Friday, June 4, 2010

Women and body image: My perspective

I found this article on women and body image from a man's perspective very interesting, so I decided to discuss it today on how I dealt with it growing up. This is also branching out from what I had discussed yesterday about Monica from Wapsi Square.

Odd as this may sound, I was in a sense fortunate to confront body image issues early on in life, because it meant that I dealt with them that much sooner. I began to get my feminine curves early on - about 11. Yes, at that age, I already had the beginnings of hips and breasts. This forced me to deal with how I viewed myself and how I dealt with sexuality issues early on. Emotionally and socially, I was still a girl at 11, but already I had to deal with unwanted attention from both boys and girls over my suddenly emerging curves.

I grew like a weed, so by the time I was 14 I already had good height and a pretty adult-looking body. I benefited from my mom's lessons about accepting myself as I am, because she went through this at that age. Fighting body image issues is one of the reasons that she became a Marxist feminist. I had to deal with grown men hitting on me (and some of them knew that I was a minor!) as well as other girls who would assume bad things about me because I already looked like an adult. Thing is, I didn't dress like some fashion diva back then - I was still a big comics nerd and wore the basic jeans and t-shirt, and even wore loose shirts so that it wouldn't be so obvious that I was busty.

The hardest part of these times was losing some childhood friends because they got jealous over how adult I already looked and the attention it brought me without even trying. I won't repeat what they said, but trust me, it was both unkind and uncalled for, because I couldn't help the way I looked, nor could I do anything about the attention that my curves drew from the boys and men, even though I intentionally dressed like a slob. I knew it was jealousy because they admitted it years later when we were all adults, and they apologized.

As I got into my late teens, I was already very tall, so just on that alone I was hard to miss, but add to this the curves, and I was a beacon even if I wore loose fitting clothes. Back then, my wardrobe was largely jeans and t-shirts, because 1.) my mom didn't want me to be some sort of fashion diva, and 2.) I was more insterested in other stuff anyway. It really bothered me that others were judging me on something that I had no control over, and it was also hard to know what guys really wanted from me - to really get to "know me better" as a person, or were they looking for some excuse to grab parts of my body? I had that a lot, by the way - being grabbed.

Some women have told me that I probably was able to get away with a lot of stuff because I was so curvy, but really, it was more a bother than a help. It would have been easy to develop a low self esteem from all this, but fortunately I had developed strength both from learning how to deal with unwanted looks and gropes, and from being politically right wing fighting for my views within a social circle that had a lot of left wingers. Still, it was sure a pain in my large ass to have to put up with crap that many other women didn't, but that's the case for any woman when you get down to it.

All through high school, I dressed as the basic jeans and t-shirt slob, rarely putting on something that looked less androgynous and more feminine. I didn't even go to the prom mainly because I didn't want to dress up (and besides, my Marxist mom felt that proms were so retro establishment anyway). It wasn't until college, when I made new friends, that I started to "dress like a girl" and came to appreciate my looks and curvy body.

It basically started one day when my friends were tired of my jeans and t-shirts. It was so funny because it was like one of those classic "make-over" stories that you often see on reality TV shows. We went to a hair salon to work on my long hair. Then we went to purchase cosmetics to teach me - pretty much for the very first time! - a lot of the make-up tricks that they had been using for years. Oh, and then there was the shopping!

I tell you, once I saw how good I can look, pretty much I never went back. Oh, I still wear jeans and tees, but they're more fashionably cut! LOL Anyway, it was like Barbie discovering that she looks really good when she's dressed for her body proportions! For instance, there is the instance of my big butt that has always been a source of annoyance with me. I'll be painfully honest that if it weren't for my big boobs, then others would notice that my butt is pretty big, too. I discovered one of those fashion tricks to wear a short loose skirt to emphasize my long legs and to hide my wide hips. This explains my superhero costume's skirt, by the way (but don't tell anyone I said that, okay?).

The lesson here, folks, is that there is a lot of truth in that saying about accepting yourself as you are. Other girls and women were jealous of me because I have a cup size naturally that some had to get surgery to achieve. In the meantime, I wished I was slender and skinny like they were, so that I could wear some of the great clothes they wore, but they were designed for skinny, less curvy bodies. Still, thanks to my college friends, I was able to find clothes that did look good on me.

In other words, this is an instance of "the grass looking greener on the other side". In the battle for the perfect body, there is no perfect body, and the sooner we all accept that, the better. Hell, folks, even the women on the covers of most fashion magazines don't look like that in real life! What you see on the cover is the final airbrushed or Photoshopped product, and NOT the model as she was originally photographed. This further enhances the implication that there is a perfect body if we can only lose enough weight/exercise/have the right surgeries/accessorize and cosmeticize/ etc. The most beautiful people I know are those who not only have a basic understanding of looks and fashion and at least put out a basic effort of neatness and cleanliness, but much more importantly, they acccept themselves as they are.

Wow! I didn't mean to go on and on like this, but as you can see, this issue touches on something I had to deal with growing up. Whether it's right or wrong or fair or unfair that I had to deal with issues related to being curvy early on in my life, it's just the way it is. If I had been short and uncurvy, then I would be complaining how no one notices me! LOL That's how human nature is: we always find something to complain about, and the path to maturity is how we deal with what we complain about. I just hope that I have chose the better path.

Well friends, I ended up posting something every day this week! A first, I think! And yet, I didn't discuss COMICS in that whole time! :-D

I promise that next week I'll get back to that. Take care and have a great weekend!

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