Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A Kinder, Gentler Face Punch

In a time of freedom and success, I sure do seem to be laser focused on why I'm not kind to myself. But hey. This is a blog and it's getting so loud in my head I can't think anymore. I literally got up out of bed to write this. Take that, sleep and stuff.

We all have physical imperfections. We all have things we do not love about our appearance and have either grown to accept those things, have embraced those things, or have chosen to loudly complain about those things when ordering a pastry/trying on clothes/purchasing skin care products/looking in a mirror/watching one's self on video/having a conversation about something unrelated ("Well, I wouldn't say that a vote for Bernie is a vote for Trump, it's not like an immediate thing like eyes drawn to my love handles. What are we talking about?") in the hopes that the complaining will somehow lead to the aforementioned acceptance/embracing or magically fixing it.

Sure. We all have that. We also love seeing other people have that, because it feels validating and good. Stars are just like us and all.

Body positivity is not only important, it's fucking vital. And I encourage it in the exact same spirit I encouraged my husband to pursue a different path after leaving advertising: that's totally cool for you, but not for me. No, no, YOU have to do that. In this life, what else have you but your happiness and sanity and love? Do it! Me? No, fuck that. Not me, this is about you. YOU do those great things. You deserve them.

Everyone should love themselves and all they come with, I preach, for this life is cruelly short, and we cannot waste it on wanting to be something we aren't, unless we are putting in the actual work that comes with real change. There is nothing to gain by demonizing one's own appearance. I know these things, and I practice them once in a great while for myself. But most often, I am running a checklist of all the things that are currently wrong with how I look, and wrong with what I'm doing. Like...all day and night.

Goddammit, I have a daughter. The thought of her doing this to herself breaks my heart into a thousand fucking pieces.

I remember saying something disparaging about my appearance in front of my mother late in her life. "What are you talking about?" she growled in her smoky Brooklyn voice, "You're gorgeous!" She was appalled. I thought she was biased. I get it now. She was both.

I try to see myself as my daughter sees me. Sometimes that works. And then I see a video or photo of myself from even a year or two ago, and I wonder how I am bigger than that now, when both versions of me were post-kid. Then I snap back to now, realize I am pushing my body around in the mirror like it's hair and all I have to do is spray it and oh my God what if she saw me do that. Shit, did she see me do that?

She must have seen me do that at some point. How could she miss it?

I am terrified of all the challenges this girl will face, and I am doing my damnedest to raise her to be strong against them, even as she adores princesses and their dresses. Dresses are nice, so I won't argue with that. But between Photoshop and models and the industry I am in and a GODDAMNED VICTORIA'S SECRET CATALOG IN MY MAILBOX EVERY DAY SINCE I BOUGHT A BRA STOP SENDING ME PORN, VS, I HAVE A PHONE FOR THAT...she'll be bombarded with images and ideas about how she should look. I am hopeful that the battle being waged on that bullshit will have made some progress soon...or that she can take up arms to continue the fight in earnest. I am also hopeful I haven't lost myself yet. That I haven't decided entirely that I am not up to snuff. But, man, I am not making this easy on myself.

I read a great list of body positive books to read with your daughter, and I was delighted. I was all, "hell yeah, this is powerful. I can't wait until she's old enough to read these," and then...quietly, but so so consistently...I literally judged these books by their covers. "If being different is so awesome and celebratory, why is there a really pretty model on the cover of this book?" My thoughts devolved from there, wondering if I should just gain more weight so I could be a "type" instead of this mushy, oddly shaped and too-big version of my former self - someone who just doesn't get how she was supposed to look. Like no one told me and I just ate food and now what the hell is this.

Don't get me wrong, when I was thirty pounds lighter than I am now, I thought I was enormous and I'd cry about it. This isn't about the weight. Sure, I'd love for some of that to go away so I can wear more clothes in my own closet because poor. But see, I KNOW WHAT TO DO TO MAKE THAT HAPPEN. It isn't about that. It never was.

It's about never, ever, fully embracing my entire self the way I want others to do for their entire selves.

Whether it's my career (you know this tune: I'm a fraud and what I'm doing is ridiculous because I will never be as good as doo dah, doo dah...I'm a failure and delusional why do I bother, oh the doo dah day), my self worth (how DO I have all of these friends and this selfless and courageous husband when I am the literal worst and most selfish person ever), or my appearance ("You should love yourself as you are. You're fucking gorgeous. Me? No. You? Always").

This isn't a plea for compliments or validation. It won't do a damn bit of good anyway because, if I don't believe it myself, that sweet sentiment is going to bounce off of me and crash to the floor. Continually.

I have small victories where I break the cycle: I give myself an approving glance in a store window reflection. I take a good selfie (cue club jamz). I just feel good enough that I don't care. My daughter looks at me adoringly when I show her "ballet moves." My daughter looks at me adoringly for any reason and laughs at my jokes. Anyone laughs at my jokes. But it's really only a matter of time before I slip the "I could lose a few pounds, amirite" comment or "it's cool, I'll just be chinless and over here being super weird" comment into an otherwise pleasant conversation.

I don't want my daughter to hear or see it, but it permeates everything I do. Therefore, it can no longer be about hiding it. It has to be about actually believing what I want her to believe: that we, as we are, are beautiful. That what we are doing is good enough as long as we're trying our best. Not in a motivational meme or Instagram post kind of way. Really and honestly believing it down to my rapidly deteriorating bones. Goddammit, I did it again.

This journey isn't easy, but it has to be done. For me, for her, for everyone I love. Because who wants to be the woman who hates herself underneath the good talk? No one. And I've been her long enough.   I deserve better. My daughter deserves better. My husband deserves better. And one more time for the back row: I deserve better.

There, Brain. I've emptied a bit. Now please leave me be and let's go the hell to sleep.

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