Tag Archive: Body Image

Confessions from my resting bitch face

So earlier this week, someone I’d just met started telling me about a fat, ugly, horrible, boring, yet rich man who spends a lot of his time on one of the popular dating sites. It seems he has told this woman repeatedly about these other women who were simply unacceptable, as they weighed 160 pounds, far too heavy to consider having on his arm. Now, I’m not surprised by that of course, I’ve encountered these types far too much just by existing in this town, or any other town. Men who are desperate for a lifelong female companion but not desperate enough to consider being seen with someone not possessing an impressive thigh gap. This gets sadder as we age, because, well, either you know, or you’ll find out. Either way, it’s amazing to me what some men will say to women about other women and their bodies. And it’s almost never the guys that actually look that great either… Just, you know, saying.

So no, that topic in itself wasn’t much worse than any other day. What got to me, what is still getting to me really, is the woman’s reaction. She was outraged. Yay, I thought. Nooo, I learned. Her outrage was over his classification scheme, not that he had one. She was desperate to show me pictures of one of these maligned women, whom she actually knew, to prove to me that they were, in fact, beautiful, and not at all the fat pigs this man was saying they were. Look at her, she’s LOVELY! That guy is such an ass. How could he say such things about her, I mean look at her!

Well, damn. See, what’s going on there is she pretty much agreed with him that women are to be sorted into groups labeled Fat and Acceptable, and of course Perfect/Photoshopped. Where she disagreed with him, apparently, was just in where to draw the line. And she was telling all this to me, the decidedly unskinny, awkwardly tall woman who clearly can’t even be bothered enough by what men think to put on the pinchy shoes and drop that extra 25 (okay maybe 35 by her standards). And as her outrage grew, I found myself wanting to start a fight. No, listen, I wanted to seriously just go off. Visions of delightful rants were exploding in my head like fireworks. But the margarita I had wisely purchased and finished while waiting for these fashionably-late-but-always-worth-it-in-their-own-minds folks was doing nice things to my head space, and I was imagining my happy place, which is basically anyplace people aren’t and dogs are… So I just sat and took it. I nodded like an idiot.

The group of women she was with were the kind of women I tend to prejudge based on just how much effort they put into looking like magazine covers (a lot, a lot of effort). I may be emotionally high-maintenance, but I have no patience for this stuff. I hate shopping, I hate hair-braiding parties, I hate squealing over shoes, and while I respect the rights of those who care to submit themselves to fat-freezing and boob jobs, I retain my own right to judge. I know, I am a hypocrite. You can bitch about me on your own blog, I’d love it, actually. In the meantime, I’m just going to keep going…

So the conversation was basically all about “boys” just like I remember eavesdropping on in high school, with my eyes rolling full-circle in my head. I haven’t changed much I suppose, in spite of all the changing. I have learned to stop the eye-rolling, sometimes, but if you know me, you’ll always see it. I’ve just never understood this type of person, and that may be because my first reaction is loathing, and a distinct unwillingness to even try to understand them. It’s like looking at a sibling and thinking how in the HELL did we come from the same people? Who told these girls that boys were that important in the first place? I mean, I love men, but seriously, talking about them in a group is kind of like talking about which shade of white to paint the kitchen, and I hate white kitchens.

Later that night, I ended up next to one of this group at a concert, and was honestly overwhelmingly distracted by her constant hair flipping (yes, it hit me EVERY SINGLE TIME, and her non-stop texting. With a BOY. Yes, I did read over her shoulder, all night, because she deserved it, and I’m not sorry, because I am so going to use all that crap I read in a book someplace, and if I couldn’t enjoy the music in the dark the way concerts were intended to be enjoyed, then I might as well just go with it. I hope the date they took almost 2 hours to set up works out well for her. No, I mean that. We do have to have one another’s backs, we women, right?

Carl Jung is often quoted as saying: “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” I don’t get it. No seriously. I think the point is supposed to be we see ourselves in those things, but dude… I don’t secretly wish I was like those women, I don’t secretly wish to belong to their club, I don’t secretly wish to give so little damn about other people that I can just stick my stupid smart phone in their face and convince myself that they wish they were like me and are graced to be in my presence. Help me Carl, I don’t know how this is supposed to help me understand myself.

