These are tricky times.
I don’t mean the orange in office — I’ll leave that for another day. Today I’m talking about women.
Tricky times, because Feminism and Equality and Women in Power and all of that — the validity and truth of which I don’t mean to minimize. But, this: What I’m writing about today and all of these important topics should not be mutually exclusive.
I said to someone in conversation last week, “The only woman who isn’t insecure about her body is the woman who’s lying.” And yes, I meant it. And I know this goes for some guys as well, but as far as we’ve come (if you can even say that), it’s still an epidemic for women. Wah wah wah, we all still feel like we don’t add up. (See what I did there? Because even my own body-image issues are annoying to me, and they’re mine.)
I first went on a diet when I was 12 years old. It’s shocking how innocent it was: I saw a book lying around the house, Thin Thighs in 30 Days, and the thought was immediately implanted into my brain: My thighs are probably not thin. I should do all of the exercises in this book. Every day. Even on the day when I get blood drawn because of my thyroid condition and I probably shouldn’t be overexerting myself. (My 12-year-old self was much more disciplined than my 35-year-old self.)
It quickly progressed from thighs to boobs, although I don’t remember how — maybe I saw something on TV, or maybe it was all the back issues of Playboy we found in my friend’s attic, or maybe it was staying up all night at sleepovers comparing who had hair “down there” already. I was obsessed with boobs — mostly because I didn’t have any. I prayed to the Boob God. “Please God, please give me boobs before tomorrow, we’re going to Great America and I really want to wear the blue halter top with the white stars, but (a) I don’t own a bra, let alone a strapless bra, because (b) I don’t have the tits to fill out either, and (c) what little blobs of fat I do have hanging out in that general vicinity aren’t cute enough to fill out a halter top without a bra.” Boob God didn’t care. I don’t remember what I wore that day, but I do remember buying lots and lots of padded bikinis for the next 5 years. When guys wanted to go up my shirt, I had to say no — they couldn’t see under there. When my friends changed in front of me, I couldn’t believe how good they looked — even in old granny-style hand-me-downs. When I had to change for volleyball, I couldn’t switch to a sports bra — I would look too flat-chested. I even wore a bra during a massage once. “Oh,” the masseuse said, unable to conceal her uncomfortable surprise. And just like the thigh book so many years before, when I was getting married I was suddenly keenly aware of all the diet & fitness magazines at the grocery-store checkout. I understood: I should work out more and lose weight before the wedding, duh.
The wounds run deep. It’s the boobs; it’s the cellulite; it’s the mommy pooch; it’s the double-butt. And it doesn’t help that there are still people out there who will look all 167 pounds of you up and down and tell you you’re a little overweight. There are people who will ask if you’ve gained weight. There are people who will turn it into a game around the dinner table: You know who could stand to lose a few pounds? And point at you. Yeah. This is how “evolved” we are. So Feminism and Worthiness and Self Love and all of that, but: I don’t think I should feel ashamed to feel the way I feel.
We’re making progress, sure. We’re putting “normal” women on magazine covers; we’re incorporating different heights, weights, races and abilities in film and on the runways. But we’re also still faced left and right with images of “perfect” women in movies, on TV, on the internet, in Facebook ads — and even though I’m annoyed with myself for still giving a shit, I STILL GIVE A SHIT. I still feel shitty about my eighth-grade tits. I still feel like an asshole for not making enough time to work out every day. I still have these idiotic conversations in my head: I shouldn’t eat this. I shouldn’t drink that. God I need to lose weight — met with: I should enjoy myself! It’s fine. I’m going to eat this. I deserve it.
I haven’t mastered it. Do I know my value is not in my cup size? Of course. Is this entire post going to piss people off? I’m certain. But goddammit I am woman hear me roar, AND AT THE SAME TIME: (I feel like I should whisper): I don’t **love** my body. I try. I do. And some days it works; some days it doesn’t. I’m just as tired of it as you are. I know just as well that I “shouldn’t” give a shit. But. I. Do.
You see, to me an enormous part of Feminism-Worthiness-Girlpower-Equality is feeling like I have the right to express how I feel. And this is how I feel. If thinking I look like shit is unfeminist, so is thinking I don’t have the right to say that. All the self-care in the world doesn’t invalidate how I feel. I don’t have to “embrace my flaws” when that translates to giving my cellulite a hug (fuck you, cellulite!), but if it’s a flaw that I can’t suck it up and get over it, THAT’S the flaw I embrace. I don’t need to love my bullshit, but I also don’t need to pretend it’s not there.
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