As we batten down the hatches before this whirlwind trip hits, some of the finer details are being tended to. We have dyed and cut our hair, made appointments for manicures, picked out rings, found a very posh (and very expensive) suit-jacket required sort of place to eat. All of this required purchasing things we- as students- have neglected the past few years. I stare into my closet most days looking for something to wear that will tolerate a chill 40* puddly environment wrought with compost, ice, ladders, and heavy lifting. Other days I seek out sturdy pants for kneeling in rotten tomato soaked clay dirt and long sleeves to protect me from the baking sun. Before that it was whatever smelled least offensive that could cover my nudity while I sped off to class with my 9lbs of depressing reading in tow, ready to hunker down and study until my eyes bled. My life is dirty and unglamorous. Tarra is a waste-water engineer. That's her official title, though few people know what that entails so I use a term that visualizes it for them- Poopsmith. While her work is far and away more dignified and respectable than the word poop suggests, one's closet doesn't fill quickly with "jacket-required" attire in this career path. Most of our clothes are from other lives we are done living, much of it from a thrift store or bought for us by parents, mine especially, that were worried people might think us orphans. So, it was off to the mall.
We spent two whole afternoons scouring the brightly lit stores, all neatly stocked with freshly pressed clothes and shoes with still clean bottoms. It was fun for awhile, though our first day we only managed to buy tea and stop on our way out for pretzel bites. The next day was more successful, we found everything we came for and even had a bit of fun. Though, it was my dress that really began to shift the experience. A shoulder-skimming pin-stripe dress that fit like a glove. Unfortunately, my body didn't take kindly to such exposure. Or, more to the point, I was unhappy with all of the exposure of the parts of me I am uncomfortable with. I have flabby arms, a large and pronounced belly, and my hip fat sticks out further than my thighs creating their own mini hour glass. I decided some shapewear would ease my woes and picked the dress.
I ranted recently about buying an idea of love. Here, I would like to rant about buying an ideal of perfection. I have had body issues my whole life. I had a wonderful grandmother who had really meant well, but would suggest that if I lost 30 pounds I would attract a nice boy (I am sure if she knew I was gay then she would have just changed the gender pronoun and stuck to her point). FAT was a name I was called at school and at home. Though, looking back, even being fairly critical, I was never FAT. Chubby, yes, but fat, not really. I had a boyfriend in Jr. High that told me I was gorgeous, glamorous even- perfect in everyway...except... I could lose 20 pounds. So, I had some harsh critics.
Fast forward to my 20's and some severe depression- I mean severe. I gained 60 pounds in 6 months. I eat my feelings, and I had so many. I didn't feel any better, but I kept eating. I ended up with Type 2 diabetes. I was able to turn my life around, in so many ways other than weight loss, and I made a vow to make my life (now I was in control of it) mine. I was going to be happy and healthy. I ate better and exercised and was well enough to stop taking meds for my diabetes as I didn't really have it anymore. GREAT! Fast forward some more to my mid-20's and I am confident, healthy, in an amazing relationship, and the pounds creep back. "HEY! Have I ever made you this treat!? Let's eat it together and then tell each other why we're in love!". Combine this with a pretty severe back injury that leaves me damn near sedentary for 6 months, and I am back to my former health-risk self. I have lost some of it, but my body shape still echoes a much less active lifestyle.
What do I do? My brain says- blah, blah, feminist critique of self- male gaze- fuckability=self worth, beautiful bodies come in all sizes, healthy doesn't equal skinny....I agree with brain, it makes great, educated and critical analysis of my situation and I should move forward as is and let my belly shelf hang proud in the face of the Empire of Phallus as a great flag of pride honoring this wonderful vessel that has allowed me so much success and pleasure. Yay brain! Yay feminism!
Then, a dark gurgling arises. NOoo. Not you, I thought we were done with this. Why can't you leave me alone self-critism? Didn't we wear this out years ago? No, no we didn't did we. I ignored you. We never talked about it. I am sorry I never gave you closure. I'd like to tell you an anecdote about how deep my body shame is. Tarra is a wonderful, kind, patient, supportive partner and has been there with me every time a demon from my past is brought up, and listens while I talk about many of the terrible things I have been through in my life. Sometimes, I get pretty severe flash-backs or night terrors that haunt me, and she sits there as I literally relive some of them. She has never made me feel like I can't share something because it is too much. Though, on a recent trip to the coast we got in an ugly fight about me not joining her in the hot tub because a bunch of Jersey Shore-type boys were in there and she felt uncomfortable alone. I wouldn't budge from the pool, mostly because I was too terrified to move. My chest tightened, my breath quickened, and I kept trying to think of reasons to go back to the hotel room (in a way that would render me invisible or so fast I could be unseen leaving the pool in only a one piece suit). We talked it out and we both apologized for our parts, but in talking, I realized that over the span of 2 years, I had never hinted that I had such a deep level of discomfort, even hatred towards my body. I was ashamed of my shame.
So, I am now consciously navigating these last few weeks of "dieting" and considering shape wear and weighing them against my body issues. Do I listen to brain and let how I am be how I am? Or, do I ease the anxiety of that inner tension, and just go easy on myself when my dieting doesn't work because of cheating/weakness or I just don't lose what I want and squeeze into some spanx? Is there a middle path? Can I actually try to be healthy without triggering those eating disorder-like tendencies? I can't decide.
On another note, I have also been watching YouTube makeup tutorials, trying to pick up on some new tricks. We hired a photographer, and I want us both to look our best. In watching these, I have to look back and wonder, were those girls in high school actually prettier than me? Or, did they have the equivalent of these women teaching them such tricks as, contouring, blending, double-layering color, using TWO mascaras, brow fillers, and FUCKING TAPE to make a perfect cat eye! Here I am with a wet q-tip, aiming, missing and wiping! Gah! Also, it seems my small makeup bag, as cute as it is, doesn't hold enough tools or colors to make me look like any of what these women have going on. So, I pose the question, slightly rephrased, "Do I care enough?". Am I going out shopping again? I know I haven't really bought makeup in years, and again, everything is as cheap and fuss-free as possible. But, why am I doing all of this? Will my fake nails, expertly applied makeup, false lashes, falsely flattened belly and smoother rump make me feel better about myself? Can I buy self-esteem? I know not having all the right tools makes the mall pretty hellish and leaves you feeling like a troll, ready to take your new shinies back to your home under a bridge. But, will it be better HAVING? Common idiom says no. I have no idea, and I think I am too tired to fight my brain and my insecurity. Their both making my stomach hurt. All I can really think about recently is queso dip and icecream. I like those both so much better than all of this. Who doesn't?