Or, how to accept your body image as best you can, and take a crack at the conventional wisdom about bloggers at the same time – with a bit of humor and panache.
Yeah, it’s one of those off-kilter weekend posts that seem completely off the political charts at first, but if you’re a woman in America, the messages one receives about what your body “should” look like in terms of the beauty standard are simply part of life. While men are starting to feel the pressure from Madison Avenue about what makes a guy “hot,” (ask gay men; it’s rough out there for the non-”hot bodies”) it’s still a tougher slog for women.
I worried more about this when in my 20s (I’m 48 now); I haven’t been thin since before puberty, and I have fought as my whack-job endocrine system worked against me (PCOS and insulin-resistant-and-dependent diabetes for nearly 30 years) in the battle to lose weight ever since. To make matters worse, sometime during the last four years I developed chronic pain conditions that became so soul-sucking — fibromyalgia and peripheral neuropathy — that I realized not a lot matters when you vascillate from gnawing daily body and nerve pain in the feet (say, level 3 or 4 on a scale of 10; give having kidney stones a 10-level of pain), to feeling that you can do little more than lie in a fetal position in bed, unable to get up and work. So getting to work and enjoying life is a day-to-day proposition, especially when barometric pressure changes in the weather can make a huge difference in pain levels.
So body image is the least of my problems now.
And then that whole blogger rep thing.
I guess people think we really are slovenly, basement-dwelling, Cheetos-stained PJ-wearing people who type out mean-spirited digital missives in the dark. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met people who’ve said “I thought you would be taller in person.” I guess I should be grateful they don’t say “I imagined you thinner in person,” huh?
Anyway, in the last couple of weeks, as I have been juggling a lot of meds to try to keep the pain at tolerable levels (yes, Lyrica and Cymbalta, as well as going to a pain clinic, getting biofeedback, acupuncture, etc. – when you’re hurting you’ll try everything to seek what works), I decided that adding the simple psych stuff can’t hurt either — dressing nicely to lift one’s mood.
I can’t say I throw caution to the wind when it comes to fashion; while some women of size think they are fine in a bikini or a tube top; this zaftig chick’s not going there. That doesn’t work for me, so I guess I fall somewhere between the “fully fashion liberated” fat person and a fat-shamed assimilationist hiding in a tent dress, for lack of a better term. I’m short (5’3″), fat, and, thanks to my mom’s side of the family, have an oversized rack, top-heavy with short legs, quite Hobbit-like. This is what I have to work with.
So last week I launched a fun, fairly tongue-in-cheek feature on my Facebook Wall, “What is the fashion today?” where I post a pic showing my ensemble for the day (thank you, wifey Kate for most of the “fashion photography”), adding a bit of commentary about my choices and how they look on me. And, since I’m a bargain hunter (aka fashion cheap skate), I share what the outfit costs. Most of the nearly 5,000 “friends” I have on Facebook don’t know me personally, so I didn’t assume comments would all be positive.
Given what I mostly post on my Wall are political news items and commentary related to my writings, I didn’t expect the feature to necessarily be popular. I was expecting a comment or two, but figured people would just skim by it thinking it’s just me being flaky. Surprisingly, most of the reaction was positive. I’m not sure why, so I thought the phenomenon was worth a post on the blog since my Facebook world has a different flavor than the blog — and at this point, garners many more comments than a blog post, by the way. (I think this has more to do with the lack of a need to register as a user to comment on FB than anything else).
The real world is unfair, tough nougies.
The bottom line is that in this media-saturated, looks-obsessed culture, I wonder whether women in similar situations even have a chance in hell of being taken seriously rather than being ridiculed? It’s hard to say. Some of it has to do with attitude and self-confidence, but the bias against people of size is also one of the last frontiers of acceptable bigotry.
I’ll never forget the first time that I was on CNN; it was via satellite in an uneventful discussion with Amanda Carpenter of Town Hall in some blogger segment about the 2008 Republican Presidential primary. Neither of us screamed or got overwrought, one of the things that the host (Tony Harris) kept trying to get us to do. I was about 35 lbs heavier at that time than I am now. Anyway, over at my friend Mike Rogers’s now-defunct BlogActive, one commenter lamented that “Spaulding needs to lay off of the cheeseburgers” and moaned “why the progressive side can’t have better-looking people on the air.”
Actually, I don’t like cheeseburgers, but alas, I didn’t know my burger consumption had anything to do with my intellect, whatever. But did reading that sh*t hurt? Yeah, but that’s why I like doing radio. I can do it in my PJs (no Cheetos stains, please); people can judge my intelligence without seeing me. But I should not be rendered to hiding because of some bigot. By the way, I’ve been told I have a good radio “voice” – it’s not a given since many women do have a tough time if their voice is high-pitched or is perceived as “wimpy” or “whiny” – I guess that could be tackled in another post! Never-ending biases.
But in my quest to embrace my body image with its limitations…and better points, I forged ahead with my first week of “What is the fashion today?” Here’s a look. No flannel PJs, no slobbiness. It might be even…fashionable (gasp!). For all the gals of size out there on a budget, this is dedicated to you all.
Monday: Modest startup, only showed my argyle tights and peek of the skirt.
The rest of the week is below the fold.
Red sweater paired with black mock neck, black skort and chain belt. Argyle knee socks and Jambu “Cherry” shoes. Insanely cheap (knee socks 2 for $5, belt $10, skort $17, mockneck $10). I can’t recall what I paid for the sweater, but it was under $20. The shoes bought off season for ~$40. It’s hard to find cheap and comfy shoes for my neuropathic pain-affected feet. Today it is around 69 degrees, low in the 40s.
Why it’s British Mod day. I went out of my comfort zone with this one, picking a dress from British outlet SimplyBe.com. Naturally, I got it on fire sale – originally $80, knocked down to $60 and I had a coupon code for 30% more off. I cut off the attached belt and made a headband out of it. The long rayon vest is a few years old, didn’t cost much. Diamond-patterned black tights are Vera Wang from Kohl’s ($10). Shoes are Jambu Taurus, another $40 fire sale, I think at 6PM.com last year.
At 5’3″ most tunics are almost knee-length on me, so I wear them as dresses. This one is from Elios at OneStopPlus.com (bought at clearance last year, no longer available), $20. Grey and black argyle socks, Target (2 pr for $5). Shoes are Easy Spirit clogs ($20 fire sale last yr), and the hat is priceless – a gift from fellow North Carolinian and Journey fan Ari Hancock.
So, while I may never be a runway model and will probably make as many fashion faux pas as the next person, none of this really matters in the end. I am who I am, and need to enjoy life without worrying so much about the small stuff — and the small minds.