(Warning for those who are faint of heart: the links below are from two Dom/sub blogs; if the idea of Dominant/submissive relationships offends you then I suggest you go and read another post because I’ll be referencing them throughout this entry. I am not here to promote their -or anyone else’s [not even mine]- lifestyle, but I speak on wisdom where I find it. Either read without judgment or keep it moving.)
Surfing around through wordpress I came across a blog about body image. He referenced another blog about it, so naturally I scooted over there and read what she had to say. She was on point with everything and her suggestions for helping with one’s body image issues were insightful. Of course, I had to speak on this myself.
I’ve always been an advocate for the destruction of the false beauty model as set by Hollywood and mass media. Everything I learned growing up goes counter to what Elle and Cosmo says I should look like. Guys I knew and met growing up much preferred curvy women (“Girls with some meat on their bones,” as they so eloquently put it). And growing up in a family that is largely from the south (Alabama, and Mississippi) and was dominated by women who were big, I was taught early on that “only dogs like bones, men need meat” and then had another helping of ribs, macaroni and cheese (baked, not from the box), greens and who knows what else heaped onto my plate because I was “too skinny” (I was, and for the most part still am, the thinnest woman genetically related to my family, with only one or two exceptions in my age group).
As a kid and teenager, I was afraid of being too skinny. When I hit 5th grade and saw girls my age blooming while I maintained my rail thin, tomboy figure, I got nervous that I would never “have what it takes” to net one of the cute boys in my neighborhood. Especially not when placed in competition with girls who had long since passed their training bra stage and whose hips and butts were rounding out nicely. (If you read my boob post, you already know how that story ends)
Even in college, after finally having caught up with (and in some cases surpassed) my female peers in the figure department, I was still an advocate for a curvier female population. Jessica Alba was on tv in those skin tight outfits showing off her lovely figure (which she subsequently lost after drinking the Hollywood Kool-Aide and decided to abandon any aspect that would hint of her multi-ethnicity…I’d call her a sell out, but that would be oversimplifying it). Jennifer Lopez was shaking her badunkadunk across stages all over the world to her Diddy-ised Latino-hip hop beat. Maxim came out and was profiling women with lush hips (though, not too lush). Then there was the girl-next-door homegrown good looks of Rachel Ray (I can’t stand her, but she is cute). Jazzyfatnastees. Jill Scott. Tyra Banks (I can’t stand her ass either lol). Curves were everywhere. I was delighted.
However, I was also broke. When I saw a flier in one of the campus food courts looking for young women to model nude, I decided “what the hell, why not?” I checked his site and all of his shots were tasteful. Nothing pornographic or questionable. It was artistic nudity. And I had no problem with that. So I shot him an email expressing interest (oh don’t look so shocked…at least I would have been getting paid, unlike those morons who do girls gone wild tit shots for a fucking t-shirt) and he asked me to describe myself. At the time I was 5’4″, fluctuating between 127 and 130, 36DD and a size 8 in jeans. I thought I was pretty damn thin and I looked good in shorts. He said he wanted more of an athletic body. Less curve, more of a flat stomach, etc etc. And I was willing to diet to give it to him, until I stepped back and thought to myself “Um, wait a second. There is nothing wrong with my shape or my weight. Why in the hell am I trying to lose weight that I don’t need to lose?” I admit, I could have used to some toning, but weight loss? Nah. So I flipped that idea the bird and settled for a minimum wage campus job answering phones.
I walked a lot in high school and college, so keeping weight off was never really a problem, but when I got married and moved to a new city (that I wasn’t familiar with), walking went out the window. Not long after getting married I got pregnant, and that’s when all my problems started.
My first trimester I lost 11lbs, dropping me down to my college weight of 131. The doc said this was normal and was because my body was just burning off fat stores for energy while it was preparing to carry my baby. I was fine. My sex life was fine. Everything was fine. Until I hit month five. That’s when I really started to show and my baby started moving a bit. Sex became uncomfortable and I was unhappy with my distended belly, but I tried anyway. Around 7 months I simply couldn’t bear the idea of showing my body to my husband, who insisted that I was just as beautiful pregnant as I was before. Even with all of his heartfelt assurances, I couldn’t accept that the whale I had become could be considered beautiful.
