Why It's Impossible To Be Female And Not F*cked Up About Your Weight
The other night, I found myself at a bar sipping cocktails with a group of my most outspoken writer friends. The booze was flowing heavily, and our conversation was becoming increasingly uncensored.
We were loudly discussing light topics, like what it feels like to be used for sex, the irresistible f*ckboys and f*ckgirls who take up far too much space in our brains, heartbreak and the slew of unresolved childhood traumas we fear are turning us into neurotic adults.
Then, the conversation quickly switched over to the delicate subject of weight.
As outspoken and as brutally honest as this group is, weight is rarely a topic we tackle. We all pride ourselves on being smart, unconventional women with far more interesting, pressing things to discuss over something as trivial as weight. But we were wasted, and the guards were down. Sh*t got real.
"I was 20 pounds larger in college, and I was happier than I've ever been because I didn't give a f*ck," Sheena proclaimed, taking a dramatic sip of her blood red wine.
She swilled the liquid thoughtfully around in her glass and peered at me. "I'm more miserable now that I actually care about my size. I'm thinner, and I'm more unhappy."
One by one, the girls began to tell tales of a simpler time. A time when they weren't consumed by their dress sizes, the numbers on the scale or the number of destructive carbs in their bagels. A time when they all enthusiastically ate what they desired and never thought twice.
I sunk back into the plush velvet couches at the bar. Because truth be told, there was no simpler time for me. I don't ever remember a time when I wasn't totally and completely obsessed with my weight. I don't remember ever eating a piece of cake without having a low-key panic attack.
I have every textbook reason to be totally f*cked up about my weight. In fact, I could be the poster child for disordered eating.
My mother was a model who graced the billboards of Sunset Boulevard my whole childhood. Perhaps as a result, my sisters were diet-crazed girl creatures. I don't ever remember experiencing a meal where calories weren't discussed with an acute intensity.
My brother called me fat from the time I was five years old, despite the fact that I've never exceeded 130 pounds or been considered "fat" a day in my life.
I also grew up in an exorbitantly wealthy suburb of Manhattan, where the most popular girl was applauded for her ability to subsist on only an apple topped with Sweet 'n Low every day for lunch.
In sixth grade, my best friend taught me how to purge my food, during a sleepover party. I ate an entire box of blueberry Twinkies and was seeped in regret. "Come to the bathroom with me," she pressed.
"Watch and learn," she said before sticking her fingers down her throat and throwing up the brownies she had consumed a few minutes prior. She stood there in her cotton nightgown with the pretty pink bow in the middle and coached me through it.
I was a fast learner, and it was a habit I carried with me through adolescence, never realizing I was putting my life in danger. I wanted to be an actress, and I knew that to weigh even a few extra pounds meant being typecast as "the funny best friend."
All this may make me sound uniquely screwed up, but you know what? I've come to find that every single girlfriend of mine has a dysfunctional relationship with her body. It doesn't matter how she grew up or in what part of the world or what industry she's in -- as soon as I become really close to a girl, it eventually comes out that she has some kind of deep-rooted issue with her body.
It makes me wonder: Is it even possible to be a female in this day and age and not be at least a little f*cked up about your weight?
I have a friend who is 5'10" and a string bean. She's a professional high fashion model who gets paid thousands of dollars to walk the runway for the likes of Alexander McQueen and Balmain.
She has the body I've always dreamed of, yet she feels so unsexy in her own skin. She longingly gazes at the girls on the cover of Maxim magazine and wishes, wishes she had the lusty, curvy figure of the cover model.
I have another friend who's been fitness-obsessed ever since an-ex boyfriend once told her she had "cushion for the pushin'. Now she sets her alarm clock for 4 am so she can get to the 5 am spin class. She lives on raw vegetables and kale smoothies. She worships Instagram fitness stars. We used to hang out all the time, but now her workout schedule is so intense.
And then there's me.
I don't worship busty Maxim babes or the Instagram stars. I came of age in the heroin-chic era, devouring fashion magazines as a gangly, buck-toothed seven-year-old. I wanted to live inside a Calvin Klein ad.
Kate Moss was my reigning style Queen. I loved the way her vacant eyes and bare beauty matte-ified the shiny cover of Vogue. She was gorgeously simple and stylishly androgynous, all hipbones and sunken cheeks, looking chicly blank in men's underwear.
Kate Moss embodied the age of the waif. I wasn't a waif. I was curvy, with a loud voice and big eyes. But I did what I could. I spent the better part of high school starving myself or throwing up my Honey Bunches of Oats to emulate the druggie, smokey-eyed models of the 90s.
I liked the way I looked, but my health was rapidly declining, my friends and family were worried, and I got tired of fighting against my natural body type. I wanted a life. I wanted to go to dinner without pushing around my food.
So I got help. I went to therapy. I confronted my issues. I still see a therapist twice a week and probably will for life.
Now, I'm a healthy-looking 29-year-old.
But you want to know the sad, f*cked up truth? I can't totally let go of the body I once had. Because even though I was sick and tired and freezing and bleary-eyed and sometimes mistaken for a crackhead in those days, I felt pretty. And despite all the work I've done in attempts to "love" my body, sometimes I look back at my eating disordered days with longing. It's like missing a past lover you know was bad for you, but dammit, she still has the ability to f*ck up your day with just a single text.
I've written about faking orgasms on the Internet. I've written about my sexuality and the antidepressants I take in order to help me get out of bed. I've written about sexual trauma and having mental illness. However, I'm the most embarrassed to admit my issues surrounding weight.
I so want to be that strong, empowered, body-positive girl for you. Wanting to look like Kate Moss when my body doesn't work that way is a total contradiction of what I stand for as a strong woman and a feminist. It goes against everything I would tell a friend or little sister about mental health, self-acceptance, body-positivity, individuality and the celebration of unconventional beauty.
But sometimes, the pressure to look a certain way feels bigger than my intellect, my feminism and my desire to empower other women.
Women's magazines endlessly tell us to "love ourselves,” drugging us with story after story about "How I learned to love my thick thighs." I enthusiastically read them in hopes of feeling empowered and strong, but all it does is reaffirm my shame. Why can't I love my thick thighs? In a time of such female empowerment, why am I still so secretly disempowered?
I shudder at the idea that my future daughter might look in the mirror, filled with the self-hatred that almost killed me as a teenager. All I want to do is empower girls to be who the f*ck they are and fiercely love the skin they're in.
But I know it's impossible to feel good about your body every day.
Sometimes I think we reel under the pressure to "love our bodies." If we admit to struggling, we are BAD feminists, and this is exactly what stops me from writing about weight. And once again, we are silenced by shame.
But I'm tired of hiding. Living under the mask of false body empowerment doesn't make me a good feminist.
You know what the most feminist thing a girl can do is? Be real. Be honest about not only her strengths, but about her weaknesses. Revealing the sometimes not-so pretty truth might be what precisely what sets us free.
So let's talk about it. For real.