101, Fashion, Fat, Plus Size Fashion

Marilyn’s Law

Over at Big Fat Deal, they’re discussing a Gawker thread about “curvy” women that I really, really don’t recommend reading — but I couldn’t resist posting about one of Mo Pie’s observations on it:

Marilyn Monroe’s name is dropped. Maybe there should be a Monroe’s corollary to Godwin’s Law.

Oh, lord, YES THERE SHOULD. As an online discussion about fat women grows longer, the probability of a mention of Marilyn Monroe’s dress size approaches one.

Y’all. Seriously. I know Shapelings aren’t likely to pull the “Marilyn Monroe wore a size 16” argument, but for the benefit of the whole entire internet, I need to say this: STOP IT.

Marilyn Monroe was not ever, ever fat — or anything close to it — let alone plus-sized. At times, she was slightly heavier than today’s ingenues, but so are a lot of fifth-graders. As for the dress size, you can check out Snopes for the full treatment, or you can just digest these facts:

  • Sizing has changed. I usually wear a size 16 now. In the fifties, I probably would have worn a 20 or 22, minimum.
  • The “Marilyn Monroe wore a size 16” myth might also come from a dress of hers being auctioned as a contemporary British size 16, which is roughly a U.S. 12. And that was only an estimate.
  • She was 5’5 1/2″, and the highest recorded weight for her is 140 lbs. The highest recorded waist size is 23 inches. Even if those numbers were fudged (and they might very well have been), she would have had to weigh nearly 20 pounds more than her highest recorded weight to have the same BMI as this woman.
  • Once again, I am a contemporary U.S. size 16 (more or less). I’m 5’2″ and 185 lbs., and I have a 34-inch waist. I do not look like Marilyn Monroe.
  • Even if Marilyn Monroe at one time owned a dress with a size 16 label in it? She was, for most of her adult life, clearly not a fifties size 16, let alone a contemporary one. How do I know this? I HAVE EYES.

I tried to represent a range of different sizes there since, like most women, Marilyn wasn’t exactly the same size throughout her short life. In a couple of those photos, yeah, sure, she would be considered “Hollywood fat.” But, setting aside the fact that “Hollywood fat” is FUCKING INSANE, the more interesting point is that she doesn’t necessarily look too fat to get work today in all of them. That last photo, and the Seven Year Itch one? Are, like, Scarlett Johansson/Catherine Zeta-Jones/Salma Hayek-style “curvy” (which is to say, “not emaciated”). She’s not even America Ferrera “fat,” for fuck’s sake. And speaking of which, if you Photoshopped the shit out of the pink bathing suit shot — which is exactly what would happen if she were a contemporary starlet? She’d be ready for the cover of FHM.

The other three were the “fattest” pictures I could find of her on Google. And the woman in those photos is not going to be opening a Lane Bryant charge account any time soon, I’ll tell you what.

I have no idea why the “Marilyn Monroe was a size 16!” myth has gained so much goddamned traction, but it needs to stop. Because it only reinforces a more damaging myth, that fat people are too stupid to realize we’re fat. That somehow, our eyes and brains and mirrors don’t work the same as thin people’s, so we delusionally believe we’re not fat — we’re just the same as Marilyn Monroe! — which is the only possible explanation for why we still are fat. ‘Cause if we knew, we’d have stopped it already, right? We’d have put down the tray of donuts and taken up running, which everyone knows are the keys to making any fat person thin.

Marilyn Monroe was a beautiful, curvaceous woman. But she was not remotely fat. And she was certainly not ever a contemporary size 16.

All of the fat women I know are well aware of those facts. It would be awesome if the internet stopped acting like we aren’t.

92 thoughts on “Marilyn’s Law”

  1. All of the fat women I know are well aware of those facts. It would be awesome if the internet stopped acting like we aren’t.

    Too right! Because I almost never hear “Marilyn Monroe was a size 16” anymore. What I hear is “Marilyn Monroe WASN’T a size 16 [you delusional fatties].” People actually spend time refuting a stupid argument we never made, and it’s time we started calling on them by making Marilyn’s Law as well-known a fallacy as Godwin’s.

  2. Plus, the whole Marilyn Monroe thing is nothing so much as an excuse for people to launch into a whole rant on “vanity sizing.” “Oh, the horrors! Women who think they’re a size 4 might really be a size 8! How can they know they should be dieting even harder?!”

  3. As someone who sews and loves patterns from the fifties I can say taht *maybe* she was a size 16 in pattern maker’s sizes.

    a 1950 size 16 Advance patttern has measurements of 34-28-37… That is close to a size 6-8 according to Banana Republic.

  4. Yes, fat people believe they have the right to exist and be treated with respect even though – and here’s the weird part – even though we don’t look like Marilyn Monroe! Imagine that.

    No wonder all the people who do look like Marilyn Monroe are so freaked out by FA.

  5. Strange – I usually hear that Marilyn was a size 12. (It’s still annoying, however. And Snopes is only furthering that myth: “A woman of Marilyn height, at the extreme of Marilyn’s weight range (140 lbs), would probably wear a size 12 dress today.” Really? Because I’m just a half-inch taller than Marilyn, and at 140 lbs, I think I was a size 6.

  6. I think I remember there being a line in “The Misfits” where Monroe’s character says what her dress size is. That’s probably what started the whole thing.

  7. Sorry, anyone – this goes for fat and thin alike- who relates their self worth and/or intelligence to the amount of fat on their hips is a complete idiot. Anyone who validates themselves by comparing their body type to a DEAD icon is no better.

    I took the time to read the comments on the gawker thread. I know this was against my better judgement, but I’m a glutton for punishment. Listing your measurements or waist size, validating that you’re ((((NOT FAT)))) and then berating fat WOMEN specifically for DARING to use words like “curvy” to describe themselves, is just mind numbing. You’re doing nothing to promote your empowerment or that of the fat woman. You’re still tying your selfworth to the size of your waist, which is what the original article/video is about. God it just gets me ANGRY!!

    Why can’t people see this?! You’re not any better or worse fat or thin, you’re still a woman. You may think you have some power because you’re thin, but really you don’t. To insult a woman using “curvy” because you want to use it is just…..just…..ARG.

  8. a 1950 size 16 Advance patttern has measurements of 34-28-37… That is close to a size 6-8 according to Banana Republic.

    This is what I too have found Lexy, a 1950s size 16 is about a contemporary U.S. size 8 today. Looking at all those gorgeous photos of Marilyn is depressing when you consider that, during the 1950s, she was considered svelte enough to be a Hollywood superstar, but today she’d be considered a plus-sized actress/model.

