h1

Why Big Girls Fear Bouncing

September 29, 2013

I shudder a little as a bead of sweat drips from my lower back straight into my ass crack, and try to focus on the chick-singers-of-the-90s soundtrack my adorable, tiny, lesbian spin instructor has chosen for this morning’s workout. She’s what I like to a call a speed-happy teacher. Her workouts include such rapid cadences and her legs rotate at such an impossible rate, I often wonder if my face reflects the mixture of awe and despair I feel as I try to keep up with her.

But mixed in with futility and fatigue is another feeling, a horrible clenching sensation; it is an intense, self-inflicted force that seems to be working against any efficient output on my bike’s flywheel. After a while I figure it out: I’m desperately trying to keep myself from bouncing.

Now, before the spin instructors of the world jump on me – I know, I know. You shouldn’t necessarily be “bouncing” if you have your resistance at the correct level. But at some point, when you’re told to match your pace to the rhythm of the song, and that song is Destiny’s Child’s Jumpin’ Jumpin’ (think about it), shit’s gonna bounce.

So I’m very busy bracing myself against the natural syncopations my curvy body wants to add to the song, and causing my musculature a stressful disservice in the process. Why? Because as a young girl I was taught that seeing flesh move – boobs, thighs, butt or otherwise – is unattractive and unappealing and it should all just stay put.

That’s why by the time I was in middle school I was effortfully pulling on girdle underwear and stuffing myself into minimizer bras every morning. That’s why I spent years feeling shame as I watched television or looked at magazines and saw no resemblance between those bellies and my belly. And that’s why the other day, at 32, despite 7 years worth of analysis, I had an absolute, certifiable melt down in therapy, realizing I’m still at war with my body.

But it’s worse than that. It’s so much bigger and so much more insidious than that, and the solution so much more daunting. Because as I stood on a crowded subway on my way home, crying behind sunglasses, and eyeing the women around me, I realized I was not just prejudiced against my own body, I have been inflicted with a prejudice against my body TYPE, on myself and others.

Once, somewhere around 13, my mother came into my room as I lay on my bed in my underwear and commented on how “Zaftig” I looked. I think she meant it as a compliment, but where weight, and (from as early as I can remember) my particular need to lose it, was such a consistent topic of conversation around the Rosenberg household, I instead took it as a vile insult. To this day, when I hear the word something inside me seizes in revulsion. At this particular session, my therapist used the word to describe me and I practically spit across the room at her from behind the tiny fort I had built out of balled tissues.

Now I find myself in the painful process of taking a harsh look at how I judge other women, consciously and unconsciously; how my monkey-mind plays a constant game of comparison, swinging from body part to body part, throwing its sick feces around. And I am crushed by the overwhelming task of change. How can I possibly glorify anything other than smooth, taut, immobile skin, when I never see anything but? If I never see shaking, jiggling, pock-marked skin, if I never see pubic hair or buttzits, if I never see the watery flesh of soft arms anywhere else but on myself, how can I ever heal? I can make progressive comments on Facebook all I want about the fleshy models on Modcloth, but my diseased brain still glorifies Athleta.

The Buddhist response (the one I always look to first…) is forgiveness, namely of myself and the family members who influenced these beliefs. But to truly work through this, I think I have to figure out how to forgive … all of western society? I mean, seriously. The industries that support the Glorification of the Lean have undergone some change, but there aren’t enough Beyonces and Rick Owenses and Rebel Wilsons out there to make a dent yet. The only way I think I can heal, grow, and see myself as sexy is to let go of my anger, forgive my culture, and sever my self-worth from its clenching fist.

I gotta let go and bounce.

When I was drinking, I could bounce. People drink to conjure their “beer goggles,” right? It’s a blurry lens to pull over the eyes and make the prospective one night stand sitting next to you more attractive.  I drank to make what I like to call full beer headgear.  With beer headgear, the goggles have little mirrors in them, so instead of seeing my date as more attractive, I was magically able to see myself as more attractive. Additionally, beer headgear comes with two beer ear plugs – or beerplugs – which accomplish a much more important goal: quieting the unending prattle of body-hating self-judgment.

I could dance in a beerhelmet. I could flirt in a beerhelmet. I could bounce in a beerhelmet. And I think I judged others less in a beerhelmet. I wouldn’t trade my sobriety for anything in the world, but after 4 ½ years I still have not figured out how to generate a boozeless bounce. Of course, alcohol is used the world over to enhance social buoyancy, I’m no one new or special, but there are also lots of non-drinkers out there, and they must have figured it out one way or another.

I don’t think I can go it alone. I need my friends to stop hating on themselves, too. I need us all to stop commenting on one another, comparing one another. I need men and women to be more outspoken about what they find sexy, across the whole spectrum. I need Hoda and Kathy to stop doing specials on dieting while sucking back pinot grigio at 8 AM. I need to see what models’ thighs actually look like without an airbrush. I need the expression, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels,” to be banned from the English language. I need every woman to wear just a sports bra at yoga, not just the skinny girls. I need more Beyonce. I need more Rick Owens. I need more Rebel Wilson.

And in the meantime… I need to bounce.

Advertisements

One comment

  1. As usual, this is so thoughtful and well written. Thanks for writing this, being male, I feel like body image is something I struggle to fully understand and an interesting component of male privilege. Certainly some men struggle with body image, but it’s a relatively small problem (at any given moment 45% of women are on a diet, compared to 25% of men).

    What do you think men can do to make the world a better place for women? I have a friend who proactively comments on women’s attractiveness who are outside society’s narrow definitions… He’s married and does this because he wants women of all shapes/sizes to know how beautiful they are. This strikes me as similar to being “more outspoken about what they find sexy, across the whole spectrum.”

    I don’t think it comes off as creepy, but I do wonder if it just reinforces a bigger macro problem, the importance of beauty. It’s not just that guys don’t have to worry about body image as much as women, we don’t have to worry about our physical beauty as much. It’s just not as valued. Every heterosexual guy wakes up into a world where if the goal can be simplified as “get the girl”, it can be accomplished with humor, money or charm. We know that because every tv show we watch has a funny ugly guy with a smoking hot girl. Also by looking around. My point is that we value physical beauty in women too much, to an absurd extent.

    Is the solution to expand society’s narrow definitions of physical beauty, or to just de-emphasize the importance of physical beauty in women overall? Perhaps the former is a more practical method and the latter more of a pipedream. And yet I think the latter might be a more important cause.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: