There is nothing, and I mean nothing, better for crushing oneís self esteem into a tiny little ball of pity and woe like a Sunday spent wandering Mott and Elizabeth Streets in Manhattanís NoLita. Every woman you pass is leggier and blonder than the last; sunglasses glint in the half-light as the could-be models and starlets wait for their brunch tables and walk their French Bulldogs, sauntering casually in Uggs and hot pink stilettos and retro Converse. The men are so painfully hot, so artfully disheveled, their shirts layered just so that you wonder if a) you stumbled onto a shoot for Details magazine, or b) people would point and laugh if they knew your clothes came from the Gap. The pretties, they are everywhere. And they are thin.
So very thin. Thin enough that I catch myself looking at a girl, thinking Wow, she is as thin as someone can be, but then I turn my head or step into the next boutique and I realize that Nope, they can be even thinner. Thin enough that I heard a girl my height (5í8Ē+) exclaim in joy that she had found a pair of Alice & Olivia pants in size zero, which she didnít know existed. Thin enough to send me home in a dirty, nasty funk of feeling like crap.
Which is where Iíve been all evening.
And I want to blame Hollywood and fashion magazines and New York City (because really, is it fair that I have to walk the same streets and shop at the same stores and try on goddamn jeans next to Kate Hudson or Julia Roberts or Bridget Hall?), but in truth, the problem is mine. I donít know why itís so hard for me to feel good about the way I look, but it is. There is no reason for me to feel bad tonight, because not only am I thin (not, however, Thin), but Ďso what?í Why does it take something as fleeting as walking past the Beautiful People to make me feel so bad about myself?
Where does self-acceptance come from? There are plenty of days when I get up, get dressed, go to work and spend an entire day feeling good about who I am. Plenty. There are days when I look in the mirror and feel happy with what I see. There are days when I donít look in the mirror at all. Then there are days like this, when I catch myself wishing we lived in the middle of nowhere, someplace where people didnít know what Rogan jeans and Sigerson flats are and no one noticed if your highlights were a little brassy.
But again, the problem isnít the steady stream of cool, confident downtown glam-sters to whom I compare myself, itís the ease with which total strangers can make me feel different about myself, without even saying a word.
Kent and I watched the movie Thirteen last night, and what I found myself repeating over and over, was Damn, itís hard to be a girl. It starts young, and it doesnít let up. Whatís worse is that I was jealous of the girls in the movie, of their teeny, adolescent bodies and smooth skin. My body is strong, itís been thin, itís gained weight, itís lost weight, it has scars and cellulite and small breasts. Why isnít that enough?
If I had the answer, Iíd be a wealthy woman who could afford a personal trainer to keep her looking fabulous, but I donít. I only know that the question is key. Caroline Knapp (a great writer who died alarmingly young) writes about this question in her book ďAppetites: Why Women Want.Ē I donít want to even try and paraphrase her, but my biggest takeaway from the book is that ďitĒ is never enough Ė and that ďitĒ factor may manifest in different ways for different women, but if oneís own body and weight, or wealth, or relationships or wardrobe or career arenít enough, then we will seek to fill that void. An appetite will develop, a consuming need. One more pair of shoes and Iíll feel better. One more pint of ice cream. One more kiss, one more affair. One more day of not eating.
I struggle with food and weight and eating every day. The amount of energy that I put into worrying about my weight and my appearance exhausts me. What I want to figure out is how to harness that energy and redirect it. I wish I knew how.
I believe that it is important to care about how you look. And that doesnít make me shallow. I think people should be fit and healthy and should try to look their best and wear red lipstick if it makes them happy and it makes me sad when I see people who have given up on themselves. But the piece that remains just out of reach is learning to accept and love oneís best self, unconditionally.
I bought a pair of black mary jane shoes earlier today, and I tried them on when we got home. I found myself scrutinizing my feet. I asked my husband if the shoes made me look fat and butch. Let me repeat that Ė I thought that a pair of shoes were making me look fat and masculine. Is that crazy? Because thinking it over now, it sounds a little crazy. But there is something about walking around downtown, watching the painfully glam brunch crowd strolling past me, that brings out The Crazy. And now Iím sitting here, feeling like a fat, frumpy she-male.
Itís not right. How thin is thin enough? How thin do I have to be? I wear a size six, and I had trouble finding skirts in my size earlier today. Size SIX, and the boutiques keep my size ďin the back.Ē
You can start to see why my self-esteem wavers, right?
You can see how hard it can be to be a girl, right?
Iíve got no tidy little coda for this entry. But read Janaís entry ďWhen I Look in the Mirror.Ē Iím trying to see things the way she does.