Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Skinny is NOT Beautiful

I have tons of things I need to blog about and yet I don't. I feel blocked, bottled up, overwhelmed by so many conflicting feelings inside. So, I'll try to write a quick post about something completely off the radar right now. It'll probably not be very articulate, but I don't care. I've wanted to write about this subject for a looong time now.

For some reason, my SIL's posts sometimes elicit a quick, strong reaction from my brain and prompt me to come here and blog too (this [and the following post] was one example -- BTW, I want to go back to those posts, their repercussion is still percolating in my brain). In any case, it feels good to be "unblocked" for a little bit.

So, today my SIL wrote a really quick post that has to do with how we feel about weight and being skinny and this is a really touchy subject for me. Whenever people have discussed weight on their blogs I have this reaction that when people discuss body issues I'm overcome by this feeling that because I'm skinny (and, supposedely beautiful because of that) have no reason to complain about underweight and I get really upset about it. I've written some comments to that tune to Jo (former Leery Polyp, now at The Modernity Ward).

First, a disclaimer, I'm not going to discuss BEAUTY here. I think everyone is and can be and feel really beautiful, no matter their body type. I'm just going to vent about how I feel when people discuss weight issues. Is that understood? Thanks!

After reading SIL's post, I wrote this comment:
Hmmm... I don't know, maybe it's just a natural reaction at being "brainwashed" by so many sources about how being skinny is beautiful. I, for one, completely disagree because those who want to be skinny have never BEEN, ever since they were little children, that "sickly" kind of skinny whole legs look like starving African children's legs on any given day (I have several photos from years ago with weird angles and from which you get that impression). I have, though. So, for me, whenever I gain a tiny amount of weight I feel healthier.

I guess it's all, like they say in Physics, depend[ent] on one's point of reference. sigh.
What I mean is... it may be "easier" being skinny because people tend to be envious or you and say flattering things about how nice you look, etc... but I think that being underweight (and people like me are not underweight by choice, but by genetic predisposition, I eat normally -- a lot even, if I'm hungry and like the food) is also problematic in terms of body issues and self-esteem.

First, growing up skinny is quite bad because everyone wonders if you're healthy and normal. "Look at those tiny legs (derisively called cambitos, in Portuguese)," a well meaning aunt or teacher will say, "Give this child some food," or some such thing. Unfortunately my mom worried a lot and took me to doctor after doctor, to no avail (it turns out I just have her genes, she's always been skinny too). I try to refrain from making the same comments about my older son's skinny legs, but it's hard, I understand my m om now. He took after us...

Look at what happened to me one year during graduate school after I had my annual physical -- the doctor worried about my weight, asked if I had any eating disorders (of course I said "No way!") and referred me to a nutritionist!!! I felt so insulted! I went, but of course she couldn't find anything wrong with me.

What upsets me the most about my body is my flat-chested-ness. I can't STAND even to go past a Victoria Secret store. Looking at their catalog is sheer torture for me. I am not ashamed in the least of saying the I do want a b00b job and that I will probably get one whenever I can afford it. I have the right to feel beautiful too. Two of my best friends (who are twins) did it many years ago, they were even "worse" than me in that department. The surgery simply made them look like average (or even less than average) women.

Exhibit A:Exhibit B:If these photos don't convince you, I don't know what will. I wish I could be happier with my body, but I'm not. The skinny legs, arms and sometimes sunken face (I do loose weight easily and it shows) do not bother me, but I really would feel more beautiful and, obviously sexier, if could be less flat. (Oh, and I should point out that at least I have one thing going for me, I have a nice, very Brazilian b00ty, also inherited from my mom ;-). My rational, fledgling feminist mind tells me that I shouldn't feel this way, that it's the fault of the people in the fashion industry, or even the evil p0rn industry with its blown up, absurdly disproportionately endowed women. I can't convince myself, though.

In addition, it doesn't help much that my br*easts served me very well and produced lots of milk to feed my babies for 5 years -- that long period b-feeding only made them smaller, poor things. Good thing the opposite happened with my other sister-in-law. Lucky her! (she did it only for two, years though, one at a time).

So, this is the post that I've been wanting to write for many years now. I originally wanted to title it "I'm going to have a b00b job and I don't care what the feminists say" or some such silly thing ... ;-) but I don't need that right now. And... who knows, I might never have the surgery done in the end. I may never have the $ or, perhaps, be fearful since I can't stand doctors, hospitals, and I've never ever had surgery in my life (except for removing my tonsils when I was 4). The anesthesia they gave me when I had the colonoscopy was the first one I got since the surgery at 4 years old (which I remember, incidentaly, especially right before getting the anesthesia, breathing a sweet smelling thing, and when I woke up). It was a strange feeling...

