Wednesday, May 30, 2007

What Size Is that Number?

(from little m. . . or "big m," as I like to call her and now feel incredibly righteous in doing so after reading this post) ; )

Irene is a family friend, surrogate mom crossed with fairy godmom.

When I was 10 or 11, with what I felt was a cereal box for a figure, no one in my family wanted to take me shopping for school clothes because they could gamble and win on the odds I would come home howling, in tears, with nothing to wear.

Somehow Irene could take me out and we would find something that not only would my family not die of shame to see me in, but that I actually liked! and could wear to school without fear of violating a public decency law.

Irene is like Donna Karan or Elena Miro, or Chanel (I don’t mean the designs, awesome though they are. I mean the people themselves)--she will be hip to death forever.

She recently ordered this amazing leather coat in a size she no longer wears (her closets are full of suits in that size, and they haven’t fit in years).

So she had to go to all the trouble of dragging it to the post office, sending it back, and ordering it in the size she is now – which of course both fit and looked SMASHING.

I’ve done it. You know you’ve done it.

In the age of the vanity size--and as savvy and sharp as we are about other things in our lives--WHY do we still cling to the number? Why don’t we just cut the size tag number out and get on with the business of looking--and being--fabulous?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Spinning Biel

Jessica Biel graces the front page of the June issue of Elle magazine and, in between the covers, comments on her body : "This is the thinnest and the least muscular I’ve been in a long time."

Perhaps Biel intended neutrality with her words, having no emotional reaction to her body, but that's not how the gossips took it--one magazine interpreted her statement as a dissatisfaction with her current appearance, another recognized it as praise for the status quo. It's interesting the spin they spin, leaving me to propose:

her body
just is.

If we could gain and lose weight with the same emotional valence; if we could buy a larger (or smalller) size with no more reaction than the one we bought before; if we could make observations about our bodies with no judgment, disdain, or critique; then, to paraphrase Biel, we'd be the healthiest and the least troubled we've "been in a long time."

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

We Say It So Often It's a Book Title

Another installment in the littlem series. . .

*does variation on Peanuts happy dance*

Would you believe there is a book called “Honey, Does This Make My Butt Look Big?” by a therapist named Lydia Hanich?

What I love is, as the Editorial Reviews blurb on the book says, that it helps couples to deal with issues such as “appearance, weight, food, exercise, sexuality, and eating disorders.”

That pretty much covers the spectrum, doesn’t it?

Because the thoughts in our own heads aren’t always the only problem. Sometimes our beloved S.O.'s say and do stuff, based on their own conditioning, that can be, absolutely, say it with me – "part of the problem."

What I also love is that it offers not only various scenarios, responses, and WHY they might or might not be the "right" or "wrong" thing to say when asked a question like that.

I think that really works for folks (seems like they’re generally men – it really does feel like we’re speaking two different languages some days, doesn’t it?) who want to assuage the distress that a significant other might be feeling over body image, but can’t answer without feeling – this time paraphrasing the author herself in the blurb on the back of the book -- just like that "animal caught in the headlights." Ha!

What I don’t love quite as much is that, as universal an issue as this seems to be, it took me two years to find this book – because, as you’ve probably figured out by now, I believe there are elements in our society that work directly against our being able to deal with these problems. But that’s a different subject for a different post.

Today is a happy post day. Woo-hoo!!!

I have politely demanded that all my local bookstores order it immediately, but if you just can’t wait, you can order it here from Amazon.

Friday, May 18, 2007

A Tongue of Weight

Hunger, in our world, is portrayed as a demon that must be slain. We are encouraged to “reduce,” “curb,” and “control” our hunger, without ever considering that it might serve a biological (and psychological) function. An advertisement for Slim-Fast Optima Shakes suggests the product “Controls hunger for up to four hours,” a substantial duration in our crusade. Imagine other products designed to help us gain control over physiological processes: an oxygenated air freshener that helps you avoid breathing for up to a minute, a specially formulated beverage that allows you to delay urination. Why aren’t these products on the market? True, there may be some interest in gaining control over other biological processes, but we would never think we could. We purchase products such as Slim-Fast because we learn from a very young age the falsehood that hunger is controllable and that we need an ally to help us wage the war against our hunger.

