Real Big Girls
The other night, Mr. Beahan and I were having dinner and talking about actresses. We were actually debating the relative merits of Gwyneth Paltrow vs. Kate Winslet. I am an avid Kate fan, Titanic notwithstanding. She is amazingly gorgeous, smart, funny, she’s a super classy dresser, and she looks like a real person, dammit. And then Mr. Beahan uttered the following “yeah, I like Kate. I’ve always been attracted to curvy women.” I couldn’t help myself, I chafed at the comment. It has always been my belief that men tend to insert “curvy” when they really mean “chubby.” This may or may not be true, but I know without a shadow of a doubt that no one says “curvy” and means “thin.” And I look at Kate Winslet, a “curvy” woman and don’t think chubby at all, I think real and normal and amazing hips and thighs and breasts. And then I think, I’d love to have her body, but I don’t. So what does that make me? If Kate Winslet is “curvy” then I most definitely fall one step below that, which is “a little more meat on the bones” or “more to love” and definitely “chubby.” And my brain is whirling itself into a tizzy so fast at this point, I put my fork down and check my watch to see if they gym might still be open.
I admit, I have a bit of a complex. I’m tall, I’m 5’10”. And before all of the short women out there berate me for complaining about my height, just hear me out. I’ve always been tall, even way back when I was in grade school. I come by it naturally, my dad’s 6’5” barefoot. I spent my formative years being shoved in the back row of pictures, towering over everyone, including the boys, and being told that I should play basketball. As if a few extra inches would make up for my dismal lack of athleticism.
Well meaning relatives would say things like “Wow, you’ve gotten so big. And tall.” And I’d stand there, staring at them, trying to decide if this was a good thing or a bad thing. “It’s ok. You know, all the supermodels are really tall.” They’d reassure me, which did nothing but make me more certain that my stature was at the very least, a flaw. I spent most of my teens being pretty sure I was everything but feminine because of my size and that I’d never be truly a delight to look at because I was “a big girl.” I’ve passed up amazing high heels because they’d make me taller than my date and prayed for the Lord Above to please God let me fall in love with someone that is bigger than me already. Thankfully, God complied and sent me Brian, who is indeed, bigger than me.
Now, let me pause a moment and just be clear about something. I am thirty years old, I am an avid runner and I love food with every fiber of my being. When I look at those BMI chart thingies, I fall in a healthy weight range for my height and age. My brain is pretty sure no one sees me coming down the street and thinks “whoa, wide load, coming through.” I just want to be clear about that—I am not complaining about my weight. And most days, like 95% of days, I look in the mirror and feel mostly alright about myself. But sometimes I think, you know, I’d like to lose ten pounds, or get back in that dress I wore when I was superskinny at 25.
That’s when I remember that in order to lose that 10 pounds, I’d have to give up eating bread. And chocolate. And probably drink less. And certainly abandon our weekly Shakespeare’s Pizza tradition. And then I inevitably decide I’d rather keep the 10 pounds.
I believe in food. I believe in what it does for us physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. I believe in the calm I feel when I’m in the kitchen chopping onions and tomatoes for fresh salsa, when I’m picking the cilantro right out of the garden or when I can smell the arugula from across the room. I believe in the realness of it, the way an avacado feels when it’s just ripe, and the juice that oozes out of a perfectly fresh Missouri strawberry in May.
I do not believe in fake food. I am adamantly opposed to soda, particularly the diet variety. I truly believe that high fructose corn syrup will kill us all, and someday, our children will look down upon soda drinking the same way we look down on smoking. I refuse to buy margarine or non-dairy creamer or Velveeta or fat free salad dressing. I don’t exactly know what happens in those labs that make that stuff, but I’m pretty sure it ain’t good.
You can call me a snob, that’s ok. My friend Tracy calls me a foodie, and I wear that badge proudly. And I certainly am human—I eat the occassional Taco Bell. But I truly believe we are what we eat, what comes out of us (I’m speaking figuratively here, folks) is only as good as what we put in. Therefore, we have to take care of ourselves, feed ourselves only the best and we will reap the benefits.
Which is why I won’t drink SlimFast shakes to lose the extra ten and put on the size 6 dress.
But it is also what makes me so sickly sad about what we’ve done to our vision of women, of beauty and of health. That we have constructed a society where angles are better than curves, where deprivation is preferred to pleasure and where a number (i.e., your weight on the scale, the size of the dress) is more important than how you physically feel.
I was really bummed out about this for a good solid day. Really feeling bad about this conversation—not so much what my husband said, because I know he loves the curve of a woman’s hip and if I had a dollar for every time he slapped my slightly overfed ass and marvelled, I’d be wealthy enough to hire a trainer. I was mostly feeling bad about the fact that I, a woman secure in my womanhood, comfortable in my skin and confident in my looks, would revert to that kid who shrunk everytime she was called a big girl. It saddens me that we are raising our girls this way, so that even the strongest of us still fight that construct every single day. And we can blame men, and the media and Hollywood, but we also need to recognize our responsibility as well. We as women need to address our own bias—as aunts and grandmas and babysitters and teachers, we need to remember that every comment means something to a little girl out there. Wouldn’t you rather your comments from one grown-up woman to a little woman-in-the-making be supporting beauty in all forms, rather than reenforcing the idea that beautiful looks one way: skinny and blonde and white?
So, the Beahans have learned a lesson from this one. Mr. Beahan will probably not jokingly remark about my “birthing hips” anymore, and I will everyday remember the amazing power of butter and cheese and really amazing chocolate and step away from the bathroom scale, and when I cuddle up with my favorite little bitty girls, I’ll tell them how beautiful they are no matter what.