Dragging Out the Soapbox
But, to get to the soapbox. This particular exercise of the soapbox started with a conversation I had yesterday with woman working at a store where I was picking up a couple of things on my lunch hour. Noting my uniform and name tag, she asked if I was using my lunch break to shop. I told her that I was indeed, to which she replied happily: "Oh, well that will be good for your diet then, won't it? Much better then Atkins!" Now, I understand completely that this lady meant me no ill will at all, no insult. In truth, she probably barely looked at me and couldn't say what I looked like now if 30 pounds of free cashmere (or whatever it is that muggles want) were in the offing. No, what bothers me is that this is how our society is. We are so obsessed with something as unimportant as a woman's body size (woman--not man. I can't imagine something like that being said to my husband, or any other man I know) that it's just part of normal conversation, like "how are you?" or "nice weather we've been having". I'm an adult female--I MUST be on a diet.
Our society has been talking about this very subject for years, so I know you're probably wondering what happened to Ms. Knitingale's brain to produce such a tired topic, but that's exactly my point: we HAVE been talking about it for years. And it hasn't changed.
We say that size has nothing to do with beauty, we say that we are weary of the coat hangers with hair that pass for fashion models, we say that we're fed up with having size 12 labelled "plus" or "women's" size and having all the clothes larger than that look like an explosion in a really ugly polyester factory.....but do we mean it? That is, do we mean us? Or do we actually mean that we'll be accepting of other women in all sizes, while still beating ourselves up with ludicrous expectations and standards? Check out some of the evidence:
- There is a new diet pill on the market called Ally. It works by blocking absorption of fat. Because of that (and I'm sorry, but this is about to get gross), the fat has to go somewhere and people who eat fat and take this product are, according to the manufacturer, going to be prone to passing greasy stools, not always voluntarily. Their website actually advises people taking it that they may want to wear dark pants, and bring a change of clothing to work. Now, if we all understood that health and beauty were more than numbers, if we all loved our bodies as they were, you'd think you'd hear us all laughing as we advised the manufacturer of this wonder drug exactly what he could do with it. But, the truth is, stores can't keep the stuff in stock. It's purchased as soon as it comes in, often in huge quantities, mostly by women, and mostly by people who aren't actually all that heavy. In other words, there are women today who would rather publicly soil themselves than be perceived as "overweight".
- I was watching TV while I ironed the other day (don't worry, it's still the same Ms. Knitingale-I was doing a half-assed job of the ironing) and a commercial came on for some other diet product. A woman was talking excitedly to the camera about her weight loss, and when she mentioned that she used to be a size 12, she said it in the tones one usually reserves for such announcements as "I woke up and I was completely covered from head to toe in fungus". 12. Now she's a size 2, and the commercial shows her happily placing her hands on the waistband of her tiny skirt, as she announces "This is a TWO!" A two? Who over the height of 5' needs to wear a size two? More importantly, why is that considered an accomplishment?
Okay, so I'm in the healthcare industry, and I know that many illnesses are associated with obesity. But I also know that the medical guidelines are far less onerous than the public ones. I am 5'8" tall, and my doctor told me I could weigh up to 160 pounds without her feeling any sort of concern or considering me to be overweight. I weighed 172 in high school, and I worea size 16....so 160 would make me probably a 14. See what I mean? The health argument only goes so far. The public would call me fat if I was a size 14, even though my doctor would call it perfectly healthy.
I used to have a friend who was about 5'4". She weighed around 170 pounds, and she had wild, frizzy red hair and a gap between her front teeth. She was also one of the most beautiful women I'd ever met, and every man who laid eyes on her thought so, too. That's because she KNEW she was beautiful. She wasn't arrogant--don't get me wrong--but she loved her curves, celebrated her full hips and thighs, even dyed her hair redder from time to time just because she liked it. Flying in the face of every woman's magazine ever written, she refused to wear clothes to conceal anything, but dressed in things like pencil skirts with fitted sweaters and belts to show off her curves. Men adored her. In a room full of women, it didn't matter what the rest of them looked like--people flocked to her. Which goes to show you that we get to decide what's beautiful....she did. So then, why are we deciding on impossible things that make us unhealthy and miserable?
I'll let you in on a secret: when I am at a healthy weight, I have big thighs. They are rather doughy, and they touch at the top in a way that can have uncomfortable consequences in hot weather. This is true no matter how much I exercise. If I get thin enough (as I am now, due to trying to cut my fat intake--and yes, I'm working hard to reverse that) to actually have slim-ish thighs, my chest will be bony and my ribs will show. That's just the way I'm made. And I'm tired of being ashamed of them. I'm tired of tugging at the legs of my shorts to hide my thighs and I'm tired of dressing to hide them. This is my official decree: I am done abusing my body emotionally for not looking like someone else tells me it should. I love my thighs. Because of their strength, I can hike and ride a bike and all kinds of really wonderful things. I love them.
I hope you'll join me. I hope you'll all look long and hard at all the things that make you beautiful--and I read your comments and your blogs so I know just exactly how beautiful you all are, and it's enormous--and know the truth about all the crap that doesn't matter. Beautiful really does come in all shapes and sizes...and not just for other people. For you, too.