weight

Politics of the Swimsuit

This morning, a 2014 piece by Jessica Turner titled Moms, Put On that Swimsuit, came across my FB feed. 

Turner’s message to mothers is good and necessary: put away your vanity and body issues & play with your kids at the beach or pool.

No quibbles there. 

My issue with the piece came when Turner started to help women – mothers only – accept their less-than-perfect bodies because the “imperfections” like a soft, stretched belly and larger thighs are the leftover evidence of pregnancy and childbirth.

Ouch. I hate articles like that because they fail to acknowledge the experience of women who build their families without the physical acts of pregnancy or childbirth. So even though I am a mother, my extra pounds are just fat? I have no justification for it according to Turner.

I’m probably reading way too much into her piece and allowing my own history to influence my reaction, but it is difficult in a society in which conversations about motherhood are dominated by the physical parts.

And what about non-mothers? The child-free? Are they supposed to have perfect bodies since they weren’t ravaged by pregnancy and childbirth?

How about we change the piece to this:

Dear women, you are beautiful and wonderful the way you are. You wear whatever you want at the beach or pool because you are a human being with dignity and deserve to be at the beach or pool regardless of appearance, parental status, income, marital status, sexual orientation or gender identity. You are a human being and that is what matters.

We are much anticipating leaving for our first beach vacation of the summer next weekend. It’s been a long time since I was a size 6 18-year-old who prided herself on being close to model height and weight. I weigh more than I’d like and dread seeing family and friends who knew me when – and I have no excuse for it other than food and age. But I will be rocking my Land’s End tankini with the skirt bottom and I think I will look pretty damn cute! I’ll still be the palest person on the beach, but that’s OK. I’ll slather on copious amounts of sunscreen and build sandcastles with Daniel and play in the water.

#Microblog Mondays: No Pants

Since last spring, I have worn skirts and dresses exclusively, even on the weekends once I found the elusive super-casual skirt I’d been looking for. It’s primarily because I’ve gained weight and my pants are tight while skirts and dresses tend to be more forgiving. I also find them to be very comfortable. My coworkers tease me because even on “dress-down” occasions at work like retreats, I still wear a skirt or dress.

I promise I have not joined some Duggar-like cult 🙂

We are having the first taste of fall in NC this week, and I panicked a bit yesterday when trying to figure out what to wear. I need to figure out how to transition my summer skirts and dresses into the Fall until it is cool enough to wear my other clothes. Or maybe I need to go shopping. I like the latter option!

The truth is that while I definitely need to lose weight and plan to , the thought of wearing pants feels so constricting and uncomfortable. Guess that places me firmly in the “no pants” camp for now.

IMG_7304.PNG

FitnessGrams: the Latest in Fat Shaming

A gawky 12-year-old girl gets off the bus and skips to the mailbox. She collects the mail and notices a letter from her school.  Curious, she opens it up to find the results of her annual physical fitness assessment.  She rolls her eyes because she’s a bookworm and PE is not her best subject. She can’t do pull ups or run the mile in the required time. She frowns as she reaches the bottom of the results: there is a grade, and she has been graded to be overweight based on her height and weight. She is mortified.

As the excellent article from Salon points out, these FitnessGrams, letters on the results of students’ physical fitness assessments, are a reality for students in 19 states and include with a judgment of whether the student is at a healthy weight, underweight, overweight or obese.

I wondered why I reacted so strongly to the practice of sending FitnessGrams, and then I recalled 6th grade.  Weighing and assessing children is nothing new.  We were weighed annually with that information recorded in our files by the school nurse even in the dark ages of the 80s.  At the 6th grade weigh-in, we shared our weight with each other as usual. My weight was 114 pounds, and I remember some friends exclaiming at how high the number was.  I was embarrassed because it was one of the highest weights in my class that day. In no way was I overweight or saw myself as overweight. If anything, throughout high school, I was probably underweight given my height. I never had a weight problem as a child, which was fortunate since I could put away some food.

Starting in the 4th grade, however, I grew taller and taller. By the 6th grade, I was one of the tallest girls if not one of the tallest students in my grade. I liked being tall and never had any problems with my height except for the usual complaints about the difficulty of finding pants and shirts that are long enough.  A lot of things begin to change in the 6th grade, though. You are on the cusp of becoming a teenager; suddenly boys are not as icky, and girls start wondering what would happen if they experimented with a bit of makeup or clothes.   Appearance begins to become more important and the judgment about whether you are attractive or not becomes less abstract and more emphasized.

As I grew taller, my shorter friends’ height began to stabilize. I felt gawky, awkward and huge. They were dainty and petite. I remember walking down to the field for gym class with a friend that year. She was tiny and blonde, well-dressed and well-coiffed. She was like a perfect doll. I felt like a lumbering, clumsy hulk next to her. My thighs looked fleshy and pale next to her tiny tanned limbs.  114 pounds sounded like a lot of weight, and it would not surprise me to have received the shaming, damning judgement of being “overweight” if FitnessGrams had been around in my day.  Already not feeling great about my appearance and body at age 12, I wonder how much further damage there would have been to have seen my school’s judgment of my body and health in print.

