Friday, June 28, 2013

Body Confidence

I think that's what they call it when fat girls pose seductively. And yes, indeed, that does show body confidence, and God bless them. Let me also say, that I love the way they look...sometimes....and wish I could find a photographer who would make me look less like a lump and more like a lovely. (I think I look just fine. The camera, however, has other ideas, and it's not just the extra ten pounds, or whatever. I want someone to take a picture that shows what I see in the mirror). The thing I wonder about is this: all these fat girls, posing, they're all done up in lace undies, and they're all kittenish and coy and I can't think of another alliterative word, but I'm sure there is one. So let me get this straight: all fat girls really want is a chance to be objectified, just like their thinner sisters? Because....oh, sigh....that's what it boils down to. The language of seductive pictures is fairly strict, it has a fairly small vocabulary. The woman must be scantily dressed. She must be making her breasts have cleavage, whether they have it or not. Ideally, her rear pokes out a bit. Her toes are pointed. She may be pouting. Quite often, she's in some situation where she seems a bit flustered or helpless. People who think about this way more than I do have written whole treastises on this, entire college classes are taught on this, and yet, here we go--adding one more group of women to the already rather large group in those pictures. REALLY, ladies? That's ALL you want? Now, don't get me wrong. I have nothing against sexy clothes. I like sexy clothes. I have a skirt with a big long exposed zipper in the front, so I can set the amount of leg I'm showing according to my mood. I have lots of low-cut tops. I love to show a bit of lace, or even better, a little cleavage behind lacING. I own fuck me shoes, in many colors and fabrications. I have been known to wear fishnet stockings at 8 in the morning. And I wasn't all that young when I did it, either. But if you only use your body confidence for perpetuating stereotypes, what's the point? Is it a step ahead to do that? Are the skinny girls posing that way doing anyone any favors? Yes, I have body confidence. I have it to spare, in fact. Want some of mine? Here ya go. Wear it in good health. My latest favorite outfit is a coral denim skirt--I guess it's a mini-skirt, I think it's a bit above my knees--and a gold scoop-neck t-shirt. I get a lot of attention when I wear it. I'm not sure quite why. I think partly because a lot of women are afraid of intense color, and especially fat women. They'll look bigger! News flash: you look the size you look. No one is fooled. The only people who fool anyone are really skinny women who wear tons of layers, but they only fool people for a little while. Otherwise--people know what your shape is. So anyway, the color. I got asked yesterday if I always wear a lot of color. Well, five years ago, I only wore black and white, but I was in a different place in my life then. I guess, though, it's considered an aspect of body confidence not to hide behind black clothes. So here's a suggestion. Take your body confidence, and if you want to pose for pictures, go right ahead. But also...don't be afraid to take up room. Gesture when you talk. Stand with your hand on your hip. Or try this test: the next time you're in the mall, walking, make the guy coming at you move out of the way, because most of the time, women step out of the way for men, particularly young men. It takes guts to do that, by the way. It is very deeply ingrained in us, to be subservient in that way. Meet peoples' eyes when you talk to them. Don't uptalk (put a question mark at the end of every sentence). Don't giggle to make your words seem less important. Pitch your voice a bit deeper. Show actual confidence, not just the confidence to have pictures taken in your small clothes.

