Like many women, I struggle to love my body daily and in every phase of life. Now, at age 30, it doesn’t strike me as surprising that I’ve reached a new phase in how I feel in my own skin.
My freshman year of college I obsessively exercised, didn’t drink ANY alcohol, and kept a fairly strict diet, rarely indulging in the late night ice cream or lunchtime chicken tenders that my friends were consuming on a regular basis. My idea of cheating on my diet was a bi-weekly bowl of pasta or a once-monthly cookie. I walked everywhere and got up early to work out. I was finally skinny. I felt good about how I looked for the most part.
Another proud freshman accomplishment was landing an ensemble role in the musical How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying. Set in the 1960’s, it’s about a man who climbs the corporate ladder with a little bit of charm and a whole lot of luck while women were only worth their ability to keep their husband’s dinner warm “till he comes wearily home from downtown.” A lady’s employment was limited to secretarial or janitorial work. The incompetent blonde whose only ambition in life was to sit at a typewriter listed her measurements when asked for her qualifications as the CEO cooked up plans to sexually harass her in Act II.
The plot concluded with the young man (who started as a window washer) achieving what he intended; becoming the president of the company. At every rung of his journey, he was so focused on his career that he all but ignored the beautiful secretary Rosemary who had a tragic crush on him. He put in zero effort to court her during the length of the show but by the end had proposed marriage. She quits her job to now “bask in the glow of his perfectly understandable neglect” as his housewife.
Oh sure, it was satirical, but 50-some years later don’t we still see this inequality between the genders?
Dropped waists made a brief reappearance in women’s dresses during the time period of How to Succeed. I was a slightly curvy 5’2” and 119 pounds at age 18. I tried on my green dress in the costume shop and looked at myself in the mirror, attempting to ignore the little roll barely interrupting what should have been a smooth line from my ribcage to my hips. When I wear anything that doesn’t accentuate my waist now at age 30, I feel like a box. Back then, however, it almost worked. I was just grateful to fit a size 4 after a bloated senior year of high school weighing 142. My moment of reflective bliss was ruined by the (female) costumer saying, “You have a little belly. Suck it in.”
In my adult life I’ve mainly been soft, thick, and curvy. I love my small waist but that spare tire, though. People admire my pronounced booty but gosh I wish my hips didn’t have to get so drastically wide anytime I put on a pound or five.
It’s so difficult for women to just love their bodies! We are told that smaller is better, to take up less space in the world. “You look small” is a compliment to women but an insult to men. Men can be tall, gain weight, watch their hair turn grey and they just look more important. Women need to stay thin, smooth, and vibrant, hoping they find a man who can tower over them, even when they wear heels.
I have been actively trying to love myself and admire my body even though it’s about 30 pounds heavier than I’d prefer. I posted a picture of myself in a tight costume on Facebook which is nerve-wracking at a range anywhere from 158 to 163 lbs depending on what time I step on the scale. (Side note: it feels SO vulnerable publishing that actual number on the internet!)
The truth I’m trying to remind myself is that I’m sexy! I might not have the defined triceps that I want…or the tight torso…or the trim thighs. But I’ve been told my curves are beautiful and damn it, I want to accept that compliment!
My efforts have begun to pay off. This morning, I woke up with a gift. I thought of a fellow dance teacher at the studio who is tall and thin, the perfect dancer shape. Her shoulder sported a big red bruise from rehearsing several backward dolphin rolls. There isn’t much between the floor and her bones. She’d probably give up a lot to just have a liiiiitle extra fat on her wirey frame. I thought, what I would do if I were her? Have a fourth slice of pizza? Eat cupcakes for lunch? Skip spin class to sit on the couch and watch The Bachelorette? None of that is very healthy!
At least being overweight affords me the opportunity to pursue healthy endeavors in the interest of looking better. If I exercise more, I will have more energy. If I eat more vegetables and less sugar, my mind will be clearer. Even if I never shed a pound from where I am now, I know that my efforts toward vanity will result in a healthier lifestyle.
Talk to me:
What about your body can you start to love more today?