Old, sloppy, and successful, please

I’ve decided. I want to be old, sloppy, and look ridiculous in a bikini. I want to have a stain on my shirt that looks suspiciously like ketchup. I want to keep all the weight I’ve gained over the years. I want to prove that that is the look of success.

I heard they dressed some of the Occupy Wallstreet protestors up in suits and cut their hair, and then suddenly people took them a lot more seriously. I want to be the opposite. Except for the hair cutting– that’s fine. I want to go the other direction. And be taken seriously.

When I get old, or even considerably older, I want to look my age. I want to wear big, comfortable clothes. I want to never wear anything I don’t feel like wearing. I want to forget to look in the mirror, even when there’s something in my teeth. I don’t want this to make me quirky or eccentric or gross. I want it to be the way life works.

I want to be better at everything when I’m old. Better at knowing what really matters. Better at appreciating myself. Better at being nonjudgmental. Better at doing the things I love and being around the people I want to be around.

And at the same time, I’m scared of being old, sloppy, and ridiculous looking in a bikini. I’m scared of weight. People talk about baby weight “After my third kid, there’s no WAY I was losing that weight.” Oh shit, I think. Should I have kids?

I keep getting the impression that getting older successfully means looking like you’re not getting much older. Which usually means fighting a desperate, constant, losing battle against biology. From a distance, it looks a lot like having a terminal illness. And in a way, I guess it is. You fight every day, putting yourself through painful procedures and grueling exercise regimens, and then, eventually, the things you’ve been staving off overwhelm your body. And that is that.

I don’t want to waste my time.

A reader sent me this little clip. (I could probably embed the video so it looks better, but for some reason I forget how and I don’t have enough time to figure it out.) In it, the peppy announcer is praising Jennifer Love Hewitt for getting back on track. As in, losing weight, and keeping a young-looking body. “She’s back from the dead!”


OK, I know. She’s a movie star. Every tabloid is screaming “so and so gains 30 lbs!!!” and “finally, so and so loses the baby weight!” But it isn’t just about movie stars. It’s about women, every day. It’s about women, turning 30 and worrying about getting old. Women, turning 40 and getting treatments and injections. Women of all ages worrying and worrying about keeping their weight down, losing that ten pounds, chasing themselves all the way back to their perfect weight, their younger look, the glory days that may not have even existed because back then, they were agonizing about, say, their nose.

So I want to be 45 and somehow tight-skinned and elegantly slender and shockingly youthful-looking. Because that’s how successful women are supposed to be.

But even more, I want to be 45 and whatever that really looks like for me. While I work on my bestselling fantasy series. And then 65 and whatever that looks like, eating some really delicious stuff and enjoying the world. And then 85, and so on.

My 90-year-old grandmother is on a diet.

“Come on, just keep the pie,” I said. I had brought it over.

“No!” she cried. “Just a piece! I can’t keep it, I’ll eat it!”

“Well, that’s the point.”

“I’m trying to lose weight.”

Is there hope? Maybe not.

But maybe.

I got my hair cut two days ago (apparently short hair requires a lot of cutting. What d’ya know?), and the stylist was one of those people who just says whatever she’s thinking (I usually like people like that). She was telling me this story about a client with big ears, who hid them with her hair.

“Well, I have a big nose, and I used to grow my hair to distract people from it,” I said.

“That does work,” she said.

“But who cares?” I said. “People can look at my nose. I’m proud of it.”

She looked at it. “It’s long,” she said.

“Yup,” I said.

“It’s a smart nose,” she said.

“Are you saying I look Jewish?”

“I wasn’t gonna ask.”

“I am.”

“That’s what I thought!!”

We both laughed.

She said, “I have a tiny nose.”

“So does my husband,” I said. “I always tell him that hopefully our sons will get my nose and our daughters will get his.”

“Hopefully,” she agreed.

And then she proceeded to give me a terrible haircut that made me look like I should have bigger biceps and be wearing work boots and a leather jacket.

But that’s not the point. The point is that I didn’t mind. I do have a big nose. And it’s probably better if my daughters don’t get it, because it’s not always easy being a woman with a big nose.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t be proud of it. Or just fine with it. And it doesn’t mean I won’t cut my hair off anyway, because it’s easier. It isn’t going to stop me.

That’s a good sign, right?

(There’s my Gram, eating some cake. And looking amazing. Not because she looks young. But because she is awesome.)

