As the snow slowly melts in Southern New England, I’ve finally been able to emerge from my frozen cocoon and, although it was snowing (again!), this Saturday I managed to make my way back to the gym. Amongst the clink of weights and whir of cardio equipment I’m attempting to relocate my workout groove.
During a rest period between reps, I took a quick glance around me at the varied patrons of this fine establishment. My gym has a pretty good mix of people (as I’ve mentioned in previous posts) from those seriously buff to those seriously not, and everything in between. Old and young, thick and thin, it’s a comfort to me to see each of us here doing our own thing.
And then my eye came to rest on the 12’ high photos of men and women plastered across the walls, their stomachs flat and muscles well defined, beads of sweat glistening artistically across their determined brows. They are meant to motivate me to work harder, go longer, and ultimately to look just like them.
And a thought struck me:
We don’t expect everyone in the world to have blonde hair or blue eyes. That would be ridiculous, right? Downright Aryan, even. We don’t expect everyone in the world to be 5’9”. Or wear the same size shoes. How stupid! So why then, do we expect everyone to have or desire the exact same body? And if we don’t have or desire said body, why are we expected to be ashamed of ourselves?
It’s not logical. It’s not even possible. But yet we spend billions and billions of dollars listening to people who tell us so many lies to convince us that our bodies MUST look alike. We must make them so, or go down in flames in the attempt.
From the peddler of the magic pill, whose soothing voice assures us that our size (which is assumed to be inferior and unacceptable) is not our fault and completely out of our control, but if we just order today, we will have that perfect beach body in minutes without lifting a finger or changing our habits in any way.
To the innumerable shapers and shifters that help us suck in things here and push up things there, creating the illusion of curves in one location or flattening them out in another.
To the mental trainer screaming ‘get your lazy ass up off the couch you miserable, pathetic slug! You CAN have that beach body, you just don’t WANT it bad enough!’
My personal truth is that a ‘beach body’ will never be my reality. I can and have dropped some weight in the past, and will continue to work to maintain a healthy weight in the future, but I will never achieve the type of body that stares at me from the walls of my gym, not without devoting basically the entirety of my existence to weight loss and maintenance, using dieting drugs, having weight loss surgery, developing a severe medical issue, or some combination thereof and even then, the ultimate results are doubtful. Closer, perhaps, to ‘perfect’ than where I am now, but never quite hitting the mark, I am sure. And none of these options appeal to me. Why should they have to?
Because my size 14 body is really offered only two options: get the body that everyone is supposed to have (or die trying) or live in your size 14 body in shame. Never mind if you are fit at 14. Never mind if you are healthy. If you are unwilling or unable to achieve beach body status, you deserve to feel humiliated. Do not expect to be allowed to have a positive self-image. Do not expect to be considered beautiful.
Which brings me to this: Are we freakin’ crazy? Why, WHY do we buy into this shit?
The thought of wrapping our self worth and concept of self beauty around this idea that we can and should all have the same body is so mind-blowingly stupid. And I am the first to admit to being caught in this trap which I have just revealed to myself to be an utter dung pile. A trap laid for both men and women of all shapes and sizes that are not THE shape and size.
How is it possible, for example, that after forty-something years old I have never once considered myself beautiful? Seriously. Never. Not even the in the obligatory ‘90s Glamour Shots pics, with my hair and makeup professionally done up (by a Dallas stylist who, mercifully, agreed to forgo the “Texas hair” for the shoot), with the soft focus lens and fuzzy lighting. Even this fake me has not been enough to overcome the inexplicably asinine idea ingrained in me that we should all look the same and that I am a complete failure by not doing so.
It is so hard to fight against this kind of ingrained belief that has been drilled into my head for most of my life.
I currently have in my arsenal only one weapon with which to defend myself.
My amazing son, now nearly 9, still tells his Mommy how beautiful he thinks she is. And should I slip and make a negative comment about my appearance in front of him (something I try very carefully NOT to do (just as important, in my opinion, to avoid in front of our sons as our daughters)), he becomes cross with me.
“Don’t do that,” he says. “Don’t talk bad about yourself; I don’t like that. You ARE beautiful, Momma. You are beautiful just the way you are.”
While I can’t say I believe it, I believe that HE believes it. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start. :-)