The Other Numbers

Yesterday I went for a health screening. My husband's company is changing health insurance providers and the era of benign neglect is apparently over. Big Brother is now watching. A few days ago, I filled out an online questionnaire. I realized that I could have written anything in it, anything at all. So, this is probably why they make you go have a disinterested party size you up, too. This morning, the results were in my email. If I were an alarmist (and I were not trying to make healthy changes, myself) I would say it was a good thing I was lying down at the time, checking my email in bed, on my phone. So, my cholesterol is passable, but I'm also taking a statin. Okay...I suppose I can live with that. My blood sugar, as measured by the A1C, is on the high side, 5.7, which would alarm me terribly, except for the fact that I've changed that dramatically, when I try, with diet. They weighed me, and that was a large number, and then right after that, they took my blood pressure. The first one was so high I had to sign a waiver, the second and third (three times is standard practice) were on the high side of normal. My BMI, of course, was off the charts. What does all this mean? I'm not sure. I'm going to the gym twice (at least) a week, and my trainer seems happy with my progress. I know that some of those things run in my family. My grandmother, paternal, had diabetes, which is why I'm concerned about that number. I don't want to end up like her, in a pair of men's shoes with the sides cut out. I don't want to end up like her....dying (as far as anyone can remember, my father was unclear on it, too) because she refused to have a gangrenous leg amputated. My father had a heart by-pass at 75, my aunt dropped dead at 72, the whole family died sort of young. So those things perforce matter to me. What I suppose mattered less was my BMI, since I'm not sure I completely believe in that. I mean, I believe it's a system of calculation, but I'm not sure I believe it means a great deal, other than that you might have a low center of gravity. I look at my weight, I think about the weights I've been, I think about how I would measure up on the BMI. In fact, I just went and looked. When I graduated from high school, I weighed 135 pounds, and that gave me a BMI of 23.9. That's in the normal range. That's also the least I've ever weighed as anything approaching a grownup. Then, later, about 7 years later, in fact, after a fair amount of dieting (and walking 4 hours a day during the New York transit strike of 1980)I weighed 165 pounds. That put my BMI as 29.2, just about the top end of overweight, just .8 away from obesity. I took a size 12. As I said, I walked 4 hours a day (until I got a separated tendon) and I was probably in the best shape of my life. Certainly living the healthiest, since all I did was walk to work, work, and then walk back home. I didn't go out, I didn't drink--or if I did, I walked to get there! So...I'm going with it doesn't necessarily mean much. I understand that I will be doing my joints a favor, with less weight, but here's something interesting. I had a hip replaced, because arthritis had destroyed it. (I have some theories about why that happened, but they're better left to conspiracy theory blogs). That hip is doing fine, as is the other one...which took all the weight while I was toughing it out, mentally preparing for the replacement. My right knee is trashed, the opposite knee to the hip, but I got kicked in that knee in 6th grade and I vaguely remember the doctor telling my parents I'd probably have trouble with it down the line. The other knee? Just peachy, thank you. And my feet? Other than the separated tendon, which will still hurt me if I'm on my feet a lot, they don't bother me at all. Unless, you know, I wear crazy high heels that give me blisters. Which I'm far to old to do anymore. Fazit, as they say in German? Duh, I dunno. If I had to sum it up, I'd say, the blood stuff would probably kill me, but I bet more dietary changes and more exercise will help that. As for weighing less? I'm never seeing 135 again, that's for sure. I'd throw a party at 165, the high end of overweight. But I'll be really interested to know what the insurance company is going to do, other than continue sending me the harassing emails that they've already started.

