I’m a big, fat hen.
Well, not really. But, I feel big & fat next to the skinny fricken models terrorizing me at every checkout. I was a skinny fricken model once. I too was looked at with disdain—by women.
So yesterday, I was in line at a bookstore, and I zoned in on a particular cover behind the counter, Shape magazine. I worked for them a couple of times when I was a model. I don’t know what it was about that cover, but, it put me in some sort of trance.
“Hot Body Jump Start.” I need a jump start. I need a hot body. I need to look like that in a swimsuit.
SNAP. I managed to levitate back to earth long enough to glance over at the woman behind the counter. She was smiling at me. Not the big, toothy type smile, more like the I’m here when you need me, close-lipped, friendly smile. She hadn’t said anything. She was patiently waiting in all her grace and beauty. My eyes widened, and I felt the need to explain.
“Oh! Sorry! I completely spaced out on the “Hot Body Jump Start,” I said, gesturing to the magazines behind her. “I was imagining what it would be like to have that body and wondering if I’ll ever get there.” I had no idea why I was confiding in her. She turned her head to look at the magazine rack. “That one,” I said. The cover had Lauren Cohen of “Walking Dead” donning some skimpy attire.
She smiled and said “Yes.”
“I’m not sure if I can get there at this point.” I was still talking. What the fuck was wrong with me? She smiled again and started scanning my books.
I feel the need to mention that she was a beautiful, black woman. Why mention that? Well, because, in my many years of being completely white, I have noticed something I wish I could absorb.
It’s this confidence I see in many women of color who aren’t all that skinny. It’s a radiance, a grace, a savoir faire that I can’t put my finger on. But whatever it is, she had it, and it made me smile.
SMILE. That’s all I did. I thought about telling her she was beautiful. I thought about telling her she had style. I thought about telling her I admired her. I thought about saying a lot of things as she scanned each and every one of my books. She was tall like me, at least 5’8″, and she looked perfect the way she was. Now, if I was her, and I was looking in the mirror at myself I’m not sure I would think I was perfect BUT as an objective outsider, I thought she was beautiful, and she wasn’t skinny.
There I was, thinking about how I could have flat abs, lean legs, and a firm butt and wear that bikini Lauren was wearing on that cover, and I thought, maybe this woman behind the counter was just humoring me, and she really didn’t want to look like that skinny, white girl. But, the incredible thing about her wasn’t so much about if she wanted to have a body like that skinny, white girl, but rather the time she took to connect, to feign a camaraderie, to care about the fact that I wanted the have the body of that skinny, white girl.
SLUT. The word SLUT came to mind as she was bagging my books. Yes, I went there. I did. As I studied that cover realizing it was a workout outfit and not a bikini, I thought about how even when I was skinny enough to wear those outfits I never did. I hated gyms. The pickup parade. The undressing. The invasion. The violation. I hated being on display. I chose yoga instead. A SAFE place. Nobody propositions you in a yoga studio, or, at least, not very often. And when they do, it feels like a violation there too. At least for me.
Let’s go back to my thought bubble for a moment. SLUT. My go-to word for what she represented on that cover. Was I angry because I couldn’t look like that?
I mean I could look like that if I had no job, a trainer, and a chef and all the time in the world to focus on my body. I could. But that’s not my life. I mean the part about looking like that. The part about eating right or should I say eating no carbs, no sugar, no dairy. The part about working out every day. The part about the entire focus of life being about becoming perfect. A choice. A job. A lifestyle. That’s not my life presently. I don’t have to wear skimpy ass shorts and a tube top, with my body oiled to the nines on the cover of a magazine. I’m not feeling sorry for myself; I’m just letting you know it’s a choice where I put my energy, and right now it’s not my body. (Disclaimer: I am fully aware that daily exercise and good nutrition would improve my mood.)
SHAPE. Keep in mind most women think I’m in shape. Appearances can be deceiving. I don’t appear to be overweight. I’m tall. I carry it well. Luckily, I distribute fat evenly, from my legs all the way up to my double chin (not so lucky). Anyway, like I said I look thin to most women. But, I’m not thin. Not model-thin. I don’t want to be model-thin by the way because that just doesn’t look good in your 40s, but I could lose 15 pounds. I could. At least that’s when I’m happiest—15 pounds lighter. And my scale that measures my BMI also warns me that I should lose 15 pounds, so it’s not in my head.
But as I stood there looking at the woman behind the counter, irritated that I still couldn’t stop looking at Lauren. I thought why can’t I accept myself for who I am? Today. This instant.
When I look in the mirror, why can’t I accept myself as I am, instead of who I used to be or who I want to be? Why? And why do I immediately think SLUT when I see a girl who has got a hot body and shows it off? What’s that about? I mean SLUT is not a “women supporting women” type of word. Certainly not what I stand for.
