So because an interesting conversation happened this week on this post I thought maybe we could talk about this some more. So come along, girls of the internet, we’re gonna talk about our bodies and our less-than-stellar self esteem. All ages welcome, you can still be one of the girls even if you’re 116. Shall we? Okay, I’ll start. Be prepared for personal stuff.
So I’m the first person to admit that I do not in any way fit the current Western beauty standard. Actually, I’m the first person to admit that I’m not pretty and ain’t no one gonna tell me otherwise. And please don’t you start with “Oh no, surely you’re pretty!” (not a single picture of me to prove it either way, ha!) or, worse, “You’re pretty on the inside”. Because while I do possess an enviable liver those platitudes ain’t got an ounce of truth in them. I’m fishing for truth, not compliments. I’ve had this face and this body for a quarter of a century, I know what the hell I look like. In fact, I just found out I look frighteningly like Molly Ringwald. More like the uglier sister of Molly Ringwald, but nonetheless. I hate Molly Ringwald. I’m going to stop dying my hair read because of Molly Ringwald. Molly Ringwald can go suck it.
Aaaanyway, I’m not an SI swimsuit model and I’m never gonna be. I’m short, for one. I’m so pale if I stand in front of a wall naked I’ll be invisible. I also have this really odd face where everything just sort of looks wrong, thrown together without much care, like something went wrong on the assembly line. I’m not overweight (yet, I hope not, but I come from a long-lived, healthy, but overweight family) but I’m never going to be skinny. I have some ambivalent feelings about my body, I have good days and bad days. On good days I’m like, “Damn, guuurrl, look at you looking like a pre-Raphaelite painting!” On bad days I’m like, I’mma crawl into a hole and die. My body is old-fashioned. As in, it thinks it’s still the Ice Age. I gain fat like ain’t no thing, I could totally survive a famine. I also have some decent muscle, you just can’t see any of it. I got thighs that could choke a bear. Count on me to drag you out of a burning car. I can lift people 15 kg heavier than me. 15 kg of groceries to carry around a couple blocks? No problem, see you in ten. I can drag a 20 kg steel-frame bicycle up and down a couple flights of stairs. Hell, I’ll race you on that 20 kg steel-frame bike. Need help moving, I schlepp your boxes all day long. In other words, I’m a pretty strong ass mofo. I think that should count for something, you know, what I can do with this body instead of how it looks.
Society says: nope. Who cares how useful you can be if you don’t have a six pack, endless legs, perky titties, and a laundry list of other crap I can’t be bothered to type out.
And then they be like, do this to lose weight and do this for make-up, and here’s this season’s trends, oh and by the way, love yourself just the way you are. Because we’re totally not sending you mixed messages right now.
Sooo I can love myself the way I am as soon as I’m the way you want me to be, which is never, because there’s always something wrong? I’m so confused.
I struggled with my body image when I was younger, I mean, I guess we all have. Hell, I still do. The only people who ever called me beautiful were my parents, my senile great-aunt, and my current boyfriend (and like, that’s sort of their job, right?). My mom wasn’t any help when I was growing up, though. Somewhere around age ten she started telling me to stop eating so many sweets or else I would end up “looking like me” (meaning herself, mom was slender in her youth but gained tremendously as she got older (I’m not dissing my mom here, she’s amazing, shut up)). Like all moms she just meant well, I guess, but this just shows how very aware she was of how much looks matter in the world we live in. And how early I had to start being aware. Like I didn’t notice it so much with Barbie dolls, because shit, it’s a doll, ain’t no one gonna look like a plastic doll (this was before the internet exploded with weirdos who actually do look like dolls, ah, the age of innocence) and I always sort of wondered where her internal organs were, like if she was real she wouldn’t survive. And those feet, man. I did notice how princesses in fairy tales were always the fucking prettiest in all the country even though no one seemed to be doing evaluative field research on the matter, and who had all the personality of a street lamp (I still wanted to be one, because princesses grow up to be queens and queen means power!) and I did notice the millions of diets trending on the covers of mom’s magazines.
