"We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are."
- Anais Nin
Tuesday, July 8, 2014
The Size of It
It was like one of those nightmares where you wake up naked in public, only worse.
Because it was real.
I was in a department store fitting room.
Trying on swimsuits.
The first thought that came to me was the same one I have every time I enter a fitting room. What the hell is up with the fluorescent lighting? Don’t they realize women would buy far more if they weren’t looking at themselves in the least-flattering light possible? Why has no one in marketing figured out that soft lighting - and heck, maybe a drink or two - would make sales of women’s clothing (especially swim suits) positively soar?
Sadly, it was in the absence of such a marketing epiphany or kindness to shoppers that I found myself trying on tiny swaths of Spandex in a brightly-lit cubicle. There was something called a “Miracle Suit,” which I decided was because it’s a miracle if you can breathe while wearing it. There was a sports suit that gave me an alarming case of monoboob. There were a half-dozen tankinis, each of which fit on either the bottom or the top, but never all over.
As I agonized over the way the latest suit failed to conceal my squishy middle, I heard a voice from the other side of the door, a fellow shopper in distress at the communal 3-way mirrors.
"I can’t possibly go out in this!" she cried. "I’m so fat. Look at these rolls!”
I admit it. I left the safety of my fitting room and ventured out, pretending to want a look in the 3-way mirrors. What I really wanted was to commiserate with this other poor soul, to have a laugh or two about how swimsuits are just not kind to women’s bodies.
What I found at the mirrors stopped me in my tracks. A pretty girl of about 15 or 16, slim by anyone’s definition, grabbing at her middle and scowling at her reflection. I was afraid she was going to remove skin, pulling on herself that way. The “rolls” she spoke of were nonexistent.
I wanted to go over and tell her she’s beautiful just as she is. I wanted to lift my tankini top and show her what rolls really look like. Luckily, my brain kicked in and I realized pushing my bare flesh and compliments at a minor in a dressing room would likely end in arrest. I slunk back to my fitting room.
But the incident stayed with me. We females are so damn critical of our bodies. Sure, we’re taught to be that way. There’s no escaping the messages in society that tell us thin is better, sexy trumps smart. But the bottom line is that we have to start being better to ourselves. We have to stop beating ourselves up.
I was bulimic in my late teens and early twenties. I have too many friends and relatives who have suffered from eating disorders, body dysmorphic disorder, and other body issues. A very dear young friend of mine nearly lost her battle with anorexia, but has worked tirelessly to get well.
Ladies, we can end this bullshit one thought and one word at a time.
As you may know from earlier posts, I love being outdoors and active. I “tortoise along” in road races and sprint triathlons. One thing I’ve noticed at every race I’ve ever participated in is the wide variety of female body types competing. I’ve seen every shape, size and age imaginable cross the finish line. And you know what? You truly cannot judge these books by their covers. I’ve been left in the dust by women twice my size.
Which got me thinking: what if we measured our bodies not by how they compare to some airbrushed ideal, but by how much they do for us? What if we thanked our bodies for the children they’ve carried, the miles they’ve run, the work they’ve accomplished?
What if we also made it our mission as women to support each other, no matter what? At times, I’ve been called, “Skinny Minnie,” told I had no right to complain about body issues. The intention may have been good, but I still felt the sting of judgment. And that’s the sting that leads to trouble, no matter what the size tag on your jeans may say.
What if we made sure our daughters and granddaughters never heard us judge ourselves or one another on the basis of something as foolish and variable as our physical body?
Yeah, I’ve got a squishy middle. I could change that. More salads, less chardonnay. More planks and push-ups, less hours at the computer. More long runs, less time with toes in the sand and a beer in hand.
Or I could just find a swimsuit that gives my squishy middle a little more breathing room.
Which I did.
Via online order.
It looks great in the gentle, natural light at home.
And when I’m at the beach or on my SUP board?
I’m having too much damn fun to care what I look like.