This irritation does, though, help me to see that I actually like myself as a person. I like the way I notice other people. I like the way I think for myself. I don’t think I can go so far as to say I like my current weight, but if the price I have to pay for beauty is that high, I can at least live in peace with myself as I am. I may sometimes feel like I don’t have a tribe of my own, but I do have some amazing friends, and I honestly adore my own company. I can be left alone for days and have wonderful conversations, and never flip my hair a single time in my own face. I mean, it’s really short…

We should stop hiding

There was once a time when I looked good, like really really good. Like this picture here.00000262

Kinda nice, right? Of course, if you’d have asked me, I’d have said oh yuck, I’m meh at best. And yes, those fake pearls were all the thing in the 80s, so get off my back.

Anyway, blah blah blah, weight happens, and it happened to me. I could tell you it was trauma-related. It was. But then it was just comfortable. And then it was impossible. Also, I had kids, that sure was an extreme thing to do to a body. And bedrests and surgeries, and you get the picture, right?

Oh, no you don’t, because I don’t show those pictures. Well, until now. Because I was going through old stuff today, and found them, and it’s the day after Mother’s Day, and I’m with my kids in these, and I’m just happy being mom.

I never felt good about how I looked, never had the right clothes, never took the time to do anything about it except avoid mirrors. I lost a lot of weight about 10 years ago, and suddenly “Sure I’ll pose for those pictures…” Well, a lot of the weight is back on now, and I hate pictures of myself again. But I’m still posing for them sometimes. I figure I should have *some* proof of a life after all. I’m so glad I have the pictures from the last 8 years with friends and family, so many adventures!

But in my 20s and 30s I spent most of my time hiding from the camera. Apparently my parents weren’t fooled, and took shots anyway. Thank goodness! Because today when I looked at these pictures, I thought, wow, I remember that day, I remember that moment, the things the kids were doing, the books I was reading to them, the clothes, haircuts, all that love love love. And it made me happy. And then I was like, what the hell was I hiding from? Well, I’m glad someone found me. Also, I look gorgeous.

Now please stop hiding your beautiful light from the world! And I’ll keep working on that too.

P.S. Damn, those kids are cute, right?

me nuzzling my son

Sometimes you just gotta nuzzle.

me and my daughter

Oh her eyes!

me and my son laughing big

This kid still cracks me up constantly. <3

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me and my son

You could manage to exhaust him into posing…

me and my daughter

MerleFest, camping and music and this cool kid.

very pregnant with my son

Didn’t deliver him for another MONTH!!

me very pregnant and tired

Okay, it wasn’t all delight!

me and my baby girl

She was born intense.

me reading to my girl

We used to negotiate the number of books per bedtime.

 

 

 

mewithkids

Natural

Day 22: write a natural poem

Natural

Her body swings in the short pink dress
That shows the heavy curve of her hips
And invokes the raw powers of gravity
Beckoning even the most glowering eye
And in her easy way she notices
Without noticing and smiles
At the succulent promises of summer

~ Liesl Dineen 2015

Bride is losing weight

Day 19: Write a poem about authority

Bride is losing weight

 

Reflecting in the mirror
I remember this shape, this softness
Familiar in its returning
Always returning to the softness
After striving to be hard

Wedding dresses lie about their size
And so the shame began or continued
Because my size 12 body pushed
Ever so slightly on a size 18 wedding dress
And nervously I spoke of diets and plans
To the prissy woman with the measuring tape in her hand
As she wrote the words that come back to me so often
When I’m noticing the softness in the mirror

Bride is losing weight.

And when I look now at the pictures of me in that dress
Dancing in sunglasses to Old time rock and roll
I see a beautiful woman who didn’t understand
That she was walking head-first
Into a life where she would never measure up

~ Liesl Dineen 2015

Beauty is a beast

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The challenge from a friend on Facebook went like this: Post six photos of yourself that make you feel beautiful.

