Apologies, readers; what I am about to write is as much for me as it is for you.
Sometimes I think we could learn as much about being feminists from our failures as we can from our successes.
Let me confess one of my major feminist faults here. I’ve been thinking of calling for a one-month armistice in the feminist blogosphere in which we all ignore any story related to weight, but this would be a largely selfish move. And it would make me an unbelievable hypocrite. My relationship with food and my body is currently on heightened alert.
I thought I had made my peace with it at some point, I remember telling people, “being beautiful is less important to me than it once was,” but I was wrong. In a perverse sort of way, hanging around feminist/women-oriented websites over the past year or so seems to have nurtured a new kind of obsession with my size and shape. Because women? Talk a lot about size and shape, and even when they’re being good about it, subtle body-hating appears, things I can pick up on to self-flagellate. I spend a lot of time telling myself it doesn’t matter, it’s the patriarchy, I should not care that I am the largest person in the picture, no one else cares, this is my problem, etc etc. But I find it hard to get away from how unhappy I am in this current iteration of my body.
Case in point: I’m supposed to go to the beach at the end of the month, and a major portion of my day is currently spent wondering how on earth I’m going to deal with the swimsuit issue. I have, in the last few years, occasionally worn a swimsuit in public, but I’ve usually felt like shit afterwards. In the Galapagos, the good news was I was with people I would never see again. The beach I won’t be able to say the same about.
I know people who take pictures of themselves in swimsuits; I envy them. I envy them their freedom to sit blithely out there, simply enjoying themselves instead of counting rolls and noticing every pucker and fold on their thighs. I am thirty years old now, and I never once, in all my teens and twenties, which are supposed to be the young, and beautiful, and carefree years, said to myself: “I think I’ll wear a bikini today.” How sad is that?
Recently I told you how I wanted to date, but I have found myself unable to actually go out and meet someone, particularly someone I’ve met online, thinking, “I no longer know if this is the kind of body about which people will say, afterwards, ‘She lied about her weight.’” Even photographs feel like lies these days.
“Oh come on. It doesn’t matter. You look fine.” The people in my life who say these things mean well. They are trying to help. I wish I could hear them in the same way they are intended. I’ve stopped asking people, “Do I look okay?” because I know their answers won’t satisfy me and because I know it’s self-indulgent and because I know that not asking these questions is the main way I’m going to be able to escape this obsession.
But it’s not helping very much. It’s not getting me to a place where I’m not thinking about the way this skirt clings or would I sweat less if I managed to knock off a few pounds or wondering if I am ever going to be the kind of person who can just smile at someone in a bar and not worry about his being totally out of her league. Some part of me seems to be stubbornly remaining fourteen years old, and I guess we all have that, but mine is running the show at the moment.
But still, I wonder what a world would look like in which we all went a month without commenting on our own bodies. I wonder if it would leave me some psychic space to just think about something else, if I wasn’t so constantly bombarded by “eat more vegetables” and “a new workout you should try!” and “here’s a new stretchmark cream.”