Thursday, August 28, 2014

It's Between Me and Me, No One Else

There are a few blog posts I have in the works right now - one about the MS 150 bike ride and one about my recent haircut with Barbara Morin - but I had to say something right now that has been coming up very recently, and I'm glad my lovely friend and plus fashion blogger Cathy Benavides spoke out before I did. Cathy, I'm here to join you.

But first, let me some history. (Fooled you, haha!) (What am I, 12?!)

I started this blog with my friend Sarah back in 2008ish as a way for us to keep each other accountable with our weight loss goals. She would blog, then I would blog, and we sort of went back and forth for a while and it evolved into what it is now. [Note: My posts are still active. Hers are not.] Sarah and I went to college together, and we were pretty close for a few years. During our college career, I recall a conversation with someone else where they brought up how women generally feel bad about themselves when they read magazines. During this time, I fluctuated with my feelings of insecurity and extremely low self-esteem on a daily basis. I denied that I was one of those women, but Sarah, my wonderfully bold, fountain of truth friend, said, "Uh, yes. You do that all the time. You always say negative things about yourself every time you flip through those magazines when we go get coffee and you usually hate yourself afterward." This truth hurt a lot, but only in the I-was-totally-in-denial-for-all-these-years kind of way. It really made me think about things.

At the ripe age of 21, I came up with a conclusion: We all hate ourselves because our culture is built on comparison. "We," of course, is a blanket statement, as I am fully aware of men and women who love themselves fully regardless of society and its not-so-subliminal messaging egging us on to constantly pick ourselves apart. I also understand this isn't the only reason why there is this prevalence of self-loathing. It does, however, ring embarrassingly true in the majority of cases. Why else would anyone feel the need to say, "OMG I hate her amazing thighs!" if they weren't comparing her thighs to theirs? We compare ourselves from our bodies to our politics, and millions of things in between, in a way that I don't think is entirely necessary. After this truth slapped me so hard in the mouth, all of the thoughts and words that came forth from that point on were filtered through this thought process: Am I comparing myself to someone else? Why? What does it matter? If I believe all people are beautiful (and good gracious alive, I do!), then why can't I view myself as beautiful? Why does my comparison of myself to them always end up in me being negative and hating myself? Are these negative words of comparison leading to self-hatred going to help someone else or change the world?

After that moment of realization, and a lot of love from my friends, I began to see my body as beautiful for what it is. I still have to remind myself of this almost daily. Granted, I've struggled with this idea again over the past 2 years, but I see myself returning to love again because of this truth that when I strip all the comparisons that we feed ourselves every day on the diet of media and the fashion and health industries (Yes, I'm talking to you, health and fitness people! It's there, too.) - It's just my body. And my body is beautiful no matter what. 

That brings me to what started this: I do not participate in "Who Wore It Better?" games. I would love it if they would simply go away. I'll gladly compliment my friends, saying something like "I'm totally team _______! You look great!" or "Lookin' good, lady!" as my attempts at a tactful response, when they wear something strikingly similar to or exactly the same as celebrities because I know them and I want them to feel beautiful, but do I believe they look better than someone else? No. Sorry guys, but no. You are a beautiful human being. That celebrity is also a human. And he or she is beautiful, too. You both bought the same dress! Great! They made, like, 500 of them! Hooray marketing! Why does looking "better" than a celebrity in the same dress have to be a game we play? And the whole best dressed/worst dressed thing falls into all of this. I hope you read me loud and clear when I say No one deserves body shaming. Ever.

It really upsets me when I read something by anyone in the plus size community engaging in these kinds of diatribe because come on, guys. I'm all for size acceptance and empowering women of larger sizes to embrace their curves or non-curves and love the extra folds of skin we're in! Yes! Do it! But there's a flip side to that. We can play the game of being victimized for being picked on and overlooked and degraded most of our lives for being larger than the societal preconceptions of a beautiful size - and that is a horrible, horrible thing to go through as I am completely with you there and I feel for every single one of you/us - and try to only lift up "our people" with slogans like "Curvy Girls Are Better" and the like -or- we can become empowered, make a change, accept our pasts, and bring everyone up with us, regardless of race, color, religion, gender, shape, or size. That's where the real difference will be made. Let's stop comparing and stop shaming. Let everyone be beautiful no matter who they are or what they wear.

[Note: As I type this, I realize that one of my favorite songs EVER, "All About That Bass" by Meghan Trainor, even has a lot of work to do. She tries to make up for it, though: "I'm bringing booty back/Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches that/No, I'm just playing/I know you think you're fat/But I'm here to tell ya/Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top" She's still got a little way to go, in my opinion, but I think she's heading there.]