(Before anyone freaks out, these are quotes.) ;-*
What I am about to say is tricky, and it is a statement about my own relationship with bulimia and anorexia. Bulimia is linked, in my life, to periods of intense passion, passion of all kinds, but most specifically emotional passion. Bulimia acknowledges the body explicitly, violently. It attacks the body, but it does not deny. It is an act of disgust and of need. This disgust and this need are about both the body and the emotions. The bulimic finds herself in excess, too emotional, too passionate. This sense of excess is pinned to the body. The body bears the blame but is not the primary problem. There is a sense of hopelessness in the bulimic, a well-fuck-it-all-then, I might as well binge. This is a dangerous statement, but the bulimic impulse is more realistic than the anorexic because, for all its horrible nihilism, it understands that the body is inescapable.
The anoretic operates under the astounding illusion that she can escape the flesh, and, by association, the realm of emotions.
The other day I was talking to this guy I know. Somehow the conversation took a turn, and he asked, “What do you think are the three sexiest things about your brain and your body?”
I couldn’t think of three parts of my body that I was comfortable enough with. Besides, how could I say it to another human being? What if he totally disagreed? My mind was racing. Did hair and smile count? Or did I have to name real body parts? And what about my brain? At that moment nothing felt very sexy.
So I turned it on him. “What about you?”
He didn’t even need to think. He had three, plus an extra.
I changed the subject. He brought it back. He wanted to know why I couldn’t say it. I felt like I was talking to Dr. Phil.
Thalia, muse of comedy: “Hercules? Honey, you mean HUNK-ules! Whoo, I’d like to make some sweet music on –”
Other muse: “OUR STORY” (glare) “actually begins…”
is it a coincidence that Thalia — the comic relief, the unabashedly sexual, the inappropriately flirtatious — is the only one in that group I couldn’t break with my pinky finger?
In the old masters’ paintings, courtesans, mistresses, bathers at the river — the sex symbols of their time — are what we’d now call fat. By no means obese, but with sensuous curve of belly, butt, thighs, breasts, catching the light with careful delineation.
“Pleasures of the flesh” is all about size and sex appeal. Nobody talks about “pleasures of the skin and bone.” Mikey calls that “hugging a bag of antlers.”
Here’s a dangerous search for the workplace: “sexiest woman alive.” Don’t worry, miraculously, it’s SFW. But where are the curves? I can see ribs. She’s pretty, yeah. But sexy?
It annoys me when people blame “the media” or “society” for everything they see wrong in the world. After all, the media, to some extent anyway, only covers that which the market demands, and society is no more than a collection of individuals. They’re nebulous words, useful to dissipate any responsibility that might hit too close to home. Ref. my last poem-post. There is no change, no trend, no fad, no revolution that does not start with an individual. Change in the microcosm reverberates in the macro, and refusing to act because we feel too small to matter is as wrong as actively doing something bad. Faithless put it this way: “Inaction is a weapon of mass destruction.” So I’ll refrain from saying that the media and society are to blame for this idea that “sexy” doesn’t apply to anyone over a size 10.
But it’s true that somewhere along the way, that idea became lodged in our collective consciousness, and matriculated through our daily interactions until it became truth. When and why have been the subject of many books, but still we believe it. Or energetically disbelieve it, with great defiance and effort, in the face of all who would convince us.
It’s been a topic of sociological study, but I didn’t need the book to tell me that the WORST thing you can do as a girl is to act like you like any part of yourself. Other people may compliment you, and you can wave away their words with a smile and a blush and a self-deprecating word, but you can NEVER, in speech or in action, imply that you think anything about you is praiseworthy. People say teenage girls have bad self-images because of the changes of puberty or the pressures of (there’s that word again) the media. I disagree — I think we have bad self-images because we are forbidden to have good ones. It is the most strictly-enforced rule in school.
In a related field, overweight people exist in a precarious state of conditional tolerance. We are allowed to exist only if we communicate, by word, deed, or dress, our dissatisfaction with the state of our physique. We can be a work in progress, but we cannot be content outside our recommended BMI. We can eat a salad in public (or better yet, skip the meal altogether), but if we order dessert, all eyes are on us. “Like a fat kid loves cake,” we become the joke, the cautionary tale, the sideshow attraction, and the mental measuring tapes wrap around our lovehandles and squeeze.
If Shani had rattled off a list of features she found sexy in herself, she would have violated both of these codes. The correct answer, the safest answer, was “nothing.” Or its variant: “Once I’ve lost this weight, I think my ____ would be nice.” Even if it took her a while, she showed courage by verbalizing positive feelings about herself, especially something as vulnerable, as subjective, as sexiness.
How dare I like any part of myself, much less expect anyone else to agree? I can like the potential, what I’ll look like when these curves have slimmed down to smooth mirrored Cs from my ribs to my hips. I can like how I used to be, in my “skinny days” of size 6s and dimpleless legs. But to like how I am now is to let go of the rope, and that’s far harder than the tug-o-war ever could be.
My silent message to the world has always been, “I know…I’m working on it!”
I’m not even sure where I’m going with this. The pieces of this dichotomy have been jostling around in my head all day, and I can’t seem to order them into coherence. The answer seems to be something along the lines of “love thyself,” but like the ancient Magratheans, I don’t actually know the question that goes with it.