Look, here’s the deal, all of my feelings can basically be classified in two major mood groups: “Punch Things” and “Hug Things.” Some people want to get technical and call this Bi-Polar, but whatever. I ain’t diagnosed, playa. And anyway, I think it’s applicable to all humanity. We have love and hate. We have good and evil. Are you trying to tell me the fundamental nature of all mankind is bi-polar? It would help explain Michele Bachman, but that doesn’t make it a fact. (For reimbursement of cheap jokes, please see the man behind the curtain.)
Here lately, I’ve been putting a lot of things in the “Punch Things” column. Maybe it’s the moon, maybe it’s Maybelline. I haven’t quite figured it out, but I know this one thing: I’m not 22 anymore.
I caught my reflection in the window of my car today and scared myself. I’m just this side of a minivan and mom shorts. At first I thought it was the thick, baggy, black cardigan that was making me look old. It screams middle age at the pitch of a pissed off four-year-old. But I like it because it’s warm, not very clingy, and it was free. My sister-in-law gave it to me along with a whole bag full of want-me-nots. But in the right light, the cardigan makes me look professional. And professional isn’t old. So it’s not the cardigan.
Maybe it’s my hair. I have a forehead you can land a plane on, and uncovered it makes me look a little bit like Rocky Dennis. I have bangs for two reasons: my love of the retro look and, more importantly, to avoid looking like Rocky Dennis. I guess sometimes I look older because of my style. I used sponge rollers the other night for God’s sake (not literally for God’s sake. That would be crazy!). But I know it’s not the hair.
If it’s not the hair or my clothes, it has to be my skin. My friend’s high resolution camera pointed out my crow’s feet the other day. I hadn’t noticed them before, but there they are, plain as day. It must mean I’ve done a lot of smiling. Little lines jut out from the corners of my eyes like they have a point to make, like they have something to say! Obviously this means I’ve lived a life of deep laughter. And I smoke. Oh God, is it my skin?
It’s weird to notice yourself aging.
Why am I talking about this? Virgin ears, be warned. It’s here that you’ll want to depart. I can’t be held responsible for your feelings about the next several paragraphs.
Media can take their impossible beauty ideals for women and shove them straight up their Pilates toned, perfectly defined [expletive edited by the, well, editor]. “Up against the wall, mother fucker.” You’re the problem. (Expletive retained for emphasis.)
The average Victoria’s Secret model is 5’10 and 110 pounds. I’m 5’7, and 145 pounds on a good day. I was chubby growing up and kids at school were always good at reminding me. I lost 50 pounds in between my junior and senior year of high school. Even now, I have curves and lots of meat on my bones. And i should say that I’m absolutely fine with the way I look. I’d go so far as to say I love my body. This is good, because it’s the only one I got.
My problem is this: I live in a world clamoring for me to do, have and BE more. The message is so pervasive in our culture that other women have made the super-freaky-weird decision to have butt fat injected into their face. This is where we find ourselves. Our heads are up our own asses.
And I have a daughter. If I had a son, I’m sure I’d be taking issue with society in some other way. I can find something to be pissed about, believe me. But fate decided that I would be the mother to a little girl — and in a world like this, that’s a tough job.
They say kids on average see about 55 commercials a day. We don’t have cable, so I’ve cut this number down (at least in this house). But the message is everywhere: billboards, magazines, movies. I can’t control the influx of every form of media. I can’t stop every negative message. An easier alternative is teaching her the value of interpretation — a timeless lesson –and that she’s good and beautiful just how she is.
I guess that’s what I’ve done with myself at least. That is, of course, after struggling for years with eating disorders and a high-end lotion habit. I don’t have money anymore for expensive face cream. So it is out of necessity, and not virtue, that I have come to the realization that wrinkles aren’t that important.
Twenty-four million people struggle with eating disorders in the US. I don’t want to play the blame game and assign sole responsibility for this epidemic to media in general. After all, they’re just trying to sell mousse and skinny jeans. This is capitalism, people. We’re about making money. And companies can’t make money affirming who you are. Since I was a little girl, folks have been selling me the promise of acceptance through all kinds of products. It’s expensive trying to keep up. But the more I dug for the answer of who I really am and worked tirelessly to give a thumbs up to that fleeting girl, the more I turned away from who those messages were telling me to be. I still forget a lot. And I still love mascara. I won’t ever give it up. EVER. Unless, of course, I go blind from wearing too much mascara. Then it won’t matter.
Point is this, there’s an ideal Somebody’s been trying to give me for years. And only at 28-years-old have I been able to say, “no thanks.” I guess Ava will have to brave the wild world herself. But before she leaves this house, I’ll do my best to imprint these things on her sweet heart:
1. Be yourself.
2. Love yourself.
3. Wear the cardigan.
I feel like if I can raise her in such a way that even when her skin starts to sag she doesn’t immediately go running to a syringe full of butt jello, I’ve done my job as a parent.
Same goes for me. I’m getting older, and I don’t need to “be more.” I just need to settle into who I am.
It’s not the clothes; it’s not the hair; it’s not the skin.
It’s time. And that’s OK.