Tweaking

Everyone could always stand to look a little better. Even Angelina Jolie doesn’t like her cheeks sometimes. Or her thighs. Which, the magazines tell us emphatically, is endearing. It makes her a little more human. Because we’re all like that. We all know we really could stand to look a little better. Even when we don’t actively hate the way we look. Even when we’re having a good day. I’ve seen it so many times. I’ve done it so many more times. And because it’s so ubiquitous, I don’t have to think about what it is, or what it means. Or if I think about it, I can just say, “Human nature! We’re all striving to be better. That’s why we built the pyramids! Or, um, had a bunch of slaves build them…That’s why we enslaved those people in the first place! That’s why there’s civilization! Because we’re always tweaking. Always improving.”

Tweaking. You know, pulling at the edges. Straightening the lines. Fixing tiny details. Except that some tiny details are not so easily fixed. And then we get stuck, standing in front of the mirror, repeating under our breath, “If my eyes were just a little bigger. If they were just a little bigger.” And nothing is going to change. It’s just not.

Weight is easier, because we know it can change. “If I just lose ten pounds. Just ten pounds,” we whisper to ourselves every time we try on clothes, look in the mirror, sit down, pass a darkened pane of glass, visit a friend we haven’t seen in a while, eat a full meal, eat a piece of cake, take off our clothes, lie on our side, exercise, etc.

(source)

Deborah Rhode, brilliant legal scholar, director of the Stanford Center on the Legal Profession, and author of a lot of books, including her recent project, The Beauty Bias, gets frustrated with a colleague of hers who makes statements about how weightism isn’t that big a deal (forgive pun), because people can change that aspect of themselves without too much trouble. “Without too much trouble?” I can hear her slamming her fist down on the lectern. What has this guy been reading? Diet pill ads? Or those ads for weight-loss surgery on the subway. So easy! It will only take ten seconds! We will only have to remove two vital organs! You’ll look amazing!

Ask anyone who’s dieted regularly. It’s not easy. In fact, sometimes it might seem impossible. And there are plenty of studies that show pretty convincingly that most people, no matter how diligently they try, will hover around a certain, unflinchingly determined weight for most of their lives.

But it doesn’t matter. We want to tweak. We see the details, not the whole. We sometimes admit that we look pretty good from a reasonable distance. And then, upon coming closer, all is revealed! All of the problems are right there, literally, on the surface.

It’s disrespectful, really. What are our poor faces and bodies supposed to do? They don’t change easily, or at all, except to keep aging. Or without a lot of painful surgery. They aren’t doing anything wrong. They’re functioning—allowing us to communicate, move around, have sex, look surprised, smile, mime, dance, whatever. And we can’t stop criticizing them.

We need to recognize tweaking for what it is: a vicious, insidious, constant attack. It doesn’t sound vicious, because it’s directed at little things. You aren’t saying, “I’m hideous!” You’re saying, “I’d be a little bit more attractive if…” It’s deceptive. It’s like a parent telling their child, “You’ll never be quite as smart as your brother, but if you get a little better at math, maybe you have a shot.”

We’re the parents of our bodies. We nourish them, clothe them, monitor them constantly, secretly believe they are capable of truly great things, are afraid of them behaving improperly and making us look bad, are amazed to see them growing up, sense they aren’t realizing their full potential, try to encourage them to do healthy things, and feel incredibly hurt and frustrated when they don’t listen to us and go off and make their own decisions without consulting us or respecting our advice. But we’re abusive parents. Because we’re always telling them what’s wrong with them. We’re always threatening to deny them things they like. We’re always reminding them that they could be a little better. Just a little better, in so many ways.

Sometimes it’s amazing how many flaws we can even remember we have. I bet you can reel off a list, though, on a moment’s notice, if I asked you. I can do it. Once a friend of mine and I listed things we didn’t like that much about our appearances for close to an hour without stopping. All the tiny, tiny details. Stuff no one else would ever notice. Such an abuse of intimacy. Can you imagine listing everything that’s wrong with your partner, or your best friend? Because you know that person so well, you have access to the little things no one else knows. Can you imagine making a list of all of their flaws? Down to the most minute mole, a stray eyebrow hair, the way of folding a towel, or the slightest gesture, when bored on a bus. It’s mean, right?

