The last couple of days, while riding the el, I’ve been thinking I need to put together a new blog project: going through a day of relatively normal activities and photographing every image I run across that’s meant to trigger anxiety/feelings of inadequacy.
It’s not even just the weight loss ads, though there are plenty of those. It’s the “Don’t let your kid fall out of a window!” ads. The “Do you suffer from…?” ads. The “Are you where you want to be in your career?” ads.
I said relatively normal activities up there because, frankly, “normal” for me doesn’t involve getting out much. I write from home, and I usually stay in the neighborhood when I go out for lunch or a walk, so I see the same stuff every day. Thus, when I ride the el downtown, I see all these ads I’m not usually exposed to — including those you can see from the train, not just the ones on it — and it occurred to me the other night that if I actually commuted to an office downtown, I would be subjected to a couple dozen ads telling me how much I suck (nearly half of those offering me “help” for the undeniable problem of my fatness) just in the course of getting to and from work.
And then, as we’ve been discussing over the last couple of days, once you get to work, you are either conscripted into participation in Office Diet Talk, or you are a stuck-up bitch who thinks you’re too good to hate yourself or something.
And then there are the ambushes, the self-esteem grenades you can’t even begin to predict. Yesterday, I went into a store and tried on some clothes. As the saleswoman was walking me to the dressing room, she remarked on a very “body-conscious” pencil dress I’d picked out, “Oh, that is SO cute! I have it in brown!”
Me: Yeah, I love it! I hope it looks good on.
Her: Well [looks at my gut], you’re gonna need Spanx. I’ve got the 12, and I definitely have to wear the Spanx. In fact, I’m trying to eat less just for this dress! Ha ha ha ha!
Me: Yeah, ha.
Hey, saleswoman, did I ask what you think of your own body, let alone mine? Did I ask what size you wear? Did I ask about your eating habits? Did I ask whether you think a curvy woman could rock this dress sans spandexical assistance? NO. And yet, you’re still talking.
I can’t even tell you how many times shit like that has happened to me. I have an exaggerated hourglass figure, which means I have two choices: wear clothes that show off my shape, or look like I’m wearing a tent from the boobs down. But clothes that highlight an hourglass shape will often also highlight the belly pooch that goes along with the wide hips, or the outer thigh saddle bags, for instance. This is because I am a human being, not Jessica Rabbit. I have come to terms with that.
But a whole lot of women who are in the business of selling me clothes are not so sanguine about my belly and thighs. They desperately try to steer me away from curve-conscious clothing — or at least encourage me to put on some Spanx, for the love of Christ — because I don’t actually look like a cartoon in it. I just look like me. THE HORROR.
So some days, it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference how much I like looking like me; perfect strangers will still insist that I shouldn’t like it. How dare you, a person who actually knows what your body is like and which clothes make you feel happy and which make you feel frumpy — not to mention the person who will be paying for this garment — believe your opinion is the only one that matters? It’s almost like you trust yourself! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?
And then, AND THEN… you’ve got your own family and friends to deal with.
Good with Cheese has a typically great post up today about eating lunch with her mom.
Anyway, on Tuesday this week, she said she thought it was a double-chocolate cookie day. I just wasn’t feeling it; I really wanted the Fig Newton, so I told her she should go ahead and have the special cookie, but I was gonna go with the Newton. She became…well, pouty, and said if I wasn’t going to have the cookie, then she didn’t need it either.
Can I just tell you how much this kind of exchange drives me BATSHIT? As I said in GWC’s comments, I have one ex-friend I always think of when stuff like this comes up. She? Is categorically A Dessert Person. I am not. I mean, I love plenty of sweet things, but given the choice between sweet and savory, I’ll almost always go for the latter. This means that when I go out to dinner, I’m focused on the entree; if I’m still hungry after that, or if a particular dessert sounds so mindblowing I must try it, I’ll have dessert. But usually, I don’t, because I’m already perfectly satisfied, not because I have anything against dessert.
She, however, thinks dessert is the whole point of going out. She’ll get a salad for an entree and only eat half of it because she’s got her eyes on the prize; she’s the type of person who deliberately saves room for dessert. I’m really, really not.
This means that every fucking time I’ve eaten out with her, she’s gotten all excited about dessert — and asked me to split one with her. And nearly every time, I’ve said, “No thanks, I’m full. You go ahead.”
First, the cajoling: “Come on, don’t you want dessert?”
No. I’m full.
But doesn’t it sound good?
Sure, but I’m full. So right now, no, it’s not particularly appealing to me.
Just a couple bites?
Really, I’M FULL. YOU ARE ALLOWED TO ORDER DESSERT ALL BY YOURSELF. IF YOU CAN’T FINISH IT, YOU ARE ALLOWED TO LEAVE SOME BEHIND. YOU DO NOT NEED A PARTNER TO EAT DESSERT. AND I AM FUCKING FULL.
Then comes the pouting. That’s because she doesn’t really want a partner in tackling the dessert, she wants an accomplice. Also, she’s not asking to share because she thinks she can’t finish it herself; she’s asking to share because she thinks she can. She is stone terrified of devouring the world.
It doesn’t matter how many fucking times I tell her to go ahead and order dessert. It doesn’t matter that she ate a third of what I ate for dinner, specifically because she wanted dessert, and is probably still hungry at this point. It doesn’t matter that she is a grown woman paying for her own meal. All that matters is, she has to choose between eating dessert alone and not ordering it at all.
The former choice is unbearable, so she takes the latter. And pouts. And it is all my fault. I have deprived her of dessert because I had the gall to fill up on food I actually craved. The fat chick doesn’t even want dessert! (This woman is, of course, tiny.) How could she possibly be so bad, so indulgent, in light of that? How utterly mortifying would it be to admit she would like a piece of cheesecake when the fat chick is just having coffee? FUCKING FAT CHICK!
You’ll note I said this is an ex-friend. There are numerous reasons for that, but I can tell you I sure as hell got sick of dining with her.
And all of this goes to the point Fillyjonk made in the midst of the whole dieting kerfuffle, a point that deserves to be made again and again and again: it is fucking hard to accept and trust your own body in this culture.
It is hard to feel adequate, let alone proud of yourself, when everywhere you look, there is literally a sign saying there’s something wrong with you.
It is hard to accept the label of Weird Office Bitch instead of cataloguing your self-hatred along with your co-workers.
It is hard to have fun with fashion and enjoy adorning your imperfect body in clothes that make you happy, when perfect strangers are telling you you need a girdle and a diet before you even get the fucking thing on.
It is hard to simply eat what you desire and leave it at that, when even people you love cannot do the same — and furthermore cannot shut up about the moral value of certain foods.
It is hard.
It is hard.
It is hard.
Sabotage lurks around every goddamned corner.
About the only thing harder is playing the game.