    We’re constantly being told that American’s are fatter than ever, and that ours is the first generation to have a shorter life expectancy than our grandparents due to our collective fatness, ad nauseum. Yet, the specter of Marilyn Monroe begs the question are we getting fatter, or are our standards for fatness shrinking?

  9. I do get what you’re saying… but I do think the “Marilyn Monroe would be considered fat by today’s standards” is a valid critique of the way beauty standards are becoming thinner and thinner. I mean… look at her thighs. When I had thighs that size, I thought they were enormous. And then I saw some pictures of some of those 40s/50s icons with their full thighs and it blew my mind. Because in this day and age, women are expected to have very thin legs and stick thin arms if they want to be considered attractive. I just think it’s a good example of how the preference for very thin women isn’t innate, because as recently as 50 years ago, slightly more volutptuous women were preferred.

  10. You know, it reminds me of the woman who occasionally trolls Ask the Blondes by complaining that fake blondes are infantilizing themselves and denying real blondes their due by making them look bad. (After much searching, I finally found her, so SP readers can know I am not making this up.)

    If you’re that attached to the one word you consider to be identity-constitutive? Then fucking LEARN ENGLISH BETTER. (Or, you know, whatever your language of choice is.) I could probably think of 20 synonyms for “curvy” right now. If “curvy” has been tainted for you, get the fuck over it and rent a thesaurus.

  11. Yet, the specter of Marilyn Monroe begs the question are we getting fatter, or are our standards for fatness shrinking?

    No kidding. One thing I will venture to say is that, if Scarlett Johansson and America Ferrera and Kelly Clarkson had been around in the ’50s, there wouldn’t have been endless discussion about how “fat” they are.

  12. Also, I have to say I agree with Becky — MM is absolutely “Hollywood fat,” no question. Doesn’t change my feelings about Marilyn’s Law (we’ve got better things to go on, you know? And any troll worth his salt will just say “that’s right, she’s a hoggie”) or about the “waa, you ruined the word curvy” argument.

    Although I must say, I do feel like we should keep “curvy” out of what I believe I once called the hinterlands of euphemism. That’s just for semantic reasons, though, not because I feel that curvy women are somehow insulted by being implicitly associated with fat women and not being able to think of any other fucking way to describe themselves.

  13. I do get what you’re saying… but I do think the “Marilyn Monroe would be considered fat by today’s standards” is a valid critique of the way beauty standards are becoming thinner and thinner.

    Totally, Becky. See my comment above, which I was writing as yours came in. But still, you don’t have to claim she was a contemporary 16 — or even 12 — to make that point.

    If “curvy” has been tainted for you, get the fuck over it and rent a thesaurus.

    Fuckin’ A.

  14. And any troll worth his salt will just say “that’s right, she’s a hoggie”) or about the “waa, you ruined the word curvy” argument.

    This is so true. I wish they’d just come right out and say that anyone with a BMI more than 25 must restrict themselves to the words “obese”, “hideous”, and “in desperate need of major change.” It’s pretty obvious that this is what they’re skirting around.

  15. Thank you!

    Also, despite her non-fatness, she was still a miserable person (not horrible, but sad). So there goes the thin=happy/fat=sad arguement. Her weight was not the reason for her problems. (And of course Hollywood fat has nothing to do with anything sane. She was normal/thin!)

  16. This is so true. I wish they’d just come right out and say that anyone with a BMI more than 25 must restrict themselves to the words “obese”, “hideous”, and “in desperate need of major change.”

    Try a BMI over 21.

  17. I don’t even know what to say. I’ve spent most of my life in the curvy/fat inbetweenie netherworld as an extreme hourglass, and only in the last couple of years have I been coming to terms with the whole size-12-to-14-equals-fat Weird Yet Incontrovertible Fact of Contemporary Life. It has not been a comfortable process. Which is to say I recognize that defensiveness at Gawker. Five years ago I’d have been posting the same sort of thing. AND, it looks really, really ugly to me — ugly and terrified and very small, small in terms of character.

    It’s an awful awful way to live, that defensiveness, is the thing. I mean, basically, you’re making every single food and clothing decision in your entire life from a position of abject terror.

    Is it too broken-record to say: thank you again for this blog?

  18. Don’t the “fat is not curvy, quit ruining the word curvy” for me types remind you for all the world of all the bone-in-the-ass types who used to complain that gay people had ruined the word “gay” for them? “Gay used to mean happy, and now it means you’re some horrible pervert!”

  19. Try a BMI over 21.

    No, I’m pretty sure that the 21-25 group still get to use plump, volumptuous, and Rubenesque.

  20. Fprgot to add, I generally dislike “curvy”–it either means “fat but we’re afraid to say it” or “thin with big boobs/butt/magic push-up bra”. Grrr, the latter really annoys me. It is a nice word, though.

  21. Exactly Sniper!

    What really irks me about that comment thread is that these are women, insulting other women based on beauty ideals. I’d say that anyone taking the time out to list measurements and cup sizes on a comment thread is likely not meeting these standards either. SO, rather than intelligently argue against why a video relating to a woman’s hip to waist ratio and her intelligence is complete bullcrap, they’d just rather just further insult their OWN freaking gender.

    Buying into the idea that you’re somehow better off because you’re beautiful, as a woman, just shows you that they likely haven’t taken time to really understand why these ideals exist in the first place.

  22. Okay, I hadn’t read the original thing. So they’e mad about fat women calling themselves curvy? It’s acucrate, a lot of body types fit into curvy. I guess I feel maybe *they’re* misusing it—but I don’t like saying that either, because that just puts down another body type. How sad they are doing that to other women.

  23. Ok Lisa, you said it so much better than I did. It is being afraid. Afraid of some unknown rhelm that you enter once you’re FAT!!

  24. For once I’m going to stick to Sanity Watchers and not read that thread. I’m not even going to use my Flex Sanity Points and read 35 of the comments.

    That being said, thank you so much for this post. This has bugged me for a long while, for exactly the reason you said, that it reinforces people’s belief that fat people are delusional and dumb about how fat they are. The other related one, which thankfully you don’t hear very much any more, is “J. Lo has a big butt!” When you use it, there is that weird Marilyn double whammy where you trap yourself into demonstrating both that fat people are too dumb to see how fat they are, and agreeing that thin J. Lo (she’s even thinner now, but for the sake of argument) really is fat–i.e. that Hollywood fat is the weight standard we should all be adhering to–so just think how disgusting YOU, an actual plus-size woman, are. Yet you still see people going off half-cocked and using the Marilyn argument, thinking it scores a point for fat acceptance, and it makes me cringe every time. It does so much more harm than good.

