As a lover of art (particulary Renaissance works, since I am an anything-Italian-junkie), I can appreciate the human body with a few extra pounds. The fine arts Masters of approximately 600 years ago portrayed the body in various states of disrobe with no shame or stigma. Their adoration of the human form is obvious in the way they painted, drew and carved every extra little curve into their works. Beautiful, perfect bodies.
As a short (5’3”) over-40, mother of three with a mom’s soft belly and ample bosom, I just now am beginning to love my curves. I am not what you’d see on a TV show or modeling clothing. In the U.S. where I live, we’re so far gone from accepting beauty in all shapes. Media shows us women who are a size 0 when wet (what is a size 0 anyway?) while the average American woman wears a size 16. While I don’t embrace the fast food diet and incredible indulgence my fellow Americans are known for, there is simply nothing wrong with looking sturdy in a slight breeze. Unfortunately, it’s taken me my entire adult life to feel comfortable in my own body. Even as I say that, I’m watching what I eat so that I am not larger than average – for my own comfort only. Not for anyone else.
As a “purebred” of Czech and Slovak heritage (with rumors of Russian and Scottish blood and Ashkenazi Jew thrown in) I was not born a petite, small boned individual. The father of my children is a 6’ tall half-German/half-Irish man, again not slight of build. No way our children would be waifs. For that I am more than thankful. Yet, burned in my brain is a waify child who told me that my kids were fat nearly 10 years ago. Wow. So indicative of the society in which I live where skinny is somehow akin to health and superiority. (Sidebar: My kids were appropriate weight for their age, but I believe in the ice cream truck and French fries on occasion.)
The entire topic of weight has been on my mind because now, not quite a year since I filed for divorce, I’m reshaping me. Finally. I gained weight from stress and unhappiness, but now am finally finding myself on firmer ground and wearing a shirt that was too tight a few months ago. Yea me. Unfortunately, what is also burned in my brain is a comment by my drunk dad last fall (in the middle of my divorce) that I was “too fat” for anyone to love me. He went on to say that I need to lose weight if I want to ever catch any man’s eye again. Wow. Ironic coming from a man with a large beer belly. Even daughters are not safe from negative comments, I guess.
I’m not one to worry about what other people look like or what they think about my looks, but for me, I would like to trim down – again – for my own comfort. I’ll never be the trim 17 year old I once was and that’s okay. I’ve grown and matured in ways that cannot be seen outwardly. I love my mommy stretch marks and am dealing with my few white hairs. I’m good with me, in general.
I have always considered myself overweight. I’ve never worn a bikini in public. Yet, I look at my oldest daughter who has a beautiful athletic body and she can’t fit into some of the skirts I worn in my 20s. What was I thinking in my younger years? As she grows up, I’ve gained so much perspective in regard to what’s truly important. I’ve emphasized that healthy eating is most important, never brought up the word “diet,” and encouraged all things in moderation – as well as encouraging an ice cream cone after a school event. I want my daughters (and my son) to love their bodies. To feel confident with who they are. Yet, they have faced derogatory comments about their appearance at young ages from other children whose heads are filled with “the skinny message” that someone is “less than” unless they are bone thin.
Despite my best efforts, my kids have the same insecurities most teens and pre-teens have that are fueled by media. Why can’t our media embrace all beauty? Why does skinny equal superiority? Funny how hundreds of years ago, even as recently as in the mid-1900s with Marilyn Monroe, softer bodies were idealized. Baby steps have been made with some companies hiring women who wear larger than a size 3 as a spokesperson/model/image. However, so much needs to be done – which doesn’t include schools making BMI screening a standard – to change how we view one another.
We see television shows where people around the world are too large to move and need help. Yet, very few about the anorexic women who die from their disease. We have a Food Network to learn how to cook and series after series about the best (and biggest) dishes around the world. We’re faced with this crazy disparity that skinny is superior, but can watch a man eat 5 lbs of food in half an hour. Where is the middle point? “Don’t eat too much because you’ll die, but let me show you where to get 2lbs of cheese in a sandwich. And wow! It’s delicious!”
Everything in moderation. And that also means that a size 0 isn’t the ideal nor is it attainable for most people. A person can be thick and still be as healthy as the person standing next to him or her. We are all different and should embrace not only our religious, genetic and regional differences, but also the differences in our body shapes.
Tonight, I will go home, look at the beautiful paintings of beautiful soft-bodied people from the Renaissance era, then cuddle with the man who loves me and my curves.