I confess I have image issues. Loads of them. I have grown up with them. I remember wondering at age 8 or 9 what would happen if I just ate lettuce for two weeks, I went through that awkward growth spurt that naturally curvy girls go through: hiding behind the flounces of a skirted bathing suit. I spent my teen and university years wanting to be Gwyneth Paltrow and, failing, failing, to realize that one cannot magically shrink bone structure, tried a variety of eating disorders ( from starving to starving to over-exercising to bulimia) to try and get things under control. I have obsessive food thoughts. I count calories. I love the control of food: the reward and the punishment. I never think of food as fuel so much as something which tempts and taints resistance; a measure and metric to which I can weigh myself as a person with self-control. I am, without a doubt, one of the “crazy” people. I am not the only female on the planet with these issues. Not by a long-shot. Megan Dietz recognizes this and she wants to help us squelch it once and for all. I first read her piece in the Hairpin and immediately bought the kindle edition of her book, Be Less Crazy about Your Body
Fortunately, about four years ago, I got a much better handle on things. I read voraciously about nutrition, about what I need to survive; about what exercise I can do and how I can work with what I have. Always active, I am now extremely fit and healthy; but as healthy as I am and no matter how healthy I eat and live and exercise; I still have those persistent, mosquito-like thoughts. They don’t go away. They ring through my brain. They always will.And I desperately, desperately want to be THAT girl: the girl who maybe has a day or two where she feels a tad pudgy or who over-eats at a BBQ and has a moment of remorse; but then MOVES on…
I relish food guilt, I relish standing in front of a mirror, running my index finger over my ribs and around the decidedly different proportions between my waist and my hips and thinking: “ I wish I lived in the Victorian era. I could get away with hourglass then” Never: “wow! Look at me! I look like a HUMAN GIRL!” and Megan Dietz wants me to see-saw my opinion of myself to the latter. That body image, regardless of era-centric ideal is something varied and wonderful. Dietz wants us to own what we have, to be happy, to look at pictures on facebook and not have our mind-radar target each and every supposed flaw; rather to remember the happy time when the photo taken, what were we doing. Were we happy?
Dietz ( in her ridiculously reasonably priced Kindle book ) through a blend of snark and sass gives women a bit of a guidebook on how to survive each day as, well, as a woman in a 21st Century world where appearance is everything, where our bodies are forgotten as portals for goodness and strength and agility and are, instead, conscripted by a self-reflective constant appraisal and, as society would have it, constant disappointment.
What strikes me about women is how they rail against societal dictations and still subscribe. When it comes to my body I am the world’s biggest hypocrite. As a proud equalist with feministic ridging who believes that women have the strength and power to be all; as a fervent believer that we should applaud the good and beauty in every form, I am still a prisoner to the ideal. I am baited to the constant comparison. I am a victim to the standard I can never live up to.
Dietz doesn’t suggest that these thoughts will go away; but she gives reasonable suggestions for reining them in. She craves and revels in enjoyment; in the dichotomy; in the contrast between our railing against image and our embracing of the ideal thrust upon us by the media.
She also allows us a keen insight into her world: a curvy girl who entered a beauty pageant, who watched hours of herself on film just to get to the point where she could find the good apart from that immediate moment when we universally zero in on our flaws. She speaks to a friendship found outside of the convention of image and she speaks to the crazy mindset that has brought us this far. She’s too smart and savvy to couch this in a typical “self-help” way. Rather, she offers you a glass of proverbial wine and invites you to gab about it with her. Gab outside of the restricting structure of comparative hate and loathing ( you know, we all do it---we get together with our girlfriends and the comparative hating begins). Dietz wants us to reclaim the female space outside of society’s permeating judgment. She wants us to spend more of our life thinking about what our bodies can do, what we are made of ( of sterner stuff than cosmetic packaging) and how we can find constant enjoyment.
She wants us to be the generation that stops the insanity: that leads it away from mothers inherently (and inadvertently) imparting the same impractical wisdom on young girls. Dietz rightfully claims that we have more opportunity afforded us than any generation of women previously and yet we still fall into the same patriarchal trap when it comes to image. We need to renounce once and for all the conceptualization of ideal beauty as identified through the media. We need to stop acting so bloody insane about it.
It’s a powerful and uplifting and funny ( snortle orange juice out your nose type of funny) book and I highly recommend you skip over to amazon and buy the Kindle edition. Every woman I know has something they would like to change about themselves and I am getting a little tired of it, aren’t you?
Jennifer Weiner would love this book, fyi.