body image issues

Sheet music cover of "A Pretty Girl Is li...

Sheet music cover of "A Pretty Girl Is like a Melody". (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

April is not just about showers that bring the flowers of May. Nor is it merely about poetry.

It’s also Guitar Month, Humor Month, Autism Awareness Month, Cancer Control Month and Occupational Therapy Month, Animal Cruelty Prevention Month, Autism Awareness Month, Books to Brighten Young Minds Months, Community Spirit Month, Confederate History Month, Couple Appreciation Month, International Customer Loyalty Month, International Guitar Month, International Legacy Month, Keep America Beautiful Month, Lawn and Garden Month, Mathematics Education Month, National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Month, National Humor Month, National Pet First Aid Awareness Month, National Self-Publishing Month, National Smile Month, National Youth Sports Safety Month, Occupational Therapy Month, Pets Are Wonderful Month, School Library Month, Spring Break Month, Straw Hat Month,  and World Habitat Awareness Month.

All that and still the most interesting thing remains poetry?

I take poetic license then and share what some would disdainfully call a “feminist rant in metered time”, but I think, for poetry, is a pretty damn good poem that says more about the tyranny of “pretty” in a few minutes than I could in an hour.

An old high school buddy appeared on Facebook recently and I sent him a request to renew our friendship in the strictly voyeuristic kind way that is Facebook. I haven’t seen him since our freshmen year at university. He came to visit his girlfriend and wreaked a small amount of havoc with his maniac partying for a weekend and a bit, if I am recalling the time frame correctly. After that, I heard about his exploits via a mutual friend and then he vanished. No one seemed to really know where he was or what he was up to. It happens.

I wasn’t at all sure it was him to tell the truth even when he accepted my request and I checked out his page. He looked so old despite having lied about his birth year and the fact that he obviously was once seriously into weight-lifting.

But it was him.

I noticed an update he posted a couple of days later with a photo of himself at the gym announcing that he was getting back to a serious work-out regime. Aren’t we all that way when we have a new man in our lives? Well, I was. Back in the day. I think they were during the mid-1990’s. I haven’t had a serious work out schedule since before husband(s) and child. The number one reason women fall to physical pieces are husbands followed closely by children. Even if you manage to keep a routine, every little thing that comes up (and much does when one is serious about one’s marriage and the upbringing of kids) derails it and usually with more regularity than the schedule itself.

The thing I noticed the most about my old friend’s update was the idea that how we look is the most important aspect of ourselves. How could anyone possibly care about us if we didn’t work out? Weren’t thin? Haven’t retained our youthful glow? Or at the very least weren’t trying beyond reason to do all of the above.

I found a great link to a blog piece talking about our tendency (well mine anyway) to talk about our physical flaws but not about those aspects of ourselves that rock. For example, I am quick to bemoan the little belly I have now that I am well into the change over from fertile to not at all, but I do not talk about my great legs or my awesome bum. And how do I know? Well, both my  husbands – late and current – raved about them. I also have gorgeous eyes and I know that because my daughter has them, so I have had the opportunity to look at them from a different vantage point for quite a few years now.

What else? I have the tiniest most dainty wrists and I look great in low cut tops because of the way my collarbone and upper chest are defined.

Jenny, the Bloggess, posted a picture of herself for National Cleavage Day last week with an invitation to join her and link back. I have below the neck shots but hesitated – mostly because I don’t own a set and never have (unless you count when I was pregnant). It reminded me of the t-shirt Friday shots I tried for a while until I decided that I just was not that kind of an exhibitionist. I tmi with words, and I don’t need a thousand of them to paint a picture. It would be nice to have that kind of confidence, but I will work on it.


I was reading an interview with Lisa Delaney, the author of Former Fat Girl, today as I hunted down blogging ideas. The title of her book caught my eye because I too am a former fat girl and being such felt an immediate kinship. It may not be easy being green according to the song sung by a rather famous amphibian Muppet but his portly pink companion could have warbled an entire opera on the downside of being “pleasingingly plump”.

In the news this last week there have been many articles about a recent study that found, unsurprisingly, that diets do not work. There are no long term benefits for the vast majority of people who attempt to lose weight using the array of dieting methods that proliferate like e. coli on Canadian beef. Only a very small percentage of dieters will lose weight and keep it off for more than a year. The majority will gain it all back and then some. I didn’t need MSNBC to tell me this though. I know from firsthand experience. I was put on my first diet by a….I would like to say “well-meaning” pediatrician, but I think in retrospect he was a sexist pig. I was twelve and almost as tall as I am now and maybe about only about 10 lbs heavier. Which is to say, I wasn’t fat as much as in need of more exercise. I was pretty much at the weight my body has always gravitated towards regardless of my level of fitness. But in 1975 the baby boomers had yet no need of Lycra in their Levi’s and the clothing industry had not begun its vanity “re-sizing”, and I was shit outta luck. I didn’t lose much weight. 10 lbs maybe. Putting me curiously at about the weight I am now and which my mother, ironically, thinks is much too thin. At the time I wouldn’t have found the irony amusing even if I had known what irony was. I was the “fat girl” at school. The “unattractive sister/daughter” at home. I wore big clunky plastic framed glasses, and my mother commanded me to keep my hair as short as a boy’s because long hair “makes you look heavy”. I was forever being told that I had such a pretty face if only I would lose some weight. The backhanded compliment of choice for fat girls.

So I lost 10 lbs. My father was pleased. My mother “rewarded” me with a trip to the mall for new clothes (a dubious reward as I hated to shop for clothes) and my younger, thin as a stick sister got her nose bent out of shape when boys began to notice me. Older boys. I gained the weight back. And thus the pattern for the vicious circle of the next 15 years or so began to spin.

You see, you are always a fat girl inside. It doesn’t matter how much time has elapsed. The memories of taunting and name-calling. The dances you never got asked to. The horrible shopping experiences that would have reduced you to tears, if you were the kind who cried in front of people, and left your mother grim and tight-lipped. None of that ever goes away.

I started to lose weight when I went to college because I walked everywhere I went mainly and I was free of the meat and potato diet that my father’s preferences imposed on our family. At some point I started running and began to toy with weight lifting on and off. In my mid-twenties, I picked up martial arts and began to run in earnest despite the asthma that I was developing. By my thirties I exercised nearly every day of the week for a hour or two a day and recently, certain health conditions have compelled me to explore organic, meat-less and nearly dairy-free eating. I do all of this because I want to. Not to be thin. But. There is still a part of me that needs to check my weight often. That panics a little when clothes feel a bit snug. And that mentally shudders at the thought of gaining weight. Because you are always a fat girl inside. Always.