We remarked how it's somehow sadder when someone so young is homeless. What's the story there? What was so bad at home that the street is better?
We remarked how skinny she was. She said she must be 100 pounds.
No, I said, she's not that little. Maybe 105 or 110.
Well, she said, people must lie more than I thought then. She had a friend who claimed to be 100 pounds, but was not even as thin as the girl we'd seen.
And I thought about the models I knew when I lived in Hollywood who, even as teeny as they were at 110 and 115, would lie. Would shave 10 and 15 pounds off their weight. These impossibly thin, ridiculously tall women who still felt they had to lie. To appear as skinny as possible.
The world of fashion is a different place altogether and I watched girls get crushed under the weight of it (no pun intended).
But what I'm thinking about today is not fashion. I'm thinking about real women. We're trained to shave down our weight.
I even do it. Without even thinking about it. Most days, I'm around 140 (that's the real number). I fluctuate throughout the month. During my period, I'm around 145 maybe. In all honesty, I don't worry about the number on a daily basis. And I don't believe in owning a scale. I think that's just masochism.
But if you asked me, I'd say 130. Automatically. It's my automatic response. It's what it says on my drivers's license.
I always meet guys who think they want to pick me up. Prove their manly strength, I guess. I always protest. Say I'm heavier than I look.
No way, they say, you're tiny. What are you? 110? 120?
130, I say. Because wouldn't the real number be too high a difference from what they thought?
Then they struggle trying to pick me up anyway. Why don't they ever learn?
Or maybe they were just being kind. Lowballing drastically low so as to save their asses. Weight is a sensitve issue for women. No wonder men want to guess low.
When I worked in lingerie, I always told my male clients to buy smaller. She may have to return it anyway, but no woman wants to know you thought she was larger than she is. Always buy smaller.
And why? Why is lowballing my weight by 20 pounds the kind thing to do? Why are we obsessed with the number on the scale? Why do all women want to be a size small no matter what their size?
Hell, I'm a small. On top. My ass is a happy large thankyouverymuch. Truthfully? Totally honest and truthfully? I like my ass. If I want anything to change, I'd like to be more symmetrical without losing my ass. I'm talking potential extra poundage here (granted, in the chest, and I'm not willing to ever take matters in my own hands) simply for the sake of ease of shopping and how clothes fit.
Oh to be able to buy dresses. Or a one piece swim suit. That would be heaven.
But that's just not the way it is. And it has nothing to do with my poundage. Nothing. Zip, zippo, zilch.
I want to know when the number of pounds a woman hauls around became the marker for beauty. For status. It seems to me that we're a rich culture. With more than enough food. (Excuse me while I get a little nerdy) Most cultures historically marked the upper classes by fat. The rich could afford to eat. The poor were skinny.
So when did this shift?
Now our rich are thin and the poor are fat. Or something like that. Or thin isn't a marker of class or income, but a marker of desirability now.
In fact, can I quote one of my fave-oh-rite authors now to help me make my point?
Standards of beauty in every ear are things that advertise, usually falsely: "I'm rich and I don't have to work." How could you be a useful farmhand, or even an efficient clerk-typist us you have long, painted fingernails? Four-inch high heels, like the bound feet of Chinese aristocrats, suggest you don't have to do anything efficiently, except maybe put up your tootsies on an ottoman and eat bonbons. In my grandmother's day, women of all classes lived in fear of getting a tan, since that betrayed a field worker's station in life. But now that the field hand's station is occupied by the office worker, a tan, I suppose, advertises that Florida and Miami are within your reach. Fat is another peculiar cultural flip-flop: in places where food is scarce, beauty is three inches of subcutaneous fat deep. But here and now, jobs are sedentary and calories relatively cheap, while the luxury of time to work them off is very dear. It still gives me pause to see an ad for a weight-loss program that boldly enlists: "First ten pounds come off free!" But that is about the size of it, in this strange, food-drenched land of ours. After those first ten, it gets expensive.
-Barbara Kingsolver, High Tide in Tucson
At this point I do want to go on record saying that I'm not endorsing obesity or saying we should all eat ourselves to death while we abandon our bodies to gluttony and sloth. What I'm saying is the social norm right now isn't about health. Even though it claims to be.
If it were about health, we wouldn't be lying about our weight all the time. If it were about health, we'd be teaching young girls to eat balanced meals instead of maintaining a low poundage for beauty's sake. If it were about health, men wouldn't be scared of guessing a woman's weight or buying too large a size. If it were about health, we'd hold the same standard for men as for women.
And men are ridiculed for weight and beauty standards too. But women are plagued by that number on a scale.
That's what I find sad.
This post has gotten remarkably long and rambly. I could write much, much more on the subject too. But I'll stop there. Because I think I made my point.
Let's step off the scales. And go grab a bite to eat. I'll meet you for dinner. I'm buying.
Then I'll meet you tomorrow for a run. Because I'll probably cave and get the tiramisu. It's my favorite. But that means I have to run longer. That's the deal I made with my ass.