Fanciful

No ready models | Re: body image

This post will be sponsored by: the color red.

This post will be sponsored by: the color red.

Even though the trend is probably almost done anyway, I’m still slightly drawn to the idea of colored pants. Red slacks, jean-cut, in particular. So, I try them on when I see them. But, they never seem quite right.

That’s where I was, a few weeks ago, red pants in hand, ready to buy if the fit was where I needed it to be. I was at a church rummage sale, to be perfectly honest. This church was on the wealthy side of town, where I tend to find never-worn, tags-still-attached clothes for good prices. (Muah hahaha).

I was sharing a sectioned-off “changing room” with another lady, because the lines for changing rooms were LONG and both of us only had a few pairs of pants to try on. And we were both friendly and, apparently, OK with both utilizing a corner of the room to test potential purchases.

I tried on the red pants.

“Those look good,” she offered.

I turned so I could see the back of them in the mirror.

“Maybe,” I said, “if only I didn’t have a butt the size of New Mexico.”

She scoffed, “You’re not that large,” and went back to trying on clothes.

I took of the pants, folded them again, and didn’t buy them.

But, I’ve thought about what I said in that moment for weeks now. New Mexico? Really?

New Mexico. For reference.

New Mexico. For reference.

I worked in a cold, windowless office with a tiny Vietnamese girl for a few months a few years ago. Our positions were awful, but our friendship forged nonetheless. I gave her a shirt that didn’t quite fit me right and rides back home when her car was in the shop. She made me fried rice for the few weeks after I discovered I was gluten-free, and later bought me my first gluten-free cookbook.

In the mornings in that office, while she sat at her desk, I would sort through the mail, distributing into the mailboxes of the coworkers.

That summer, the Olympics were being played somewhere (I don’t sport, so I don’t know. Ask my sister). One day I opened the mail bag, and there was an over-sized, glossy magazine covered in cut-outs of some of the Olympians–running and poised and focused.

I remember glancing at the magazine and, in my mind, picking out the parts of the athletes’ bodies that weren’t “right.” Or, at least, “right” in my mind, the mind shaped by Photoshopped-only images all day.

I was like, “Oh, that stomach has extra flab, those arms have fat on the bottom” and then I was like, “WAIT. Stop. These people are OLYMPIANS. They are literally the most-fit people the nation has to offer. And yet, they don’t measure up to the expectations, either?”

Olympians being the best athletes in the world and stuff.

Olympians being the best athletes in the world and stuff.

Writing a piece about body-image is weird and hard, it turns out. I’ve put this off for a while.

I mean, heaven knows I’ve come across a few other articles about women and bodies, even just today. Is my voice really all that different? All that important?
***
woman-mirror

Once, when I was somewheres in that pleasant (cough) phase known as “puberty” I saw (did someone show me?) an image that was supposed to sum up the idea of eating disorders.

In the image, there was a thin girl looking in a mirror. But, in her reflection, she wasn’t thin–she was quite heavyset.

I remember looking at that image, surprised and shocked that maybe the way we saw things/ saw ourselves could be dishonest and misleading.

***

Guess what, Meghan Trainor? I am a size two. Well, sometimes, at least…depending on the day and the manufacturer of the clothes (right, fellow clothes-shoppers?? Right??). So, on one hand people could be like, “You don’t even have a voice in this conversation, you don’t know what it’s like to be discriminated against because you’re ‘too fat’ or treated differently or called cruel names.”

Maybe.

But, I feel like the greater theme here is: look at this place where no one–even the Olympians–are hailed as ‘good enough’.” Why?

tumblr_n6nc9fT8KR1sn1cogo1_400

There’s a line in one of my favorite plays where the young girlfriend and the young boyfriend are talking and they say, “We have no ready models…”

They’re talking about love in that particular instance, which is fine and dandy. But, I think about this line sometimes, too, in regards to body and self.

As Catholics we’re taught that the body is good and even will be resurrected one day. We have irrepeatable souls…and irrepeatable bodies.

At least, that’s the theology on the top levels.

On the bottom levels people just explode over whether or not someone is dressed modestly. And by “someone” we mean “women.”

That’s kind of hard for me sometimes, even though I believe in modesty and support the cause.

Sometimes, on the days when I’m extra-busy and running from one thing to the next, I realize that dinner will be tight, and I always, always think, “Oh! Good! I can skip dinner and be thinner.”

