Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Incredible Shrinking Woman

A little something about the Body Politic.

Throughout most of my adolescent and twenty-something life, I was a strict size 8, once I acheived the height of 5' 9 3/4". I would probably stand at an even 5'10, were it not for the thirty-plus pounds of texts books I carried on my left shoulder for the entire eight years I was in high school and college, while my bones were still soft and forming. Really, there should be rules that prevent dumbass kids who are trying to look cool from giving themselves scoliosis. But I digress.



There was a somewhat unfortunate period in college when I gained ten pounds and moved up to a size 10, but those pounds sloughed right off me every time I went home for Christmas or Summer break. Blame it on the refectory and late night visits to the Silver Truck for egg and bacon grinders.

But something happened in my late twenties, and suddenly I was wearing a size six, though I observed no measurable weight change. I bring this up, because yesterday I bought a dress at The Gap, and was shocked to find that the only suitable size was a FOUR. This happened once before with a pair of their corduroys, which I always assumed was a mislabelling fluke. I've practically got shoulders like a linebacker (shirts and jackets are usually a 12 to accomodate the span, not to mention my monkey arms), so if my hips were fours, I would look utterly ridiculous. But the dress? Well, the sizing was such that I nearly tried on a 2.

What the hell is going on? I am very lean right now, from all the yoga and physical work I regularly do, but the scale puts me at only a couple of pounds fewer than my stable weight of 142. And by the way, that number shocks many people, as they think I seem much "thinner" than my measurable weight suggests. Let me tell you something: stop reading fashion magazines. 1) they must lie a fair amount of the time about the "statistics." 2) those women are unnaturally skinny, and I've been around enough of them to know that most of them are bird-boned and are headed straight for the osteoporosis clinic soon as they hit menarche. 3) the camera does add ten pounds, hence #2. 4) who gives a shit?

Why am I even bothering to tell you this? Because I think the fashion industry is messing with our self perception in more than just the obvious ways. I think they are downsizing sizes, as it were, so that women can feel "better" about the garment they are purchasing. That's what I think, and I think it's sick.

When did we decide that less was so much more? When did the abundant and fertile flesh of a woman (and believe me, I am not that body type), was unattractive, undesirable, lamentable, inappropriate, immoral even? If Marilyn Monroe tried to enter Hollywood or a modeling agency in this day and age, she would be sent directly to Jenny Craig. And really, my choice of photo above is maybe a poor one, because it's about the thinnest image I've ever seen of her.

Where will it end? Is the next stop zero? Will there one day be a cipher on the tag for my garments? Think about what that says symbolically. If I am a good and desirable woman, I am nothing. If I am nothing, if I am zero, I am good and desirable.

But the truth is that none of you really fall in love with that.

I have long been afraid that the consequence of the beauty standard is less love in the world. We limit the breadth and scope of erotic and romantic potential every time we insist upon any standard. Apparently I am a bit right about this - the most recent Post Secret included this doleful submission:

"I dumped you because my friends made fun of me for dating a fat girl. But I am still in Love with you."

What is more tragic than that?

There is something different for everyone, and that's the beauty of it. That's why there is someone for everyone. No body is really perfect, no body is really ugly. I wish everyone would just stop it already.

14 comments:

peteski said...

< drool > 5'10" < /drool >

McGone said...

Great post, Kface. Also timely as People Magazine just came out with their "Most Beautiful People" list for the year. Apparently beauty has something to do with being on TV and in movies, but you are only beautiful if you have something to promote right now.

And I have never seen that picture of Marilyn Monroe before - nice find.

Anonymous said...

no shite. when i was in high school i worse a size 8. ten years later, and at least 15 pounds heavier and i'm wearing a size
0-4. on a lishglty different note, a 5'10". 142 pound woman=WAIF.

steve said...

Well first let me just say there are a lot of beautiful folks out there that get real ugly when they open their mouths.
Reaaly, I ghuess thats all...except maybe 'Big girls turn me on" (but then again, so do the little ones)

nothing said...

The sizing game is done with men's clothes as well.

With Lucky Brand Jeans, I can buy jeans that are an inch or sometimes two smaller in the waist than what I know my true measurements are, and with their shirts, I have to go up one size.

So, according to them, my waist is a nice size and my chest is large and manly.

GrizzBabe said...

You're bursting my bubble, Kissyface! I actually thought I was loosing weight.

srchngformystry said...

amen, kissyface. amen.

Tom said...

a girl shouldn't be so skinny that she often gets knocked down by a stiff breeze.

I am seeing my metabolism slow down as I approach 30. I'm in need of a better diet and more exercise, but most people are, I'd guess.

Grant Miller said...

I think you're probably right about downsizing sizes.

Citizen H said...

Girls: nobody's perect, nobody's ugly, but be prepared for problems if you ask if your jeans make you look fat. It's begging for a "wrong" answer.

UF Mike said...

Somebody pass Peteski a tissue. Good post, Kissyface. The whole "beauty" thing is so shallow. Of course, I'm only saying that because I failed to make People's Most Beautiful People List. Again.

Mother of Invention said...

Wow! I'm 5'9" with a medium to large frame and I'd love to be 145! Instead, this drug that I am taking adds 10 lb so I think I'm fat at 156! Other people think I'm lean since I'm lanky, and they's guess my size was 10, but alas, I am between 12 and 14!
I feel horrible at this weight and size and have decided to go off the drug. I walk almost every day so my muscles aren't bad for an old babe!

I hate what the fashion industry has done to the self-image of women...what the heck does size 0 mean? Tou're not even here? Or visible?

Phil Core said...

So thin, you'll never survive the winter that way. Have some whiskey. That will put some meat on your bones.

To the kid that dumped his ‘love’ because of peer, I’ve been in similar situations but I’ve always defended my position. I would say things like, “You may not understand, but she is good for me. She’s opposite and similar in the right proportions. She is complimentary to my soul and I like that.” I don’t think the kid really loved her, only loved his own self image. When confronted with conform or suffer dilemmas, maturity seeks to reject them. Does our culture celebrate immaturity, it seems that way, or perhaps there is just a market for immaturity and the market isn’t required to be socially responsible. That’s the individual’s requirement. And once someone figures it out, their world balloons.

metrobabe said...

North Americans are fat. Asians and Europeans are getting fatter too. It's McWorld. Sizes are getting bigger and so are we...

I am a size 10. Yesterday I braved the new H&M on Queen's Road. I tried on a medium shirt (too big), a size 10 shirt (too tight), size 10 sundress (too big)...you do the math...

What's that great quote from Meangirls when Rachael McAdams looks for her prom dress at "0, 2, 4"? "Try Sears". Classic.