This is the time of year when everyone has a resolution to change their life to some new and improved version. Judging from my Facebook feed, the bulk of women (har, har, I said bulk) have resolved to continue hating their bodies and somehow hate themselves into perfection before the summer weather forces them to shove their clearly hideous bodies into revealing clothes and blight the eyes of the unsuspecting. In the past three days alone, I’ve witnessed no less than seven women post about how fat they are/their post-holiday spread/how motherhood has ruined their bodies/their fear of summer’s inevitable approach.
“I’m disgusting!” is their battle cry and their dutiful women friends rally with, “No, you’re gorgeous! I’m the hideous one!” “Did you see me in my bathing suit last year? I made children scream!” “You? I can’t even button my maternity jeans anymore! I’m a beast!” It’s a hate-off of epic proportions and I’ll be darned if I see how we’re supposed to pick a winner.
My rally cry has nothing to do with self-hatred. This may shock the world at large, which tends to find such ideas outlandish from a woman in her early thirties, but I don’t hate my body. Is my belly soft? Gawd, yes, like bread dough twice-proved and ready for the oven. I squish it like one of those de-stress toys that all the office-dwellers love so much. My thighs aren’t half as toned as they could be, but lands’ sake, they are strong. My legs are short, indisputably. They bring me up to about chest-height—the absolute best level—when I go in for hugs from people. My breasts have spent far too many years being a D cup or bigger to ever be called pert, but wouldn’t I be horrified to look down and find them replaced with something else? Hell, yes, I would. I may work to be stronger and more flexible than I am now—I fear the onset of age breaking down my body the same as anyone else—but I’ll be fucked twice before I let someone tell me that my body is anything other than the largely miraculous vehicle that has drug me through this life for the past few decades.
Here’s the thing I’ve learned that I wish a few more women would pick up: You don’t win any prizes for the most self-hatred. No one is ever going to pat you on your back and say, “Good work there on your self-hatred, you’ve done it long enough and with enough venom that I am pleased to now gift you with a perfect body—go forth in perfect happiness”. All you win for all your years of self-hatred is…years of self-hatred. And as a bonus, you get to look back at the years you hated yourself and think what an absolute fucking waste it was. Don’t believe me? Think you’re only hating what is hate-worthy? Check this picture of me out when I was about 17:
Does it make you immediately think, “Lord have mercy, kill it with fire”? Or do you instead think, “There is a perfectly healthy looking young girl, perhaps a little uncomfortable in front of the camera”? Because that’s what I think. I think someone could have told her that dying her hair blonde only washes her out and she shouldn’t try to change her hair colour to be more in fashion, if we’re being perfectly frank. I think someone should have told her that she shouldn’t worry so much about drawing attention away from her chest because even though her large breasts weren’t in fashion at the time, they are perfectly lovely.
I think someone should have told her to smile big for the camera and relax because she’s beautiful and she might want a picture of herself at 17 looking lovely when she’s past 30 and only now sees how lovely she really was.
When this picture was taken, I was affectionately called by my family “Buffalo Butt” or “Thunder Thighs”. I couldn’t sit on the couch without my grandmother suggesting that I “carpet walk” so that I might lose some of my prodigious ass. I had already at this point tried several dietary supplements during the summer months and several diets during the school years to try to “fix” my body. If you had asked me right then, I would have told you that I was at least twice as large as every other girl in my class and only barely managed to skate past being horrible looking.
I want to get into that picture and shake the sense back into that girl.
Not long after this picture was taken, there was an interview with Angelina Jolie in some magazine where she went on at length listing the reasons why she didn’t think she was attractive enough. She hated her too-full lips, she didn’t like her body shape, so forth and so on. A lot of women reading that article thought to themselves, “What hope for me, then? I must be truly horrifying if even a woman like Angelina Jolie isn’t perfect”. Others felt a bit of a visceral glee to hear another woman echoing their own thoughts. For me, that was the point when I shrugged my shoulders and walked away from the game.
I spent years in highschool wishing I had my classmates tiny little breasts, set on narrow chests with their deep tans (Jennifer Anniston and Courtney Cox were showing us how it was done onFriends at the time). At roughly the same time, other girls were wishing they had larger breasts like mine. Even when my breasts came back into fashion, it was no longer acceptable to have naturally shaped breasts—because it’s very attainable to have DD cups hoiked up in the air. All you need, of course, is a bit of surgical intervention. Because it’s normal to spend your yearly salary to have dangerous surgery on your body. It’s normal to have foreign objects inserted into your body for no reason other than because Cosmo told you that it drove men wild/Maxim agreed that it was hot. Perfectly normal to starve yourself thin, inject paralysing poison into your face, rip every hair off of your body while gluing fake hair to your head.
No to being told that I have to hate my body. No to being told that I have to hate other women’s body, judge them, find them wanting, covet what they have. No to being told that I have to feel inadequate. No to being told that if every man in the world doesn’t find me attractive then I must be ugly. No.
Don’t look to me to stroke your ego by sharing back and forth self-hatred rants. I don’t play that any more. It’s a waste of time and energy. It made me feel bad and it made other women feel bad. I like myself and I like other women too much to keep doing the same. You might want to think about quitting, too.
And confidential to mothers and grandmothers: Stop and think about what you’re saying to your girls. Think through what value you put on their physical attractiveness. Do you really want them to grow up thinking that their real value comes from how they look? Consider what your own self-hatred does to them. And stop your damn madness.