“For too long, and despite what people told me, I had fallen for what the culture said about beauty, youth, features, heights, weights, hair textures, upper arms.”
Why do people drive black cars at night? Come on! That's an accident just waiting to happen.
Anyway, there was one entry that caught my attention, and I haven't stopped thinking about it since. I had a list of things I wanted to do before the end of the school year, and one of the items was drop ten pounds. Now, I was not heavy in middle school. I don't even remember thinking negatively about my weight until relatively recently (the last five years or so) but that list was incontrovertible evidence to the contrary. It got me thinking--How much of my childhood did I waste feeling bad about myself? How much of my adult life do I plan to waste doing the same?
I should probably be clear about something here: I have a lot of fabulous things going for me. I'm smart, I'm compassionate, I'm successful, and I can take care of myself in ways that I'm really proud of. It's funny, though, how none of those things seem to matter when I'm standing in front of the mirror. We live in a society where what you look like trumps everything else. Even knowing it's a trap, it's hard not to fall into it.
I do see a lot of body positivity stuff going around these days, and every time I see it I'm pleased. But I feel like that ship has already sailed for me. It's like racism, or sexism, or any ingrained way of thinking--once it's there, it never goes away. There was a little girl in middle school ten years ago who needed some body positivity, who needed someone to tell her that her body was not the only thing she had to offer the world, that she did not need to look "perfect" to be desirable or strong, to be a worthwhile person.
After thinking about it for awhile (because this is the kind of thing that needs to be thought about for a good, long while) I've decided that I owe that girl some body positivity. I owe her good thoughts about myself. I owe her a body that I love no matter what it looks like. I wish I could go back and tell her that she's going to be awesome. In ten years, she's going to be a college graduate with a million different futures ahead of her, a good job, an awesome family, two snuggly cats and friends who'd go to the wall for her. How much she weighs doesn't matter. The people who love her won't stop loving her if she puts on a few pounds. Her cats won't stop purring just because her fingers are thicker when she scratches them just right. It doesn't matter--it never did.
So, I go to the beach. I walk around my apartment however I want because I don't have to be modest in my own home. I buy myself sexy things because I deserve to feel sexy. I think there's always going to be that part of me that looks at myself in a too-critical way, and it's impossible to blame anyone for that. Body negativity (particularly if you're a woman, but I know men face the same kind of pressures) is so ingrained in our culture that there's no one source for it anymore. It's everywhere.
"It was in the air, or so it seemed to Kiki, this hatred of women and their bodies-- it seeped in with every draught in the house; people brought it home on their shoes, they breathed it in off their newspapers. There was no way to control it.”
-Zadie Smith "On Beauty"
Maybe my twelve-year-old self should have watched more Drag Race.
What actually convinced me to write this post is this video. There's a lot in it that resonated with me, so I'd recommend taking a listen!