So the next time you find yourself in front of a mirror, and you automatically begin the familiar list in your head, “If only your chin was a little less pronounced…” Maybe you should stop. Maybe you should un-roast instead. Maybe you should pick a tiny detail that is really cool, special, weird in a good way, or just interesting. Maybe you should pick the same detail, and figure out what makes it interesting. Maybe you should remember a person who remarked on that exact feature, except to say, “I love your chin! It’s so distinctive. That is a chin so proud and noble and brave that it could’ve inspired civilization. It could’ve, you know, motivated the building of the pyramids.”

(source)

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Un-Roast: Today I love the oval shape of my face. Sometimes I think, “too long. It could stand to be a little more defined, and shorter.” But oval is pretty good, so I’m gonna go with it.

P.S. Check out the syndication of my post about men, women, and sex in Huffpo, if you need to read it again because I’m just that amazing.

P.P.S Sign up for email updates! Send me photos of yourself eating cake! Seriously. I want those photos for my Cake Gallery.

24 Comments »

Kate on October 5th 2010 in beauty, body, food, weight

24 Responses to “Tweaking”

  1. Cindy responded on 05 Oct 2010 at 12:41 pm #

    I love this one little sentence.

    We need to recognize tweaking for what it is: a vicious, insidious, constant attack.

    that pretty much sums it all up!

    thanks for that! what a great reminder of how much control we really have over ourselves!

    xoxoxoxo

  2. Ellie Di responded on 05 Oct 2010 at 12:44 pm #

    This one gave me chills (the good kind). We ARE bad body-parents. I know I am. The argument of “you wouldn’t treat someone else that way” has been overdone, but comparing the relationship as parent to child made it fresh enough to be jarring to me. Holy crap, yanno?

  3. melissa responded on 05 Oct 2010 at 3:06 pm #

    I really enjoyed reading this! I am definitely an abusive parent, but every day is a new day! Thanks for sending out your support to us regular girls…

  4. poet responded on 05 Oct 2010 at 3:10 pm #

    This is so very true! “We’re always telling them what’s wrong with them”… I remember a diary entry from when I was 14 or so, going on and on about all the things that were supposedly ugly with me… Luckily I have learnt to accept and love my body just as it is.

    Cheers,
    poet

  5. Mary responded on 05 Oct 2010 at 8:57 pm #

    After lurking for a few months I’m officially coming out of my shell. I love your blog, Kate!

    I am SUCH a tweaker. It’s easy for me to get caught up in my flaws until I listen to friends whom I could only describe as stunningly beautiful go on a similar tirade about themselves.

    And then I think, is that what I sound like too?

    My first un-roast is my eyebrows. They’re dark, nicely shaped, and they look cute peeking above my sunglasses.

  6. Kate responded on 05 Oct 2010 at 9:12 pm #

    @Mary
    Hi! Sometimes I hear myself casually mentioning my flaws to other people and I cringe a little. It feels completely natural, and I have to remind myself how unnecessary and harmful it can be.

    Thanks for commenting!

  7. Wei-Wei responded on 06 Oct 2010 at 6:01 am #

    Un-roast: my chin is really big. But the rest of my face is pretty small and it’s a pretty good shape (oval with almost no jawline) and a lot of people like it, so maybe I’ll learn to like it too.

  8. Sarah responded on 07 Oct 2010 at 7:29 am #

    I agree with this so much! Why do we think it’s OK to talk about ourselves this way when we wouldn’t do that about another person (well, certainly not in their hearing!). My friend used to pull me up on self-criticism or deprecating remarks by saying ‘don’t talk about my friend like that’. I try to remember that if I’m feeling negative about something about myself.

  9. Astrid responded on 07 Oct 2010 at 8:46 am #

    Very insightful and well written. Thank you

  10. ali responded on 07 Oct 2010 at 11:20 am #

    Beautifully stated.
    I cannot get enough of your blog.

    This:
    “Sometimes it’s amazing how many flaws we can even remember we have. I bet you can reel off a list, though, on a moment’s notice, if I asked you.”

    SO true. It’s depressing! Like you said, I would never point out flaws in other people..why are we so cruel to ourselves?

  11. Cakie responded on 08 Oct 2010 at 5:12 pm #

    I love this post! All so true. Thankfully, my list has gotten shorter as I have gotten older. When I was a teenager I literally used to write page-long lists of everything I wanted to change about myself. Now there are only a couple of things that bother me on a regular basis, and I am working on getting to get to the point where I can truly love every single bit of myself.

    It’s not our bodies that need tweaking – it’s our state of mind! xo

  12. MWN responded on 08 Oct 2010 at 6:44 pm #

    I love the beginning, about human nature and the pyramids. Your humor is one reason I read this blog all the time.