Twelve years of school bullying didn’t exactly make it easier to board the self acceptance train. One of my nicknames was a Viennese slang word for “ugly person”. Let’s just say if you want to take a sledgehammer to someone’s self-esteem, a decade of name calling is a very good tactic. Sticks and stones may break your bones but words grind away at your brain. (Take that, platitude slingers!) Add to that the usual impending teenage angst about being good enough, smart enough, beautiful enough, bullying bitch-ass teachers who can’t do their fucking jobs, why can’t I be like the other girls, no one will ever love meeee, and you got yourself your own circle of hell, self-image-wise.*
Now I could have tried to make something of myself, learn how to dress right, buy all the right brands (with all the money my parents didn’t have), lose weight, learn to do make-up, but I was like, nah. Too much work. And they’re just gonna mock my efforts to fit in anyway, so fuck the lot of ’em, and thus I spent my first twenty years in jeans and giant t-shirts. Basically my tactic was letting sarcasm rule every fibre of my being. “You’re ugly!” – “You don’t say! Are you always that smart?” This also coincided with my “I’m not like other girls” phase (admit it, we all go through that one). Basically I made not fitting in a point of pride. And despite all that, I still had half a handful of friends. Girl friends made fun of me for being so mannish, and guy friends tried to get me to set them up with my cute friends, but hey, can’t have everything.
So as you can see I had a glorious start into female adulthood. Sometime after high school I actually lost some weight and put in some effort, only to slack and gain it back again. Did any of that make me better liked or more socially apt? Nope.
I mean, I’m human. I want attention. I want validation. I want someone to look at me like I’m the only person in the world that matters. I’m selfish and insecure and I want someone to solve this for me. But placing this responsibility on someone else is a real problem.
You know what did help me? Having some damned confidence. You know how you get that? Well, it’s a bit like taking the ring to Mordor. Minus the Elves that help you at every step. And minus Sam. And plus a billion annoying gollums. And more orcs than you can shake a shiny sword at. That you don’t have because budget cuts.
And you’re not even halfway out of the Shire yet.
Okay, first, sport.
No, actually first, growing up and getting over myself. No really, it gets better with age. Gonna be a boss ass bitch by 90.
Okay, so sport. Despite being a pudgy asthmatic with fucking knee issues I’ve always been top of the class in sport. I wasn’t one of them bitches sitting on the bench because I may or may not get my period within the next two weeks-ish. Two years ago I took up sports again and never looked back. I know it’s a cliché, but if you struggle with your body, do sport, it actually works. Anything, doesn’t matter. Even if it’s just a walk in the park. Even if it’s just vigorous sex. Actually, especially if it’s vigorous sex. I think we’re having so much trouble accepting our bodies because we’re drilled since infancy to make it look pleasing to others and use it to please others, and never really get a chance to think about what our bodies can do for ourselves. So do something for yourself and get yourself some endorphins. And being able to brag about muscles is pretty neat too, it makes people afraid.
Second, being aware that everything is lying to us. Everything. Always. All damn day long. Especially people who want to sell us shit. So I don’t look like the girl on the magazine. The girl on the magazine doesn’t look like the girl on the magazine, because she’s been airbrushed to high hell. With magazines and TV ads and ads in general I like to play a game of Spot The ‘Shop. It’s really obvious once you’ve trained your eyes. No fancy high class expensive anything is gonna make me look like that, unless we’re talking about like glasses or a helmet that projects a hologram image unto my entire body and makes me look like someone else. Now available: the new Scarlett Johansson expansion pack with three different hair colours!
… actually that sounds like an awesome idea. Wear leggings all day and still look like you’re at the Oscar’s. Patenting this idea!