In keeping with our fight against hunger, bellicose metaphors abound. We join the ranks of the war on fat as we attempt to combat cravings, to fight the “battle of the bulge,” we enroll in boot camp classes and kick off a diet as if we’re being stationed overseas. Sorry, friends, I won’t be able to join you for pizza this week—I’m being shipped out on Monday. We soldier on, sticking to a diet or fitness regime as if it’s a plan of attack, avoiding the enemy shrapnel of a whiff of cinnamon sugar from a local bakery, the trace of buttered popcorn at the local Cineplex. The helpless frustration here, the irony, is that the enemy camp is forever expanding, a cease fire too distant to imagine, and the only casualties ourselves.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Chasing Slim

Part of the assumption underlying the idea that every woman has an eating disorder is that our culture reflects (and inspires) this truth, making it strikingly easy to derive these posts.

The latest candidate? A book, which I happened across this week, by fashion designer, Cynthia Rowley, entitled Slim. The subtitle, "A Fantasy Memoir," reflects the work's fictional component, which functions side by side with Rowley's life account. However, what struck me was the title as a whole, as it appears on the cover (Slim: A Fantasy Memoir), the idea, which doesn't meet much challenge, that "Slim" is a bona fide fantasy--that those who realize this goal indulge in the good life, while those who don't spend the better part of their lives chasing the ideal. To Rowley, the word "fantasy" might connote her fabled climb from small-town, Illinois youth to major player in the fashion world. To most women, slim is enough of a fantasy on its own.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Thin Is a Moving Target

Editor's note: The post below comes courtesy of little m (you may recognize the name from her periodic comments). lm has graciously agreed to guest post for me from time to time. Let us know what you think. . .

Lots of you all might have seen in the comments here that I’ve mused that my personal physique is such that whether I’m “too thin” or “too fat” depends on where I am in the country. What that finally told me – after much mulling – is that THIN and FAT are COMPARATIVE CONSTRUCTS, not absolutes, and that they depend a great deal on WHAT people think and WHY they think that.

In our culture, we have been conditioned to believe that, especially for women, THIN IS BETTER NO MATTER WHAT.

Another absolute. And it has potentially deadly consequences when taken to the extremes – as Dr. Stacey is showing us.

So one of the things I started to do when confronted with “THIN IS BETTER NO MATTER WHAT” is to shout back – if only in my head –

“WHY?” and


Those questions and others like them -- critically deconstructing messages that their creators hope we’ll absorb without thinking about them -- work for me in counteracting that never-ending assault. It’s an assault that sets the concept up based on imagery so manufactured that the people used to manufacture the standard don’t even meet it.

Dr. Stacey thought it would be cool for me to share them, and other related stuff, for readers to create their own files of coping skills – since we all deal with this same issue, but it manifests in different ways in our lives.

This will probably be one of my most serious posts. Principally because I believe so much in what Dr. S is doing and want to show her and her subject material proper respect.

Additionally (and with her approval) because I believe that when a disempowering, unhealthy, tyrannical standard has its grip on your life and lifestyle, that poking relentless fun at it helps put it in its place.

Humor is a power tool.

There may be a lot of things that I say that are not going to help everybody.

For example, these days a lot of eating disorders start when girls are pre-teens and teenagers.

I’m neither one anymore, so even though I remember what it felt like to have being thinner matter more than anything – more than energy to make good grades, more than some adult telling me it wasn’t healthy not to eat all day (what did they know, anyway?), MORE THAN ANYTHING – I’m not actually in that space anymore. So those of you still in that space might feel like I don’t have much to say to you.

On a different level, a lot of the questions I ask (like “WHO SAYS?”) depend on challenging outside norms, on challenging the status quo. And for a lot of reasons, a lot of people don’t feel like they can do that. Or that they’re not ready to do it yet.

All I would say is, if you find something here that you think will help you deal, then use it. And then come back and tell us about it.

So to begin:

The “WHO SAYS?” position in my own head got a big boost when I read an article that helped me crystallize that thought that maybe – just maybe – something OTHER THAN my body size was the REAL problem.

So I love this article very much.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Calling a Spade a Spade

Recently, at Bloomingdale's, I came across a relatively new brand of denim, called "Rich and Skinny" jeans. That's right, that's the brand name. Ever heard of them? Well, maybe not under this exact name, but, truth is, you've been hearing about these jeans for years. So many clothing lines these days cater to the "Rich and Skinny" crowd--this happens to be the only one that takes responsibility.

Rich and Skinny jeans are typically offered in waist sizes 24-31, and the price tag (roughly $200 a pop) suggests that in order to wear them, as their name suggests, you better be both.