    I think it’s so important to remember, exactly like you said, WE ARE THE PARENTS OF OUR BODIES. And if we treated a child by starving it, for example, …what kind of horrible parent DOES that to a child? Yet we do it to ourselves, and that’s OK, because in America we are all about the liberty to do whatever we want to ourselves.

  13. Kate responded on 08 Oct 2010 at 6:54 pm #

    @MWN
    Thanks for appreciating the bit about the pyramids. I love it when someone likes whatever weird (hopefully funny) joke I try to make! I feel hugely complimented right now.

  14. Link Love: Week Ending 10.10.10 (wow!) | Cakie Belle responded on 10 Oct 2010 at 8:14 am #

    [...] the blogosphere, Kate from Eat the Damn Cake wrote an amzing post about Tweaking as well as great post about plastic surgery and her nose on [...]

  15. body loving blogosphere 10.10.10 | medicinal marzipan responded on 10 Oct 2010 at 10:13 am #

    [...] eat the damn cake, tweaking [...]

  16. Zeynep responded on 10 Oct 2010 at 11:57 pm #

    I had a very passive-aggressive roommate freshman year of college, who completed destroyed my self-confidence. After high school I was a pretty naive, carefree and obliviously confident individual, ready to take on the world and meet everyone. For nine months, my roommate took constant little jabs at me, every single day, at the tiniest actions or words. Meaningless things, like asking someone to pass the salt, were ridiculed. She laughed at the way I danced, yelled at me for words I misunderstood. And because these criticisms were so tiny on their own, no one else noticed. If someone outright verbally assaults you, it’s a lot easier to defend against it; it’s also easier for other people to notice and defend you against it as well. But this way was much more sneaky. Sophomore year she moved in with our mutual friends, and I finally got rid of her. She then started her passive-aggressive abuse against her new roommate, who finally understood what I went through the year before.

    Long story short, I think what you described here is a lot like that passive-aggressive roommate. It took me years to reclaim what she had taken from me, and I was never the same person again. I really withdrew into a cycle of self-doubt and constant self-analysis. I still can’t just let go and dance like I used to. I think we severely underestimate the power of little criticisms. They chip away slowly at our confidence, and over time can do major damage without us even noticing. At that point, it could be too late, and the damage irreversible. It’s a constant way of undermining ourselves.

    Thanks for the post. I like the thought that we are like parents over our bodies.

  17. Jo @JAGSfitnessblog.com responded on 11 Oct 2010 at 8:38 am #

    I was recommended this blog after seeing the un-roast on someone else’s blog. I’m finally coming around to loving myself just as I am and it’s such a liberating feeling.

    I hope you won’t mind me linking to this post on my blog?

    Thanks, you’re awesome!

  18. Dana responded on 12 Oct 2010 at 3:14 pm #

    I LOVED this post.

    Dana xo

  19. Caroline responded on 12 Oct 2010 at 4:21 pm #

    Someone once told me that I should think of taking care of myself as if I were taking care of the 5-year-old version of myself. Would I tell her she can’t eat something because it’s “bad”? Would I restrict the number of calories I fed her everyday? Would I constantly tell her she wasn’t pretty enough or thin enough? Of course not. So why am I willing to do that to the 21-year-old version of myself?

    This is such a good post. We really are “parents” our caretakers of our own bodies, and they don’t deserve to be abused anymore than anyone else that might be in our care deserves it.

  20. Link Love: Week Ending 24:10:10 | Cakie Belle responded on 24 Oct 2010 at 2:56 am #

    [...] Love Is A Battlefield at Ms. Magazine, I’m OK at Door 16, What Made You at Already Pretty and Tweaking at Eat The Damn [...]

  21. Eat the Damn Cake » Getting better at being yourself responded on 28 Apr 2011 at 10:00 am #

    [...] wrote before about the concept of tweaking– that urge to change a few things, until we’re perfect. It’s the sense I [...]

  22. Caleb responded on 15 Nov 2011 at 1:36 pm #

    Great post, love!!!

  23. Eat the Damn Cake » this is my face responded on 12 Dec 2011 at 12:55 pm #

    [...] wonder if everything would be a little better if our bellies were a little flatter or if we could tweak things just a little and if sometimes we even get cosmetic surgery, ultimately, this is [...]

  24. Eat the Damn Cake » stop apologizing: a story that is secretly about Natalie Portman responded on 13 Aug 2012 at 1:16 pm #

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