*  *  *

I also want to say publically that I’m so incredibly sorry for your loss, Deanna. Deanna reads this blog, and her friend, a hair stylist, was recently killed in a shooting. I thought about you and her when I was at the hair salon the other day. I wish she was still around for your 9:30 appointment. I hope you heal, and again, I’m just sorry.

Unroast: Today I love how good my body is for hugging.

P.S. On another sad note, which feels weird including after I mentioned the death of Deanna’s friend, last night my dad took our family dog to the vet and had her put to sleep. I researched dogs for a year when I was nine in my effort to convince my parents I could pick the perfect breed and should therefore be given a puppy. It worked. Except for the picking the perfect breed part. When I was ten, we got Sadie, a Belgian Shepherd. She was absolutely insane. Like, something was wrong. She spun in circles constantly. But she was so sweet. And she’s been sweet and crazy her whole life. I thought her death wouldn’t affect me. But I cried when I heard. And I thought about her warm brown eyes. So trusting.

I miss her.

 

37 Comments »

Kate on October 27th 2011 in beauty, body, fear, nose, weight

37 Responses to “Old, sloppy, and successful, please”

  1. San D responded on 27 Oct 2011 at 11:32 am #

    Sorry about Sadie’s passing. She lived a long glorious gentle circular life, happy to see everyone all the time.

    I think words like “I am on a diet” become part of women’s lexicon whether they are on a diet or not, almost reflexive, like saying “thank you” when someone compliments you. And I also think that women eat when no one is looking, but are hesitant to do so when someone is a witness.

    I wish you the freedom to move on from the shackles of “beauty” and all its maschinations, definitions, competitions and guilt. May you find your beauty in the eyes of Bear and truly be satisfied with his definition of your beauty as you get older.

    I, myself, like the definition of “being comfortable with yourself, physically and emotionally” as beautiful, because in that way there are no comparisons. You wear things because they feel good and make you feel good, you cut your hair because when you look in the mirror you smile at your reflection because it makes you realize that you are alive, sparkly, and above all YOU.

    Some will say that in order to be comfortable with themselves physically they will need to do some work (i.e. diet, plastic surgery, etc), and to them I say: Will you ever be satisfied? I think not. Thin is not thin enough, nose is not short enough, face lift is not tight enough. The comfortable I speak of is not redefining our DNA but embracing it. Of exactly what you said above ” People can look at my nose, I am proud of it”.

    and guess what? Most of the time people are NOT looking at what we perceive as our flaws. They are looking at “us”. Why can’t we be so generous with our own selves?

  2. Kate responded on 27 Oct 2011 at 11:34 am #

    Amen!

  3. Aurora responded on 27 Oct 2011 at 11:45 am #

    There is definitely a professionalism that comes with looking sharp and well-dressed, and people do respect that and immediately give it more attention. I find it easier to go with the instincts of humans (“nicely-clothed = respect”) than to fight it and screw myself over by doing so. I’m not sure I’m ready to make that statement at the cost of respect in my job or my social life.

  4. Kate responded on 27 Oct 2011 at 11:47 am #

    @Aurora
    Well, yeah. Me either!
    But I can fantasize. And I want my fantasy to be looking like whatever, instead of looking perfect.

  5. jss responded on 27 Oct 2011 at 12:01 pm #

    This entry really struck a chord with me. I just finished watching a documentary called “How to Die in Oregon,” which is about the Death with Dignity Act that permits physicians in Oregon to prescribe lethal medications to people with terminal illnesses. So, hearing that, you wouldn’t think this would have anything to do with body image, right? I wish that were true…

    The documentary showed a woman with terminal liver cancer (who had outlived her prognosis) talking to her oncologist. Her husband and daughter were in the room and joked to the doctor about how people were constantly telling her how great she looked. She didn’t look amused. She said, with an entirely appropriate look of disgust, “It’s just because I’m thinner…I tell them I’m on the Cancer Diet.” Apparently, this successful woman with a successful husband and two successful children had lost a significant amount of weight and THAT was winning her the praise that she should have earned in far more important ways. This has to stop.

    I am also really sorry to hear about Sadie. I grew up on a farm and watched many dogs be put to sleep. I knew intellectually that it was the right thing to do, because the animal was suffering, but that never stopped me from crying my eyes out when I was in the veterinarian’s office watching it happen. The dog – I named him Happy – I adopted from the Humane Society when I was 7 had to be put to sleep when I was away at college, and I still cannot see a picture of him without bawling. I truly am sorry for your loss.