SUPPORT. Let’s get real and ask the question… Do women support women? Do they? Okay, maybe I’m a little cynical. Let me go on record and state women do support women. They do, but not consistently, not altruistically, not unconditionally. Women, well, they tend to be “catty bitches.” There I said it. We are all emotional and shit, occasionally passive-aggressive, judgmental, vengeful (yikes) bitches. It’s all those hormones, housework and holier than thou martyrdom that make us that way. We are women after all.
Keep in mind my brain was going a mile a minute through all those thoughts while she was scanning my books. I was thinking about the symbiosis between women of all shapes and sizes. I don’t think she caught me watching her, staring at her, trying to glean her essence like one of those weird body snatching aliens might do. Let’s just say I looked a little intense. When I returned home, I thought more about it as I ran a bath.
I thought about women. How we are. What we do. What makes us different creatures. And, you know what bugs me most about being a woman? It’s that people pleasing shit ingrained in our biology. That nurturing, preserve the species shit.
SHIT. Let’s face it, women have a hard time saying no. What I mean by that is women were put on this earth to make everyone feel good, to make them happy, to nurture, to sacrifice, to give of themselves. I mean Eve was just entertainment for Adam right? I’d like to think God was upset by how dumb Adam was and said to himself, shit I have to try again, maybe I’ll get it right this time, but I’m not a man-hater by any stretch of the imagination. I love men. I’m married to one! I also have two boys who will one day be men. I can’t hate them.
But the “making people feel good” shit is fucking exhausting. Don’t get me a wrong I don’t mind pleasing people, but when you’ve done that your whole life and then decide hey wait a minute I want to do something for myself now, it’s hard to find the balance. And taking time for yourself? Ha! What woman does that? That would take time away from listening to my girlfriends bitch about their husbands, their boyfriends, or God forbid, a mutual friend. Everyone knows women need to talk, commiserate, share. I can tell you when I decided to take time for myself and started saying no to my buddies, it got ugly. Hell hath no fury if you know what I mean. But there was no scorn, not on my part… just a “Sorry, I can’t make it … nothing personal.”
It’s taken me a long time to be okay if someone isn’t happy. To find peace with the fact that my kids won’t always like me. To carry on even if a friend is upset with me. I mean I wasn’t put on this planet to make someone happy. If I do fanfuckingtastic, but it’s not my job to live up to another’s expectations. We are supposed to accept each other for who we are. And that goes for significant others too. Leave those expectations at the office. Friends, Romans, countrymen, life is complicated enough already. Many of us are struggling just to stay sane. Be happy not angry when your friend puts herself first. High five her. Don’t guilt her. I’m sure she has put you first before or you probably wouldn’t be friends, right? So let’s get back to that Hail Mary full of Grace woman at the bookstore.
SMILE. Her smile was so refreshing, her demeanor so rare, her aura—for lack of a better word—so radiant that I wanted to tell her. But I didn’t. Why? Well, because my insecurities stopped me dead in my tracks. I couldn’t get out of my way that day, so I said nothing. Well, I did say thank you as she handed me my books. Then I smiled and walked out the door.
As I floated in the bath staring at my fluffiness, I thought maybe she really did want those rock hard abs like I did, that hollow in her butt cheek, the svelte legs. Or maybe she was just supporting a woman on the verge. Me, standing in front of her, buying a bunch of books to make myself feel better.
Maybe she was just taking a moment to connect on an issue common to women, the not feeling good enough issue, even though the line was seven people deep. (It’s a small bookstore.)
SNAP. Then it hit me. That’s when I realized all women start out beautiful, open, full of love with the genuine desire to help others, to make people happy, to make things better, smiling. It’s in their DNA. That changes along the way, as we grow up. It’s the damage, the abuse, the disappointments, and I hate to say it but, it’s those mean girls (all of us have that potential) in middle school that don’t have our backs, that don’t support us, that don’t smile. Instead girls, we tear each other down for what we wear, how we act, what we say, what we do. It’s the jealousy, the resentment, the competition for attention, the insecurities, the hormones. It’s so much.
I have a young daughter. I see how her and her friends are with each other. And, I know the things they do to one another, things that strip away the trust layer by layer, that create an armor of insecurity, doubt, and malice. I worry about how it will affect her, change her as she enters her teenage years. And I came to a realization today of how important it is to have the support of another woman. We are, after all, the same species, and we understand each other. Don’t we?
All it took was this woman at the book store counter commiserating with me for a moment to make me feel stronger.
And I told myself, the next time I go into that bookstore, I’m going to look for her, and I’m going to tell her she is a beautiful person, and I’m going to thank her for being her.