overhaul / undertow

Tuesday, July 02, 2002

I recently saved a photo off the net from bitchmagazine.com. It’s an image of gwyneth paltrow’s head stuck onto the body of a beautiful size-14 model (“beautiful” and “size 14” are not mutually exclusive, something I had always assumed must be the case but didn’t really see in such obvious detail until this pic).

Here’s the thing.

She isn’t just “voluptuous” or “zaftig” in that patronizing sort of way. Bitchmagazine.com also offers, for easy comparison, a nude photo of gwyneth posing coyly for some fasion mag or another. And when compared, the “skinny gwynny” looks positively ill. Emaciated. As in “someone feed me, stage a benefit concert, save the children…woops, I mean the wildly successful screen idol” sort of way. And the other pic? She looks luscious, lovely, all perfect skin and creamy thighs and a dream of sex right there on a Cabaret-style chair. She’s super-hot. She’s filling, satisfying to look at, while the other gwyneth just makes you feel...hungry.

Many women in the world are naturally thin and should never have to feel stigmatized for this. Many women are in locations where food is scarce, and their bodies are affected by this in one way or another. Many women are naturally large and curvy and should never have to feel wrong for this either.

I heard a while back that the average American woman was a size 14 (the size of the nameless--why didn't she get a credit, by the way?--model with whose body gwyneth was Photoshoppedly augmented). Is this “natural?” [a term I place in italics because of the difficulty of, from a philosophical sense, actually defining what is and is not “natural.”] Is it a manifestation of American gluttony—or, from another point of view, from the abundance that our culture and political-economic system [regardless of the global ethics, or lack thereof, of said system] has left to us? Is it simply the physique most women will tend to settle at when placed in a situation of abundance as opposed to poverty?

I don’t know about this aspect of it. All I know is that the picture is positively lovely. She is lush as a summer field in Brittany. She is truly madly beautiful.

Every day I look in the mirror and I judge myself. Often I judge cruelly.

Before a month or two ago, when I began yoga and my new job in earnest (and now I have just begun kung fu practice again) I was a size 12 on the bottom and about a six on the top. I felt disgusting. Now I’ve gone down to maybe an eight to a 12 on the bottom, depending on how high-end the retailer (that’s right folks, in case you didn’t know, the more elite the clothing chain the smaller the woman they cater to…) and a 4 to a 6 on top. And I still feel grossed out. Not merely dissatisfied. Not a "work in progress." Not even too terribly happy with progress so far. Just “I have such a long way to go.”

And here is this woman, her ass an additional size larger than mine ever was, looking like the most lovely thing to grace god’s green earth.

And here myself and my roommate are, and my roommate has the body of this woman, she’s an absolutely glorious amazon, and so often we can’t walk into the places where we are told by society we must shop in order to be beautiful and special. Because we can’t fit into the fucking clothes.

And think of this: I’m a relatively small women as American women go, and even I can’t get into their largest sizes. Apparently I am not allowed to have the beautiful things allowed to those women blessed (or cursed?) with tiny bodies (whether by their own nature or by their own will….or by their index finger down their throat).

All these facts are not news, or new, or revelations of any sort. I am left nonplussed by the situation, and feeling entirely silly.

I am also left wanting to write little things on slips of paper, like “When was the last time you ate chocolate without feeling bad?” (yes, people really live like that…), or to take gift certs from Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles, or to take blister packs of dexatrim (which I tried for a while! Yes! sick, sick!) and place them randomly into the pockets of various women’s clothing at these particular "If you ain't anorexic, don't bother coming in, you fat sow" places.

I think it would be much better for their souls that trying to squeeze their poor tormented bodies into a bit of clothing that will denote their social status.

And I still look at myself in the mirror, with full knowledge of all this, with decades of feminism behind me, with various women's studies classes under my belt, and I look and see what I am, and I wish it were different.

I feel sad about this.


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