Friday, July 15, 2005

shmelf image

This afternoon I was headed out the door for lunch when I noticed this young woman, early to mid-twenties, passed me down the street. This girl was like many I’ve seen coming from yoga or something, hair up in a sweaty loose bun, rolled-up mat under her arm, loose tank top, stretchy leggings, flip-flips and sunglasses.

This girl was thin. So thin. Toned and thin. Toned, tall and thin. Her legs were long, and her thighs didn’t jiggle (I’m sure the lycra helped this.) This girl had the body that I see in every pop culture periodical on the rack, but she’s real and she’s walking right past me. Even her bones were thin.

So what do I do? I do what I always do… I start making comparisons between us. I stare at her thighs and then glance at mine and try to figure how much bigger mine are from hers. Then I move to her upper arms, and try to guess how many more inches in circumference my arms are from hers. It’s a sick, sick mind game. And I’m compulsive about it.

Now before I go on with my story, let me interject something. I know that some of my friends at this point might be saying: ‘WHATEVER, Mary…shut up, you’re thin too…’ and the like. To which I say…hey! This is my blog, and these are my thoughts and tendencies however ridiculous or unfounded you think they are! They’re real to me. If you grew up in a ballet studio where teachers were telling you 4-5 days a week to watch the brownies at age 10, perhaps you’d be as demented as I. (eek. El sensitivo. A little defensive, are we? Um, yeah.) Besides, there’s Mary thin (which fluctuates between sizes 4-10; 6 if I’m happy, 12 if I’m living back in Fresno) and then there’s this chick on the street, the non-jiggler. You know what I’m talking about.

There are girls that are way below their weight range, with a 16.2 BMI, and are still complaining about their underarm fat. Thanks to an article I read off of Kelly's blog this morning, I know now that there are actual underground support groups known as “pro-ana” which support a woman’s “life choice” to have a life-threatening food disorder such as anorexia (“ana”) or bulimia (“mia”). This is catastrophic to me. I do not use the term lightly. Women will go down in big ways because of this epidemic.

Okay, so back to skinny yoga chick on the street. As I start my ritual comparing of the thighs, a thought comes to me like a soap bubble bursting in my face. And here it is…

Why the heck would I want that woman’s body over mine? My body is perfectly great!

Let me explain, lest you think I’m bragging. Ha.

My body is divinely crafted. He designed me, He custom made me. My body is part of what makes me Me. It’s part of why He loves me as Me.

He knew I wanted to be a mother someday. So what does He give me? Sturdy Norwegian legs, strong enough to bear the weight of pregnancy. Hips where my babies can rest their little tushies while I’m talking on the phone. My body was designed for motherhood. (At least, I hope it is. Assuming all the plumbing works, I haven’t tried it out yet.)

I’m just not made like little Ms. Thing here! I was not created with those thighs, or even the potential to have those thighs. It’s not in the plan, Stan. So why compare? I’m beautiful. Nuff said.

Anyway…these were my thoughts after brushing past Ms. Thin and Toned. I was so happy, I felt like celebrating.

So I went to Burger King.

I hope you got onion rings.

I'm going to think HF gave me huge thighs because he knew I'd want to be a rockin' swimmer.
I just got called fat on the LDSlinkup boards. So it's nice to have this balance of friends who have good body image ideas. I was simply commenting on how our culture tends to worship the fashion plates, and referenced the article Kelly posted, and I was told I was a jealous fat person. Nice.
WHOA! That is so uncalled for and rude and mean and just crazy! I can't believe that.
Okay, that is just mean of that person. I have my own issues, more because I'm bigger than I used to be, (apparently how I was made then and not now). And I also see the side of the really thin girls who can't help it, even if they want to gain weight, and they get flack for that too when that's simply how they are (that would be my sister).

The point may be, are you healthy? Does your body let you do want you want do (run, walk, swim, etc) and help you have a happy life (when you aren't paying attention to what magazines say what is beautiful)? Are you treating it well since it's the only one we get?