    I too have recently seen the “and don’t tell me Marilyn was a size 16 either” said by haters on occasions when nobody ever made the argument in the first place. Marilyn’s Law seems to be the damage that keeps on damaging.

  25. Alexandra, I’m 5’5″, and for most of my teens (in the 80s) I was around 140. I took a British size 14-16, depending on manufacturer as per usual. What’s that in US sizes, anyone? Agreed, Marilyn was no way fat, but Becky’s critique is certainly valid, because at Marilyn’s biggest I was most certainly regarded as fat by a lot of the people I knew. (One of whom was my 1920s-born mother, who has always been skinny…then again, back in the late 40s she was quaffing powdered drinks intended to put weight ON her. Changing times!)

    Incidentally,. does anyone else really hate the term ‘vanity sizing’? People talk about this as if it’s actually fat women who’ve demanded sizes be made bigger to ‘make themselves feel better about being fat’. Um, I never asked for that. If you want to really give me what I want, try actually standardizing the frickin’ sizes so an 18 in one store is an 18 everywhere else! Grr.

    FJ, your point is also a valid one. Curvy means having curves. Refers to shape, not size. Annoys me when stores say they sell ‘clothes for curvy women!’ – meaning, bigger sizes – and you then find most of what’s in store is designed to make you look as shapeless as possible! There’s room for a clause in the Trades Description Act there, I think.

  26. Emerald, a UK 14-16 is approximately a US 10-12. Although, US sizes have changed since the 80s, so you may have been as small as a current US 8. (Which is what I’d estimate Marilyn at at her biggest, just based on pictures).

    Unfortunately, I’m not sure the term “vanity sizing” is entirely inaccurate. I think there are size 18 women who would rather buy a pair of jeans that said 16, and I know there are size 6 women who would rather buy a pair of jeans that said 4. I think that is part of the reason sizes are getting bigger… I think part of the reason is just that people are getting a little bigger too though. The more people who are bigger than a size 14, the more it makes sense to make the 14 bigger so you can sell to more people. (Of course, what would make even more sense would be to just add a 16 and an 18 to your line, but then you’d be selling clothes for fat people, and we could never have that).

  27. What gets me about the “vanity sizing” term and rhetoric is the emphasis on the “vanity” – as if women are just so happy to convince themselves that they’re really a size 4 instead of a size 6 because they’re just so shallow, hah hah, when, in reality, our society puts so much emphasis on a fucking arbitrary number that women take it seriously because they’re taught it actually says something about them as people.

  28. O.C., they did mention it in The Misfits. I can’t remember what size she said she was, though. Gay mentions that he recently bought his daughter a dress of the same size. I can’t remember what size it was, but I do recall being surprised. Then I remembered the whole “vanity sizing” thing.

  29. lilahmorgan, that is so well-put. It goes back to fear again — fear of being fat, fear of being seen as fat, fear of being unacceptable. It’s not vanity sizing, it’s terror sizing — if you’re being judged by whether you measure up, you will cling to anything that says you’re closer to the acceptable standard.

  30. If you’re that attached to the one word you consider to be identity-constitutive? Then fucking LEARN ENGLISH BETTER. (Or, you know, whatever your language of choice is.) I could probably think of 20 synonyms for “curvy” right now. If “curvy” has been tainted for you, get the fuck over it and rent a thesaurus.

    I totally agree FJ, but just to play contrarian… I dislike using the term “real women” to characterize fat women, because it suggests that thin women aren’t also “real women.” In using “curvy” as euphemism for fat, I can see how thin women would object to be labeled, by proxy, as stick-figures. Yet, many of the commenters referenced at BFD, who object to the label act as if they have a monopoly of the word.

    Personally, I don’t like using the word curvy, plus-size or BBW or any of the other synonyms we use to avoid labeling ourselves as fat. I’m fat – so what?

  31. I totally agree FJ, but just to play contrarian… I dislike using the term “real women” to characterize fat women, because it suggests that thin women aren’t also “real women.”

    I’m not seeing how that’s contrarian, Rachel. I totally agree with you there, and I know FJ does, too. There’s a big difference between “curvy” and “real.”

  32. Rachel, well, I did go on to say that I don’t think “curvy” should be used proprietarily to mean “fat.” It’s semantically confusing when a word that means one thing gets used solely to mean another (though it happens plenty), and you’re right that this one has potential to marginalize. Even if it doesn’t label thin women as stick figures by omission, it does remove one potential word for people who are thin but busty and hippy. And I think we should have as many viable words to choose from as possible!

    But that’s exactly why thin and curvy women don’t own the term, and don’t get to pee all over it. And if they think we’ve already peed on it, there are plenty of other words for them.

    Personally, I don’t like using the word curvy, plus-size or BBW or any of the other synonyms we use to avoid labeling ourselves as fat. I’m fat – so what?

    This is totally the best argument against euphemisms. Yes. We don’t need to be coy about fat.

  33. thank you for this post!

    I read the comments on the Gawker thread yesterday–it was pretty rough.
    The only comment I really liked was the one saying “what does Tionna Smalls have to say about this?” (Tionna is a new Gawker advice columnist and is a lady of size, curvy, voluptuous, even fat! :) who posts her curvalicious picture with her column and advocates being the best YOU you can be, whatever you look like. She also throws out gems like “your vagina is your center”. She’s a riot.)

  34. Lilahmorgan and FJ, great point about the “vanity sizing” thing.

    Rachel, I don’t like using euphemisms for fat either. But lots of fat women are both fat and curvy, and those commenters seem so angry about those women labelling themselves as such. I don’t think it’s the implication that they are “un-curvy”, I think it’s the idea of their tiny-waisted selves being associated in any way with a fat woman.

  35. And if they think we’ve already peed on it, there are plenty of other words for them.

    I’m thinking of a few right now…

    It’s not vanity sizing, it’s terror sizing —

    YES!! The emotional investment in those numbers on the tag is just insane. I know I should be way beyond worrying about them in terms of years, experience, and common sense, but I still cringe if someone catches a glimpse at the size tag. Dammit.

  36. I was a size 16 for about 20 minutes once, at the end of a grueling, parentally-enforced diet and aerobics regimine that continued to torment my psyche for years. And my figure was never remotely close to Marilyn Monroe’s.