It's just a number, repeat

A disclaimer: This is a slightly altered entry from an old blog of mine. I still believe every word I wrote. I just changed a few things, like my current weight. The idea, however, remains the same. Women, me among them, spend an uncommon amount of time torturing themselves over numbers. Not the ones in their bank accounts or their checkbooks, either. They torture themselves over two particular numbers: dress size, and weight. Let's address dress size first. It is a designation that enables you to pick out a piece of mass-produced clothing that will more or less fit you, on the first try. Note the more or less part. Dress sizes are not absolutes. They vary from maker to maker, from store to store, from design to design. We have to have sizes because not every one of us has her own personal dressmaker, who has a set of slopers made just for us, as well as a little notebook, where she notes our changing measurements, as well as any little physical abnormalities that affect fit, like maybe one hip is a little higher than the other, or you have a truly magnificent ass, but it lifts the hems of your skirts in the back. We have to be able to make a rough guess, so as not to try on every item in the store. Note the rough guess part. Women put such importance on these numbers. They either bandy them about with pride ("I'm a 6, not an 8. No matter what, I'm just not an 8") or hide them guiltily, like scarlet letters. (Men don't get branded as a 42 long, by the way, their clothing has no size designations that are visible every time they take off their jackets). But they're just numbers. A more expensive piece of clothing will allow you to take a smaller size, for two reasons. One is something called vanity sizing, which means that Ralph Lauren twigged on to the fact that more ladies will buy his somehwhat overpriced clothing if they can take a smaller number. So, he cuts them bigger, a woman says, oh, I'm a 2 in Lauren, I'm buying that, and presto, he's sold another piece of clothes. Also, a manufacturer who is at a less exalted level might be wanting to get a few more pieces out of his bolt of fabric, so he'll instruct his cutters to crumple up the pattern pieces before they cut. They take up less room, he can get more garments out of a bolt, and you take an 8 instead of a 6. (Oh, I forgot, you're just not an 8. I'll try to keep that in mind). Then there's whatever the hell manufacturers did to sizes over the course of my lifetime. I weighed 135 pounds when I graduated from high school. I was pretty cute, if I say so myself. I had this pair of jeans that I embroidered all over, as was the fashion of the day. (Class of '73, what can I say?) I saved them, probably because of all the embroidery, which was pretty hard work. I pulled them out a couple of months ago, to show my daughters. They looked tiny. I was dying to know what size I had taken, back then, at 135 pounds. They are size 11. They aren't even in the single digits. My daughters have taken every size jeans from 14 to 2, so I've seen all the sizes, and these didn't look like anything I recognized as an 11, not now. I held them up. "What size do you think these would be now?" I asked. The consensus was a 7, maybe a 5. So...three full sizes (possibly) smaller than the tag inside of them. How can we know what size we really are, when they keep changing them on us? Back when those jeans were made, there WAS no size 0. The skinniest, cheerleaderiest girl I knew, probably only took a 5 in those days. Or a 7, more likely. So size means nothing. NOTHING. It just aims you in the right direction. Now, on to weight. Weight, although it can be high, or low, is also relative. I weigh a lot. I don't just weigh a lot right now, I always weigh a lot for how I look. Remember the doctor, who couldn't believe what the scale was telling him? It's always been that way. I know someone who is, frankly, a mess. (Those who know me know I so seldom say that, but she is, truly). I would be willing to bet that she weighs less than I do right now. For me, it's that I'm a good solid peasant girl--like a Mullingar heifer, beef to the heels, to quote "Circle of Friends". So I weigh a lot. It's humbling; it teaches you not to get hung up on the number on the scale. It's all relative, as I said above. There is no point in beating ourselves up for who we are, what we weigh, saying we should weigh this, we should weigh that. The only should I seriously believe in is that we should embrace ourselves as we are. That's the only way we can get through our days, first of all, loving ourselves now, today, not next week, or in ten pounds or three sizes. Look. I have weighed more and I have weighed less, but no matter what I weighed, I did my best. I got my hair done, I did my nails, I wore flattering shoes. I didn't so much try to cover up the bad stuff--because people can see it anyway, they're not idiots--but I did try to distract from it. So I was the best I could be at the moment. Self-assuredness is the best accessory ever invented. It beats EVERYTHING. If all else fails, there are the old saws to fall back on. Look at what the body that you so malign can do, or has done. I've produced two daughters. I hiked in the New Mexico desert in what my friend refers to as high heels. (Not quite, but I was wearing stockings and a skirt, lol!) I can carry wood and shovel the driveway. I once dragged the better part of a tree that was blocking the road out of the way. I can carry my husband's tool box, which may not sound like much, but you've never lifted it. I may not be a waif or a willow, but I'm pretty good as I am. I might get better, you never know. But if I died tonight (God forbid) I would go out being fairly pleased with who I am. And there would be good-looking clothes that fit to bury me in!

