Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Have you heard about the girl on page 194?
It is not a secret, but it is not something I talk about much anymore. Did you know I used to be anorexic and bulimic? Well, I was. For three years, in fact. I exercised feverishly (4+ hours each day, without fail), ate little to nothing most days, and then, if I did go out and eat "normally", I injested massive quantities of Ex-Lax to get rid of it. (If you thought bulimics only vomited, you'd be wrong.) At one point I weighed 90 lbs less than I do now. That was too hard to maintain, so I mostly weighed 80 lbs less than I do now. (Disclosure: I am 5'10" and currently wear a size 12 or 14--you can decide how thin I was then.) I decided I didn't hate myself enough to die to be thin, but I've had issues with food and scales ever since. (Food, I've learned to enjoy. Scales? I hate them and don't have one in my house and don't step on them at the doctor's office unless I'm under duress. Then, I step on the scale backwards and have a note in my files warning the nurse and doctor not reveal my weight or any change in my weight. I seriously don't want to know.) Meeting and eventually marrying Superman, a man who did not feed my insecurities was a wonderful gift. Carrying and bearing my children just continued my healing. (An awesome OB/Gyn who didn't ever comment on my weight was a blessing, too.)
There is NO SUCH THING AS A PERFECT BODY. Perfection is in the eye of the beholder and, let me tell you, Superman thinks I'm perfect exactly the way I am.
So, back to my point...why am I telling you all this? Because I think our society is doing something terrible to women. Because I think we're not all supposed to be one thing. I think some of us are meant to be slender, some of us are meant to be average, and some of us are meant to be curvy, just like some of us are meant to be short in stature, average in stature, and tall in stature. If you line up a bunch of 5 year old girls, you can already determine body type and make pretty accurate guesses about what they'll be built like. The problem? As a society, we've decided only one thing is attractive and anyone who doesn't fit that mold is "less" somehow, dooming them to a lifetime of trying to conform to whatever is perceived as "ideal". Why do we do this? In my own children, I have one that has struggled with body image because he was super skinny until he stopped growing taller, at which time he filled in. I have another who gains weight right before he shoots up and hates that he gets that belly before he grows. Then there is the girl. She's been told by a then-8-year-old peer that she was fat. Not only was that unkind, it was untrue. This little girl comes from a family that is very slender and small, very slender and very small. Buttercup comes from a family that is neither. I'm 5'10" and Superman is 6'4"...that means our children won't be petite, no matter what.
So, what is happening that an 8-year old is telling another 8-year old that she's fat when she's just normal? I think we've lost sight of normal. Seriously. What is normal for this little girl and her family is not even close to healthy for my family. Trying to attain their "normal" would be terribly unhealthy for all of us. (And yes, both Superman and I could stand to lose a few pounds...we're talking about the active kids here!) "Normal" does not mean "the same". We're not made from cookie cutters, and as someone who spent years and years being ashamed of being tall and strong, I can't believe we're still trying to say we should be.
The Girl on Page 194 is simply a picture that Glamour magazine printed in the September issue that got them more of a response than they've ever received before. Why? Because she's "normal". She's not built like an athlete, a waif, a child, or a boy. She's built like a woman, not a child.She's built like a woman who doesn't live at the gym and who does enjoy food. Finally, even with her belly and her thighs showing in all their "imperfection", she looks joyful. In an interview on the Today show, she said it best herself, "I'm not saying that size 2 isn't normal...but MY normal is this."
Television, movies, magazines...they all show us the current definition of "attractive". But who decides these things? Every time a picture like this comes out, people cheer. Then things go back to normal. Photographers like the way angles catch the light, so they like thinner models. Um, okay, but then why are we letting them tell us that thinner is our ideal. If we're not trying to be models, what does it matter? Fashion designers say curves ruin the lines of their clothes. What? Aren't clothes meant to be worn? If putting a body in your clothes ruins them, then obviously you're not designing for people. If the clothes I try on don't fit my shoulders or my legs or whatever, then maybe, just maybe, there is something wrong with the clothes rather than something wrong with me.
Hi, my name is Erin and I am a recovering anorexic and bulimic. I've not punished my body for being the way it is for almost 20 years, but every day is still a challenge.
The picture? Me in my exercise clothes as drawn by the daughter of a dear friend. The artist was roughly 5 and I think she was trying for anatomical accuracy by adding the belly button, because I haven't worn anything low-waisted since before the birth of Charming.