Saturday, April 6, 2013

They Don't Know Us

Two friends shared this article about body image by Mary Martin Wiens on Facebook today, and I loved reading it. I think it was the best essay on body image that I've ever read, and I'll be honest and say this right now: if you only have time to read one blog post today, please read hers and not mine. My post is Chips Ahoy compared to her Sweet Martha's cookies, and my Minnesota friends know exactly how big of a difference in quality I'm talking about.


Despite this, I'm riding on the coattails of Ms. Wiens' post because I loved how validating it felt to read it. I understand that people in this society, particularly women, are indoctrinated by our culture to view our bodies as imperfect, or worse, ugly, if they don't look like what the media glorifies. Normal on magazine covers is not normal in your real life or in mine; the people that we spend our time with frequently sport what we may call normal, but what the media finds disdainful: days with no-makeup, Target clothes, zits, stray grey hairs (or in my case, increasingly large numbers of grey hairs), and love handles that hang over the waists of their jeans. They want to tell us that we're not pretty enough, and they want us to laugh at others who are just like us. It is somehow found acceptable when Seth MacFarlane jokes about Adele's weight right in front of her at the Academy Awards, despite her ass-kicking voice, song-writing, nine Grammies, Golden Globe, and Academy Award. Every time I see People's 100 Most Beautiful People Ever List, I scoff at them, because in my opinion the most physically beautiful person I've ever seen is my friend Heidi W., and she'll NEVER make that list because she's living out her life in a place other than Hollywood or New York City. I'm telling you though, Angelina Jolie has nothing on Heidi W.

Let me tell you about my body: it has changed quite a bit in the last three and a half years. I've seen myself in all shapes and sizes, and seen both pleased and aghast expressions on my face in the mirror at times as I brushed my teeth and headed to bed. I started off at a weight I had been for a long time, gained 35 pounds with my pregnancy with Silas, lost every pound of that but then put ten carefree pounds back on right before I got pregnant with George. Then I gained 40 pounds in my pregnancy with George, and during our ensuing breastfeeding/no dairy/no soy adventure I lost 65 pounds. I have stabilized now at just a couple of pounds over that, but have seen a 65 pound swing in the last 15 months alone. I'm currently eight pounds under what I was before I ever got pregnant with Silas, and yet many of my clothes from before my first pregnancy either don't fit or don't quite look right on my frame. How that happens I have no idea, but the growing Goodwill pile is evidence.

My boobs are a whole different story. These working boobs have seen bra sizes from A to D in the past three and a half years. They've leaked milk all over the place and at times become so engorged that I cried in pain ("boulder boob"). I remember that Silas had extreme problems latching with my right side (he had problems on both sides, really, which is why I switched to exclusive pumping when he was only two months old), and so I was ridiculously lop-sided for a while. My mother-in-law Susan and I nicknamed my right breast "the bad boob" because it was always the one that Silas rejected. I thought the size of my boobs might never even out! After I'm all done nursing all the children we'd like to have, there is not a doubt in my mind that these working boobs will "hang like pancakes," as my friend Laurie and I laughingly joke. Images conjure in my mind of natives in National Geographic who have never seen the likes of a bra, and I don't think the reality will be far off.

My body is mine, though. It has stretch marks and freckles and a strange-sounding voice (at least I think so), totally wicked scars all along my gum lines from a facial reconstruction I had when I was 16 because of severe TMJ, and the remnants of a gash on my hand from a jubilant celebration over a winning hand of poker in my childhood (that light fixture was lower than I anticipated). My body has served me so well through 32 years of life, and I just have to give it more credit than Cosmopolitan and Glamour tell me to. I mean, no offense to beautiful, glossy magazines, but they don't really know me; they only see me when I stand in the grocery store check-out line, so they can't really judge what kind of friend, mother, wife, sister, daughter, and therapist I am. And they can't tell me that Angelina Jolie is more beautiful than Heidi W. I have to laugh that they even really try to tell me what to think about me, my life, and my friends...so naive, those silly little magazines. The danger, though, is when we forget that these magazines don't really know us or our bodies, or our experiences and what our bodies have been through, and we accidentally listen for a minute or two or a lifetime. We as women can end up feeling awfully imperfect, depressed, and jealous if we listen to those magazines and believe. I think it really is time to stop listening to magazines and people like Joan Rivers that don't know us, and instead start deciding for ourselves what is important to focus on in our bodies: feeling good and realizing we are damned fine no matter what we weigh. Hold your heads high, ladies! May YOU set your own bar, not someone else!
Living large in December 2011


 
November 2012 at a Thunder game


Pictured three days before giving birth to George




2 comments:

  1. It's ironic, that we have reached this point in the West. We hold the value of individual happiness and fulfillment in such high regard, but it has not served us well in all respects. I can't think of a individual group that has more pressure placed on it than women, especially moms. You are told by society, both directly and indirectly that: 1. You must be a fantastic mother 2. You must have a fabulous career 3. You must have a world class body 4. You must be a strong supportive wife 5. Any faillures in any of these area and you will become the butt of jokes and gossip by, wait get this..... OTHER WOMEN! It's not acceptable to be just okay at a few of these things, but you must succed and dominate all of them. Your post is spot on. True freedom comes when you are able to shed the lables and "laws" of your culture and focus on what you were created to be.

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    1. Thanks for your insight, Jer. I love it!

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