Is there a woman out there who is actually 100 percent fine with her body? Or are we all, particularly in the West, hard-wired — thanks to media messages and peer pressure — to find constant fault with ourselves?
I ask, because I don’t go a day without disparaging how I look. It’s an exhalation of breath every morning, “God, I look like crap.” It’s a self-deprecating remark when I’m out with friends. It’s looking in the mirror and seeing my moon-shaped face, ever-widening, and sliding on jeans that are ever-tightening… and hating what I see. It’s shaming myself into not eating, or into being a calorie miser, and then shaming myself further when I “fail” and stuff my face. It’s a vicious, vicious thing. Not the pressure to be thin, but the pressure to try.
I’m a pretty together person (as neurotic, obsessive writers go). I’m intelligent and media savvy. Shouldn’t I know better than to perceive myself in such narrow strokes, than to shove my square-pegged self into the round hole of what women are “supposed to” look like? It’s weird, isn’t it? How being analytical about it doesn’t change the feeling?
I interview some of the most beautiful people in the country for a living. And you’d think that would just add to the internal beatdown, but, remarkably, it doesn’t. Because I know how hard women have to work to be viable on TV these days. Naturally slender women have to strive to stay that way…or become even thinner in order to compete. Compare the cast of the original 90210 to the current one. The Shannen Doherty and Jennie Garth of yore would never be cast now. You have to be a size four or smaller to make it on a glitzy, escapist TV show. Heaven forbid you’re in double digits: Fourteen is the “fat girl” now, the comic relief, the sassy best friend. Fifty years ago, fourteen was Marilyn Monroe, the most iconic beauty in the world. Selling an image — a sexy, skinny yet voluptuous, image — is as much part of the job as reciting your dialogue and hitting your marks.
People talk about Mad Men‘s Christina Hendricks as some kind of curvaceous ideal. She’s smaller than I am. In the “real world,” she’s not remotely zaftig. She just happens to be over the TV and film industry’s target size. She has cleavage. Gasp. And this somehow exoticizes her to the media, to the Hollywood elite. Like she’s this rare, wild creature that’s been allowed to roam amidst a population of gazelles. Jesus Christ, I do not envy her that. And I don’t think it’s fair to snark on the size zeroes and ones and twos either. Because none of it is easy.
It’s not easy to look at yourself and only see what works. To not judge by numbers and inches. I know, because I fight that battle every day. As do a lot of other women. And we sidestep our issues of body image by saying we like our sense of humor or our brains or our drive and ambition.
I don’t want to take that detour today, so I’ll tell you: I have a great smile. My teeth might be crooked, but between my dimples and my genuine joy, I don’t think it matters. I love that my hair is so black that dye doesn’t take. It just absorbs the color, folds blues and reds into the pattern. I love the shape of my legs. I love my hands, because they’re small but they wield infinite strength when placed on a keyboard or gripping a pen.
What do you love about yourself?