For the first time since I was secretly trying to starve and exercise myself into another body, the general public are commenting on my body. The consensus is that I’m “carrying well.” As in, I’m not getting a lot of weight. This is also a sign that I’m having a boy since the girls curse you with weight gain. Although, the girls are also said to curse you with nausea, so my tortuous first trimester means a girl, while the “blessing” of carrying small means a boy.
From two New Yorker articles I’ve read in the last month:
“[Angela] Merkel has lost weight–bedridden last winter after fracturing her pelvis in a cross-country-skiing accident, she gave up sausage sandwiches for chopped carrots and took off twenty pounds.”
“In photographs, Cheryl Strayed looks like a big bodied woman.”
Merkel is the German Chancellor, and the same piece refers to her as “the most powerful woman in the world.” Strayed is an award winning, best-selling author. Amid the countless articles and profiles I read of notable males, there are very few that mention body size and if they do, the subject is usually Bill Clinton, commenting on his post heart surgery veganism, or Chris Christie, whose weight is almost an asset, some kind of shine to it–as if it is a symbol of his individualism, his defiance. Can you imagine a woman of his size being taken seriously as a potential presidential candidate? Can you imagine her being taken seriously at the post office?
Last night I watched The Wolf of Wall Street. The first wife was a super hot brunette with curly hair. Obviously, she was left for the super hot blonde with straight hair.
But this is all painfully obvious and so familiar to me, as I imagine it is to every woman who might read this, that it is totally boring. Boring to think about, boring to write about, barely worth talking about. Feminism, the notion of it, was not something I had given any real energy to in years, but this fall my school began doing work around sexism and gender identity. And also, I was pregnant. Turns out being pregnant and talking about sexism is a surefire way to ignite long dormant anger. The students were really the ones who did me in. Because they are young and female and they are very angry. New to the experience of objectification, they can remember more clearly than I being 8 and 9 and 10 and 11. They are closer to that time before breasts (for some of us) and puberty, years when we were mostly free from the constant gaze, the constant fusing of our identities to our physical appearance. They are just recently coming out of the shift into sexual beings and the new way they are treated pisses them off. They call out the perpetual disrespects leveled at women that I had stopped paying serious attention to years ago. And of course, at the same time, no matter how brilliant and bold and defiant they are, they are tortured by the expectations…comparing their thighs and breasts and hips and arms to the computer polished images of the female form that bombard us.
From a fashion blog, “It’s not that I idealize skinny-ness, it’s just that I am entranced by the aesthetic of the skeleton. I am drawn to the beauty of bones.”
I read that five years ago. Haven’t forgotten it yet. Nor that little whisper of agreement, like Gollum convincing Smeagol, “Yes, yes, that is pretty, the clothes flow, how nice and long and lean.”
Last night during The Wolf of Wall Street naked women swarmed the screen like schools of fish. And they were fucked in more ways than I usually see in one movie; their bodies on desks and beds and floors and airplanes and cars. Their bodies their bodies their bodies. White. Pale. Public hair ripped off, leaving bare little-girl vaginas, hip bones jutting, asses often flat actually, little muscle tone, just thin. A pregnant character nagging her husband, no longer the desired sex object, replaced by others, by hookers, her body unaltered except for the prosthetic bump beneath her tight dress, her body after the baby showing no signs of pregnancy, or nursing, simply back to her stunning self, but still replaced by other women as the desired one. The woman in the house, with the baby, spending the husband’s money, no longer putting out.
And yes, you could ask, what else would I expect from this particular movie? The point of the plot is the depravity and debauchery and so on. But this is not so much a critique of this one movie because what I just described is true of countless movies. You all know it. It is the perpetual narrative of the transformation of the beauty, the one sought, the one desired, into the one taken for granted, the nagging wife; the timeless triad of virgin, wife, whore.
Really, I’m writing about the movie because last night I forgot to be angry. I forgot to critique. I was too tired. Just wanted to absorb and not think. So mostly what I thought, without realizing it, the words simply seeping into my consciousness, was this: My body will never look like that. Of course, my body was never going to look like that, but I could always hold the delusion in reserve. No longer. Some of these changes are going to be permanent. These veins and bones and skin are never going to be quite what they were.
I battle future stretch marks with tubs of shea butter. I fear post-nursing breasts as flat and useless as popped water balloons. I anticipate those months after the baby is born when my abdomen sags and flaps. I anticipate hating it. I see myself grabbing that extra skin in my hands. I see myself feeling ugly.
B. says my body is luxurious.
One of the things that kept me from acknowledging that I had an eating disorder was that I assumed I was simply too much of a feminist. Also, that what I was doing seemed normal. Everyone cleanses, reduces, refuses, runs. I didn’t look sick. I just looked smaller. I just looked like a New Yorker.
My grandmother spent years eating only one banana for lunch. In her last months, ill and in pain, she mourned the loss of her waist.
How mundane to be a woman writing about body image. How commonplace and ubiquitous. How repetitive. In the movie the early scene of a man snorting coke out of a woman’s white, naked ass gave me a little shock and thrill–Caught my attention. By the end of the three hours, the vaginas were only background. Scenery. And boring scenery. I want to be wary of the dulling of my senses. I think we should all be. The flash of a woman’s naked form should always excite. And the equating of her worth to that form should always enrage.
I don’t say thank you when the women appraise me body, nod approvingly at my size, give what they believe to be compliments. Because I can’t afford to agree with them. I have to believe there’s no such thing as there being too much of me, just as I’m piecing together that it’s not possible to be too much of a feminist.