And then I have to catch myself and say, “No, wait. That’s not the healthy option. Remember to choose the healthy one.”

I share this not so that everyone writes comments like, “Get a therapist, ya weirdo,” but just because one time I talked to Fr. Ryan and he talked about how important it is to share struggles, too. Otherwise we’re just heros in a masquerade, wearing masks of perfection. And that’s a dumb party, and I’d prefer the authentic one where we can be real and honest with our hurts, too.

The first place I started seeing bodies in a good, honest, true place was circus class. My instructors are strong, strong women who can hoist themselves quickly, gracefully into the air on silks or bars or hoops. I stare at them when they flex their way up–their bodies tough, elegant and beautiful.

My Flamenco teacher taught a new dance a week ago.

“This one,” she said, “is a dance of sorrow and sadness.”

She inhaled, pulling her shoulders back, ready to begin. She eyed the practice-mirror with the hauty, magestic attitude I’ve only seen demonstrated in Flamenco dance–powering her arms up to the sky.

On Tuesday I met a 93-year-old woman, now bound by a walker, who used to be an exotic dancer back in the 40’s.
(“EXOTIC,” she emphasized, “not a stripper. I don’t know what these kids are thinking these days.”)

“How are you?” Someone inquired.

“Well!” she said, “I feel like a million bucks!”

A million bucks. This frail woman who has to use one hand to lift and support the other. Some of her teeth are missing. Her eyesight is failing. A million bucks. She had remembered, I noticed, to apply her lipstick.

I guess I share these because, in some way…they’re the best models I have, really.

I was sitting at a table with people I barely knew a few weeks ago. There was this one guy, a bit older, who was interesting and possesed a certain amount of charm…but I also disagreed with some of the points he was so animatedly making.

“What do you think,” he turned to ask me, “do you think the church holds you back, or hems you in, you as a woman?”

I think he never actually listened to my answer, in the end. That was probably OK, too, because it took me a while to think of my answer. My answer would be this: well, Jesus is forever my greatest, greatest advocate. But, sometimes the church hurts me. And, you know, I understand. The church is made up of people like me and people are broken, just like me.

But, I kind of wish it were different. I wish that the church was the voice of, “Hey! You are strong and awesome and incredible and breath-taking. You as a person…but your body, too. Your body is all of those things. I am stunned by you–both body and soul.”

And, I guess, I’m the church, right?

So, I’m here to say it, because I want to: your body is good. Very good. I think it’s great. I think it’s capable of astounding strength and feats of athleticism and skill. And also quirkly imperfections are OK. They are OK.

And my body is good, too. Even when my stomach isn’t as flat as I like or my arms jiggle when I don’t want them to. My body is good and astounding and amazing. It does so many incredible things that, really, I’m kind of stunned.

I am a strong woman. (And I added “beautiful,” but then I took that word off. Because I used it to tone down the word “strong.” And, really, that word doesn’t need any modification. I can be strong, it’s OK).

So, church: be strong.

That’s all.

Comment section is open, btw, should you feel like talking. (But be gentle because authenticity is hard).

‘Night!
-N-

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3 thoughts on “No ready models | Re: body image

  1. Very well said! About a dozen years ago while giving daughter and her girl friends a ride to high school, the conversation was dismaying. “I think Britney Spears is ugly.” “You do?? Why?” “Her eyes are too far apart.” They nodded, like “Oh –yes, there’s that..” *sigh… My inner self-critic is a lunatic, too, and I’ve found the only way to counter it is to try to see the unique me the Lord crafted from all my ancestors.

    • Thanks for sharing. I feel like the culture is so quick to criticize. Even in, say, fashion magazines, you’ll have the “who wore it better??” section. You know what? They both wore it great. They both look stunning, you know?
      And I, too, enjoy looking at pictures of my ancestors. My great-grandmothers jawline was truly a feat of epic proportions!

  2. If you or any other woman ever starts feeling insecure, not liking the way you look, I would suggest something that always helps me and makes me feel BEAUTIFUL. I read the Song of Songs/ Song of Solomon. It reminds me that God & Jesus are ‘crazy’ about me and think I am beautiful. God made you unique and special. Even identical twins are different, and special. GOD LOVES YOU!!!

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