The Final Fifty

{April 9, 2013}   Rejecting Body Negativity, and Being Naked on Stage

I was talking to a friend last night at rehearsal, about body issues, and about where I’m at mentally in terms of this transformation. My friend is absolutely beautiful, all the things I would love to be: tall, with lovely long, reddish-brown hair, a very pretty face, and a body that is what I consider perfect (you don’t feel the immediate need to feed her, but she is not heavy in any sense of the word.) And even she is self conscious about her body.

It struck me that people, and especially women, are trained to never think they are good enough. Part of it is the never-ending parade of stick thin supermodels that prioritizes thinness over everything else, beauty wise, but that’s not the end of it. It’s also the slew of advertisements aimed at making people look better, look and feel younger, be less wrinkled, have less cellulite, have the best hair color, or wear the right clothes. When people feel shitty about themselves, they’d give almost anything, including ridiculous sums of money, to feel better. To feel more worthwhile. To feel like they fit.

But you can’t fit; no one can. Even if you’re thin like a supermodel, you’re told that “real men love women with curves” and encouraged to wear things to make your curves more pronounced. I don’t think I’ve ever actually met a single person who didn’t feel like they needed some sort of improvement, who wasn’t trying to make themselves just a little different somehow. Hell, even celebrities, with their scores of sycophantic followers and their devoted fans, give into the pressure to change themselves, some crafting themselves into near-alien figures.

And I thought about Margaret Cho, who has always been one of my favorite people. In particular, I thought of this quote from one of her shows:

“If you are a woman, if you’re a person of colour, if you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, if you are a person of size, if you are a person of intelligence, if you are a person of integrity, then you are considered a minority in this world.

…And it’s going to be really hard to find messages of self-love and support anywhere. Especially women’s and gay men’s culture. It’s all about how you have to look a certain way or else you’re worthless. You know when you look in the mirror and you think ‘oh, I’m so fat, I’m so old, I’m so ugly’, don’t you know, that’s not your authentic self? But that is billions upon billions of dollars of advertising, magazines, movies, billboards, all geared to make you feel shitty about yourself so that you will take your hard earned money and spend it at the mall on some turn-around creme that doesn’t turn around shit.

When you don’t have self-esteem you will hesitate before you do anything in your life. You will hesitate to go for the job you really wanna go for, you will hesitate to ask for a raise, you will hesitate to call yourself an American, you will hesitate to report a rape, you will hesitate to defend yourself when you are discriminated against because of your race, your sexuality, your size, your gender. You will hesitate to vote, you will hesitate to dream. For us to have self-esteem is truly an act of revolution and our revolution is long overdue.”

I’d thought before about making a point to not only internalize the positive feedback I’m getting from people who matter to me, but to also post very specifically about the moments of pride I experience, whether they are related to good choices I’m making, or related to the internal and external changes I observe in myself. This brought on the fear: what if people think I’m stuck up or full of myself?

And there’s the training. We’re not allowed to be proud of ourselves, or even satisfied with ourselves, to the point where we treat people who are satisfied with themselves with contempt. Out loud, we say that they’re stuck up. Full of themselves. Cocky. Inside, I think we hate them for having something we don’t have: the ability to feel like they are just fine the way they are. The ability to love themselves unconditionally.

So I’m going to start doing something that feels like social suicide, quite frankly. I’m going to start adding short posts, little snippets of something I am proud of about myself. Short snippets, unqualified, about one little thing that I appreciate about myself. It will be hard, because I am so good at zooming in on my flaws and giving them all the attention, but I want to see if helps me develop a better relationship with myself.

I’m going to tag them with TIWAB (for Today I Was Awesome Because…) I would love it if people posted their own snippets of awesome, whether here or on their own blogs. Post the link if you decide to do it on your own blog.

This summer I am going to be in a production not too far away that will involve some subtle, low lit nudity. It’s optional, on a night by night basis, so I don’t have to do it if I don’t want to, but to be honest, I’m kind of excited about it.

There have been two occasions in my life involving large groups of nude people, and both times I walked away feeling two things: One, that the naked human body is so much more than just sex, and Two, that every natural human body has flaws, now matter how perfect they look when they’re full assembled. Those are powerful things to know. Anyone can look perfect with a team of photoshop wizards paid to make them look that way, but underneath it all, most people’s bodies look more like yours than you realize.

And that’s the reason I’m going to do it, and I am even excited about doing it. I am now smaller than the average sized woman in the United States, but not by much. I like the thought that some woman in the audience will see me standing there without shame, and maybe she’ll feel less invisible than when she walked in. Maybe she’ll even feel a little less worried about her body for it. I would really like to have that effect on even one person.


Kristine says:

For me, the revolution started when my girls started noticing my body. When I was growing up, my mother was always on a diet, always dissatisfied with herself, always starting a new work-out tape, a new fad diet, a new something. But none of it stuck, and she’s not large, not in any way, but I grew up hearing herself judging her body and calling herself fat.

I don’t want the girls to grow up like that. I need to learn how to love myself, because if I don’t, how can I ever teach them to love themselves? I need to figure out how to be healthy so I can pass on crazy secrets like how to only eat two cookies, instead of sitting down and eating an entire box of Oreos because you don’t want to have to ask to be hugged.

Yesterday, I was awesome because I finished the book and sent it to my copyediting team and my cover designer (which sounds so much fancier than beta readers and Rav-friend, FYI). I was also awesome because I got home and started a new story, and ate dinner, and only ate 4 oreos.

Today, I have been awesome by drinking water all morning, and starting outlining the new story that is appropriate to work on at work. (The other one…is not).

I want to hear how you are awesome on a regular basis.

Kristine, I think you are totally awesome, for all the reasons you mentioned, and because you are working so hard to make sure your girls learn how to love themselves. I cannot wait to read your book. Will there be print copies? Ebooks are fine, but I would love to have a physical copy to keep for posterity 🙂

Kristine says:

I am not planning a print edition at this point. I’ve yet to find a POD publisher that doesn’t make crappy editions that LOOK like POD. But, we’ll see if there’s interest. The numbers crunching I’ve done seems to indicate I’d really have to charge $9.99 for it to do more than break even, which frustrates me, and I’m just overall not sure if it’s worth it. Of course, in my dream world, the ebook edition will take off and be so successful that I’ll sell the print rights to someone… 😀

Well, keep me posted. I’ll get the ebook for sure, but even if it’s twice that much or more, sign me up if you decide to do a print edition.

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