    I don’t understand the obsession over dress size in the first place. It almost seems like women have gone from the obsessive worry about the numbers in their age (which many women still do, but as aging becomes less a stigma, it’s getting easier), to obsessive worry about the numbers in their jeans. Like anyone can see the frigging label in your jeans, anyway!

    I am 39 years old. I wear a size 20 – 22. I am proud of who I am. There, I said it.

    Coincidentally, I am leaving the house right now to go clothes shopping.

  37. Re: terror sizing, I remember reading a comment on a message board from a woman who said she had to buy clothes from Lands’ End because whenever her mother visited, she would snoop in her closet and examine her clothing tags to make sure she wasn’t “getting fat.” A size 8 was good enough to keep her mother off her back and LE was the most generously-cut retailer, so she shopped there.

    Of course it goes the other way too because, sad to say, the hateful shooting down of anyone who mentions size online (like if you say a celebrity is a size 0 there are always people out there who feel the need to point out that she is ACTUALLY more like a 6 by traditional sizing, like women’s clothing sizes are some kind of universal constant). It gets to the point where you think that no matter how small you get, you would never be as thin (aka as good) as even the “curviest” woman in the ’50s. “Vanity” sizing does not benefit me personally because I have to constantly feel like a “fraud” for the size I wear, while struggling to remember that I should not even care what that size is.

    lilahmorgan, you are absolutely right and it is infuriating. It’s like so many other issues women have to navigate in our society… we are told from an early age that factor x, y, or z is central to our identity (usually relating to our appearance or the appearance of our home and family) and we should decide whether we are good enough based on the value of x, y, or z. After we hear this long enough and succumb to the pressure, society uses this as evidence that women only care about stupid things–ha ha, how quaint, a size 8 on her skirt tag makes her happy! What a vain, trivial thing to care about, and besides it’s all vanity sizing anyway–how pathetic that she doesn’t even know she’s actually a fat disgusting pig! It’s a masterfully effective way of telling women they are stupid and vain for caring, at the same time as reinforcing the importance of being thin even more.

  38. I wasn’t dissing your size label worry – it was just a general comment!

    Hey, I know how crazy it it. I’m trying to stop with the crazy already. I’ve only stopped dieting in the last year and haven’t even got my Sanity Watchers card yet.

  39. I think I was unclear there–the size police feel the need to minimize the 0-ness of celebrities as a way of saying “oh, she’s not really THAT thin. A 0 isn’t that small. It’s just VANITY SIZING.” So that is another way it does more harm than good IMO–it allows people to pretend that today’s 0 is whatever “traditional” size they want, and therefore to pretend that stars aren’t that emaciated and it is perfectly fine to emulate them, and if you don’t agree you are just a deluded whiny fat person.

  40. “But that’s exactly why thin and curvy women don’t own the term, and don’t get to pee all over it. And if they think we’ve already peed on it, there are plenty of other words for them.”

    Oh my god, fillyjonk, that had me in hysterics. and disturbing visuals of fat girls peeing on a giant ‘curvy’ on the floor.


  41. There are some really nutso people who buy into the whole vanity sizing thing. I get most of my work clothes at a local plus size boutique who has their own definition of S, M, L, XL, 2X, etc. I am a 22/24 at Lane Bryant and typically a M or L on top and a L or XL on the bottom at this boutique.

    The first time I put on a Large top and it fit perfectly, the owner of the store offered to have the tailor replace the size tag with Medium.

    I laughed because I thought he was kidding. He wasn’t. Apparently they do it all the time.

  42. Thank you! I get soooooooooo tired of these tired arguments I don’t usually even bother challenging people.

  43. “It’s a masterfully effective way of telling women they are stupid and vain for caring, at the same time as reinforcing the importance of being thin even more.”

    spacedcowgirl, thanks for nailing EXACTLY why reading or hearing the phrase “vanity sizing” has always made me go all oogy. It really does get you from both ends.

    I love the phrase “terror sizing” sooooo much.

  44. Honestly, half the reason clothing size is something we can compare in any way is that clothing is mass produced instead of tailored by and for the individual. It’s an arbitrary standard determined by sweatshop manufacturers….and they’re so known for their copious amounts of give-a-damn-about-human-beings.

    I mean, it’s just as valid to say that freakin’ Helen of Troy was a size 26!!

  45. Okay, I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but I’ve never heard that MM wasn’t a size 16.

    I’ve always heard that she was – but it’s always been used (at least when people have said it to me) to demonstrate just how smaller sizes have gotten over the years.

    But as for the rest of the discussions… I know this might sound strange, being that I’m only just beginning to learn how to accept myself as I am… but I’ve never even thought to “vanity size” myself. If I’d rather not tell people what size I am, I just don’t. But I don’t lie about it.

    And curvy? Hell, a COW is curvy. Hippos are curvy. CARS are freakin’ curvy! Curvy don’t mean diddly when you use it to describe a woman. Shoot… a size 0 woman with breast implants could technically be described as curvy. So how anybody could think that there’s a “cut-off BMI” for what’s curvy and what isn’t needs to take a reality pill.

  46. Hello,

    First off, apologies if this is not the appropriate place to post this – u can delete it if u want of course – but i’ve been needing help with something for a long time now and this is the only community i know of where i feel i can get some support.

    I have posted anonymously tho i did give my real email – Kate and whoever is running the blog, please don’t mention me by my usual name if u happen to recognize me because, as I said, I can’t deal with how various people in my life would react. (How ridiculous is it that a topic like weight requires such secrecy for me to feel safe. sheesh.)

    i love this blog and i so appreciate how u refuse to accept all the crap and how u provide a positive place for each other, and how u dont let anybody convince u that it’s “healthy” to do things which have been proven time and time again to NOT be healthy.

    here is my problem: i’ve finally reached a point of feeling good about my body, and i understand that those insecurities i do feel sometimes would not magically go away if i tried to lose weight. in fact, they’d be worse.
    and i know that i AM healthy because i’m active and i eat in response to my needs.
    (I agree that even if i were NOT healthy i still deserve respect, and i hate the way health is the new morality and its somehow only used in terms of fat. if u do unhealthy shit to get skinny nobody berrates u, they applaud u… but i digress.)