I’m sure that the decision to engage in FitnessGrams was meant well.  Headlines scream about the epidemic of childhood obesity.  The country clearly has a weight problem; it makes sense that the key to prevent overweight adults is to help prevent overweight children. My son’s pediatrician begins testing cholesterol and recommending a switch from whole milk to low-fat milk at age 2.

The problem is that while well-meaning, these initiatives are meant as a panacea instead of attacking the root causes of obesity. As the article points out, instead of patronizingly reminding overweight children to eat fruits and vegetables, why don’t we stop cutting recess and gym from the school day and stop serving crap in school lunches?  Instead of assuming that the majority of parents are clueless and give their children heaping bowls of sugar and fat at every meal, let’s look into the economics and reality of what it takes to cook and eat a healthy meal: access to fruits and vegetables, the ability to afford them, time and the ability and equipment to cook them.  Unless those root causes are addressed, you are shaming the victims.

We are so sick about weight in this country. If I run into old classmates from high school, I wonder if they are thinking how much weight I have put on in the last 20 years.  I look in the mirror and instead of celebrating my good features, I frown and pinch skin, knowing I’d look better and acceptable if I were a skeleton, a coat hanger. Weight was always a touchy subject in my family; you could have any other problem or behavior, but being overweight was taboo. My aunts were obsessed with their weight and the weight of their children. I was told to enjoy being able to eat what I wanted because it would catch up with me one day. I was also told by my mother that my thighs resembled those of my father’s family; it was not meant as a compliment.   The message I internalized was that fat was bad, and I suspect my experience isn’t outside the norm.

The funny thing is that historically, fat was associated with wealth. If you were anything but gaunt or skinny, you likely had the means to eat consistently if not also very well. Fat equaled success.  Modern society has reversed that. Now, thinness is equated with success. I attribute this shift to Puritan values such as the much-vaunted Protestant work ethic that influenced this country from colonial times.   The Puritans shunned epicureanism in favor of hard work and austerity.  The Protestant work ethic is the belief that individual hard work leads to success. A lack of success, therefore, is due to a lax moral character that results in self-indulgence instead of self-discipline. Therefore, successful people must be thin because thinness means a person has self-discipline and willpower.  Thinness means that the person is in control of himself and his appetites and can withstand temptation. At the very least, thinness means that the person has the wealth to buy the food, the trainers, the equipment and/or the surgical procedures to be thin. And as a result, being overweight is often considered to be a moral failing, a failure of willpower.

I don’t know what the solution is. I used to think that having a son meant that he was immune from the pressure to be thin, but that’s less true every day. I do know that the solution to the obesity problem is not shaming children.  It is not ignoring the cost of food and the inequities that make it so much easier to buy crap instead of healthy ingredients.  As usual, though, it’s far easier to finger wag than to make the necessary changes that might put us all on a healthier path.

I Don’t Wear Mascara on Fridays

I don’t. I put on the rest of the make-up I wear for work like I do every other day, but I leave my lashes bare.  I suppose that’s my pathetic attempt at sticking it to the man: Listen up! My lashes will not conform to the beauty standards dictated by a patriarchal society on Fridays.

I think the reason I picked mascara for my rebellion is because I wear contact lenses, and if I don’t wear mascara, I don’t feel like I have to wash my face Friday nights when I’m usually dragging from the weight of a week’s worth of toil. I should wash my face because I’ll wake up feeling gross on Saturday, but not all rebellions are fully thought through.

I don’t think I wear a lot of make-up.  I don’t wear foundation, but I do wear a tinted moisturizer so I can have some color.  I recently started to use BB cream, and I’m still trying to decide how I feel about it. It has a slight fragrance that I don’t like and it takes longer to put on because it highlights every bit of dry skin on my face, and I’m scraping at places around my nose as if I’m scraping a popcorn ceiling. However, once everything isn’t flaking off, the result looks good. I think.  I also wear mineral powder, concealer, blush, eye shadow, the aforementioned mascara (except on Fridays) and lip gloss/lipstick. This regimen has been the same for the last decade although it occurs to me that maybe I should look into what make-up a woman of my age should wear.

I can’t do foundation. I remember watching my mother put on her “face,” foundation, powder, the works and do her hair before we could leave the house, while I felt frustrated that we couldn’t simply get up and go.  I swore I wouldn’t wear make-up like that.

***

This Sunday, Jimmy and I were supposed to head to DC for the Lady Gaga concert.  Yes, Lady Gaga.  Remember, my husband is a Little Monster. Unfortunately, Lady Gaga had to cancel the rest of the tour due to injury, and Jimmy is a sad panda. Instead of trying to piece together an appropriate ensemble for a 35-year-old to wear or making up a tween so other parents at the concert don’t think we’re pedophiles, we’ll be at home, watching our DVD of The Monster Ball Tour over and over, Jimmy clutching his tour t-shirt and me wearing my new Gaga socks. A tear might even be shed.

***

I haven’t updated on my weight loss efforts.  They are going well.  I’ve been low carbing for 7 weeks and have started to notice results in the last 2 weeks. The only thing I’m really craving carb-wise is pizza.  Pizza helped get me into this problem, so I’ll stay strong and experiment with making reduced-carb pizza instead.  Alas, the push up challenge isn’t going as well.  I’ve had a few bad weeks and probably need to start over.

***

I have a few good reads for you: