Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Body Image post

Beanie Baby has a really interesting post about parenting special needs kids. Go, read, comment. Scroll down and read her other post on eugenics. It is snark heaven. I loved it.


Over at i obsess, there's a great post about a mother's body. She also links to Shape of a Mother, which is an amazing site. It's made me cry and think and get very envious of these women who are celebrating themselves in a way I'm unable to.

I've seen this site linked on a lot of blogs I read regularly. I've liked reading the stories these women have shared. I've looked at their pictures. And I think "They look amazing compared to me."

I've always had body image issues. I've hated the way I look since I was aware that I have a body. Since 1st or 2nd grade, I've been teased about my butt. My mother was always trying to get me to tuck my butt in - what? How the hell do you do that? All these years later, I have no idea. She even took me to a doctor about it. He told her I had some sort of spinal curvature - not scoliosis, because it didn't go side-to-side, but rather in and out. My mother, figuring she knew more than anyone who attended medical school, didn't believe the guy. Her answer to this was to put me in dance classes.

I have never been a graceful person. I don't posess any athletic ability what. so. ever. So why my mother thought ballet and tap lessons were a good idea is beyond me. But she and the ballet teacher were determined that I was going to do this. And of course, one of the first things I had to learn was the splits. I can't do the splits. Even when I was a flexible little 7 year-old, I couldn't do the splits. My mother and the ballet teacher had other thoughts. I vividly remember them shoving me by the shoulders as I attempted, yet again, to get my butt to touch the floor. Both of them, hands pushing hard on me and the entire fucking class in a circle around me, laughing, while I cried and begged them to stop. It was mortifying.

I used to go up a grade for reading and English and there was this boy in that grade who would tease me mercilessly. Anthony Salvidio. I'll never forget him. He was hardly a svelte creature himself, but he felt that it was his duty to torment me at every opportunity. He never called me Julia, he called me Jellybutt. Once, we had to make up a skit and he decided to write it. His name for my character? Bertha Butt. I just flat out refused to take part. I think it was the only zero I ever got, but I just couldn't do it. It was hard enough being the only non-Catholic in the school, but you add glasses and a fucked up body to the mix and, well, suffice it to say, I wasn't the most secure kid, certainly not secure enough to get up in front of the class and make fun of myself.

I grew about 8 inches in a year and in high school, weighed 117 pounds. At 5'8", this was almost underweight, but of course, I thought I looked awful. And I still had that ass.

And now? Now that I've been pregnant 3 times in the last 3 years, now that I've given birth to three, soon to be four, children, I absolutely loathe the way I look. I don't have massive stretch marks from being pregnant, but I have this stomach. I had a c-section with O and even when I'd lost a ton of weight, I still had this saggy, pouchy stomach that hung down a bit. It made me sick. It still does. I haven't gained any weight with this preganancy, or with the Boo's, but I did gain something like 70 lbs with O - most of which I never really lost. Well, I lost it, but I gained a lot of it back over the years. I don't even want to talk about my boobs or the cellulite on my legs or my flabby arms. I'll make myself puke.

TCBIM thinks I look great. He's always telling me that he loves how I look, but I can't seem to get past this. I'm so insecure about how I look that it's unhealthy. I constantly worry that he's going to get disgusted with my body. I have to force myself to let him look at me. He's a lot younger than I am and I know it's kind of stupid and vain, but I worry (incessantly) that he's going to wake up one morning and wonder what the fuck he's doing with this fat, flabby old hag. I've never told him any of this.

It's so shallow of me, but if I ever won the lottery, the first thing I'd do is hire a personal trainer, lose weight and then get plastic surgery. Get the boobs up where they belong, get the tummy tightened, get rid of the cellulite and flab. I wouldn't care what people though of me for doing it.

I really admire the women who can proudly display their bodies on that site. I am beyond envious at the comfort level they have about themselves. I don't know how they got that and I wish I could be that way, but I can't. People can tell me I look good and I never believe them. I don't see it. I don't look good. I look awful and I hate it and I wish I knew how to make these feelings stop. It kills me inside a little, every day, every time I have to look at myself in the mirror, every time I have to go try on clothes, every time I meet new people. I wonder what they're thinking, I wonder what they're saying and I wonder why I ever leave the house at all.


Anonymous said...

Tuck in your butt? What the hell?

I never got that one from mom but I did get plenty of "Why don't you wash your face more? Let me get that blemish. Would it kill you to wear something flattering? Don't you think one slice of cake is enough?"

Then you grow up and you hear it again...from yourself...in your head.

Remind me of this when Hailey's old enough for me to want her to wash her face.

Anonymous said...

1. Thank you!

2. I think we're trained to think of ourselves in the most negative light possible, to parse our bodies down to their constituent parts and judge them agains the (air-brushed, edited) fashion magazine ideal--we all have those conversations going on in our heads (though it does seem your voices might be yelling louder than mine, and I'm very sorry. It sounds awful).

It's strange. I consider myself to have a pretty healthy body image (I'm not skinny, and I don't care) and a low emphasis on looks in general, but still, when I saw that website, I cried. It's so rare to see real women's bodies portrayed as belonging to real people, not objects for the villification of other women or the titillation of men. I'm so happy it's there.

LJ said...

The front to back form of spinal curvature is called kyphosis. (Coming from me I kinda know these things, what with living with kyph-scoliosis all my life and having given birth to a child with the same condition) Anyway if I'm wrong I'm sorry.
I am going to blog my feelings about my body next week sometime. Your post drew me to tears. For the longest time I felt that same exact way that you do! I ask myself all the time if I'm single because of my horrible body?
I just want to hug you!!
And you know I too want to stay in the house all the time! But it's not fair to my boy. I don't want to go back to my teenage days where I lived as a hermit for years.
It's hard to fathom that you are loved by all those around you. Just know that you are!!

Shannon said...

Thanks for posting the link to the body image site. I really feel so much better seeing real women....not the airbrushed moms in magazines that Beanie Baby referred to.

Jeff told me he'd take out a loan so that I could get a tummy tuck and boob job. Gotta love men :(

Andrea said...

I relate to almost all of this, except my "butt" was really my boobs. Bra in 4th grade and I never stopped. I got a breast reduction and it was the best thing I ever did. Hands down. But the body image? I still have a problem with my body, even after hubs has told me that he doesn't like the skinny girls, but more the athletic, solid body girls and that he loves me for me, extra 80 pounds and all.

Oh, and this and this post? Yeah, that's me.

art-sweet said...

Julia, I know it may not stick, but having met you - you're lovely. Beautiful, even. Even when you're large with child. And your body is amazing and powerful. It's birthed three awesome kiddos, and is soon to birth another. WOW!

I'm glad that TCIBIM sees that as well. Listen to him.

As someone who will be a mom soon enough, and who has struggled with her own body image and self-loathing (and can totally relate to not wanting to be seen naked, even by someone who loves me and my body) I think about this part of the whole question a lot.

How am I not going to pass this down? If my future daughter hears me hating my body, how will that impact her own self-awareness?

If you can't love yourself for you, love yourself for your daughters' sake.

Jane said...

Repeat after me:
I am a beautiful woman
I am a beautiful pregnant woman
I will not be pregnant forever so I will enjoy being a beautiful pregnant woman even though my ankles are killing me
Repeat and remember you will laugh about this when you haven't slept for months and you haven't had time to wash your hair in a week.
Eventually you come out the other side.

Anonymous said...

Your mom... I swear. How you emerged as sane and brilliant and beautiful as you are, I'll never know.

And you are beautiful--I should know, I've seen you! But I can sympathize with the body-image thing. I have that same tummy-fold thing going, and I have to force myself to remember that I'm not airbrushed and that real women look like me. And we're beautiful.

If I were there, I'd hug you. It was incredibly brave of you to put this all into words. I hope it helped you to write it as much as it's helped me to read it.

Debbie said...

argh! this is EXACTLY why I ranted. I hate how the marketing gang has us so convinced that we're not good enough -- because how else can you get a public to "need" something, if they don't actually need that thing, unless they suddenly do?

I'll bet you're a hottie.

in fact, I'm sure of it.

imperfections, and all.

OhTheJoys said...

I'm new to your blog - visiting from i obsess - great post. We're all in it together, all hating ourselves together - crazy, but so true.

motherbumper said...

I'm never quite sure what to say sometimes because I'm afraid of saying the wrong thing but I want you to know that when I read this post, I recognized a lot of familiar thoughts and anxieties. Thank you for sharing this with me (and obviously with others as I read through the comments).

Angewl said...

your mom was a real winner, huh? having a wacko mom, i understand some of what you are feeling.

I hate my body and my face and my teeth. I hate everything about my physical self. I hate always being in pain and over weight and the gap in my teeth and the hair that seems to turning me into Chia-mom.
WHY my husband is always chasing me, I will never understand.

I think you are beautiful