You know how sometimes Tyra Banks tells a contest on "America's Next Top Model" that she's "restin' on pretty"? By which Tyra means, of course, that the girl is just sitting there dead-eyed in front of the camera on every photo shoot, but mostly she's gotten away with it because she's naturally drop-dead gorgeous? Well, for the past several months, I was in a prolonged non-running, non-exercising-whatsoever period, during which, it's safe to say, I was restin' on skinny. By which I mean that I was sitting on my kiester eating lots of brownies and letting my gangly Scandinavian genes do their thang. And, remarkably, it mostly worked, and the scale didn't budge and my clothes still fit, and I've eased my way back into running without much fanfare or negative effects. But that doesn't make it right.
(Please note, I'm not by any means claiming to be drop-dead gorgeous -- HAHAHAHA, no -- or paper-thin, and I recognize that a woman referring to herself as "skinny" or possibly even as "thin" is a treacherous thing indeed, which kind of gets into my point here, so stay with me.)
The problem with restin' on skinny is that it simply isn't healthy. I felt like donkey butt when I wasn't exercising -- physically and mentally fatigued, sluggish, foggy. I didn't feel great about myself, either, regardless of the fact that I could still button my pants. I felt flabby and bloated and just...blrgh. But I couldn't talk about it, because most people (outside of Hollywood/the modeling industry) would consider me to be on the thin side, and therefore I have no standing to talk about wanting to work on my body or improve my diet, lest I be accused of having a raging eating disorder.
A year ago, I wrote about the wacky eating habits of girls I've known at different times in my life, and I've alluded a few times before to my rice cake-eating days from when I was a dancer. Well, in addition to that, last week Jonniker wrote a very smart piece about the tension between society's confused attitudes toward weight and women's bodies (i.e., don't get fat! but don't get skinny! don't eat too much, but don't be anorexic!) and how we often ignore the undeniable truism that eating less and exercising more are good for you, whatever your shape or size or goals. I don't have much coherent to say beyond her point except, "Well...YEAH" (but I'm going to blather on for a while anyway).
These various ideas are connected in all sorts of ways that I hope are clear (because when I reread the beginning of this post, I have no idea what restin' on skinny has to do with anything, but there it is and I don't feel like revising this now), but my general sentiment on this whole topic is that (1) we women have got to find a way to move toward a happy medium with regard to our bodies, that medium being a place of liking ourselves enough to neither starve nor stuff ourselves; and (2) if we can reach that place, we can all MOVE ON and think and talk about other things, more important things, and we can, I believe, foment powerful change -- how about working toward universal health care, better child care options, lower carbon emissions, and a general ban on the Pussycat Dolls for a start?
I really do think that all of this crap we're thrown by the media from the moment we're born -- all the images of perfection that are meant to make us feel imperfect so that we'll buy the things that promise to get us closer to the ideal that isn't even real in the first place -- is part of a general effort to keep women down. (Yeah, The Man keepin' us down, yo.) I'm not a conspiracy theorist in general, but I don't know how to look at it any other way.
Sure, I am enough of a girl to enjoy beauty tricks and tips and fashion ideas to some degree (especially on the Internets, because around here I can turn to bloggers I like and admire for recommendations and tips that are well-written and smart, and I don't have to wade through piles of ads to get to them), but you know what? We don't need to spend THAT much time (or money, cripes) figuring out how to look pretty. You figure out what works for you and you run with it, and maybe tweak it every once in a while. That is, if all we do is page through women's magazines, we might look cute but we're not going to advance any great causes or discover a cure for cancer anytime soon. And yes, I'm overstating the case, but the reality isn't far off.
(I also don't mean to sound like a total killjoy and I'm sure you're all yelling "HYPOCRITE!" right about now since, as reflected in the general content around here, I enjoy pop culture to an extreme degree and I've been known to write about clothes and products. And yeah. That's right. I'm a hypocrite, etc. And certainly my choice to spend time watching "The Bachelor" is to the detriment of my own lofty ambitions of writing the Great American Novel and building a school in Vietnam and inventing the one thing that everyone needs but they don't know it yet so I can make a bajillion dollars on QVC -- but, you know, after all those years of overachieving through high school and college and in ballet, I am TIRED, and I want to watch some reality TV. Thank you. I'll save the world in a minute; for now, I'm just going to recommend ways for someone ELSE to do it.)
Perhaps more importantly, at least on an individual level, we control what images and messages we see and which of those affect us. We don't have to buy fashion magazines; we don't have to compare ourselves to Nicole Richie. Yes, the images are all over the place. But they're not EVERYwhere. They're not in the trees or the sky or the New Yorker or at the Met. And we're less likely to be susceptible to them if we're taking the best possible care of ourselves -- if we're eating well (healthily, everything in moderation) and exercising (not obsessively, but enough to break a good sweat a few times a week), we're more likely to FEEL great about ourselves, no matter what our size.
We can contribute to that feeling of goodwill by filling ourselves up in other ways -- volunteering or joining a professional organization or calling Mom or playing a game of Scrabble. If we fill our lives up with things we love, especially things that connect us to other people and to a greater purpose, we won't hunger so much for a life -- or a body -- that isn't our own.