    Anyway here is where i’m stuck: i’ve been gaining some weight. And I don’t know how to deal with it.
    And I don’t tell most people or discuss it with most people because it will open up the door for them to try to get me on a diet, and i dont feel strong enough to deal with that.
    It’s like, i was strong enough to deal with BEing fatter, but GETTING even fatter – that change – worries me.
    It drags me back into negative thinking.
    And i have found no real reason for it either – i was steady for a long time, with the same habits, and now i’m getting a bit fatter for no apparent reason.
    Of course, there have been times in my life when i got thinner for no apparent reason and of course i didnt think anything was wrong with that… because i do live in this society and am affected by it.
    yet when the weight goes up, i worry what if it IS unhealthy. argh. what if it never stops and i get bigger and bigger? i do have these fears but i dont feel like they help in any way…

    What i did do, which i think was a positive thing for me, is get rid of some clothes that were too small and buy some bigger ones. I didn’t feel like it was helping me to not have anything to wear…

    Any advice how to deal with this? This is the only place i could think to turn where people wouldn’t focus on getting me to control my weight but rather help me just deal with whats happening…
    Argh. I feel scared and panicky when I think about it. And oddly enough, most of the time, when i just look at myself in the mirror, i still DO feel like i look nice. And i don’t want that to go away because of the knowledge that my weight is going up.

    anyway sorry the post was so long… and i hope its ok to post it here but u can delete it or move it if u wish.


  47. Bleh. I hate vanity sizing. I mean, isn’t the entire point of having size numbers that you have a reasonably good chance, if you have a garment in that size already, that this one might fit you also? But noooo, it’s just a free-for-all. In one store a size 18 pant falls off my hips, in another I can barely get it on past my knees. And it’s not just a problem in plus sizes, either. Most women, I gather, absolutely dread clothes shopping because of the sizing nightmares.

    That whole thing with the vanity tags in the boutique that Sony mentions reminds me of this old Cathy cartoon (yes, I had all the books of it back in my pre-SA days) where her house gets burglarized and she tells the police her missing clothes were a size 5, and when they finally do find a bunch of her clothes, they turn out to be her “real” size — a 12 — and then she blushes and stammers that she “exaggerated a tiny bit about how petite I am.” And then doesn’t get her damn clothes back. Me, I can’t imagine that my terror that the cops might know I was fat could ever outweigh my desire to get all my clothes back, but then I’ve never exactly been neurotypical.

  48. (oh i also wanted to add in regards to my previous post – even though when i look in the mirror i think i look fine, when i see photos of myself i think i look terrible.
    tho i remember feeling that way even at a lower weight so maybe it means nothing. but of COURSE part of me fears that when i look at the photo im seeing some sort of horrible truth, that i look terrible, that i’m gaining too much weight whatever that is, and that im only fooling myself when i look in the mirror and think i look fine…
    anyway, i thought perhaps u guys here might have some thoughts on that type of thinking.)

  49. some_advice_please – I can relate to the mirror = fine, photos = terrible since I feel the same way about myself. And I can relate to being fine with my weight where it is, and terrified of gaining more.
    What I have done about the photo thing is gather up all the pictures of myself that I can find and put them all in one photo album, then I look at them and pretend it’s not me, it’s my evil (or good, YMMV) long-lost twin. I try to look at her as if she’s someone I never knew/met and then find things to like about her. It sometimes takes a bit of looking at some of the pictures, but I’m getting better at finding things I like, and that makes it easier for me to let people take pictures of me, and actually say they’re ok when I see them. I still can’t say I always like the pictures of me, but I can say that they are ok, and that’s fine for now.
    As for the weight thing, I’m working on eating a healthy variety of foods (and have to go low-carb because DH is diabetic) and I’m working some exercise into my day. I don’t know if this will work to keep my weight stable, but I’m not going to worry about what-ifs. If I end up gaining, I’ll deal with it when it happens. Till then, I’m going to do the best I can where I am (and I’m real good at ignoring things I don’t want to think about).
    Others from here may have better advice for you, this is just what works for me, so far. Good luck.

  50. I recently saw Some Like It Hot for the first time and for the first time, I really thought MM was sexy. I think that she is ONE example of a beautiful woman but by far not the only example.
    I am fat, and I don’t say that I’m curvy as a euphemism but as an additional adjective. My legs, for example, are very curvy — from the heel to the knee the back of my leg makes a gorgeous curve. If someone were to draw me, there would be many curvy ins and outs happening. So I am curvy AND fat, and I think both adjectives fit.

    To some_advice_please, your post might be a tiny bit off topic, but I don’t know if it’s beyond the scope of this blog. I’ve certainly been where you are and what I have tried to do is to make the very best of the situation. For me, as my weight has a “range,” I try to wear the clothes that I love that fit me at a bigger size (which won’t work if you always give away your “big clothes”) — I try to understand what’s going on, not because I am trying to do everything I can to stop it but to see what’s behind it. I try — and don’t always succeed — at being compassionate with myself. I try to think about life as a whole — some animals put on weight before the winter and shed it by the spring — they aren’t “dieting” to lose or “letting themselves go” when they gain. We aren’t one size our whole lives — we can get bigger and sometimes (without dieting) smaller, too, depending on what is happening. It isn’t just a one-way street to “biggerness.” (not a word, I know).
    I sometimes worry that not talking about dieting turns into somehow not being honest that without dieting or other extreme, intentionally depriving means, sometimes weight goes down — it just happens, as sometimes weight gain happens. Neither have to be pathological. It’s not about aiming for some ideal, it’s about doing what is best for you (or sometimes just the best you can do) and your body responding in it’s own particular way.
    I am probably not being very articulate about this. I’m not advocating weight loss (or gain). But both sometimes happen without intention.

  51. Yeah, I read some of the comments at Gawker. One asshat remarked that Lane Bryant gives out sticks of butter to their customers. Nice, eh?

  52. Damn, I needed some butter today. I never would have thought to try LB. But what was that dingbat doing there if neither she nor her friend was plus-sized nor shopping for somebody who was? “Oooh, like, let’s go to Lane Bryant and MOO at all the clothes!” How awesomely witty and mature.

  53. Thanks vesta and wellrounded, it helps to not feel so alone dealing with this crap :) and thanks for tolerating the off-topicness.

    as for these other comments you guys are saying – about the comments on gawker – i couldnt agree more, and i’m just avoiding reading the original stuff on gawker… can’t even deal with it.

  54. To some_advice_please: I know exactly what you mean about the fear of getting bigger and bigger and bigger. And in some ways I’m even more worried because I *haven’t* ever hit a stable weight for more than about a month – if I don’t watch what I eat I gain weight.

    I think I made this much worse by having lost lots of weight a few years back – I thought (since I’d never dieted before) that maybe if I was good enough I could lose the weight and not put it all back on again, and just like almost everyone else I found out I was wrong. And now I weigh more than I did before I started, having lost 4 stone and gained 6.