My pregnancy weight topped out at 161, which meant I had only really added 20lbs to my pre-pregnancy weight (about 140), but I was very unhappy with my appearance. Even after having my daughter and losing most of the weight I was unhappy with my stretch marks, love handles and saddle bags (all of which were a result of pregnancy). I was a stay at home mom and often too exhausted to work out. Plus there was no where for me to work out. I have a lifetime membership to Fitness USA, but the closest one is over 20 minutes away and gas prices were rising. I hated my body, and slipped into a deeper depression over it. Sex was almost totally out of the question. I felt completely undesirable (though my husband felt differently, he loved my extra curves). And though I kept up my banner waving for women with curves, I kept thinking back to my thinner high school and college figure.
I often spoke with my friends about having pride in our curves. Taking pleasure in the stretch marks that came from us bearing children. I was all but singing “I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar”. But away from all those people, my inner-voice became especially nasty.
Let me break in here real quick to explain my “inner-voice”. I have had depression since I was 12, and my depression often came in the form of a “voice” that repeated over and over about what a failure I was, how unattractive I was, that I was a disappointment to my friends and family, I was worthless, useless, hopeless. Most of the time I could tune it out (without the aid of medication), but it was a steady drum beat that never wavered from its typically self-assured tone, and when it got bad, I would believe everything it said. After I had my daughter, the messages of this voice grew nastier as my self confidence began to falter. I became not only unattractive, but unlovable. My husband was, of course, cheating on me (so my voice said), who wouldn’t? I was fat, ugly, unemployed, useless, a drain on our finances, a horrible mother…and on and on. And I believed it. No matter what my husband said to the contrary. This left him frustrated on many levels.
I knew I needed to make a change when a doctors visit revealed that I had hit 170. Years after having my daughter, I had gained 15lbs. And as I said earlier, my family is full of big women. On both my mom and my dad’s side. I accept that there is some genetic propensity towards holding our weight, especially after we have babies. However I knew I could choose how much of that weight was genetic and how much was voluntary. I also knew that the older I got, the harder it’d be for me to lose. So if I was going to take control of my weight, my life and, most importantly, my self image, now was going to be the time. I started working out (not just to lose weight but to help alleviate my depression naturally) and asked my doc for anti-depressants.
It wasn’t until after this that I began to believe my own hype about the beauty of curves again. Yes, I’m curvy, and yes I’m good looking (I’m too humble to call myself beautiful). No, my breasts aren’t sitting right on top of my chest, but you show me a 36DDD woman whose breasts are and I’ll show you some fake boobs. I still have a pooch from my pregnancy and I’m fairly convinced that’s not going to go away completely without surgery. I’m still fluctuating between the mid to high 150’s and low 160’s, but I’m ok with that too. I don’t pay attention to BMI results because I saw first hand how very wrong it is to gage one’s health (I had lost 6lbs, gained muscle tone, but my BMI went up two points saying I was at risk for obesity…that was when I flipped BMI charts the bird). My sex life is back on track and I love my husband all the more for sticking with me when I was at my absolute lowest.
I haven’t given up my fight against false beauty standards either. I refuse to watch shows like America’s Next Top Model. I don’t buy fashion magazines. I expose my daughter to women of all shapes, sizes, heights, colors and tones so she understands that we’re all beautiful. I don’t watch music videos (I don’t have cable, but when I did, I didn’t watch them). And though I can’t stand her annoying ass, I applaud Raven Simone for not drinking the Hollywood Kool-Aide and loving her body and herself, curves and all. It’s a small effort, hardly a dent in the mass media image machine, but it’s my dent, and it’s a dent I pass on to every one of my girl-friends and my daughter so they can add on to it.