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Opening Salvo

I've been reading a lot lately about what I've decided to call the Great Debate for Our Time. It's the one about what constitutes health, and healthy, and how much we should or are allowed to weigh. I feel as though I need to write about it because I can't come to any decision or conclusion. We all know how it goes. One side says that America (and the world, or the bits of it that America has gotten to) is in the grips of an Obesity Epidemic. I capitalize this because it's being couched in nearly Victorian terms of good and evil. We are killing ourselves! (The End is Near!) We are costing, someone....trillions of dollars! Fat is evil. Eating is the new smoking. Sitting is the new smoking. God help you if you sit and eat and smoke. And then there's the other side, that says, fat is not a four-letter word, fat is fine, we can be fat and healthy. Let's all accept ourselves! Give up the fight! Self-love (no, not that kind, though that kind is fine too) is the most important thing. Love yourself, no matter what, and everything will be fine. Well, yes. To both of them. Yeah, fat is a significant factor--for some people. Yes, you can be fat and healthy. Some people. You can love yourself at any size. Some people can do that. You're much happier when you're thinner. Yeah, some people are. Losing weight only makes you weigh less. Well....yes. Gaining weight only makes you buy bigger clothes. Well....yes. I just don't know. I know I'll never be small. But I can be smaller. And then I feel better. Is that bad? Is it okay to admit that? Because what if I don't love myself to bits right now? But I sort of do. So what am I doing at the gym? And how did my trips to the gym shanghai me into joining How did that happen? Well, I can tell you how that gym changed hands and what was a nice little thing with a personal trainer turned into an all-out assault. I still want the personal trainer, so I sort of agreed to go along with the rest of it. But I'm not sure. I'm sure that I need to be in better shape...but I'm not sure that I need to work toward a size 4. I'm sure that I am, in fact more comfortable at a lower weight. You also can't argue with your bloodwork, with your blood pressure, with your blood sugar, with your cholesterol. You can't argue with your family history--with my average-weight aunt dropping dead at 72. I also know that I'm built on a bigger scale, that's all. I have wide feet and broad hands and broad shoulders and I'm strong. So the pursuit of size 4 would be nonsense. But I could pursue a size 12. But then the body acceptance people start yelling that no, I'm fine the way I am, it's no one's business about my health, no one has the right to tell me anything! That any suggestions about improving my health are simply tyranny! I should do what I want! If I want to live on....God, I don't know, chocolate ice cream and deep-fried whatevers, or deep-fried chocolate ice cream, that's fine. If that's what I want to do. Then, last Wednesday, I had the same conversation in the space of 4 hours, once with my trainer and once with the physician's assistant I saw for my check-up. They gently suggested that I eat more healthily and gave me suggestions on how to do that. I was nice. I did NOT say, "Do you seriously think that I don't know how to lose weight?" I did NOT say, "I've lost your aggregate weight at least twice in my life." I nodded my head, I said, yes, I'll certainly try sugar snap peas (and I bought them, I just haven't gotten to them yet) and I said, yes, pulsed cauliflower instead of rice is a splendid idea. And spaghetti squash. While I was thinking, the day may indeed come when I'll try those, but I'm not so stupid I'll ever not know they're cauliflower and squash. So in my own way, I've knuckled under. I'm the proud owner of a myfitnesspal account, and I've been dutifully entering my foods, for a whole week now. I ate light all week so I could (sort of) cut loose this weekend, at a family party, and that worked well, so all things considered, I'm doing well. And the PA doesn't think I'm going to die if she doesn't see me in a month, so I have till October to get myself on track, which is nice. And it's much easier to lose weight in the summertime when all you want is a salad anyway. Because, news flash, I've done that. But the body acceptance people are in a ring out there, saying, no, really, no need. Just buy a bigger size, boost up those supersize boobs and revel in your cleavage and your confidence. Oh, and then you have those Slim-Fast ads where they're saying, it's okay to want to lose weight so you can look super-hot and get a super-hot guy. Plain and simple. And they might even have been the people who said that for summer we should all try for a thigh gap. No, not try. We should all achieve a thigh gap, because it will be more comfortable. On Huffpost, pages of comments went on and on about Melissa McCarthy's weight. Pro and con. She says she's comfortable with herself, she must be lying. She said such and such and that proves she's not. Her legs will be amputated before she's 50, but not before she's had both hips and knees replaced. She's fine the way she is! Whose business is it anyway? One thing she is, is a lightning rod. Why don't we talk about her co-star on "Mike and Molly", Billy Gardell, because for my money, it truly takes poetic license to the limit to assume that he's a cop in a major city. Or why don't we talk about her cousin, Jenny McCarthy (yes, they're first cousins, and you know what? They even look it) and debate why she's so slutty on TV on New Year's Eve and if she'd be more comfortable if she acted more like a lady. I don't know. I don't know what to say. I know that it was nice today when I put on a t-shirt and didn't think to myself, damned thing shrunk in the wash again. In fact, it was sort of roomy. That was nice. Why was that nice? Uh....I don't know. Because esthetically I like a more stream-lined figure? Is that possible? Because of all the places a woman can carry fat, I like the place I carry it (spare tire) the least? Because I think it's depressing to take a 3x, because what happens after that? But am I letting down the side? I had another blog, devoted to losing weight, and I'll be re-using some of what I wrote there, here, because a lot of it still has value. But I think I might be a little further down the road than I was at that point. So again: fit vs fat. Discuss among yourselves.