Women's magazines are not usually a source of inspiration for me, considering how most of them exist for the sole purpose of encouraging women to buy really expensive stuff by making them feel too old, too fat, too ugly, too imperfect, too-too-too and yet somehow never enough. Sure, they're full of articles about empowerment, which are sandwiched in between ads for $100 anti-aging face creams modelled by airbrushed fourteen-year-olds and spreads of designer clothing on teenaged girls who collectively weigh less than one of my thighs. Not to mention that I cannot imagine a situation in my life, real or fantasized, where a $1000 handbag would be considered a "must have". Especially if I had to be put on a waiting list to get it. In fact, the only designer item I can truly admit to lusting after is a pair of classic black, red-soled Christian Louboutain pumps. Now those, I would go to some lengths to get. Assuming I could find a pair that fit my giant feet.
But I digress. Women's magazines are by and large the enemy of self-esteem, which sadly doesn't prevent me from reading them from time to time. After a lifetime of being too big and too poor for most of their sartorial offerings, I've learned to breeze right past most of the so-called fashion advice and actually --- gasp --- read the articles. And there are a few magazines I actually really like, such as More, which is after all not targeted to teeny boppers with more disposable income than I make in a year (although I continue, perhaps unfairly, to scoff at their "This is what 47 looks like" feature. This is what 47 looks like ... with a facelift, I frequently snort). But it was in More than I discovered something that actually was empowering, in an article entitled "Look Better With Age: 20 Real Women's Secrets". It doesn't credit the real women who are quoted, but maybe that's because these are SECRETS, y'all. Nevertheless, several of them spoke to me.
"At about 40, I stopped comparing myself to other women, worrying about whether they were cuter, dressed better, whatever."
"When I was 25, I was always copying some other physical ideal. Now I realize it's better to be a first edition of myself."
"I actually appreciate the little 'extra' me I have now; I have more curves."
"I take much better care of myself now than I did in my twenties."
And perhaps the corker:
"I've decided that I'm no longer fat --- just easier to see."
This is all the kind of reinforcement I --- and most women --- need to hear. These quotes inspired me, and hooked in with some amorphous thoughts that had been floating around in the back of my head for some time, never quite forming up into something recognizable as an idea. In my ongoing struggle with food, weight, health, and --- let's face it --- identity in this phase of life, perhaps it's time to put some serious effort into not worrying so much. Like this weekend, when I am scheduled to sing a sexy duet on a concert. I want to do it and own it, but there is always a part of me that whispers, "You'll look ridiculous." I usually ignore this nasty little voice and do it anyway, but it's always there, all the same.
A couple of friends, who read this blog, posted more positive reinforcement on my FaceBook page in response to my previous post about fitness over fatness. Jessica wrote (thank you, Jessica!) "I've seen you at a variety of weights, and for more than a year now, when I look at you, I don't see a fat person. I see a shapely, healthy woman, with great curves, a full life and a go get'em attitude. I think you need to strike 'fat' from your set of personal definitions."
God, I wish I could. I wish I could be more like Balpreet Kaur, a young Sikh woman who happens to have facial hair. This is a pretty incredible story --- someone snapped a photo of her and posted it on Reddit with the intention of making fun of her. But friends of Balpreet pointed the post out to her. She wrote an wonderful response that every one of us can learn from, especially we Western women with all our obsessions about our looks. " ... baptized Sikhs believe in the sacredness of this body - it is a gift that has been given to us by the Divine Being [which is genderless, actually] and, must keep it intact as a submission to the divine will," wrote Balpreet. " Just as a child doesn't reject the gift of his/her parents, Sikhs do not reject the body that has been given to us. By crying 'mine, mine' and changing this body-tool, we are essentially living in ego and creating a seperateness between ourselves and the divinity within us. By transcending societal views of beauty, I believe that I can focus more on my actions. My attitude and thoughts and actions have more value in them than my body because I recognize that this body is just going to become ash in the end, so why fuss about it?"
(By the way, the person who posted Balpreet's photo wrote a very heartfelt apology).
I don't know if it's possible, given the standard American upbringing, the constant pressures of society, and the nature of my job as a performer, to completely release my attachment to looks. But I am inspired this week to at least try to own who I am right now, at this stage of life, to be the best I can be in every capacity, and to seek to be at peace with my body. Obsession isn't healthy. Beating oneself up isn't healthy. And, in the end, seeking true health is the very best thing you can possibly do for yourself, because it will affect every aspect of your life.
So. Here's to self-acceptance, love, and health. Cheers, everyone!