When I hit puberty, it hit me back. I grew big boobs rather quickly and, despite being involved in a sport, I gained over 60 pounds (of course, living in an area in which practically everything but the water was fried didn’t help). After high school, I lost that weight and have managed to keep it off. Nowadays when discussing things like weight gain or body issues associated with weight (like back fat), I get these looks that, to me, seem to be saying, “Shut up. You’re thin. You have no idea what it’s like.” Well, yeah, I actually do.
But that’s not what I want to talk about.
I want to talk about body acceptance. In our culture, women are constantly told in direct and indirect ways that we’re never good enough, that if we only lost some weight, if we only used this product, if we were only younger/sexier/smarter/dumber/blonder/redheaded/brunette/tanner/lighter/bustier/less busty/taller/shorter, then everything would be perfect. Well, I said “Screw that!” a long time ago. I quit reading the fashion magazines when I was a teenager because every new issue was about the same old things — how to get boys, how please boys when making out, the clothes I should be wearing, the make-up I should be wearing, how I should be wearing my hair, the latest fad diet news, and of course the obligatory “how this person overcame these odds” or “why you’re ok the way you are” piece. All of these stories were surrounded by tons of ads for products that were supposed to make me a better person with pictures of models that have been retouched to an impossible (sometimes very warped) and homogenized beauty standard. I quit reading them because I realized that I was actually paying them to make my feel bad about myself! Oohhhhh, I don’t think so!
I was sick of my self-esteem being in the toilet, so I decided to find one thing that I liked about myself and focus on that. Instead, I found two — my hair and my lower legs (I was overweight, but I had very defined muscles). A few years later, there were some major changes in my life situation and I lost most of the weight. However, it took at least another year for me to stop seeing myself as the fat girl I used to be and to realize that I didn’t wear the same size clothes that I had before!
These days, I don’t own a scale. If my clothes fit, I know I’m doing ok. If they start to get tight, I know I that I need to take a look at what I’m eating or the exercise I may or may not be doing.
I don’t watch the fashion or modeling shows.
My boobs sag (and they have since I was about 13).
I have the remnants of all those stretch marks I earned as a teen.
My inner thighs have always been jiggly.
I am not a size 2. Or a size 0. And I don’t want to be. I don’t know exactly when sizes 0 and 2 became the most desirable sizes to be, but I find it ridiculous. I remember hearing about “the perfect size 6” growing up…well, I’m about a 6-8 now and I’m not supposed to be satisfied with that?? Whatever!
I find those chin hairs none of our mothers ever warned us about and hope that no one ever noticed.
I have never since been in as good a shape as I was at 22-25.
I have a skin condition.
My nose is pointy.
My teeth aren’t perfect or perfectly white.
I usually don’t wear much make-up (if any at all).
Without any kind of ladyscaping, I’m sure I could easily look like a Sasquatch. However, I don’t obsess over making sure my legs are perfectly smooth at all times.
And you know what? I’m ok with all of it (ok, except for the chin hairs). Though I’m sure she would disagree, I am no less a woman than fashionista Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada — just a different kind of woman.
Changing these things and trying desperately to look 20 and to live up to Miranda’s standards won’t make me a better person and it won’t make my life all roses and butterflies.
If you want to strive for something physically, strive for better health. Life is too short to hate yourself. Quit trying to hold yourself and others to standards created by folks trying to profit from your insecurities.