Body Image

We women have bodies in every size and shape. The range of hair color is amazing. Eye color, too. So why are we never satisfied with what we have, with the way our bodies look? We are short and tall, thin and not-so-thin, have hair that is blonde, brunette, black, red; that’s wavy, curly, or straight. Our eyes are brown, blue, hazel, green, violet, black. Whatever we have we want something different. If we’re short, we wish we were tall; if we have straight hair, we wish it was curly; if we have curly hair, we wish it was straight. Some of these things we can change; colored contact lenses, perms, straighteners, hair dyes. But our bodies are something different. We can’t be what we are not, even though there are those out there who tell us we can.

And I’m not totally blameless here, either. I’m short and wished I were taller. I’ve never, ever, had a perfectly flat belly. I’ve fought my weight since puberty. Then somewhere around the age of 50, I began to truly understand that I would never have the body I thought I wanted. My body is determined to stay the shape it is and nothing I can do will change that.

I came of age in the 60s, when Twiggy was the latest thing in fashion. Her boyish body made all of us feel fat, even if we weren’t. Fashion model figures are unobtainable for almost all of us, so why do we still try? The few top fashion models are fortunate that they have the body shape and bone structure to look the way they do. And they have to work hard at maintaining that famined look. I was happy to see there is an 80 something fashion model who is still working; that there are more models out there with curves instead of sharp angles; and there are now plus-sized models who are well-known.

Change comes slowly to society, and it has to be demanded by the majority, and it has to be sold as absolutely necessary. I often ponder some of the things we women are expected to do and be. Who decided that hair on women’s legs and underarms was a bad thing and should be removed? Who decided that women wearing dresses or skirts had to wear stockings or pantyhose, or tights? And who decided that women’s breasts had to be confined and constrained in corsets and bras? Who came up with the idea that women had to wear makeup to look good? Many of us have bought into these ideas and now can’t imagine not doing some of these things. We were raised to think these were good; not doing them was bad. I admire the women with enough courage to break the mold. They are the women we should appreciate as good role models.

I have learned to love my body. It is the only one I will have in this life and still works wonderfully well considering how old it is. It isn’t perfect by society’s standards, but it’s perfect for me, and that’s what’s important. I have come to terms with the fact that I will never have a model’s body; that I will never be tall; that clothes never fit quite right. But I can also alter clothes so they do fit well; I can carry myself with good posture and grace; I can continue to eat healthy foods and exercise with the goal of being fit. I have this one body, this one life, and feel blessed to have it.

Discrimination and prejudice

With all the hate-filled rhetoric filling the airwaves this week, I found myself thinking about prejudice and hate and bias and discrimination. I grew up with extremely prejudiced parents; and I have my own biases because of them. But I have spent a large part of my adult life fighting against my own prejudices.  I don’t subscribe to the mindset that people should be treated differently because their skin is a different color; their religion isn’t the same as mine; their culture does things I don’t agree with.  But it’s a daily struggle. I know people who will take the actions of a few to represent the whole religion/culture and tar everyone with that same brush. And I think that’s wrong. Imagine if all Christians were thought to be like Fred Phelps or Terry Jones.  (And there are some who think that!) Is this how we want Christians to be seen?

When I was growing up, I heard my parents belittling recent immigrants who lived across the street from us. According to my mother, they lived 20 people to an apartment and ate cat food. To my young, impressionable mind, that was disgusting. Later in life I discovered they had that many people living together because that’s what they were used to, and they didn’t know there was any other way to live. And because people didn’t want to rent to them because they were different. And because they were saving money to start businesses where they all worked together as a family. I might not agree with some of the tenets of their religion, but I admire the fact that they were willing to make sacrifices to get what they wanted.

I believe there is good in everyone. Sometimes we don’t see it, or don’t want to see it, because we are blinded by prejudice.

We hate some persons because we do not know them; and will not know them because we hate them. ~Charles Caleb Colton