Saturday, November 09, 2013

I Needed This Whack in the Head...

I basically like Ellen DeGeneres; I think she's funny. I don't think you have to be raunchy to be funny, or mean. And I like that she will stand up for issues that are important to women.

So I found this clip on Facebook. I'm (a) happy that it says what it says; and (b) still flabbergasted. This lovely model speaks truth. Think about it, please. She's 6'2" tall and a size 12. Size. Twelve. And she's a "plus-size" model. What she says about loving your body just resonated with me. 

The "flabbergastication" comes from the whole idea that, first of all, she's a "plus-size." She's as big as my kid, for cryin' out loud! She probably weighs less than he does, too. And as a size 12, she looks so incredibly healthy. Second, why is a size 12 (when the average woman is about a size 14 or 16) considered "plus"? Are we nuts? 

Well, I know the answer to that one. Yes. We are. We worship women who look like sticks. And sadly, we worship the designers who make clothes that don't look good on you unless you are said stick. Nobody past the age of an anorexic teenager looks like that. Heck, even my one student worker, an adorable 20-year-old, has curves. And she's tiny. 

So, look here. Do you get that what you see on the cover of a magazine isn't even real? Then think about what we are telling ourselves and the girls in our lives. Well, first off, we're telling them they're not worthy unless they're skinny. And beautiful. Oh, and skinny.... (yes, I repeated that deliberately). 

Early Marilyn
I'm not either of those things. And I'm also short. If I'm true to what the first clip is telling me, I would say, "Yes, I am beautiful." But for the sake of this discussion, I'm pretty happy with "I'm normal-looking" - I'm not striking. I'm totally not Photoshopped! I think I look fat in photos, and that's after losing those 30 lbs. 

I am approximately a size 12-14, depending on what the outfit is, because of course, adding to the confusion, sizes in the US are not standardized. I used to say that I liked going into the Chico's because they have me at a size 4...notwithstanding the fact that their size 4 is just a marketing gimmick...all of their clothes are sized from 0 - 4. And most of them are things I wouldn't wear anyway. They fit funny, too. 

Marilyn Monroe was a size 14. So, Marilyn, the ultimate and timeless "goddess" -- she's a plus-sized person who isn't the conventional "beauty." I mean, good grief - yes, she was beautiful, but not necessarily because of physical beauty. Look at an "early Marilyn" shot above. (all of these photos were pulled from Google) She's a cute kid. There's a spark of "something" there, which is most likely what caught some producer's eye. But other than looking like a somewhat typical blonde, she's certainly not anything like she ended up looking after Hollywood got hold of her. Truth be told, she was a brunette anyway. Blonde came later.

Bathing suit shot
Here's Marilyn in a bathing suit. First of all, notice that the bathing suit actually consists of fabric... Ahem. Sorry. But this sideways shot shows (gasp!) a belly. And a bustline that looks pretty much the same as the "Early Marilyn." This is of course part of her "Hollywood-ization" and shows more of a glamour-girl persona. But you can still see that spark of her in there. 

Heck, she even looks like she's got a little meat on her bones in the area of her spine. I'm not being disrespectful. If anything, I'm trying to point out that we look a lot more like Marilyn than we do say... Heidi Montag. 

Take a look at Heidi's "before and after" picture below. Honestly. Really? I'm rather dumbfounded. Why on earth did she want to look like the image on the right? What did she learn? That she wasn't "good enough" looking like she did on the left? She was a pretty girl. 

Now? Not so much. Again, not being disrespectful. Disdainful maybe. Judgmental definitely. And that's because I see this kind of stuff happening when I see what's in the girl's department of the local stores. Hyper-sexualizing looks and making sure that the girl doesn't feel worthy of attention unless something's buffed, puffed, or sucked - often before they even have a chance to develop their own identities, much less their own bodies. Ms. Montag now says she "regrets" what she did to herself. That bit of maturity came at a heck of a price. Does anyone look her in the face anymore? Or are they stopped half-way up? 
Before and after...

I mean, I was an "early bird." I developed somehow overnight at age 11. Went past "training bra" into "real bra" well before my friends did; I remember my mother remarking on how those training bras "were a waste of money, but maybe your sister can use them." The joke among the females in my family was that I got everyone's share from the Bosom Fairy. I wasn't cool with that joke for a long time. Now, I'm resigned. 

 I've learned to cope with the girls, and I've learned that I often have to remind people (men, sorry, but there it is) that I do have a head stuck atop my neck, thank you very much. Particularly when I worked in a more male-dominated field. "Hey, what color are my eyes?" was a standard question when someone was being a jerk. I learned early to develop my sense of sarcasm and my brains, since my sister was "the cute one" (and yes, she's still paying for that one!). I never had a "typical" figure. My build was along my great-grandma's - very "zaftig" - curvy and rather classic. However - having said that, look here at Urban Dictionary... Check out the definitions. I'm looking at the word "zaftig" as in definition number three. That's what I was taught that the word means. It's been subverted. Look at definition number five. Fat? Thanks. I prefer "Rubenesque" if you don't mind. 

Yes, I was told at an early age that I was fat. My mother put me on my first diet somewhere around my freshman year in high school. That wasn't helpful. I've been battling my own body image ever since. One of my lasting later memories of Granny gets me right in the gut. No, that's not a pun. My grandmother had the luck to never fluctuate in weight. Except for pregnancy (I think, at least - I'm not sure), she never weighed more than about 128 lbs. her entire life. 

As she aged, the controls went off. You know what I mean. Some of it was deliberate. "I'm 90 years old, I can say what I want." And then closer to 95, sadly, she got downright mean. Along with the dementia, there was anger or something in there. I'm not sure what. But I do remember that I didn't like visiting her. I didn't mind repeating the same thing over and over and over. I didn't mind her stories about the relatives; I actually liked those! But I vividly remember coming into her room one afternoon. She always confused me with a cousin, which was funny since we are nothing like each other. Anyway, I said, "Hi Grandma, it's me!" and she looked me in the eye and said, "You've gotten fat again." 

Thanks. That made my visit even more fun. The sad thing was that my rational brain said "You know it's the dementia. You know she's been getting worse. Blow it off."

The 13-year-old girl in me just collapsed. I swallowed, tried not to cry, and said, "Nice to see you." I was thankful that my kids weren't with me. 

So I need to practice what I'm preaching here. My body in its younger years was amazing. I was a gymnast (no, not one of those skinny kids) and volleyball player. I had a strong serve, and while I wasn't tall enough to be a spiker, I was a mean setter. My apparatus in gymnastics was the even parallel bars. Yes, the guys' apparatus, thanks. And I was good at it. I loved to ride horses. I ice skated. I played tennis. I rode my bike all over God's green acres. It was an old bike, none of this fancy gear-shifting stuff. A one-speed! 

And now? I'm in my mid-50s. I teach yoga. I am still very flexible. I am capable of a lot of things. I can and do ride my bike (now it IS one of those fancy gear-shifting ones). I can still ice skate, thanks. I love to snow shoe. I play golf. I can shove furniture around with the best of them, and I can hike a whole case of copy paper up on my shoulder, taking it from point A to point B with no problem, thanks. I enjoy shoveling snow. 

Glam Marilyn
I need to make that my mantra. I need to accept what I have been given. Instead of saying, "Well, I'm better off than a lot of people," (which is still true, though somewhat self-defeating for this purpose) I need to specifically say, "I am grateful that I have flexibility. I am grateful that I am healthy." 

Here's a picture of "glam Marilyn." Is she beautiful? Undoubtedly. Ethereal. Otherworldy. Stunning. 

And with the saddest eyes I've ever seen. 

No comments: