We've been talking about body image, what size beauty comes in, all that, all day at the Message Board of Love.
I am just sitting here on my large but round and muscular belly-dancin' ass, in my size 16 work clothes, thinking how weird it is that the one who made me feel really good about my body, and does it on a consistent basis, is a teeny-tiny girl with snaky hips, abs that would make Gwen Stefani cry into her beer, and a size 2 to 4 wardrobe.
Not only does L'Ailee make me feel beautiful--just by her sharp intakes of breath and her big dark eyes that get bigger and darker at the sight of me, which I love more than words, even though I get those sometimes--but she has learned from my experience. I know that talking to her about growing up chubby has made her extremely compassionate to the bigger girls in her middle-school gymnastics class, for instance. And I have helped her make her other gym more size-friendly, too.
She has also taught me some things. I can't guiltlessly laugh at my skinny sisters' expense anymore, or imply that they are not "real" women. I have seen that grim look on my wife's face much too often when all the womens' jeans in the stores are bunching around her hips and she can't find a bra in her size that doesn't have padding. Shopping's not real fun for her, either. Sometimes she gets yelled at by women in the gym who insist that she's too skinny to know how they feel.
I joke sometimes that since I can't have that body for myself, I did the next best thing and married its owner. It is the weirdest feeling to simultaneously get turned on by your lover's body and be jealous of it. Living with her has made me a bit less jealous. I realize now that we really are different. I have seen how she eats; I have seen how she constantly fidgets. I have seen that she is perfectly designed for the sports she has chosen to make a living at. Thanks to her, I have seen that I am perfectly designed for belly-dancing, too.
A woman at our gym recently said that if we were mixed together, we'd be two decent-looking, normal-sized women. One of L'Ailee's friends, a man, chivalrously defended us: "That would be a shame, because they're both beautiful women now. They're two different kinds of beautiful." We figured we could leave the conversation at that, but we still love that phrase. Two different kinds of beautiful. It makes sense.
I hope for a world in which a skinny little gymnast and a zaftig swimmer and belly-dancer can both feel okay about themselves. I hope for a world where no woman has to insult another to feel good about her own self. And I wonder how straight women can learn the empathy for their sisters of different sizes that L'Ailee and I have taught each other. Surely we women don't all have to have sex with each other in order to appreciate ourselves and each other as we are...do we? I'd hate to think it's either that or more and more backbiting 'til the end of time.