Making Peace with My Body
This afternoon, I experienced "the moment".
Every woman knows "the moment" -- it is that instant when your eyes light on some aspect of your poor flesh that you, as a good, upstanding, God-fearing, weight-obsessed, body-hating American, think should be renovated.
It could be the soft curve of your lower belly, the droop of a non-siliconized boob, the wobble of a less than perfect thigh. Whatever it is, it's all wrong.
For me, it has always been my thighs and butt. I have thick thighs, and I've always had them. At eighteen, I weighed less than 100 pounds, and I still looked like I was saddling up for Seabiscuit. I also have a voluptuous derriere. But I'm not fat. I probably weigh a normal weight for my body -- or exceed it by around 10 pounds (yes, sigh, the infamous last 10 pounds).
Today, I put on a short jumper that I don't normally wear, and it hit me at the mid-thigh level. Immediately, my mind had "the moment". I started thinking: "God, my legs look huge!"; "I can't believe the cellulite." "My ass looks pregnant with twins!" Ugh. You get the picture.
I can honestly say that, as I have grown older, I don't have these moments very often. Thank God.
But as a teenager, that was another story. At thirteen, I was convinced that everything on my anatomy needed upgrading. I hated my ass, nose, skin, and height. I wore baggy clothes that covered my butt, and until I was 26 years old, I never wore anything tucked in or form fitting. I also never wore my hair up (my ears stuck out too much). As a teen, I planned on having a lot of plastic surgery when I could afford it. I wanted the works -- my nose, boobs, butt, chin, and ears all replaced.
Thank God for my mother. Yes, she may have told me sex was over-rated, but she also told me that I was beautiful, smart, and could do or be anything I wanted. She also claimed all those women in the movies and magazines that I thought were so beautiful had good plastic surgeons, theatrical make-up, and talented photographers. She was a very smart woman.
I worked my way out of self-hatred as I grew older. By the time I was in my 20s, I wore whatever I wanted, tucked in or not. I have no problems with wearing my hair up; nor, did I ever have plastic surgery. At the age of 30, I stopped weighing myself completely. I don't have or ever use scales. I think they are a waste of time. Ditto with dieting. I try to eat right, exercise (okay, I'm no gym bunny here, but I'm trying), take my fish oil -- and I let the chips fall where they may. I'm not going to obsess over my weight. Life is simply too short.
I have made huge progress in accepting my 1955ish body. But I'm not completely without "moments". When I am in bed with a man, they still occur -- usually, when I'm walking to the bathroom and my butt, in all it's wobbly glory, is on full display. That can still be hard. Or, I will wonder if he thinks I'm too soft (I will never be an iron woman; I could lift weights till I croak and never accomplish that). And, of course, I had my "moment" today.
But I can admire my good points. I have full breasts, large eyes, a small waist, and thick, wavy, auburn hair. With age, I have become more accepting of myself. I believe that my mother played a role in this. She both accepted me and never fretted about her own appearance. So, she was a good role model. And of course, there is the maturity that comes with being older. But I have to wonder:
Why are we so obsessed with our appearance in the first place?
Some, like Naomi Wolf, put the blame squarely on Madison Avenue, and it is true that Big Business profits from your self-hate. If they can convince you that you are a ugly, you just might be willing to buy their diet book, mouthwash, shoes, designer jeans, or plastic surgery...
But that's not the whole story. I think one underlying cause for the "beauty myth" is that we women still see ourselves mostly in relation to men. We are raised to believe that if we find Prince Charming, life will be wonderful. No more pain, no more loneliness. We will be complete. And the major way we win Mr. Wonderful's heart is by being beautiful. In the fairy tale, the heroine was always the "fairest in the land". For women, beauty is power.
So, we diet, Botox our wrinkles, and shrink ourselves into the uncomfortable shoe to have the "fairy tale" love. At least, I used to believe that way. So, I kept primping and waiting for Romeo. Well, he hasn't shown up yet. And as I grew older, I realized that even if I were to meet him, my life wouldn't be perfect. When I finally got this through my head, my obsession with finding Prince Charming faded somewhat, and my fixation on my appearance followed.
If we ever get to the point where the majority of women have an autonomous identity that is not dependent on some man's approval, (and this is going to take both equal pay and equal power) Botox wouldn't hold such allure. In fact, it might go belly up, and our "moments" could be moments of celebration not denigration. We would finally realize that love does not conquer all -- certainly not self-hatred. And we don't need to be completed.
We are complete.