Oxygen Masks

2015-05-18-1431915381-4119967-FatgirlWalkingHCCI just finished reading Brittany Gibbons’ book, Fat Girl Walking, and boy am I glad I did. Here’s a woman who claims to weigh 250 pounds and wears a size 18 and it took until she realized she didn’t want to fill her daughter’s head with self-loathing for her beautiful body to accept her own curvy figure.

(Thanks, Sarah, for loaning me this hilarious and poignant book!)

How many times have I lamented my form? I’ve been a consistent size 8 for the past 20 years, and yet I’ve looked in the mirror and seen a lumpy, imperfect woman. I’ve seen the ugly in myself rather than the beauty.

Whether we grew up in families with messed-up body images handed down through generations or we bought into society’s female mythology of the super-thin perfect woman, most of us just don’t accept ourselves as we are.

 

It’s amazing how we come into this world in beauty and perfection and slowly lose our sense of confidence as we watch the adults around us play out their insecurities and project them onto us. I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve asked, “Do I look fat?” within earshot of my kids.

Gibbons uses a perfect analogy of the safety instructions on an airplane to secure your own oxygen mask before assisting your children with theirs to show how she had to wake up and accept herself before her daughter would learn to do the same.

How many times a day do you recognize the beauty around you and within you? Versus, how many times a day do you beat up on yourself and those you love?

It goes something like this:

The other day, my husband did me the favor of returning something to a store and needed my debit card to complete the transaction. So he took it and went. I forgot to ask for it back, so when I took my daughter for a manicure date, and noticed I didn’t have my debit card to pay with, I used a different card. When I came home, I asked him for my card back, to which he replied, “I already did!”

It was tucked into my wallet in a different slot than I normally keep it and rather than say, “Wow, thanks!”, I turned to him and said, “Please don’t do that again.”

I was frustrated, disconcerted, but really I should have responded better. With kindness.

Yes, I’m the bitch. (Don’t worry – I apologized.)

We love each other. Why does anyone put effort into anything other than love?
We love each other. Why does anyone put effort into anything other than love?

I love this man, and he does generous, kind things for me every day.

Do I focus on those kindnesses and heap love on him? Not enough. Instead, I focus on the little tidbits done wrong, or not the way I would prefer, and heap a lot of attention on those.

It’s not because I’m a mean person or want to end up divorced a second time. No, it’s because we are conditioned to see the glass as half-empty, even if we are half-full personalities like I tend to be.

Likewise, which happens more: you yell at your kids, tell them no or otherwise reprimand them or you compliment them, encourage them, and send general messages of love their way?

My guess is you do more of the former than the latter. And it’s not because you don’t adore your children.

It’s because of this phenomenon of negativity that swirls around us.

I’m not sure if we can blame the media for it – I mean, scan the headlines. News equals negative happenings – people being murdered, attacked, blowing up buses, stabbing innocent passers-by, raping, crashing cars, stealing, and more.

How many times does a dedicated reporter write about the person who paid-it-forward in the line at Starbucks, inspiring a long line of cars do the same? How many times do we hear about the casual, ordinary conversations that happen between a parent and child, or a child and grandparent, or even the nonchalant happiness conveyed by the grocery store checkout person who asks about how your holidays were and wishes you a happy new year?

Why ISN’T that news? Because it happens so often? Or because we don’t find it as exciting as the negative stuff?

Perhaps the negativity culture we’re so enmeshed in comes from the increasing violence of our popular culture – music and movies, fashion and instant gratification friendships, much of which lives so immediately online that we don’t have time to breathe or contemplate the truth or value of it all.

Little girls dressed like little whores, objectified practically from birth, and little boys with their jeans sagging to show their tighty-whities. Selfies with tongues sticking out and peace fingers erect, inspiring talk-back from so-called friends. I’m telling you, we live in a culture that increasingly shuts us down before we can even be open for business.

This body shaming, though, is not really new. Sure, a century ago a Botticelli figure was evidence of wealth and comfort, whereas now an hourglass woman zips herself into fat-sucking spandex to hide what she considers flaws. To look more beautiful – in whose eyes, exactly?

We exert so much effort hating ourselves – energy that we could pour into achieving world peace, ending hunger, spreading love. So. Much. Energy. It’s time to turn the tide. Now.

I'm outing myself. I look fat in this picture. Well not fat, but certainly not model-thin. But I'm not fat. I am beautiful. I am real. I am lovable as I am. And I'd better start believing it.
I’m outing myself. I look fat in this picture. Well not fat, but not thin. I’m not fat. I am beautiful. I am real. I am lovable as I am. And I’d better start believing it.
My daughter and I the night before her bat mitzvah. Beautiful, both of us. I must leave her a legacy of self-love and stop the generational legacy of self-loathing that we seem to effortlessly continue.
My daughter and I the night before her bat mitzvah. Beautiful, both of us. I must leave her a legacy of self-love and stop the generational legacy of self-loathing that we seem to effortlessly continue.

When I received the amazing photos of my daughter’s bat mitzvah from our talented photographer Lex Dodson, I spent more time lamenting how lumpy I looked on the chair during the hora (a pose which is not flattering for most people, as everything bunches up while you clutch the edges of the chair to avoid crashing to the ground), than I did celebrating the incredible shots of an even more incredible celebration.

I’m ashamed to look back on all of my complaining about what is a perfectly fine body. Not the smallest, not the biggest, with plenty of marks that show I’ve lived well and fully. We live too much on the surface, never trusting that if we dive deep, others will take the plunge with us to a place that is perfectly comfortable to reside.

And so I tip my hat to Brittany Gibbons for finally embracing her large self and realizing that what we always say but never believe is actually true: beauty comes from within. It has nothing to do with what we look like on the outside.

(And by the way: I thought she looked beautiful throughout the book, even in her bikini. It just goes to show that we are our own worst enemies.)

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