  6. Kate responded on 27 Oct 2011 at 12:06 pm #

    @jss
    What an interesting comment. From you, and from the woman in the documentary. I’m disturbed, just thinking about that. And I also believe completely that people would compliment this terminally ill woman in that way. Yikes.

    And thank you. I really appreciate it. Dogs and humans did evolve together. I guess we just can’t help it.

  7. Justine responded on 27 Oct 2011 at 1:22 pm #

    I am so, so sorry to both you and Deanna for your losses.

    I’m not sure if you’re a Joanna Newsom fan, but since your dog’s name was Sadie too, it reminded me of this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vodb-dJOqoU&feature=related

    …it’s just a beautiful song about mortality, both human and animal.

    Speaking of Joanna Newsom, she is someone who I would adore even if she was wearing a sweatsuit covered in ketchup stains, because she’s amazing. Sometimes I wonder if she would be as successful if she wasn’t really pretty too. It always makes me wonder if there are some amazingly talented people out there who we never get to hear about because they’re not “attractive enough” to be recognized, and that thought makes me really, really sad.

  8. teegan responded on 27 Oct 2011 at 2:30 pm #

    regarding grandmother:
    my husband’s grandmother is in her mid (late? i don’t know) 80s. she drinks more coffee than the average detective in one of those old crime films and eats (pretty much) bananas, peanut butter, and ice cream. it’s not really a ‘diet’ – it’s just what she loves. like she’s concentrated her intake down to her favorite things. she’s also one of the most active, determined, awesome old ladies i’ve ever known.
    on a side note, her dog eats ice cream (with waffle cones) for dinner.

    she is who i want to be when i grow up.

  9. Beauzeaux responded on 27 Oct 2011 at 4:06 pm #

    My forties were definitely my best decade. I looked better than I ever had and cared less about it. When I was in my twenties I was obsessed with my looks, weight, clothes, boyfriends — absolutely NONE of which is worth a tinker’s damn in the long run.

    I only wish I hadn’t wasted so much of my energy on stupid stuff like that. I know it’s hard to just “turn it off” but it’s a worthwhile goal.

    Sorry about your sweet dog. I cry when I read about the passing of other people’s animals — you can imagine how I am about mine.

  10. Jennifer responded on 27 Oct 2011 at 4:42 pm #

    This post helps reflects the funk I’m in today. I started working out hard[er] 3 weeks ago because over the last two years, despite being an avid walker, yoga practitioner, veggie eater, red wine and dark chocolate drinker (ah, there’s the rub)–I have put on 8-10 lbs. I am 36. Is it age? Is it relying on yoga rather than harder workouts? Was all the happiness for naught?

    Taking brutal spinning classes at 5:45 AM and lifting weights five days a week has burned off ONE pound. One.

    Why the funk about this weight? I should be OVER THIS BY NOW. I’ve had professional counseling, have explored my “spiritual” life through Wicca, Buddhism, Yoga (a long time back, Christianity), and now through Humanist Atheism; I have upped my commitment to low-carb more times than I’ve done laundry, and I have relinquished that diet almost as many times. Still, still, STILL, this number–this weight thing–plagues me.

    It’s a metaphor. My weight is an indicator of how blind I get to reality. I *think* I’m eating well and working out enough, but then that number slides up and I know– I am in denial. How did I miss the obvious? One cannot eat pizza and drink two generous glasses of wine and call herself “low carb.”

    My weight is the slap of reality to jolt me out of delusion. And even if my weight is actually okay (not obese), it’s still disturbing to realize I am not what I thought I was…and then I wonder how else my life has slipped off course. What have I squandered for pleasure?

  11. Jennifer responded on 27 Oct 2011 at 4:49 pm #

    Oh, and that Jennifer Love Hewitt comparison? She’s the same size. No one past puberty looks great in her underwear/bikini. Skinny women look scary and normal women look, well, underwhelming, and obese women look–probably the most interesting of all (artistically).
    JLH had on spanx and a tight dress–that’ll hide a lot.

  12. bethany actually responded on 27 Oct 2011 at 5:01 pm #

    I’m so sorry to hear about Sadie. It’s funny how those furry creatures wiggle their way into our hearts, isn’t it? And I’m very sorry for your friend Deanna, as well.

    Your Gram is beautiful. And you know what? You look like her! :-)

  13. Kate responded on 27 Oct 2011 at 5:02 pm #

    @bethany actually
    thank you.

