Love Thyself

Mariana Fortuny, “Odalisque”, 1862

Do you remember when you were a kid and maybe you were complaining about your Mom? Or your younger sister, or your dog. Woeful be the friend who was silly enough to agree with you. “Yeah, man, your Mom is a real drag”  was likely to be met with “Pow!” or maybe “Whap!”  There are some things that we can say about our own, but for someone else to say it is entirely unacceptable.

This applies to negative remarks about one’s appearance too, and well it should. No one is allowed to tell you that you’re anything short of beautiful.

The other day a friend posted this photograph on Facebook.

This is Holley Mangold. She’s a graduate of a Dayton area high school and she is a weight-lifter on the US Olympic team. The friend who posted it was bothered that this photograph was chosen to illustrate a feature celebrating the young woman and her achievements. Of course, some women (you know the type) jumped right in to say that all they saw was a beautiful and happy young woman. Give me a break. That’s not what Holley Mangold saw when she saw the photograph.

She did what every overweight woman does when she sees an unflattering photograph of herself. She thinks “Oh my God, do I really look like that?” What bothers me is that this photograph was not taken by an amateur. It was taken by a professional, Victoria Mills. Victoria Mills, who ought to know better than to shoot her subjects from waist-high, an angle flattering to no-one. Someone who should have known better than to draw attention to Miss Mangold’s just-a-tiny-bit-too-small t-shirt. We’re not making art here, folks, we’re trying to get a reasonably pleasant picture to accompany a feature story.

And still, the commenters insisted that they saw an accomplished young woman, a fit athlete.

Then my friend Martha stepped in. She said “Larkin and I are fat girls, so maybe we see things differently.” It’s doubtful that I would have been moved to physical violence had she been in the room with me, but I was certainly peeved.  Then a friend of hers, a divorced woman who has no pictures of herself at all on her Facebook profile (her profile photo is of a cat) posted “Larkin and Martha are not happy with their bodies and they read it into a lot of things.”

Well, I answered that with the only appropriate response: “Fuck off.”

Then Martha tried to agree with her friend, offering validation that she “hates her body for the most part,” I reminded her that she wears a bikini to the pool, and goes out in short shorts, and typically has no real hang-ups about her appearance. She may wish that she had a different sort of body or less body than she has, but she does not “hate her body” regardless of what she says.

But let’s get back to this comment for minute. It is again the model of “fat bashing” that an otherwise politically correct person would feel that they were at liberty to make comments about my state of mind about my body. If I was an amputee, would they say that? If I had massive scarring, would that have been appropriate? What if I was covered in tattoos?

My body causes me no sorrow. Never during the course of this blog have I said anything about self-loathing. I have said that I am fat. I’m allowed to say that. You’re not. Yes, I’d like to lose weight in order to improve my health and increase my level of fitness. I would rather not have to deal with the medical conditions that visit the overweight after a certain age.

I am  happy with who I am, and I believe I’m relatively attractive as fifty year old women go. My husband certainly thinks so, and in instances of carnal bliss around here, we often leave the lights on. And if I weren’t so lucky as to have my husband, I hope I’d still have plenty of company. Before my husband closed up the house in Montana and came to join me in Ohio, the guy next door asked me to dinner repeatedly. He even tried to get one of the other neighbors to intercede on his behalf. I have met the gaze of men other than my husband and felt the heat there.

What makes people happy with their lives? Self-acceptance. While there are things about ourselves we’d like to change, those are superficial. I have friends that weigh a hundred pounds more than I do, and they all have rich and joyful lives, and that includes sex. They’re not sitting at home alone with their cats. Who I am is not determined by the bathroom scale.

Don’t let them say you’re not beautiful.

Target number 56. (Sigh, very puffy) Steps 3012. Breakfast: two peaches Lunch: Bok choy and chicken, hot and sour soup, half cup of steamed rice. Late afternoon snack: Lean Cuisine spring rolls (really not too bad.) Dinner: 10 oz New York Strip, half-cup lemon-dill red potato salad, one cup confetti salad, one cup peach brown betty with two tablespoons unsweetened whipped cream.

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