Reading Material

I’ve been reading the book “Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters” by Courtney Martin, one of the amazing women behind Feministing. There are approximately a million reviews out there already – it’s not a new book – so if you’re looking for a synopsis or critique look elsewhere. I’m moved to write more about my own reflections on the subtitle: The Frightening New Normalcy of Hating Your Body. I just spent a week filled with people of all shapes and sizes celebrating themselves and each other, and the reflections of these young women in the book are in particularly stark contrast to that environment. But it also makes me think about the tightrope of body image I walk on a daily basis. While I like to think that I have sidestepped the beauty myth, that is a myth in itself. Rather, I think my body image exists in a tense equilibrium with a culture and society that pushes us to obsess about everything we eat, every pound we gain, every moment we exercise. And I can get wrapped up in it as much as anyone else. So I try to not get started: I avoid conversations about what we hate about ourselves, what diets we follow, who we “hate” because they are skinny bitches.

It’s not been an easy road – I certainly hate things about my own body, and much of this is rooted in early adolescence and the discrepancy between the attention I got for my physical self and the attention I craved for my inner self. A betrayal led to a period of self-injury and food denial that at the time just felt like pain and depression but in retrospect was about a desperate attempt to find control in an out of control situation. But I have worked hard to develop a strong relationship with the things I love about my body, to treat it well, to care for it and treat it well so it can do the many things I want it to do. My sister and I haven’t ever talked about it, but she also seems to have a healthy self-image, a good relationship with both food and fitness that doesn’t involve complicated spreadsheets for every deviation from the ideal. And I plan to speak with my parents about how they raised two daughters to have the resiliance to weather the trials of life without taking everything out on our bodies.

So. What do you think? What do you love about you? How do you deal with societal pressures to be and look perfect? Do you succeed? I’d love to hear about it.

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2 responses to “Reading Material

  1. I’ve thought about this quite a lot, particularly given Mom’s “stuff”. I know you’ve gotten a bit more from her than I have (not that I haven’t gotten anything), but I’m still amazed that somehow you and I seem to have mostly skirted the major self-image issues that seem to plague her (and, well, pretty much every other woman in the world, it sometimes seems)

  2. I have no idea, no earthly idea how it happened. I was never plagued with the body image shit and I haven’t a clue at how that happened. My sister had(has) “it”, my mom has it, every woman in my family has it, gay or straight. I attribute it to my almost constant involvement in sports. It allowed an awareness of what my body liked (exercise) and didn’t like (soda, devil dogs) at an early age. I had no role models, it was just happenstance. I feel so damn lucky that it just happened to me (and that I have a crazy metabolism). It’s just luck. My father was obese, and it ultimately played a part in his death. We always wondered if one of us would follow his genetic lead. I’ve never figured out why, really. I even tried to experiment with deprival simply to empathize with my dear and first girl who struggled so much with her weight and who I loved so much. I lasted a day on nothing… no more. I love my body, even as it starts to show signs of aging… I’m determined to stay as strong as I can be.

    But, image itself regardless of the lady-body-image-bullshit, well that’s another story. I still don’t know who I am. From my perspective, I am a reflection of the people that I love and admire. But from another’s perspective, that’s the part I get confused about. Who do you think I am? I’m not sure how to show that, who I am and not who I should be. Even the most “unconventional”-looking”among us really do care about what they look like – to others. So, societal pulls, image-imagining-imaging, it gets us somehow. I think age will be my savior… I look forward to the grey… gracefully aging, for some reason age seems to cure the need to look the part. At least I hope so for myself.

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