Do you like the way you look? If the answer is yes I envy and admire you. I’ll tell you what, I really don’t. Like the way I look. I mean, I like the way YOU look. I love looking at people, think a wide range of them are attractive and interesting and fascinating. But I think I look like ass. Now, that is due in no small part to my anxiety disorder. Obsessive self loathing was a major manifestation of my breakdown a decade ago, the kind that is so encompassing it is its own form of narcissism. But if I put all that aside for a moment I still don’t care for my looks, I don’t come anywhere near meeting the ridiculous benchmark set for feminine beauty in our society.
In the most cowardly way possible I was relieved not to have daughters. To those of you raising them, I salute you. I do. I think it is infinitely easier to raise men to respect women than it is to raise women to respect themselves. Because no matter what you do at home those girls will see what our society values in a woman every time they look at a magazine or go to the movies or see a bilbord or go shopping. The message is unrelenting and pervasive. Unless you lock your daughter in her room forever she will see that beauty means light and flawless skin, a size zero yet still toned figure, tasteful makeup, blown out hair.
A lot of my favorite women in the world are raising girls. And those girls are in terrific hands. My friends are thoughtful and deliberate with how they discuss physical appearance. Several of them have told me they no longer criticize their own appearance out loud. Not because they are suddenly at peace with how they look, rather they refuse to let their daughters hear it. But even with positive body image modeled at home my mom friends tell me stories about their girls that horrify me, make me want to weep and pound my fists.
A four year old I know told her mom she wanted a flat stomach like one of the Princesses. She worries out loud that she is fat. Four. She is four. She is lovely and caring and kind. And already she thinks she isn’t enough. T will probably never worry about his weight out loud to me. He doesn’t have to. His childhood heros will not have a whiff of sexuality about them. He won’t have to worry about having the right hair, or makeup, or high heals to be like Luke Skywalker.
This morning a gal that I went to college with posted a link on her FB page to a story in Buzzfeed-17 Mesmerizing Before & After Photoshop GIFs, all stars, all women. I keep going back to look at it again and again. It really is mesmerizing, the flesh being cut away-from the thighs, the upper arms, the midsections, the asses. The skin resurfaced into plastic. The take away is that even Beyonce isn’t as beautiful as Beyonce. How do you have any chance at being perceived as attractive? How does your daughter?
As Z and I stared at the computer screen I murmured to him, “Every girl in America should have to look at this.” “No,” he corrected me, “Every person in America. Then all fashion magazines should be burned.” It would seem he’s even more riled up about it than I am.
Time for a little uncomfortable honestly. I’m a total hypocrite. An instagraming fool. Almost every photo I post of myself on the internet has gone through a filter in the hopes of magically making me look better. It’s just a filter, I think. At least I’m not reshaping my body. But if that option existed in the app I bet I’d capitulate and do it. I’m that insecure.
I decide to take my picture once and use whatever the camera saw for this post. I’m not perfect (duh). I’m not conventionally beautiful. But I need to be enough for myself. Enough to model some confidence for my boys and my nieces and the girls of my dear friends. I’m not there yet, but I vow to try.
So here I am without the safety of a filter. Forehead wrinkles and all. Sitting on the can. Because it felt appropriate and it cracked me up. You should take and post a picture of yourself as well. The toilet part is totally optional. I’d love to look at you as you really are.