I used to be a size 2. Once I got size zero pants, when I was maybe fifteen, and I was pretty proud. I would not be able to get into those pants now. Not even close. But sizing is confusing. For something so easy to place a lot of value on, it isn’t nearly straightforward enough.
I often get the sense that I am lopsided, when I’m buying something for my bottom and something for my top at the same time. A bikini bottom and top is the most striking example. The bottom has to be a lot bigger. To accommodate my butt (in case that wasn’t clear). The top has to be pretty small. Because of my breasts.
Because my sizes are all over the place, I wonder if my body is just disproportionate. It sometimes feels like all of my parts are making up their own minds, and none of them are interested in getting along with any of the others. Have my boobs ever even spoken to my butt? Has there ever even been an acknowledgement that they are in this together?
Can’t you guys just be friends?
I always think I’m bigger than I am. When I feel awkward, especially, I feel like I’m taking up too much space. Like I’m stealing it.
When I was little, I wanted to be very tall when I grew up. Tall people are striking. They stand out.
When I grew up, I wished I could be a little shorter.
(even if I look like this…source)
(I spend a lot of time feeling like this…source)
Women are infamous for getting their bodies wrong. In the show “How to Look Good Naked“ (which I’ve watched a few episodes of), the featured woman, struggling desperately with her own perceived ugliness, is asked to compare her body against a lineup of other, mostly naked ones. She always picks a stomach bigger than hers to identify with.
The message is strong, and I always start to cry when the woman proudly models her lingerie at the end. But I also can’t help thinking, “What about the woman whose stomach she just pointed at? Doesn’t she count, too?” The first, mistaken woman is jumping up and down going, “I’m not as fat as I thought!” But does the woman she picked out of the lineup go home thinking, “I’m how fat other women are terrified of being”?
So when a friend sent me this site, called My Body Gallery, I wasn’t totally ready to support it. I have that instinct to think, “Well, thank god I at least don’t look like her.” Or “I wish I looked more like her.” And I don’t like to do that.
But at the same time, I love to look at real women’s bodies. I love it when women talk about their bodies. And I say this without feeling even slightly pervy. I want to get real information about what real women look like. Like everyone else, I sometimes need to be reminded that my own body is perfectly normal.
Well, why wouldn’t it be?
I don’t know. But it’s easy to begin to believe it isn’t. Every other woman has longer, slimmer ankles than me. No one else has breasts that will not for any reason, at any point, create any amount of cleavage. And the sizes…What is the deal with my measurements?
Nothing, says My Body Gallery. There is no deal.
Because even people with the same measurements as me look different. They look different from me and different from one another. And at the same time, I see myself in them. I like them automatically.
When I look past that instinct to rate, rank, and repeat, I see something much more interesting on My Body Gallery. Myself, as a part of a spectrum of women who all look a little different and a little the same. I see that the sizes that we too often use to measure our self worth look a hundred different ways on a hundred different women. There are no rules. There is no inherent meaning in 2 or 6 or 12 or 14. I need to be told that sometimes.
After all, there’s a part of me that is still feeling guilty for being a 6 instead of a 2. Or an occasional 8 on the bottom. I used to be a 2. Why can’t I be a 2 anymore?
What do I think a 2 even means?
Obviously, I’m getting it wrong. And it feels really, really good to be corrected.
But what do you guys think? I want to know. Would you send your picture and measurements to My Body Gallery? Do you feel like you learn something important from looking at the pictures and measurements that have been submitted? Or do you think it’s too easy to slip into unhealthy comparisons and make it into a competition about who is thinner than who?
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Unroast: Today I love the way my eyes look the next day, after wearing a lot of eye makeup. I’m bad at putting it on, but you can never tell in the morning.
P.S. Really? An Iceberg? I seriously couldn’t think of anything else. I’m sorry.
P.P.S. Have I just not seen any yet, or are there really very few older women on My Body Gallery? That’s interesting…
A version of this piece is up on HuffPo here.