Thursday, August 04, 2005

Irony and body image

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.

8 comments:

scribble said...

I would say that I am shocked by that insensitive comment, but it would be a lie.
How dare her really.
god I hate people sometimes...

CrackerLilo said...

We are no longer shocked. Don't you know that whenever a woman steps out of the house in anything less than a burqa, she automatically calls a referendum on her appearance...

We'd have hated people, but L'Ailee's friend really was quite sweet. That woman is a co-worker of L'Ailee's who, thankfully, neither of us see very often. (But if someone asks either of us how her class is, we both know what to say, that's for sure.) I don't know what either of us would've said, but we were both working up to something, in our own ways, before he said that.

Besides, it just confirms what I'm saying--women need to learn how to love each other (even the straight ones, in all kinds of ways, not just sexual) and to love ourselves. We need to learn to stop the backbiting.

SassyFemme said...

I think many times women are afraid to love each other (in the platonic sense). IMO, in the straight world there's such a perceived sense of competition amongst women, to get the guy, to have the better this or that. Women also tend to have low self esteem, and just like with kids, when the pick on or put another down, it makes them feel good. Estrogen bullying, per se. Competition + low self esteem = diaster. Put together a group of women, in strong healthy committed relationships, sure of themselves and their place in the world, and with good body images, no matter what their sizes, and you won't have the back-biting and estrogen bullying. That other stuff doesn't matter. It's all about enjoying being women, and the time spent together. Now if we could only bottle that and sell it!

for_the_lonely said...

I am very insecure about my body image...always have been, and I think I always will be. I have heard the saying before, and perhaps you have too.." if she loves me while I'm fat and imperfected, then she'll love me when I am thin..." to be loved even when you feel that you have so many imperfections is the best. And it is good to know that your loved one has many insecurities too, even when you see her as the most beautiful woman in the world...

Thanks for sharing this story! It really made my day..and made me realize that even with imperfections, my wife loves me unconditionally!!!

Love to you and yours,
Sarah

Karen said...

why do women feel the need to judge each other?
I wonder if that woman has ever felt a sisterhood with her own gender?
a real non-competitive relationship with another woman?
a friendship that doesn't include talking behind their back and being so judgemental.
We are all different and we are all beautiful because of our differences.
man....

CrackerLilo said...

Karen, I think you are the first straight woman to comment on this thread.

So how did you develop an accepting attitude towards your sisters? I am genuinely curious. I thought about all this when I realized that the way I learned it was completely unfeasible for most of the other women on that board to try.

Hootin' said...

I think a whole lot of what sassyfemme says is right.

I'm straight, and I can find it in myself to love people (male or female) for what and who they are. But that trait seems to be pretty rare...and a LOT of my female friends are SO competitive.

My boss, for one, gets SO jealous if ANYONE talks to me before they talk to her...male or female, friend or co-worker...it makes no difference.

Now what good does that do anyone? All it does is make HER miserable and those around her uncomfortable.

I have a lesbian friend who is just the most wonderful person ever...she's so sweet and open and honest and unpretentious, and it doesn't matter WHO is around...men, women, no matter...she's who she is and she's smart and thoughtful and caring and funny. (And she's getting married to her sweetheart in a few months!) It's just too bad that more women can't be like that.

Even a few of us straight women think so!

Karen said...

to answer your question,
I have had a problem being friends with most women because of the attitude I spoke of earlier here.

I have avoided superficial, judging types of people in general all my life because of the hateful, negative energy they give off.

I am who I am. my friends love me for the things they see in me. we are all special and beautiful in our own wondrous ways.

Women are truly beautiful.
like art but real, solid, intense.
I love the way my best friend smiles--the little lines around her eyes, the funny slant she has when she stands, the look in her eyes when she is serious, the way she looks in yellow--she shines. I love her for a million reasons. women can be the most complex, inspirational, artistic creatures ever created.

yes, I am straight, but I can love a woman will all my heart. it isn't about sex--it is about the fact we are all sisters. we are all different and yet connected in this special plane. I embrace it and feel so blessed to see things in this way.

it would be nice to see women all love each other and appreciate the beauty we all share.

hugs,
Karen