Third, simple bloody-mindedness. I have bad days. I trash-talk myself and I’m sure you do too. I pinch my fat, or squeeze the area where my ample DD bosoms should be, and actually start to think about the possibility of ironing my cellulite and the wrinkles around my eyes, because god dammit! And then I’m like, fuck it all, and eat ice cream while watching funny moments from one of the million model casting shows on Youtube. And, okay, I admit, sometimes I get really mean while doing so, all like “Haha, skinny bitches, everyone wants to fuck you but no one will give you ice cream! See this ice cream? Seeee this delicious ice cream I’m eating? You can’t haz!” Because trash-talking other women is also an integral part of our fucked up social programming, but that’s a topic for another time.
(Seriously though, if you were to make me choose between modelling and ice cream I’d be like, bring on the insulin, I’m gonna need it.)
After consuming hundreds of tutorials I actually can dress like an adult now. I can also do some basic make-up and I’m not upgrading that skill because ain’t nobody got time for that. I said in the beginning I’m not pretty and I don’t want to be because pretty is not enough, I want to be drop-dead gorgeous. Only without putting in any effort. And that’s where confidence comes in, the next best thing to hologram glasses. I want to be confident or at least make people think I am. This little hobbit barely made it to Bree and is aggressive about her looks, can’t decide it that’s a good thing yet. Like, my face is gonna be good enough for you or I’mma rearrange yours. Like, comment on my body and I’m going to make you feel two inches tall because I know how to make someone feel worthless, I learned from the best. Like, bitch please, I’m fabulous.
Basically, I want people to be too afraid of my wrath to judge me. That’s as good as being beautiful in my book.
Thankfully I live in a country where people would rather suffocate than talk to a stranger, so no one comments on anyone they don’t know well, ever. So if someone says you look nice, be wary, they probably want a favour. The downside of this little titbit of social trivia is of course, as soon as people know you well, they start doling out advice (i.e. telling you everything that’s wrong with you) like cheap pens at election campaigns. Like, mom and her wear this, not that, do your hair like that, use this product. Like, best friends and their endless “You need to [insert fashion whatever for which time nobody ain’t got]”. Like, even Boyfriend has in the past commented on my cellulite. Yeah, you don’t wanna know what I commented on in retaliation. Not even I have so many stretch marks on my legs.
Makes it kinda hard to accept genuine compliments, though. First of all, you never know if a compliment is genuine. What if someone’s pulling a Regina George on you? And compliments always come out wrong. A friend says to me, “Wow, you look really nice today!” and my mind immediately goes to “And how do I look usually, Steve Buscemi with a side of Miss Piggy?!”
I mean, recently I made it a point to not give two flying fucks about anyone’s opinion on my looks, not even the positive ones. Yes, it’s a radical step, but it’s like a cleanse, you know, ridding yourself of all the other voices telling you what you are and what you are not and just focussing on your own. Especially men. I never give another thought to the opinions of men.** Might sound misandrist, but Foucault would tell you they’re the enforcers of the system. Do not perpetuate the system. Ha, I knew I could use that old slut and his Panopticism for something one day!
Of course this also means disregarding the opinions of women on your own body because according to the theory of Panopticism we have all been subconsciously trained since birth to judge ourselves and each other and keep each other in line. That’s why we gossip about other women and tear them and ourselves apart. That’s why we’re being back-stabbing bitches sometimes.
…dammit, Michel, you were right about everything.
So leaving dead French people aside for a moment, what can you do? Know what I do? I listen to my damn self. Do I think I look good today? Do I think my eyebrows are on point? Is my brain playing Uptown Funk when I walk past the mirror? And if not, how can I rise in my own opinion? I’m the one person who sees my body the most, so my feelings on it should be the most important.
And that’s basically the point of this long-ass post. You do you. It’s your damn body. Do something for yourself. Or don’t listen to me, whatever. Have a Star Wars reference, that makes everything better.
*Actually, now that I think about it I’m no longer surprised that I was severely depressed until like two years ago. Shit’s real, man.
**There is reported evidence that some men will literally fuck a picnic table, or a park bench, or a toaster, or an air mattress. Yeah. Doesn’t that make it sound like being deemed fuckable by a man is a lot like being deemed eatable by a bear, given the right level of desperation they’ll eat anything?