Today I woke up to this lovely quote:
“Look at yourself in the mirror and critique yourself and your movements as you would a piece of artwork. But don’t beat yourself up. Unless you need to lose weight.” — A sampling from workout guru Tracy Anderson’s new food program service.
And I have been irritated ever since. I don’t have a clue who this woman is, but I don’t like her one bit.
Now, for my vanity’s sake I have to point out that (except for those last 10 pounds just about every woman over 40 thinks she needs to lose), I don’t really need to lose weight. I want to, of course, but Sawyer is 20 months old and I have finally begun to feel like I have my body back. My BMI is 26.7, which technically puts me “overweight” since 18-25 is normal, but I refuse to feel like shit over one or two BMI points and, as long as my clothes still fit and I don’t have to go up any more sizes, I am fine with it. Kinda.
Do I miss my 28-year-old weight? Yes. But that ain’t never coming back, no matter how good a shape I get in from 42 on; 28 is long gone. Does acceptance of that mean I have given up? Maybe. But I tend to think that it is more practical to recognize the truth and deal with it than live in some fantasy of getting back to my body at 28. Besides, even though I was a size that some people would envy at 28, I was miserable in my life. I’d much rather be 42 and 30 pounds heavier.
Do I hate pictures of myself that seem to add pounds I don’t see when I look in the mirror? Yes. But if I hate those now, what is going to happen in 15 years when the crows feet I can already see become more prominent and the aging I see on my hands begins to show up on my face? And it will. At least I hope so. I have longevity in my genes. I fully intend on living to 85 or so. Wrinkles are in my future and I would rather have them than an early grave.
Do I curse my 5’1” height? Almost daily. If I were 5’6” I would be trim and slender, but I am not. The same genes that give me the hope of longevity did not give me height. My Mema lived to 97, but she never in her life reached 5 feet tall. I think I will be able to live with that – hopefully until I am wise, 97 and 4’9’ just like her.
But my weight and height is not everything when it comes to looks. And it is certainly not the only standard to which I am held that pisses me of regularly.
I have begun to back off the makeup, too. Now, you must understand that I was raised by a mother who would NEVER – and I mean NEVER – leave the house without her full mask of makeup: concealer, base, blush, lipstick, lip liner, eyeliner, eye shadow, brow pencil and mascara. She will not go to the Winn Dixie or Walmart without it. It used to drive her nuts that I would. More times than I can count I have run out the door of my parents’ house with my mother calling, “Marnie, PLEASE at least put on some lipstick!” And usually, without ever letting her know, I did. I was self-conscious without it. What if I ran into someone from school? A boy I liked – or worse – a popular girl! I would have been mortified! And I hated that!
This idea that going out without a full face of makeup is akin to going out without a bra and your nipples showing aggravates me to no end.
I am a girl. I like make up. I have bought a new lipstick after a bad day and felt a pick-me-up swiping it on. I paint my toenails deep red in the dead of winter when no one else will see them and it makes me smile. But that is for me and doesn’t have anything to do with how someone else thinks I should look. That is the difference.
I resent the expectation that I am only deemed properly dressed if I have on war paint. I don’t like the way mascara feels on my eyelashes some days, so I don’t wear it. Even to work (gasp)! Most of the time on those days I put on my glasses to disguise the fact that I am not wearing eye makeup – or at least make it less noticeable. I know some people assume my “allergies are acting up” so makeup is an irritant. It is an irritant, but not because I have an allergy. I just didn’t want to wear it that day or I was running late and didn’t have time at home or hit all the lights green (yes, RARELY that happens) driving in to work. On one of those days a few months ago I actually had a co-worker ask me where my eye makeup was. Really? I didn’t ask her how she looked in the mirror and thought that shirt, pant and shoe combo matched that morning before work – because that would have been rude – but it was perfectly fine for her to question my style the day when I decided that glasses and no eye makeup was appropriate.
I will still put on some concealer because I have reddish circles around my eyes and I will touch up a couple of other areas I don’t like. I also will wear some sort of lip something – whether it be stain or lipstick – but that is mainly because all that lipstick wearing over the years has cost me the natural pigment of my lips and now they look all washed out with no color on them. But those are things that matter to me. I will do that around my house for the day or when no one but my husband and kids will see me.
And that is another thing that aggravates me. I feel obligated to make up and dress more for people at work with whom I have a very superficial relationship in a way that I don’t feel obligated to do for my own husband who is supposed to be attracted to me or my kids who are supposed to look up to me. While I understand levels of appropriateness at work, why is it that for women well groomed and dressed means made up, costumed and painted?
Here’s another example. I don’t have naturally pretty hair. It is fine and sort of wavy with some curls underneath. If I dry and curl it, it looks great. But air-dried? Not so much. However, in the mornings I have a hard time fitting in a curling iron every day. Not too long ago I discovered a headband trick. I can wrap my hair damp around a headband and sleep on it and it will look pretty great for work the next day. BUT I have to get into bed with my husband looking like a Little House on the Prairie cast member. I could just imagine it: my husband waiting for me in bed while I shower, shave and lotion up in the evening for the possibility of a little rolling around before falling to sleep curled up together relived and satisfied. Except here I come with what amounts to rollers in my hair and cold cream on my face. He’d probably fake being asleep and I couldn’t blame him. And why would I do this? So I can look good for the people at work so they don’t think less of me?? Uh-uh. I should care more about his opinion, shouldn’t I? And to be perfectly honest, I’d rather get laid. So no headband/curlers for me.
Does going to work with less makeup than society deems appropriate make me less of a person? Does it make me sloppy or unkempt? It is not like I would go in without combing my hair, brushing my teeth or in shabby clothes I would wear to clean out the basement.
Should one BMI point or wearing jeans that are two sizes above where I would like them to ideally be make me a failure? My husband seems to find me attractive still and I get the occasional admiring glance walking down the street. But when I look in the mirror my eye goes straight to the flabby place between my elbow and tricep (that makes me hate to wear sleeveless tops in July even though I live in Hotlanta), my lower abs that at 42 and after 3 kids will probably never be “flat” again (and though I know even skimpy panties cover the flab, I always see it) and my always present and ever-hated thighs (which I have been harping on since my 20s even when my BMI would have been decidedly underweight). There is no escaping it. I am my own worst enemy and critic.
Why is my internal self-worth and feelings of attractiveness (both things that contribute highly to feelings of competency and personal value) so wrapped up in these outside factors? And why is it that I am more self-conscious about my looks with strangers than I am around people I love? I don’t know the answer. I only hope that asking the question helps me find peace with myself.
The other day while playing with the boys on my bed I started taking pictures of them. Ezra asked me if he could take a picture of me. And I hesitated. I was not dressed for pictures. My hair was pulled back and unkempt. I had little, if any, makeup on and was wearing smudged glasses. Before I answered my little boy who only wanted to take a picture of me, I did a quick inventory of how bad I would look in that picture. And then I was disgusted with myself. I gave him the camera and smiled my best smile. If my boys look at me with love and think I am a beautiful mommy, it doesn’t matter if no one else sees it, but – as an act of defiance – I am posting that picture for all to see. Take that, vanity.