The other day I started an email to W because, as so often seems to happen, cyberspace once again echoed a conversation we’d been having. After that echo became a roar in a recent HNT theme that a fellow blogger started, I decided it was probably worth a post here rather than just an email to my favorite Mean Guy.
The discussion involved body image, and after that talk, there was suddenly a body-image theme over on Eden Cafe, in which women posted about what it feels like as a woman in our society to be “imperfect.” To be too large, too small, too thin, too fat, to not have the “perfect” body that the media and society–and we women ourselves–have shoved down our throats.
He contends that the fact that a woman described as “plus-sized” won on “America’s Next Top Model” shows that, as a society, we are moving to a healthier place in terms of how we view women’s bodies, what is considered beautiful. At the time I argued vociferously that there is something fundamentally wrong with a society that believes a size 8 or 10 woman should be considered “plus size” in the first place, and I hold to that contention. But upon consideration, and after reading this post in Salon.com, I’ve come around to the idea that yes, it was a step forward, although, by and large, media images of women are still hopelessly unreal and unhealthy.
It was interesting to read this in the article:
“But “ANTM” isn’t really about finding the best high-fashion model; it’s about finding the best role model. Winners don’t end up in the pages of Vogue; they land on the cover of “Seventeen.” The judges may sneer when a girl seems too “commercial,” but the prize is literally a commercial — an appearance in an ad for Cover Girl, not even a high-end makeup by Walgreens standards. High-fashion models are odd and angular and probably inarticulate and chain-smoking; the “ANTM” winner, like Miss America, aspires to be someone little girls can look up to.”
‘Wow,’ I thought, ‘that is so cool.’ But when you take a close look at the paragraph you still see the same implication–she is okay as a “role model” (and yes, I do prefer my daughter to see images of someone that looks healthier than those of the two young women she beat) but she could never be a “high fashion” model. So maybe it isn’t society and the media and the fashion industry in general that is embracing “real” women, just this one (?) show, but I still like the message, and I am willing to agree that perhaps there is some movement (small though it may be) in the right direction in terms of the body-image messages that are getting out there.
And then Another Suburban Mom started an HNT theme that she called “Flaws” in which she posted an HNT featuring what she feels is her “worst flaw.” Her post, her words and the beautiful photo of herself in all her “flawed” glory really struck a deep chord in me. Many, many others were brave enough to post their own “HNT-Flaws” posts (click on the link to her blog to get the entire list. And read the comments…so many heartfelt, wonderful comments!)
But here’s the kicker. I didn’t post my own flawed HNT. I made the excuse that I was too busy (and in fact didn’t post an HNT at all) but the truth? The truth is that I was afraid. Afraid of being thought ugly. Afraid of people’s derision, of people seeing the real, flawed, unlovely me. My body that I despise.
Yeah, I said it. I have so many flaws that I wouldn’t know where to start. How could I pick just one? It’s hard to even write all this out. I read somewhere that you should never point out your “flaws” to your lover, because they don’t see them until you point them out to them. Until then they only see you as you, the person they love/desire, not the individual pieces of flesh that make up our bodies. So from this day forward, all anyone will see when they see me is the image of myself that I live with, that I see when I look in the mirror and when I think about myself naked. Small breasts. Stretch marks. A poochy belly that never goes away no matter how thin I get. A flat ass. Skin that is too loose and flesh that jiggles. The backs of my thighs, that never seems to be firm enough no matter how much I run. That’s the real me, the me I live with, day in and day out.
For pictures I pose myself in ways that I hope won’t show the bulges, bumps and ripples. W is careful about sending/posting only pictures that show me in my best light (bless the man), and I’ll admit, I’ve airbrushed myself a time or two. But I still look down at my naked body and cringe. I wonder what my lovers see when they look at me. I worry that one day I will look up to see disgust in their faces.
And yet in spite of this I have also come to love myself. To love this imperfect body. To feel sexy, to feel hot and desirable, to feel beautiful, in spite of my flaws. It will probably sound weird, but the BDSM lifestyle has gone a long way towards making me feel that, as has the poly lifestyle. W’s photographic record of the times we have scened have also done so. I have come to see my own beauty through them, beauty that is of the mind, heart AND body. And I have felt the love and desire my lovers feel for me and known that they find me-and my body-sexy and beautiful. Something else that is helping me to love my body is running. It makes me feel powerful and strong, something I have never felt before.
It may be only a small step forward, but just as with ANTM, it is a step forward. Maybe someday I will be able to simply say, “I love my body,” without feeling the need to add the disclaimer.