Friday, August 04, 2006

Body & Image

I apologize in advance folks, this one is going to be a doozy.

I was up at ass crack o'clock this morning, willing myself on to a treadmill. Feeling slow, but still really excited to get my workout. I was even more excited that no one was in the fitness room (despite the strange cat pee smell in there) and I could put the TV on anything I wanted. I chose VH1's Jump Start, a block of morning videos that are all sort of up beat and current. I prefer to listen to anything dirty south, Lil John, or Rick Ross-like on my ipod while I work out because it gets me moving, but I can watch a video or two while I run. Let me tell you, between Nelly Furtado, Beyonce, and Janet I was really feeling like a million bucks. Imagining my body shrinking with every step. 45 min later I emerged and headed back home, thinking "I am going to be the fiercest 30 year old in Maryland". I came in and cut the videos back on, just in time for them to start playing "Buttons" by the Pussycat Dolls. My whole fucking attitude changed in one instant, and I will get to why in a second.

First off, anything that can take me from feeling great to feeling like shit cant be good. I have been in an out and out fight with what my body should look like since I was 16. Up until then, I just never cared or never looked but after 16 I became stuck between a burger and a free-weight.

I always had a really positive self image, and I grew up very average in height and size. I was always a 9-10 and I was really pleased with that. Clothing fit, looked nice, no issues. Suddenly I was someone's wife and mother and my size 10 body didn’t measure up to all the other women throwing themselves at my husband. He of course only wanted me to wear a burlap sack so no one would attempt to check me for a figure, and so began the issue of weight.

He went to Korea for a year, and I lost 3 sizes. My new size 4 body was a result of too much stress and caffeine and not enough food and love, but it was getting me all kinds of new attention, and who could pass on that? When my ex-husband returned he went to great pains to mock my "boy-like" body, and lack of hind quarters. So frequent were his insults when we moved down to Georgia, that I abandoned my quest to be small and began eating again in earnest.

In that 18 month period I gained back ALL of the weight I lost, and packed on an additional 2 dress sizes. Now a 14-16 I could only wear sweatpants, and sweatshirts. Gone were all my cute little clothes and figure flattering dresses. I of course didn’t understand at the time that he was doing some serious long term damage to my self image. He wanted me big because no one else would look at me, and I couldn’t risk upsetting him and being insulted daily.

At 21 years, and 189 pounds I came back home to Maryland. Fat, defeated and broken. My mother feared for me, my friends looked at me in disbelief and even I didn’t recognize myself. The damage was done. I didn’t even know where to begin to get the weight off, and I didn’t for about 3 years. My divorce didn’t help, my parents concern didn’t help, I just couldn’t make that idea that I was fat and unlovable out of my mind.

Then of course someone paid me some attention, and though my brain still screamed "No one will ever love you" I started basically starving myself in order to cut the weight. For 3 years I worked out like a mad woman, doing crunches in the living room at all times of the day and night. Eating cans of tuna and nothing else. Popping diet pills like candy and slowly wasting away. I started having anxiety attacks, heart palpitations, night sweats and insomnia. I don’t know that I slept well for 6 months, and my acne went completely nuts. Again my family was worried, and screaming at me to do something about my now size 2-3 body.

I eventually got off the diet pills and started gaining back the weight slowly, but all the while feeling crazy for even gaining one pound, because now weight for me was either too skinny or too fat, and because my image of normal had been damaged so early on, I couldn’t conceive of being happy in a size 10. Well, somewhere between now and then with the help of some serious counseling and some great friends I got back to my 10.

That was last fall, and I was really feeling good about what I saw in the mirror. All my clothes fit, and I was still working cute lil outfits and such. Food finally didn’t have a negative connotation in my mind and I figured why bother counting calories? I am fine just like this and happy too for once. Except I forgot that I still needed to work out. So I was a 14, am a 12 working on a 10.

Okay, so why did my demeanor change after watching the Pussycat dolls? Simple, this is exactly the type of image that propelled me into the weight loss nightmare. I want to feel good about losing weight, not feel trapped into it. These are a pack of talentless girls, who sing about how to entice a man. Not so bad you say? Well couple that with their lack of clothing and your 12 or 14 year old daughter/sister/niece watching it and then see what you say? Is it okay for her to prance around singing the homewreckers anthem "Don’t Cha"? Is it okay for her to want to dress like that? Or maybe is it alright for her to aspire to have that body? And then ask yourself what she might do to get that body. Will she be up all night popping ephedra, risking a heart attack just to be thin and liked by some boy? Will some man tell her that she is fat and worthless and will never be like those girls? What will happen to her?

See, this is what I think Oprah and Jill Scott are talking about. Women are absolutely being marginalized. They are being told that they hold no value without rail thin bodies. They aren’t good enough if they aren’t willing to be "Raw" like them, or sexy enough to steal a boyfriend. Where is the pride in begging a man to "Loosen your Buttons". If it wasn’t enough that we let the men do that to us, now we are doing it to ourselves. Gyrating and begging some man for attention and approval. Now every little girl who thought she was beautiful in her size 10 jeans feels pressure to be a 2 in a sports bra and hot pants. Does anyone else see how sick this is?

So while I don’t have issue with sexy, I do have issue with who that "sexy" is for. Is it you owning that title for you, because you look great and feel great at any size? Or is it you pushing your body to unreasonable limits because some video, song or made up group told you that’s your only path to love. We gotta stop this, or at least give our girls (and boys for that matter) the tools in which to deal with what they see and hear.

Don’t get me wrong, I want to be thinner. I want to feel great when I come out of the house too. But I don’t want to kill myself for it, or aspire to be something I am not for someone else. If I choose to be a 6, then its gotta be because I feel great in that 6, not because I was guilted into it watching a video. Nor am I saying that I am suddenly some rap hating, hard charging feminist now. I am still going to get crunk with my work outs, but something has to give if every song is about giving head or fucking. I never want one girl to look at a video and think she has to look or act that way for some boy. I never want one boy to assume that a woman is there for his pleasure and humiliation. The question is, what happens next?


Anonymous said...

BRAVO SIS! I feel the same way when I look at any of the videos today. Even Janet got sucked in because she lost a CRAZY amount of weight in a 3 month period...who does that???

Avin said...

Sis - Its not right, something has to give. We cant all run around hating our bodies and dragging the little ones down with us. Its sad and I hate it.

DotSpot said...

YOU GO GIRL! It's not so much that they are teaching them to be skinny to be sexy, but they're teaching them not to have a brain but to have a body!

Avin said...

dot - That is exactly why I love Pink's song "Stupid Girls".

Glib Gurl said...

Right on, sis! Great post!