Exactly, cat. I think we have to focus on being healthy more than on size. Certainly I still need to lose about 30 pounds to be at the top end of the "ideal" weight, but I've lost 20 in the last year and a half, and I go bike riding, and I go to kickboxing class. I know I need to eat better so I'm trying to focus on that lately (moving cross-country all by yourself can cause a multitude of loneliness issues that make you crave comfort food, which habit I need to break again).

It was just really upsetting that I was trying to discuss cultural perceptions and all that resulted was name-calling.

My point, though, as far as Mary's topic goes, is that it's good to have friends who have good body images, or at least that your friends feel good about their bodies when you aren't feeling good about yours (and vice versa), that you can support each other in the low moments.
Exactly!! Postive reinforcement is a good thing.

The funny thing is, when I'm with my two sisters, both of whom are naturally tiny and I'm the 'biggest' of the three of us, that's when I feel the most positive and happy with my own body. I don't feel like I'm pudgier than I want to be, or that my buddha belly is taking over my body when I'm with them.

Part of it, I think, is that they are so positive about how I look now and have a really healty views on weight and body image and all that themselves. And they will lovingly completely call me on not liking my pudge and when I'm having a low moment ('cause we all do).

And they tell me I'm hot, that helps:)

We gotta help each other along in our lower moments, encourage each other in our personal goals with weight and image and fitness, and appreciate our curves and good health:)

This is an excellent post Mary. Very well said. And I agree that we're all built differently and each way has it's own benefits. I hate the overprevalence of super-skinny chicks in the media. Some of us just aren't meant to be that way.
Great comments! I couldn't agree more about the point of being healthy over being "perfectly sized" whatever that means.

I marvel at the differences in size I see just within my own family, with my own sisters. We're all built just a little differently: some taller, some shorter, from size 2 to size 12. And yet ALL of us are beautiful, and we're all working to stay healthy.

Stace: whoever wrote what they wrote is profoundly ignorant and messed up. I'm so sorry they decided to direct that at you in such a cruel way. It's just a good thing that you've got your head on straight and get sluff it off. Heck with 'em, you know what's what.
Mary, my dear, you are brillant! I can not tell you how comforting it was to read your post this morning when I got to work. Thanls for your incredible exmaple, you have taought me much my dear friend!!
This discussion reminded me of a song.
God help you if you're an ugly girl, course too pretty is also your doom. Cause everyone harbors a secret hatred for the prettiest girl in the room.
It really doesnt matter what you look like, all other things not considered and ought not to be considered. What will fly is how you carry yourself. You can be tall, thin and gorgeous but if you suck and have no personality or real bone in your body, in the end you don't have a lot going for you nor are you happy.. you might at first be, i.e. got the GQ man, the cosmo job and the frilly friends. Then comes the divorce, the lay off once your botox backfires and your friends get overrated and neurotic. Images, marketing, sexism, egoism.
Nothing wrong with being whatever your being is. tall, thin, ugly, pretty, square, pear, round, pale, dark, whatever. We are who we are and that's the way it's going to be. -B. Marley.
Other recommended Song: Thhirty-two Flavors, Ani DiFranco or Alana Davis.
Recommended reading: The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf.
Undercover Feminist, also Lover (can I get a whu whu from my mand mand! KCCN FM 100 island jams repa'sent!)
Those are great recommendations! I'd also like to add the movie Real Women Have Curves to that. It rocks.

I must agree that body image has to be what you make it...
Sometimes I really hate talking about this with people because they immediately assume that I couldn't possibly have body image issues because I'm "petite". WRONG.
No matter who you are, what you weigh, there is always something about one's body that has the potential to bring them down. My last employer was slightly overweight and quite obsessive about it. She would often make remarks about my weight and make fun of my "non-womanly" figure.
If you're constantly listening to what other people tell you you should be, then you'll never be happy. I guess that goes for pretty much everything.
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