacrifice fulfilling intimate relationships with their significant others because they feel so demoralized about their physical shape. i have met women whose best friend is their eating disorder, and they will consistently choose the company of that friend over all others. and it’s not because eating disorders are so much fun to be around. it’s because they are so trapped. and they don’t know how to get un-trapped.
so what’s the solution?
i have no idea.
it seems like almost every magazine has either an article about how to feel beautiful at any size or how to lose 813 pounds in 6 months. and i would say that, based on results, neither of those is working.
i have no idea how to fix this, but i am a big believer in holding things up to the light. sometimes just saying the truth takes away some of the power of the fiction.
so maybe coming clean about this dirty secret will work some magic on me.
one never knows…