    So at the moment I’m trying to adjust my eating habits a bit, because I don’t think the convenience foods I’ve been eating for breakfast and lunch have been helping. But I’m definitely making sure that I’m still getting *enough* calories into me and that I’m not going hungry.

    I think at the end of the day I probably have to just learn to accept that it’s not the end of the world if I do get bigger, but that’s pretty scary when I’m already finding my size leaves me fewer and fewer places I can shop for clothes, and is slowing me down a bit in my day to day life.

    I don’t think I’ve accepted that yet, and I’m not sure I can.

  55. Curvy: Ah this is a tough one. I really struggle with labels for my body shape. I definitely am curvy as a figure eight or exagerated hourglass type figure and I need to pick some term in my online dating profile. I’ve found that many people don’t eliminate curvy from their search terms like they might BBW or Large so I am currently going with that. I make very clear in the text portion of my profile that I’m fat and very comfortable with my body and my pictures are current and though flattering absolutely true representations of my actual body. So I want men to have a chance to see that, to see my smile and my curves and say…Hmmm…maybe she’s someone I want to go out with. I don’t want to be eliminated by the search engine before they even glance at the thumbnail image. So I guess that makes me one of the abusers of the word curvy in the eyes of some but I must admit I don’t really care. I like the word and I think it does actually fit my body shape so I’m keeping it and those who aren’t willing to share it with me can find another word to use that makes them feel comfortable.

    Some_advice_please: Your comment really struck a chord with me. I’m in a very similar situation. I think it’s because I’m under more stress than usual in Grad school and also because I’m not sleeping well (or much unfortunately). I’ve been trying to be really compassionate with myself and to buy clothes that fit (there’s nothing worse than feeling bad about yourself and having the waistband of your pants digging into you!) and to know that my weight will probably come back down to my natural maintainence level once things settle down and if it doesn’t, well then I’ll be as ok here as I was 30 lbs lighter. I am focusing on working out more as I had fallen away from that and I know it helps me with my stress and general liking of my body, but I’m not doing it in order to lose weight. Hope that helps! Know you are not alone!

  56. Good post, I too am glad that someone has said this.
    I have often cringed when anyone has used this, I find it dishonest and although it sounds a bit presumptious to say, I don’t think she would have appreciated it if she was around to have her say. Even the dead surely have some right not to be gratuitously misrepresented.

    The size 16 thing as I understand it came from the black dress she wore in some like it hot, she was according to some pregnant, it was kept secret understandably enough because she had in the past miscarried and did this time also.

    She was very much a ‘weight watcher’ and when she saw herself on film was said to be upset about the weight she had put on at this time. The dress was a size 16, but a size 16 of the ’50’s was definitely smaller than that size today. Which is why I’ve found this to be innaccurate and somewhat misleading.
    As you said, take a look at her does she look like a size 16 of today to you?

    Let’s leave most of the bullshit to the usual suspects.

  57. I have to wonder in terms of the variation of sizing in womens clothing from store to store if men experience the same problem?

    Levis for men are sold in increments of inches by waist and inseam for men. And though it may be difficult to find your waist and inseam match on a pair of Levis in any given store AT least men have the option of that variety in sizing.

    Women aren’t really offered inseams beyond 29″-30″ for petite and 32″-33″ for average (forgive me, I am not tall enough to know what inseam tall pants come in). Leaving us the option of wearing heels or paying more to tailor the clothing. It is frustrating shopping for the very reason that we’re not offered a variety of waist sizes or inseams.

    Someone else mentioned that sizing from store to store is also different. I’ve found the more expensive the clothing, the more true to size it runs. Target in my experience runs small as does Kohls. But Tablots, which is EXPENSIVE, runs very true to size. As a woman you have to pay more for quality clothing with a decent fit and still have to have it tailored.

  58. Banish vanity sizing. Period. Your dress size is your dress size is your dress size. Who gives a flying F. And why is it only in the West, we’ll actually pay for deprivation?

  59. I get so sick of the “ZOMG VANITY SIZING BLAH BLAH BLAH DOWNFALL OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION” b.s. that keeps getting slung around lately, like the world is going to come to an end because somebody’s running around in a 6 now who might have worn a 10 in the 80’s and a 14 in the 50’s, or whatever. I mean, why does it even matter? I don’t care what size I would have worn in the fifties. The only purpose my clothing size serves is this: if I go into a store and start looking at clothes, it’s a pretty good bet that I should try on the 16 first. Sizing is so inconsistent that it doesn’t always fit, but about half the time it does, and the other half of the time it gives me an idea of whether I should be fetching the 14 or the 18. Wearing a 16, and not whatever I would have worn in 1950, doesn’t mean anything in reality. It just helps me find clothes. If they standardized the sizes, I wouldn’t care if they told me I now wear a size 86, as long as it meant stuff would consistently fit.

  60. This myth has always bugged me, because it seems to me that MAKING THINGS UP to make your size OK, undermines the truth that every size is ok.

    And I even know the answer because I worked for years in fashion with a major emphasis on fashion history.
    I am a size 0 today.
    Ten years ago, I was a size 2.
    In high school, I was a size 4.
    When I wear my mom’s stuff from the 70s, I am a size 6-8.
    AND in vintage clothes from the 50s-early 60s, I am EXACTLY a size 10.
    I am the same size I was in high school (I still wear the clothes).
    That means Marilyn, at her biggest was never more that a 4-6.
    Whew. She was beautiful, and she’d still be beautiful today, and yes, she’s less ‘toned’ than is acceptable for modern actresses, but she’s still in that range. Standards of size/beauty have changed HUGELY since the corset was scrapped, but not so much since the 20s.

  61. This myth has always bugged me, because it seems to me that MAKING THINGS UP to make your size OK, undermines the truth that every size is ok.

    That’s what surprises me about this whole discussion. I was always told the “myth,” but only in terms to exemplify how the fashion industry has changed sizes dramatically over the years – NEVER had it been used (at least to me, personally) to say that someone’s size (whatever that may be) was okay just because MM was a [insert size here].

    Obviously I must have been on some other planet, because I seem to be the only one who has heard it in that sort of context, but if this is what I’ve been missing out on, then I’m glad.

  62. holls, exactly. If you have to go to that much trouble to make your size “acceptable” then what you are actually doing is admitting that you don’t really find your size acceptable.

