Thursday, April 9, 2015
So Over It (or Everyone Should Just Shut Up and Eat Their Own Burger)
This is me being so over talking about women's bodies. About my body. This is me begging you to wear whatever it is you want to wear without worrying about sagging skin or cellulite or knobby knees. This is me after a harrowing weekend of clothes shopping (one of my least favorite things ever) and that fresh hell they call the ladies' fitting room. After two years of nearly constant sickness and a year of significant weight loss, this is me being over the way almost-strangers feel entitled to pass judgment on other women's health, weight, eating habits, or medical treatments. Right now, I am closing the curtains, shutting the door, locking it down. I can't change others, but I can make sure that I never again make those kinds of statements or judgments.
It starts nearly at birth. Of course, I don't remember those days, but I have a little girl now. I've seen it in action. The comments about her appearance above all else, her "prettiness." I know I've done it myself to others. To her. I find myself looking at her and thinking, "I hope she doesn't inherit my pancake butt" or "I'm so glad she got her daddy's nose." And then I catch myself and feel a little sick. This is a child who was reading at age four, who never meets a stranger, who has the biggest heart. So what does it matter if she has two heads and a prehensile tail?
Except it does. It matters when you start school and your body isn't shaped exactly like the majority of the other little girls. It matters when clothes aren't made or marketed for petite/tall/skinny/fat girls or women, and you're left facing that fluorescent-lit dressing room mirror in ill-fitting clothes that make you feel isolated and different and not at all like the happy-looking women plastered all over the shop walls. It matters when puberty hits and you're the only one who gains fifty pounds or still looks like a nine-year old. Girls get labeled "late bloomers" or "very developed." Boys get called, uh, wait a minute. They don't get labeled anything.
If only it were a matter of getting through childhood and adolescence, it might be manageable. But it doesn't get better. Finish college -- hell, be the valedictorian -- what's the next question? When are you getting married? And this from people who don't know your telephone number or your taste in movies. When are you "starting a family"? (Because you can't call two people a family, apparently.) When are you having another? You're too thin. You look anorexic. You should eat more. You're doing too much. STOP!
I am married to kind, loving, attractive man. We are the same age, have similar levels of education, similar temperaments, etc. I have never once heard him debate a piece of clothing because he didn't like a certain part of his body. Nobody cares what he eats. No relative strangers ever suggest that any of his problems might be a result of his own ignorance, neglect, or inability to care for himself. Doctors and other professionals never treat him like he's hysterical or over-wrought. In fact, most doctors and the like are the same gender as he, so he isn't some mysterious other to them. People don't suggest that he should do less before he wrecks his health. When we were expecting our daughter, no one felt entitled to touch him or ask personal questions and offer comments about our chosen delivery method or feeding choices.
So what does all this rambling rage have to do with anything? Simply this. It doesn't matter to me what your "body-type" is. I couldn't care less if you are a vegetarian, a paleo devotee, or die-hard burger aficionado. I don't care what you choose to wear. If it makes you feel strong and confident, you should be able to wear it. Whatever it is. Regardless of whether or not you have breasts and hips. I want you to be in charge of your own health and well-being, communicating with your doctors and ignoring the incessant babble of pseudo-medical advice that is constantly on offer from every talk-show-watching, internet browsing, random person you meet. Make retailers offer women's clothes that are sized by actual measurements, not arbitrary number sizes meant to inflate the egos of upper-middle class women facing the middle age spread. Refuse to answer probing questions about your relationship status or procreative plans. Praise your little girls for their brains, their kindness, their ability to climb or dance. But most of all, just stop talking about weight, about most hated body parts, about genetic "flaws." Stop analyzing the bodies of celebrity women, or even women who pass you in the street. There are so many more interesting (and important) things out there to discuss. This little rant is for me too. I'm just as guilty as everyone else of obsessing about my appearance and making mindless comments to others. So, here's what I'm going to try. If I wouldn't say it to (or about) a man (or a boy), I shouldn't say it.
And also, the next person who tells me to eat something, is getting force-fed my copy of The Feminine Mystique.