    And yes, I do!!

  14. Annie responded on 27 Oct 2011 at 6:25 pm #

    I’m sorry to hear about Sadie :( It’s really tough when you lose a pet. They can be like your best friends or your kids. I know because I have 3 cats of my own. I’m also very sorry for your friend Deanna’s loss.

  15. Rachel responded on 27 Oct 2011 at 9:45 pm #

    I was blessed with a big nose too. I know I’m far from perfect looking, but several years ago I found myself saying, “I would rather look like myself than anyone else.” This was one of the biggest insecurity-shedding times of my life. I’ve never gone back on this. Apply this to my fiance – Is he considered Hot by worldly standards? I think so but don’t even care what anyone else thinks. His face is the one I love the most.

  16. Lexie responded on 28 Oct 2011 at 6:14 am #

    This is an incredible post. I loved reading it and will probably come back again in eight minutes and read the entire thing again. And repeat.

  17. Mallory responded on 28 Oct 2011 at 9:29 am #

    Yesterday, the vice principal of the school where I run a satellite room out of called me a kid and was talking to me like I was 12 and actually said, “well you just look…” and when I said “LOOK WHAT?” he wouldn’t elaborate. But I am positive he thought I was a teenager because I LOOK like one and that somehow gave him the right to treat me disrespectfully. Instead of losing my cool, I kept my anger in check just so it wouldn’t feed the teenage-fire. I acted like my young adult self and served him some rightful subtle zingers. I was shocked that he would ever think it is okay to treat someone without respect because they are a teenager. Good thing he is not staying Vice for much longer.

  18. Surabhi @ Womanatics responded on 28 Oct 2011 at 1:34 pm #

    Kate,

    A good news for you!

    I have nominated you for Liebster Award – a blogging award given to bloggers that have less than 200 followers but deserve more recognition. You have a very different and likeable way of writing.

    Check out my site to see the nominations and pass on the treasure soon.

  19. Kate responded on 28 Oct 2011 at 1:42 pm #

    @Surabhi
    That’s really nice of you! But actually, this blog has a lot more than 200 followers :-)

  20. Surabhi @ Womanatics responded on 28 Oct 2011 at 1:54 pm #

    oops! You wont believe but I actually thought so. Anyway.. you have an awesome blog and an amazing writing style. BTW, do you accept guest posts? I would love to write something. There is a wild writer inside me that cant express herself well on my blog and your blog will be the best platform the devil can get!

    Please let me know.

  21. Kate responded on 28 Oct 2011 at 1:59 pm #

    LOL! It’s completely fine! I do believe it. It’s the secret of ETDC. And a reminder that I need to finally update it so it stops looking so backwoods.

    I do accept guest posts occasionally. Feel free to send me something at kate@eatthedamncake.com

    Looking forward to reading it!

  22. Mandy responded on 28 Oct 2011 at 3:23 pm #

    I think that clip is the single most annoying thing I’ve witnessed all month.
    Not just for the content, which was typically eye-rollingly stupid.
    But because it also made the announcer sound like a ditzy pre-teen–I mean, did she actually say “cray-cray?!”
    In ten years or so (hopefully sooner), she’s going to watch herself doing this spiel and cringe…
    I know I did.

  23. Mandy responded on 28 Oct 2011 at 3:33 pm #

    Okay, I feel better, now. I had to get that out of my system before I could deal with the rest of this post.

    Kate, sweetie, I am so sorry about your dog.

    And, Deanna, I’ve never met you or your friend, but I’m sorry for your loss, as well.

    I honestly don’t know what else to say. I’m thinking of you both, and I hope you have the support to help you cope.

  24. Kate responded on 28 Oct 2011 at 3:35 pm #

    @Mandy
    Thank you!
    And I am with you, about the video. It was amazingly annoying, and cracked me up a lot.

  25. Spelling responded on 28 Oct 2011 at 9:43 pm #

    In theory, I like your old & sloppy thing. But ketchup stains don’t really work for me.

    Sorry about your dog. I recently attended a friend’s dog’s funeral (backyard burial, really), and it was sooo sad. I was the only one crying, and I had only played with the dog a few times. But it was incredibly sad. And now I believe that dogs go to heaven :D

    The chick on the video was such a nut bar.

  26. Deanna responded on 29 Oct 2011 at 3:43 pm #

    I wrote a bit long reply when I was in Asia this past week but my ipad froze and it never got sent.