    Regarding measurements, maybe it’s just me, but every single time I have ordered clothes from a new place just based on the size chart, they have ended up being 2-3 sizes too big. Since I discovered this I usually just order the size I think I will take and ignore the measurements, but recently I ordered some jeans in those weird odd-numbered “junior plus” sizes. So I decided I had better go by the measurements this time because most juniors’ stuff is cut so tiny. Sure enough, when I got my jeans they were at least 2 sizes too big and now I have to pay to ship them back for exchange. What is the deal?

    I kind of do wonder if men’s 32″ waist jeans are somehow bigger now than they used to be (men are hung up on sizes too). If so that would be absurd.

  63. Vanity sizing in women’s clothes never really bothered me, because women’s sizing is so weird anyway that it really just needs to be scrapped and replaced with something that makes sense.

    And also because I’m a guy.

    But it really bugged me when Eddie Bauer did it with clothes that are measured in inches. My waist was almost four inches smaller in Eddie Bauer pants than pants from anywhere else.

    It’s an inch. What the hell? Am I supposed to believe that Eddie Bauer clothes are from some mythical world in which the inch is 10% larger?

  64. I remember hearing about Marilyn Monroe’s reputation as very zaftig, volutpuous, euphemism-of-the-day when I was a hopelessly insecure teenager with chubby legs.

    I was very excited to be able to compare my own inadequate body to Marilyn Monroe, revered American beauty icon, so I hastily procured a copy of The Seven Year Itch and settled down in front of the VCR…only to be terribly disappointed that she wasn’t only NOT FAT, but she was quite a lot thinner than I was at the time (5’4″, 150 lbs.) And no chubby legs in sight.

    I wrote some kind of obsessive, creepy post about this several years ago during a bout of acute Marilynemia, and it’s possible that the “size 16″ thing comes from the fact that her bust was reported as 36”, which according to some of my own 1950s patterns, is a size 16/18.

    (Usual caveats that pattern sizing differs between companies and over time, yadda.)

  65. And no chubby legs in sight.

    I hear that. Even the actually fat girls who get famous tend to have thinner legs — and as someone who hated my thighs more than any other part of me, when I was still in the business of hating my body, I saw that as just more reinforcement of my freakishness.

  66. I don’t think vanity sizing is the “downfall of civilization.” It’s just a giant waste of my time. I really don’t give a flying whiz whether I’m a size 2 or 222, I would just like clothing manufacturers to collectively make up their minds, so I don’t have to try on 5 different sizes that might fit me before I find the one that actually does, or order something online off a size chart only to have to return it because it’s not even in the ballpark, or likewise follow a knitting or crocheting pattern that turns out to be laughably the wrong size for me even though I measured myself meticulously. After all that, bedsheet muumuus actually start to sound pretty good to me.

  67. The thing that annoys me about vanity sizing, other than the fact that it just makes it a pain to figure out what size you wear, is that it makes it impossible to find the correct size at all at some stores. I’m a small girl (curvy in the traditional sense — I’m on the side of people who only care when it becomes a mis-used euphimism), but I’m not underweight and could use some muscle tone. I go to a store like Banana Republic and I have to wear an extra small, which doesn’t really work when you have shoulders more than a foot wide. I can’t buy dresses at Ann Taylor because they’re always too big in the waist. For lack of a better word, “vanity sizing” has made it difficult for me to find clothing that fits properly. I can find clothes small enough at stores geared toward teens like H&M, but then I have to buy something too big in the waist because their target audience doesn’t have boobs yet. I know a decent number of women who are naturally skinny, and I have no idea what they do for clothing. Do they search for the elusive, and, frankly, embarrassing, size 00?

    The reason I mention this is that vanity sizing has not just changed the number on the clothing; I think that it has actually changed the shape. It changes the way clothing fits at all sizes.

  68. spacedcowgirl: gosh, it’s ages since I’ve bought clothes online or from a catalogue which didn’t have free return shipping if they didn’t fit. I mean people are different shapes, surely they *expect* that not everything will fit?

    The place I usually use these days drives me up the wall because their size charts have only hip and bust size, so I never know if I stand a chance of things fitting on my (bigger than most people’s) waist. I’ve learned that I simply can’t buy jeans from them though – if they’re big enough in the waist they’ll be far too big around the bum.

  69. Eleanor and Kimocean – thanks for ur comments as well. They do help :) And it sounds like you are adopting good, positive attitudes about this as much as you can and I commend that and am trying to do the same as well.

  70. The point about vanity sizing is that some wags are trying to spin it into fat women’s desire ‘not face the terrible truth about ourselves’, when it’s really about those of smaller sizes and their insecurities.

    I don’t think that fat women have this kind of influence. I have remained a similar size to what I was years ago because of this ‘vanity’, so if the health police want me to face up to what a bloater I am, they ought to have a discussion about it as to how this could be soften the impact of the obesity crusade. I wonder what would give, the desire to hide how ‘fat’ they are or the desire to make us aware of how fat we are, I’m guessing at the former.

  71. Eleanor, yeah, I feel like the return shipping ought to be free too. But it doesn’t seem to be in this case. Perhaps I will give them a call and explain what happened… it’s not like I ignored the size chart and got ill-fitting clothes, I followed it to the letter! Oh well.

  72. I don’t think vanity sizing is the “downfall of civilization.” It’s just a giant waste of my time. I really don’t give a flying whiz whether I’m a size 2 or 222, I would just like clothing manufacturers to collectively make up their minds, so I don’t have to try on 5 different sizes that might fit me before I find the one that actually does

    Amen, Meowser! :) YES.

    (BTW, I didn’t mean to say anyone on this thread thought vanity sizing was the downfall of civilization; I meant that fatphobes sometimes talk about vanity sizing as though it’s a Sign Of The Fatpocalypse. Including one of my closest friends, a gorgeous fat man who hates his own body with a violent passion. Every time I see him now, he’s got some other rant about fat, and I keep trying not to take it personally because I know the worst of the vitriol is directed at himself. It’s sad.)

  73. And I forgot to compliment Meowser on “fatastrophizing” the other day.

    I don’t know how I missed that but it just gave me the vapors.

  74. I couldn’t agree more, Kate. That “Marilyn Monroe is a size 14” thing has always bugged me. I would cringe whenever a SA activist would use it. But t this post got me thinking, what other arguments do SA activists use that do more harm than good?

    As has been mentioned, using “curvy” or “real” to mean fat is a bad idea. Not only are they linguistically inaccurate, but calling fat women “real” is insulting as well. There are curvy thin and curvy fat people, as well as thin and fat people who aren’t curvy.