I’ve never felt beautiful. I’ve had many many moments of beauty in my life, and there are some pictures of me that I think look decent, but beautiful?  Ugh. I mean, I spend a lot of my time trying to fight the typical American standards of beauty as it is. I think we’re all beautiful! Except me.

Yeah, I know, but I’m positive I’m not the only one who struggles in that way. In fact, that’s why this challenge was issued I believe. In a world where even the models don’t look like they do in the ads, what chance do us mere mortals stand? And the truth of it is, I’ve never really stared into a mirror and wished for Disney Princess looks. I always wanted to be the pirate, or the cowboy, and you know, I still do. And I like that about myself.

I had this Halloween costume once, and I was telling this guy about it. It was just a tiara and a wand and a sash that you would wear with your own dress, and the sash said Miss Diagnosed. Anyway, this guy said to me “What are you hiding behind humor for? Just admit that you want to wear the tiara and be the princess and go out and have a great night.” Now, he meant well, he really did. And he believed he was right. But no. The truth is, I have always been about the humor, about the weird, about the corners of the room. And even now, just because I’m finding my voice, that doesn’t mean I want to be at the center of things.

I spend a lot of time talking about weight, and beauty, and all these issues around how we feel about ourselves, but of course I’m a hypocrite when it comes to me. I’ve been so very mean to myself for so many years. Again, I’m not the only one. But it’s way past time to deal with it I guess. And so I will look in the mirror and find nice things to say to the girl on the other side. Okay, the old lady as my son would say! Still, I will be nicer.

And yes. Six pictures that make me feel beautiful. I picked my pictures based on, well, what I had available (I’m usually in goofy group shots making faces or the one behind the camera), and more importantly, on the moments when they were captured. There’s the picture when my son was just a few days old, he’s in the foreground, and I’m more of a nose than a face, but I’m utterly in love, and you can tell. It shows. And it’s beautiful. And there’s one from my (second) wedding on the beach, when the man who married us (and was also the photographer) told me look into the camera and send myself a message. Yes, beautiful. Pictures with friends, those are easy, my friends make me smile. And one of me in a kayak on the lake near where I grew up. Moments of beauty, and I do love looking back on them all.

I wish I could end this by just saying “I’m beautiful.” It would be strong, and powerful. But I’m not that girl. What I can say is that I’m as flawed outside as I am inside, and yet I do believe I’m mostly good inside in spite of the scars, maybe even beautiful. Yes. Maybe…

July 1

After the stroke

Sometime in the middle of New Year’s Night one year
The blood clot finished its long trip and made its big premier
It lodged itself there in my brain, cutting off some air
And that is when dear Death and I started our affair

But I didn’t have the slightest clue until I woke up tired
And I noticed my left arm was weak, as if it was mis-wired
I spoke in words I hadn’t planned, and yes my voice was slurred
My ex told me my face had fallen and my vision blurred

And in the hospital I knew that I had tasted Death
And Death had sampled me indeed and nibbled on my breath
He took some nerves while feasting there, oh yes, I lost my nerves
He took small pieces out of me like delicate hors d’oeuvres

If you’re like me, this feels unreal, a little hard to take
Because I’m so alive and HERE, smiling and awake
You can’t see Death masquerading as paralysis in my throat
I dare not swallow hard to the left, and give him room to gloat

And even if I point it out, you may not see awhile
How the left side of my mouth droops slightly floorward when I smile
That’s Death there tugging on my lips in asymmetric glee
He’s a prankster and a vandal, and I’m his playground, see

And because I’m such a gracious host, and a friendly face as well
Death has also turned my brain into an oyster shell
He watches my unfinished work, an aneurytic pearl
As it gathers blood like sand in every iridescent curl

But I owe him thanks for guarding me and giving me more time
So when he takes me over don’t accuse him of a crime
He’s just collecting on his debts, which you know we all must pay
And I’ll hold him like a lover when he carries me away

~ Liesl Dineen 2014

 


Castles

You rule over your two castles
They are enemy camps at war
You’re holding each side hostage
With razors on the door

But there’s terror building in your throat
And you think you have to choose
Maybe you can find your way to peace
Because I hate to see you lose

~ Liesl Dineen 2014

Day Eight

No “official” prompt today, just a mirror on the wall.