    First of all, I am so sorry about your doggie Kate. I told you in an email that my dog Kerry died just a few weeks ago after 16 beautiful years. I loved her like a child. For many days after and even still, I call her name when i come downstairs for breakfast.

    As far as aging…I’m old but I still feel like my young self. I am not sure we change that all much as we age as in our heads we think we are still young. As a matter of fact, I think I looked older when I was 30 because I dressed very frumpy back then.

    I do think the pressure becomes less intense. I used to feel whenever I saw a beautiful woman that I was somehow inadequate. If I was talking to a man and a gorgeous woman walked in the room and he totally forgot I existed, well I felt cheated. Why was she so beautiful and me so regular? It seemed highly unfair. Especially women who got it all: great bodies, hair, faces skin.

    As I got older, I realized that even the most beautiful women aged and did not look as good. For whatever reason, my odd shaped face with the funny features aged better than most. I think all those years of not tanning turned out to be a good thing.

    Anyway, I think there are some women in this world that just worry more about beauty. I think you and I fall into that category as do many other women on this blog (or else they probably would not be interested in these topics).

    I still get miffed when I see movies or ads with all great beauties in it. It must makes me feel unattractive. I will probably be singing this song when I am 80…that’s just me.

    Thank you everyone for your kind condolences regarding my friend and client (and stylist) Laura who was murdered a few weeks ago. She was an amazing person and I miss her terribly.

  27. Sooz responded on 30 Oct 2011 at 12:38 pm #

    I cried when this post. Because I loved it. Because I also want it to be true. In a way, I am that woman already. I always have some food stains on my shirts. I buy gray and black so I don’t have to worry about matching. My hair always sticks up and I hardly ever remember to check it. And nobody I know seems to mind. Or if they do they keep those thoughts to themselves. The only bump I encounter is the fact that I am VERY self-conscious. I wish I wasn’t and I could just ENJOY my life w/o worrying that everyone else is commenting or noticing about my crazy disheveled non-sexy non-pretty, non put-together self. I wish I didn’t have an anxiety disorder and could just put all my energy into being. Thanks again for another fantastic post that touched every one of my heart and soul strings. :)

  28. Kate responded on 30 Oct 2011 at 2:55 pm #

    Oh, Sooz, that is such a sweet comment. I wish I could make your anxiety disorder disappear. But at least I want to confirm your suspicions about everyone else– we definitely don’t mind. And the way you describe yourself honestly sounds cute. I want you to own it.

  29. meredith responded on 30 Oct 2011 at 11:58 pm #

    thanks for posting this! i loved how you interpreted it. your point of view on this crazy world is always unique and thought-provoking and comforting. thank you for taking the time and energy to share your thoughts. you’re changing the way i think and i am so grateful for that. reading your thoughts about aging made me realize that i want to just own and accept every age and stage i reach. it’s way better energy spent loving and savoring every part of life than criticizing myself and picking apart my flaws.

    and i’m sorry and sad to hear about your dog. i begged for a dog my whole childhood and my parents ironically finally got a dog when i moved out to go to college. even though i only see her on my brief visits home, she’s such a wonderful sweet companion. my friends are fostering puppies and i went and helped take care of them tonight and oh, i think my heart just expanded with love. i hope you can hold the memories and snuggles and silly stories close to your heart for comfort.

    deanna, i have no proper words for your loss. i know that my friends are a part of my soul and i would feel like i lost a bit of myself in losing a friend. i hope you are healing and this stranger(stranger-friend?) is so sorry.

    every fiber in my body wants to be that woman who walks down the street, with her inner worth glowing out of her luminous soul. i’m going to fight hard for that.

  30. Sooz responded on 31 Oct 2011 at 7:44 am #

    @Kate THANKS!!!!!!! :) I will!!!!!

  31. Elyse responded on 08 Nov 2011 at 6:19 pm #

    I found your blog recently and absolutely love it. I am currently in a rabbit-hole of old posts and my job is suffering for it…thank you.
    I identify so much with this post, and with so many of the things said in the comments. I realize it isn’t the point, but boy do I find big noses on women just absolutely gorgeous (not a creeper compliment, I am a straight lady). I’m sure there are qualities I have that I don’t like, and other people find stunning, and of course it has no impact on my self image. That said – you are stunning.
    Anyway, thank you for the honest and touching and totally relatable posts you do.

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