    I also thnk it’s a bad idea to act as though all thin people (which usually means all thin women, since just because you believe in size acceptance doesn’t mean you haven’t internalized our culture’s sexism) are shallow, vain, slaves to the fashin industry who never read anything more challenging that Us Weekly. That’s just as false as the image of fat people eating ice cream while watching soaps.

    Anything else?

  75. I just have to set the British / American sizing thing straight. I go to the UK a lot. My husband is from Scotland. I wear a misses 18/20 or a 16/18W in the US. In the UK, I wear anything from an 18 to a 22 (regular sizes, not plus – ’cause I can find my size in a lot of regular stores there). There’s a one size difference, not two, and certainly not more than two. I have clothes in my closet that fit me right now that are UK sizes 18 and 20, and US sizes 18, 16W, and 18W. (The plus – W – sizes run a size bigger than regular US sizes). Honestly, the Brits are not wearing sizes that are tiny compared to ours, and there hasn’t been as much size inflation as some people think.

  76. Dee: as with everything it varies. The trousers I’m wearing right now are from La redoute, and are labelled in European, UK and US sizes. They’re labelled as a 24 UK and a 20 US.

    Oh hang on no, today I’m wearing the M&S UK size 22 ones which are almost exactly the same fit. This is about as big as any “regular” store goes at the moment, and a lot bigger than they did 10 years ago when you were lucky to get an 18. I know, cos at that point I was an 18 :-)

    But yes, in general I’ve been led to consider my US size to be 1-2 sizes smaller than my UK size – depending on manufacturer.

    I get completely muddled by the US misses/junior/W sizing though. It used to be the case that you didn’t get it so much here because you wouldn’t get the same store doing a separate plus range, but looking at M&S’s webpage recently the 20 in the plus range had different waist and hip measurements to the 20 in the normal range.

  77. Oh and Gap use american sizes on their clothes even when they sell them in the UK, and I definitely found that a Gap 12 was a UK 16 when I was that size briefly in 2002.

  78. Sammy, I’m not entirely sure that fat women are the main players behind things such as ‘real’ women thing. For that to work fat women’s opinion would have to matter, who does our opinion matter to exactly?

    I think that fat in terms of definition is not simple. Fat is used to describe people that are simply not thin or slim. They have returned fire, they do often do it differently to what a lot of us would, they experience body issues differently to us and have not been subject to the same mindwarp to us, so don’t tend to notice how crass real women sounds. It’s something I’ve never had any time for, it is irrelevant to me, but it is obviously an attempt to raise ones self esteem when one is being told that your inferior, so your response is likely be, no people like you are inferior and so on, not very high toned but then none of this body hate stuff is.
    Yes some fat women go along with this, you can’t blame them for snatching at being able to defend themselves for once instead of feeling undone all the time by the constant barrage of insults.

    We are all a bit ignorant of experience that is not our own and we fatties have some misunderstandings about slim people no doubt, a lot of it comes out of their own mouths. A lot of them grab hold of this superiority with both hands and attempt to fashion their narrative in these terms, not knowing what it’s like to be slim in my adult life, it’s sometimes hard to tell the truth from a carry on.

    I hope I don’t sound like I think I’m blameless I can think of many mistakes made.

  79. I think the “real women” reaction, (spiteful, but eminently understandable in a culture that consistently dehumanises and desexualises fat women and, in doing so encourages self-hatred in women of all sizes), probably arises in reaction to the over-emphasis on one (for the most part, slender, androgynous), body type by the fashion industry. Since this shape is not typical of the vast majority of women, anyone who actively reads fashion magazines gets a blow to their ego every time they turn a page – I have known slender curvy women who considered themselves “fat” simply for having tits and/or an arse – but for the fat woman who reads those magazines, the blow is double. Not only are they painfully aware that they fall foul of the preferred body type; the clothes featured aren’t even available in their size. In short, just by taking an interest in fashion, they are buying in to a culture that re-enforces their feelings of worthlessness. And what goes on in the magazines translates into the point of sale displays on the high street. Wherever we go we’re dogged by visions of tall skinny women. We’re also encouraged by cheap supermarket check-out rags to externalise the self-hatred fostered by this non-stop indoctrination our bodies are “wrong” by sniping at celebrities’ bodies. Again, it’s not healthy for anyone to do this, but it’s understandable, and the poison that fuels it affects most of us to a greater or lesser degree. That’s why we bitch to and about each other; it’s why we bitch about our own fat and why, when we cease bitching about our own fat, we still retain the bitch within and want to lash out at the physical stereotype that has been used to dehumanise us all our lives.

    Incidentally, my cousin is a stylist and once worked on a fashion shoot where one of the samples supplied didn’t even fit the slenderest model they had; they wound up shooting it on a 9 year-old. Real woman? Discuss.

  80. I guess this is kinda connected with the whole vanity sizing thing.

    I really, really hate the way that clothing shops fold or tie clothing to make it as small as possible. It’s hard enough when I can’t tell what size it is due to non-standardised labels, I also have to untie items or remove them from their hangers altogether to see how big they really are against me. That has to be a vanity thing, too… picking up a top in “your size” and holding it up and it looks so small and slim!

    Oh, and the sizing thing that seems to go on at the moment where “larger size” means “wider but exactly to scale” and gives no thought to, for example, larger/deeper breast cleavage or a longer arse, meaning that it fits fine width-wise but either your chest is cut in half or your buttocks bulge out of the top.

  81. Who cares what size Marilyn Monroe was! The thing I thought was beautiful about her is this: Marylin did strength training. That’s right, she lifted weights. How unfeminine! And so, to did Betty Page–who, in fact, lifted a weight every time she picked up her purse, because, if the legend ‘s true, she kept a brick in it, to ward off mashers. The thought of a woman who can take care of herself–in whatever way you choose to define that–is hot.

    By the way, even if you’re like me–a big and not terribly limber gal–you can lift weights, too, without ever touching one of those ugly little barbells. Those of us who have had any exposure to Tai Ch’i know that lifting any part of your body can be just as much work as lifting a barbell. One of the toughest yoga exercises I know of consists of lying flat on your back, raising in turn each of your limbs and your head a mere inch off the floor, and holding it as long as you’re able. Strength training can be simply a matter of how you move: what muscles you use, where the effort is placed, what parts of your body you relax, and how slowly you go Sitting in a chair and pushing your feet against the floor or lifting an arm or leg can be a strength-training exercise. Everyone who has a body of any kind at all has a full set of gym equipment. After all, it ain’t what you got; it’s how you use it.

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