Tuesday, November 12, 2013
LET ME EAT CAKE!
I remember the day it happened as if were yesterday. I call it "The Day of the Great Explosion." I was a few months shy of my 38th birthday and flying to Florida to attend my sister's wedding. I went through my wardrobe to select the perfect dress for the nuptials, hoping to wear the one I had purchased only six months prior. I slipped into the sleeveless sheath and checked my look in the mirror (apologies to Bruce Springsteen.) My first reaction was, "What in the absolute world??" (Actually, I probably said something a bit more profanity-laced, but we'll stick with polite expletives for the purpose of this blog.) My entire body looked as if it had exploded overnight, leaving me with a pooch of a belly, hips straining at the material of the dress, shoulders too tight for comfort. I let out a cry and raced for the bathroom scale. Ten pound weight gain! But, when? How? No time to think about that. I was going to have to either lose the ten pounds in 24 hours or move up a dress size. With a broken heart and a sense of defeat, I went shopping. I felt depressed, dejected, unattractive, and suddenly very old. The new dress size I was forced to purchase due to the weight explosion? A size 10.
This is not another blog about women's body issues and how we should embrace the flab. It's not even about how the media presents us with completely unattainable images of weight and beauty. It's not about eating disorders or the health issues associated with obesity. It's just about my own experience with learning to look in the mirror and steal yet another Bruce Springsteen lyric, "You ain't a beauty, but, hey, you're all right."
I am 55 years old, 5'7, 167 1/2 pounds. My stomach flops over my jeans, my butt droops to the back of my knees, my elbows look like twisted pretzel dough. I inherited my mother's weak jaw line, but not her gorgeous blue eyes, my father's chin but not his great bone structure. I don't have my sisters' thick hair or my brother's perfect nose. My fashion sense is somewhere between Lands End and Macys. I don't get regular manicures or massages. I don't belong to a gym or even own a pair of yoga pants. I don't use those teeth-whitening trays or get facials. In other words, I don't, I don't, I don't. I'm not, I'm not, I'm not. "You ain't a beauty," cautions Mr. Springsteen.
Well, who says I have to be? Who would benefit if I devoted my time sculpting my body at the gym, having my face redefined at the surgeon's, and trimming down via expensive weight-loss programs? (And if your response is, "Well, your HUSBAND, of course!" I'm going to whomp you in the head with a trophy wife.) Jennifer Hudson tells me in her popular Weight Watcher ads that losing weight has "made me love myself more!" Jessica Simpson announces that she now "feels like I'm on top of the world!" since losing pounds. Marie Osmond, despite the personal tragedy of her son's suicide in 2010, still shows off her before-and-after body for her Nutrisystem ads sending a subliminal message that even women who have endured an unbearable life crisis can still maintain that slim figure! "You can do it! You can do it!" they cheer-lead as if people grow older and fatter and more wrinkled simply because they don't try hard enough.
Cue the health nuts who want to tell me that weight loss and exercise are about more than beauty. I know. I understand the dangers of Type II diabetes. I know the results of having extra weight on the various joints of the body. I am fully disclosed with regards to heart health. This is why I walk, eat fruits and vegetables, and drink lots of water. (I also drink lots wine and rum because they are good for your heart. I read that on this very blog!) There is an ocean-sized difference between believing that being fat equals being ugly and unlovable versus knowing that being fat can have some health consequences.
Let's be real. No young woman who moves up from a size 8 to a 10 gets upset because she fears that's just one step closer to heart disease and stroke. She is upset because that is the only response she knows. We are not allowed to say, "So what?" when we gain a few pounds. We are to see every new inch to the waist, every gray hair, every bit of belly as our personal affront to the rest of the world. We are to be constant apologists for our weight, our wrinkles, our sagging chins. To what end?
A few years ago, when I visited with a director of an assisted living facility in search of just the right place for our mother, she said that seniors often do not like to have mirrors around their living space, particularly where they shower or bath. They find the sight of their aging bodies depressing. Is this the solution for all of us? Should we remove all the mirrors?
Personally, I'd rather learn to look in a mirror and focus on the good parts looking back at me than to grow old constantly longing for a reflection that no longer exists. "You ain't a beauty," I want to sing, "But, hey, you're alright." It's been 17 years since I sobbed over a size 10 dress - a dress I could not begin to squeeze into today. If I could take a trip back in time, I would say to that woman slouched on her bed in a state of self-pity, "Get up! Look at all you've got going for you and quit wasting valuable life worrying about something that does not matter." I would also be sure to tell her, "And when you get to the wedding, EAT A PIECE OF CAKE!"