Well... you'll know it all, since I intend to keep on blogging for many years to come! Well, it feels good to have all this off my chest -- not that there was much there in a literal way to begin with! ;-)


pithydithy said...

You know what? I'm not convinced. Pre-pregnancy and nursing (which I'm still in the midst of, so I don't know what the ultimate outcome will be), I was pretty flat-chested myself. And I have to say that I like it that way. I felt athletic and sexy. That said, if you feel bad about your body, I think that it's fine to do something about it. One can interpret feminism as being about autonomy and power-- you have the power to make your own decisions. You should do what makes you feel good as long as it isn't hurting anyone else. In the meantime, though, I think that you're perfectly sexy right now, "skinny" and all.

Mrs. Bee said...

I'm sorry you feel like that. I've had body image problems for years and now with this my new found body shape... the postpartum stretch marks ... it's weird. but I don't care much. If getting a b00b job makes you happy... go for it! I didn't know about our friends surgery though... I had no idea. the doc must have done a fantastic job.

M said...

I have to agree with you, Lilian. Like you I'm naturally skinny and very flat chested. I went up almost 3 cup sizes while I was pregnant with and nursing Wild Man, and to be quite honest, I loved it. I loved the way I looked and that it made me feel sexier, which totally surprised me b/c I had never felt unhappy with my small chest before. After almost 2 years of nursing Wild Man, I was smaller than when I started, and none of my clothes fit the way they had before. Now that I'm pregnant again, my chest has blossomed, and I must admit I find myself contemplating having a boob job when I'm done nursing Z, something I've always said I would never, never do. Like you I don't want to be huge, just a big bigger than I am normally.

I also feel frustrated that b/c I'm skinny my friends who are bigger than me assume I have no body issues. It is tiresome to be told I'm anorexic or that people hate me b/c I'm skinny (my SIL says that one on a regular basis). I sympathize competely.

Anjali said...

Oh, I wrote quite the post recently at skirt! about being too skinny and my esteem.

Dawn said...

Everyone gets screwed when women have to live with rigid standards for feminine beauty. I think even the stereotypically beautiful women get screwed since we lay so much on them re., what beauty is supposed to mean and what they owe the world for being beautiful.

abby said...

I totally agree with you. I have a niece who is referred to as "stick" by her own parents because she's skinny and then they compare her to her sister who is 3 years younger and say, "Look how much smaller you are than your little sister!" It's just mean and sick. I've called them out on it before, but nobody thinks it hurts her. And what about the younger sister, for that matter? I'm sure it's no picnic for her. A body is a body, it is what it is, why constantly comment and place value on or take value away. It's sad.

Jess said...

Hi, I got here from Dawn Google-reader-sharing this post.

I have to agree 100%. I'm naturally skinny, and besides having to worry about getting the flu and getting to a worrisome weight, I'm only just getting to the point where I'm comfortable wearing clothing that, well, fits. At one point when I was in my 20s, I wore a relatively tight dress to work, and I overheard one co-worker say to another, "What is WRONG with her?" That was just awesome for my self-esteem. I've also had people ask if I have an eating disorder. It's very frustrating.

My daughter is also naturally slim, and I'm really, really trying not to let anybody, myself included, turn it into a big deal.

Jen said...

On the opposite end of the beauty rainbow, I'm full of curves, and after studying the fashion world for years and trying to aspire to something that does not, nor will it ever, exist for my body type, I've finally said screw it. I'm healthy. My vitals are perfect. For potential hereditary diabetes and knee reasons, sure 20# needs to go - but there is nothing else to be said. I am beautiful. YOU are beautiful, your son is beautiful. I try to tell my daughter her legs/eyes/ears/feet/belly are perfect daughter body parts. I comment on the stupidity of commercials every time I'm stupid enough to have them on with her awake.

Getting all that off your chest is freeing and lovely to read. Get your boob job. Love it. I'm getting one. More of a reduction. For me. All for me. So I don't have to buy $60 bras. Want to talk about a rip off? All that to say, until we can accept each other as a person, not as a body to be labeled, we're gonna have to work really really hard on the body image thing. Like, starting with the grandma who tells my daughter she's "such a good eater.... she's got a big body, glad she gets time to run around every day". GRRRRR. She's a human. Not a dog.

Anywho, loving reading your blog :)