Perils of assimilation

If only life came with subtitles.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Body Image

I work with a few girls of the younger set, who are just about to graduate from high school. I like working with Lin and Samantha, they're fun and silly, and very nice. I don't usually think of them as younger than me. They are, in general, very mature people.

Sometimes they make comments about themselves that I remember making when I was 17/18; comments about how they hate their bodies, how they need to lose weight, how their life would be so much better if they had nice skin or bigger boobs (actually, that was the opposite in my case. I always wished my tits were significantly smaller). I remember how much I hated my looks, and how much of my identity was tied up in it.

I started wondering: when did this change? When did I stop worrying about my body? and Why?

Frankly, I was a little disturbed that I couldn't pinpoint that moment.

Often, the media gets blamed for young women's poor body image. Next time your at the doctor's office, or at your nieghbor's apartment, flip through that copy of People. They spend a ridiculous amount of ink and paper criticising the bodies of famous women and men. But let's not put the blame squarely on the media, there's more to the equation than just the scapegoat.

I remember telling my mom how I hated my looks, and I remember her telling me how people called her "Twiggy" and made fun of her small breasts. It never made me feel any better about myself, how could she understand when I had the exact opposite problem? I took no comfort in my mother's words because I think I wanted to believe I was ugly.

I went through a phase in middle school where I wore the ugliest clothes I could find, to make myself the pinnicle of hidiousness. All or nothing, I said. I hated my nose, my weight, my breasts, my skin.

We're told: love yourself! We're never told how. People start talking about masturbation and how healthy it is for you. Now, the women I've talked to, they didn't have an orgasm for years. Some weren't even sure that they had a clit. It's unimaginably frustrating to be told how amazing you're supposed to feel, and not feel that. You start to think that you're not normal. And no one comes along to tell you that everything's fine. Then sex gets thrown in the mix. It's so awkward, you're so shy. It's nerve-wracking.

Anybody got a story to share?


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