Weighing in

Every day I notice
My deep-scarred belly and extra skin
Sticking out farther than I’d like
Breasts aiming a little lower too

Sometimes though, for a brief moment
Or maybe a whole minute (when times are good)
I let go of shame and contempt
And I remember:

When the skin was wrapped
Impossibly tightly
Around a life inside me
Growing too big to contain

How I waddled, teetering dangerously
A Weeble in danger of falling down
And how I had to sit, to be still for months
Because my tired body was giving up too soon

When I pushed with gritted teeth
And doctors pulled and shouted
And my nakedness was the least important thing
In the suddenly crowded room

And for that brief moment I notice
This amazing body nourishes me, myself, and always has
As it did my children long ago
And I say a quiet Thank You in the mirror.

~ Liesl Dineen 2014

Flag on the play

 

5948484I’ve been a geek for a long time. I played D&D in high school, read countless books and comics, liked computers before they were mainstream, you get the idea. I’ve met with lots of weird looks along the way, what, a GIRL? This happens to lots of us. And right now, the war around gender and geek fandom is being waged. Women are taking a stand and I love it! The real men are standing with them and behind them, and I love that too. I’m still shocked that a simple thing like girls liking video games can be considered weird in this day and age. But I was raised to ignore that crap. A lot of parents have put a lot energy into teaching their daughters that they can like what they want to like, be who they want to be, and don’t have to accept limits. Now a lot of us are grown up, and we’re being who we are, and it’s freaking some people out. And some people just plain haven’t noticed us at all yet.

My friend Kate runs a family-friendly fantasy football league.  We have men, women, and children competing pretty darn equally, and smack talk is rampant. Last year I won the season (cash!), and an 11 year old came in second (he got cash too!). I can’t tell you why I like football. I mean, it doesn’t go with most of my loves in life. It’s not peaceful or deep, but I like it. I watch the games, follow the plays, yell at the refs on TV, keep up on the changing rules at least a little, pay attention to the players, injuries, coaches, etc. An awful lot of my female friends are the same way. An awful lot.

So why is it when I went to look up player stats for this year’s fantasy draft, every single site assaulted me with visions of barely legal boob jobs vaguely attached to women who were leaning in and utterly inviting me and everyone else to play a different kind of fantasy game? Why were there NO pictures of women fans or fantasy players anywhere? Why are we invisible??

Look, I know there’s some kind of crazy stuff going on, and there’s people using rape threats to silence women who have found their voices. I get that football may be considered one of the last “holy” grounds for the man’s man. I get that there are men who think women are nothing but playthings. But are they the majority of football fans? Hint: the answer is no. I’ve pretended for years that this crap doesn’t bother me, because I want to be “cool” around my male friends I guess. But I’m about sick and tired of being put in “my place” by all this BS. How the hell can we raise our kids to be anything they want to be when the message is clearly not true in “certain” areas like geeks and sports, and related fandoms? And why do I have to pretend to not be offended by the objectification of women in geek stuff and sports in order to be “cool” enough to participate? Time out… I’m ready for some rule changes of my own.


httpv://youtu.be/s4Rjy5yW1gQ

Reflecting on self-image

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Raise your hand if you resolved to lose weight or get skinny this year. The messages out there are clear, skinny women are “beautiful” and women with any curves at all are the subject of shame. Heavy women are heavy women, always spoken of in the context of their weight. The fact is we judge women on looks. Our entire culture does. And we judge ourselves most harshly.

How can my generation succeed at giving our daughters a decent concept of self-image when we’re such a mess ourselves? A few years back, my now ex-husband’s friend told me on the phone that my entire job was to stay pretty for my husband. He hadn’t met me yet, didn’t know I was overweight, and I let that message get to me; I pulled it inside and used it to beat myself up even more than usual. I’m a semi-brilliant woman with a master’s degree and a whole head full of creativity, and here I was being told my only worth was in how I looked. And I believed it. And I didn’t measure up.

