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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tyranny of Skinny Ideal

I had a really "feel good" day yesterday, despite only sleeping 5 hours. (I only got five last night, too, cause I was up till 4 am doing some work.) I had energy like I hadn't had in a long while, and I felt...vivid! I decided my mood needed something vibrant, so I washed and straightened my hair into a glossy waterfall, painted my toenails an orange-red, and put on my summeriest lipstick--Manhunt, which looks orangey-red on me, though I already got my man--with some Lychee Luxe lipglass on top for extra shine. I felt glowy.

My Pilates teacher said she noticed I was walking differently, looked brighter, and seemed slimmer.


So, on with the tortuous, but satisfying workout. During a point where my trainer was adjusting some springs on the Reformer, I looked over to the corner with the ladder barrel, where an impossibly slender and tall creature of blessed looks (must be another model, I swear) was leaning on the barrel, pushing disgustingly at the non-existent fat on her thighs. I kid you not. This gal only had the amount of fat humans need to live and no more. But her face in that mirror was disapproving.

What was she disgusted with?

You know how when you sit there is that downward pressure that makes your body spread a bit. It's normal. Has to happen. Gravity, weight, pressure--it's impossible not to have SOME thigh spread when you lean your weight back on your lower body, pressing against leather. Flesh gives.

Well, she judged herself so harshly for being human.

Mind you, she was a very pretty, very very thin, very tall human with legs a couple miles long. Most women would give a few toes and fingers and maybe an ear to have her figure.

She judged herself nonetheless.

How crazy is that?

I look in the mirror at the gym and feel horror, but I'm misshapen from an assortment of ills and bad habits. That gal was not. She should have been reveling in her near-perfection.

I think one day she'll be 68 and look at a photo of herself at this age (20's) and think, "Geesh. I was a hottie. I was SKINNY. Why the hell did I think something was wrong with me?"

I know I look at pics of myself in high school, when I felt so very ugly and chubby, and I think, "Um, not THAT bad. I wish I was that weight now."

I was 135 at my lowest, mostly around 139. Magazines told me I should be 120, 123 tops. I remember that number: 123. It was the Holy Grail back then for me in th 70's. I did yoga. I biked. I never got below 135. I hated, loathed, hated my body for it.

Unless I get some wasting disease or an eating disorder, I'll never be under 135. And now, I'll be happy to be under 200, and delirious to be under 175.

Perspective. Changes everything.

I'm trying to enjoy what I can do now, even if the mirror sometimes scares me. I woke up today and didn't toss on some baggy cotton tee. I treated myself with care. I put on a sexy black plunging v-neck tank top and decided to start being kinder to the me in the mirror, while I work harder at becoming healthier.

Cause, you know, I ain't getting yesterday back, or this last minute I spent typing here. Or my high school weight (realistically.)

And sometimes, when I was in the moment, I had such a warped attitude and judged myself harshly because some stupid ass magazines and charts said the right number was 123 or less. I berated myself. I was cruel to ME.

Internally, in my mind, in my spirit, I became my own enemy.

That fresh, slim, flexible, fit young woman at the studio was, for that moment, in that mirror, her enemy.

And it made me sad.

She's missing this moment, this moment when God blessed her with beauty and health and a body that fits the social ideal so perfectly. She is at a peak--and she's letting it get away in those moments of self-disgust and self-judging.

I'm too old (maybe a bit mature) to have felt spasms of envy (as I might have 10 years ago). A sense of regret at never having known what it felt like to be like THAT, yes, but nothing dark.

I felt mad, too, that we impose such harsh expectations on women. Damn.

So, I should treat this me that I am now with some mercy, cause when I'm 68, I might look back in a pic and think, "I wasn't as horrible as I thought," and I might wish to be this age again.


Shanna said...

This post is soooooo true!! I look back on my own high school pics, where I thought I was gross & fat... I would kill to have my own body back! Why do we do this to ourselves? Will we never be happy and truly accept ourselves.

I think, yes. Now that we are older, and realize how much care our body deserves, we will. It does make you feel better to dress nicer. I know I am more motivated to go to the gym in an outfit that looks nice, slimming, and shows I have a waist. Unlike its frumpy couterpart, the big t-shirt. Whenever I where a body engulfing shirt, I tend to feel more self conscience about myself!

Great post!! =)

Kate said...

It's amazing how poor body image perception many of us have. I always thought I was fat growing up. It's only in the last couple years I realize I wasn't. I've been having more and more frequent revelations about my past and my body as I go through this process. Who knew? I thought I was just going to lose some weight.

Oinkstop said...

I sure can relate! I've been dieting for more than a year and I still have almost 125 lbs to go.

The irony of my needing to lose weight is not lost on me, because when I was in high school I remember tipping the scales at 118 lbs. I thought I should weigh 100 (probably healthier would have been 110) and that started a lifetime of yo-yo dieting.

If my mother had never said to me, "I'll buy you new school clothes once you've lost the weight," maybe I wouldn't be so fat now.

every gym's nightmare said...

i bet you anything that no matter who reads this post...wether they be 100 pounds or 500 pounds....can relate perfectly to what you are saying. i know i do. i see someone bigger than me and think they look good, yet am so rough on myself.

i like the whole "would you say the negative thoughts you say to yourself to your sister/friend/mother?"

Heather said...

so very true! in high school it seemed like thats what girls did, say, "oh Im so fat" when really we never were. it just seemed like the thing to say. I look at pictures of myself now and think, wow I looked great! I should have told it like it was, that I was healthy and looked great.

Lora said...

Absolutely true! I remember looking in the mirror (back when myu thighs didn't even touch each other when I was standing up) and thinking I was fat! Yiuth is wasted on the young...thgat's for sure.

btw - I bought some of those fruit crisps. They are awesome and totally satisfying!

Once Upon A Dieter said...

I knew I was not alone in this. !

Lora, glad you enjoyed them. I do think this is a very satisfying treat product, as long as it's thought of as a treat, not a staple. I still have most of the pack I bought, because I am keeping them as just that...a treat. :)

Besides, I made a homemade no-fat, low-sugar apple treat yesterday, so I didn't need another. :D

The Princess