I was a pretty healthy teenager, not perfect, but I didn’t give it all a lot of thought. There was no Internet to show me images 24/7, and “the look” back then wasn’t nearly as skeletal as it is now. Once I was in a musical and my mom took me out after the show. She didn’t live with me, but she came down to see the show, and I was excited. Then after the show she took me aside and said she and her partner had noticed in one scene when I did a cartwheel onstage that I had cellulite on my upper thighs. Now, I know she was worried for my health, and whatever else moms worry about. But the fact is that’s what I remember most about being in that show. I remember shame, and rejection, and pain, and not because I messed up on stage (I didn’t), but because of my thighs. I would love to have those thighs now by the way.

It didn’t help that growing up I was told I’d be hurting the cook’s feelings if I didn’t eat more. Clean plates mean respect to those who care for you. Yeah, it’s messed up, but that’s what life is like sometimes. I was riddled with guilt, and I apologized for everything, most of all taking up space. So I learned to clean my plate apologetically. It wasn’t until just a few years ago that I realized some people just eat until they feel right and leave the rest. It was a window into an entire alternate universe, and I liked it. I didn’t make my kids clean their plates, but I sure set that example.

On my 19th birthday I went out with some friends back home, and ended the night being drugged and raped by two fraternity brothers who seemed to enjoy pretending I was a willing partner. The drugs made my body comply. But my voice kept asking out loud to go home. I wrote a story about it once, barely fictionalized, and I won national recognition. It was the last “fiction” piece I ever published. But my story isn’t really unusual. Rape is common. Kids joke about it. It’s to the point where finding a woman who hasn’t been raped or assaulted seems nearly impossible. It’s almost mundane, but nobody ever talks about it. Well we need to talk about it, and I have so much to say, but this isn’t the time.

This is about how it changed me. I just wanted to disappear, to slip into utter anonymity, to become nothing. Nobody hurts you when you’re nothing. Men don’t want you, but they don’t hurt you. They just ignore you. Some women starve themselves to disappear. But I ate. I wasn’t monstrously huge by many standards, but the few pictures I allowed to be taken embarrass me and make me instantly sad. I was hiding in plain sight. It took almost 20 years for me to come out of that shell again. Losing weight, for me, was an awakening. I had finally realized I deserved health, and after fearing men for decades, I also realized they weren’t all bad and that looking good and being noticed feels great. I wasn’t even truly thin, I was just fairly healthy and I felt amazing. Seven years after losing a lot of weight, I’m dealing with trying to lose some again. Depression, stress, even falling in love, it all adds up.

But this time my daughter is watching. She’s been watching as I regained, and as I let the mean voices back in to my head – the ones that whisper horrible words to me in the mirror. And she has her own whispers now. I’ve been working so hard to accept myself. It’s a struggle to do so when I’m so obviously imperfect, and my struggle has sent so many terrible messages to her. The cycle needs to stop. I should have done better, should have noticed all the subtle things I was doing and saying when I wasn’t paying attention, should have never gotten TV or Wi-Fi, I don’t know, I just know it’s all a mess. Blame society, blame mom, who cares who’s to blame; I just want to fix it.

I want my beautiful daughter to look into a mirror and see the wonder that is her, and to know she is loved and lovable for the beauty *inside*, forever and always. She is beautiful outside too, always has been. But I guess this isn’t just about beauty. It’s about pain and rejection, wanting to be invisible, feeling like you’re not good enough, coping with terrible feelings, and some other awful things I can’t even figure out yet. And just under the surface of our cultural awareness, there is a world full of girls out there who are starving, binging, hurting themselves, and telling themselves that they are unworthy until they succeed at becoming nothing at all. They all feel alone, misunderstood, and horrible. They share pictures of starving girls and say they can’t wait to look that way. And our culture helps them celebrate their losses.

We need to pay more attention here. We need to wake up. There’s so much to learn. I want to get healthy again myself, but I also need to know I’m good enough right now. Coping with overwhelming feelings isn’t ever easy. By being depressed myself, I’ve been a terrible role model for dealing with emotions and stress. By being mean to myself based on how I look, I’ve demonstrated bullying of the worst kind. We all need to know that we’re worthy of love. Why is that so hard for us to see when we look in the mirror?

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