Author: Kara Adamo.
We have a problem, ladies…and it’s not the men.
There is an idea that has been leaching its way through computer screens, tablets and phone browsers that has gone unchecked for far too long.
Looking back, I suppose I can pin-point the first signs of it easily. It began in my parent’s generation: the 1970’s-1980’s period where “Thin was In” and people began going to insane extremes to get there.
We’re all familiar with it: the stories of women and men wasting away with any number or combination of eating disorders that left them emaciated and filled with a nearly incurable self-hatred that was then passed on to my own generation.
Even now, after all of the published personal stories and all of the attention aneorexia and its bretheren have gotten from the media, people are still starving themselves with this evasive idealist perfection in mind.
Celebrities probably get it the worst. They’re in the public eye and, as with every moment that lapses from the perfection we like to associate them with, that public eye zooms in and judges loftily from its self-imposed moral high-ground. We find our strength in numbers because these people lead lives that the “average Joe” could only ever dream of.
We’re really just jealous and resentful, but they’re the minority, so we can shrug it off and shoot them a “you asked for it” glare.
It makes us feel good about it for five seconds and is, in all honesty, a sign of our collective ethical degradation.
We all do it and they probably do, too.
Forever struggling with pressures from the media to maintain a perfectly composed, perfectly thin, perfectly groomed image, these celebrities starve themselves in the hopes that the negative publicity will cease.
And then, when we see them getting thinner, we copy them.
Men do this a bit, but it’s no secret that women are the worst. We like to point fingers at guys and scream to the high-heavens that it’s their judgmental pickiness that drives us to do it, but for the most part we’re full of it.
We do it.
We’ve always done it. There is a reason the movie “Mean Girls” did so well: it speaks to all of us because it’s based, on some level, in an unfortunate truth about our society.
Girls are, well, mean.
Now, my long-winded griping about anorexia and the “Thin is In” motif that pervasively plagues our culture has done nothing to warm me to the other equally evil notion, this piece’s title phrase: “Real Women Have Curves.”
You see, when I was in high school, I graduated at 149 pounds.
This seems fine, except that I am a tiny little pixie of a thing. At 27 years old, I measure a full 4-feet, 10-1/4 inches tall.
So, when you spread 149 pounds throughout that small of a frame, you can get a rough mental image of what I looked like: I wasn’t huge, but I was certainly “big boned.”
I did a lot of stupid things to lose the weight. I starved myself, resulting in the aggravation of a then-dormant condition called Diabetic Hypoglycemia which now affects me severely every single day.
I hated myself. Looking back on all of the pictures, I realize that, while the weight wasn’t healthy, I didn’t look anywhere near as bad as I thought I did. But you could have never told 17-year-old Kara that.
Then I started skim-boarding and I managed to lose twenty pounds in a four month period. I started eating again and then continued to lose weight until I was 21.
A number of issues that year resulted in my falling below 93 pounds. I couldn’t tell you what the final weight was because I stopped checking. It was too painful to find out. Nothing fit me and I was too ashamed of my financial situation to ask for help. I had bruises on the skin over my rib cage from sleeping on my stomach and my skin had very little color.
Because I wasn’t being honest about things, people thought that I was starving myself again—but this time successfully.
Six years later, I am at a healthy—albeit still unknown—weight. I run on a near-regular basis and I survive on fresh fish and veggies. I’m no longer nauseous after I eat and I finally feel good about my image.
I’m sharing this because I need people to realize that I have actually been on both sides of the track: I have been heavier and ridiculed for it and I’ve been called “anorexic” and a “skinny-mini,” too.
And I’m going to clear something up right here…right now: both suck.
I actually discussed this with a girlfriend of mine yesterday over coffee.
This girl is stunning. She has beautiful dark blonde hair, piercing catlike blue eyes, and long legs I would kill for. She’s that pretty, slender-but-athletic build that healthy-minded models would dream of and the wardrobe to match.
At any moment, this girl looks like she stepped out of a high-fashion magazine.
And yet, this girl has body image issues…just like the rest of us.
She doesn’t have big breasts or a curvy bottom: she’s taller than she wants to be and she sometimes wishes her complexion was clearer.
She’s confident, but she’s a woman: and that means that, no matter what, she will manage to find fault with herself.
Now to be clear on this: men love her.
And they love me—we’ve actually dated the same guy before (at different times, of course)—and we look completely opposite of one another.
This is important: the issue, overall, isn’t men. My weight fluctuates just as much as the next girl and I can always manage to find a date or someone to flirt with. I’ve dated when thin and when heavier and I was called beautiful regardless.
The issue is women.
This friend—we’ll call her Lucy—made an amazing point that I think needs to be addressed on a larger social scale: real women don’t have to have curves.
Lucy is a real woman. I was a real woman when I was scrawny.
Real women have vaginas. That’s what they have.
Some have curves…some have thin waists. Some are short and some are tall.
The issue is not that we are opening the door to social acceptance when it comes to curvier and even heavier women. I’m all for that.
The issue is that we are shutting that door on other women—thinner women—who have feelings and who are just as beautiful. And the reason we’re doing it is the same reason we ridicule celebrities: many of us are jealous and many of us have this misplaced misconception that thinner women have it easier.
To be honest, after having been thin and big and everything in between, I would venture to say that it was harder to be underweight and the reason behind that claim actually has virtually nothing to do with physical size.
It has to do with the emotional support I had from women.
When I was larger, I was told by my friends that I was pretty. I was encouraged to feel good about myself and I was told that my inner beauty was what mattered, anyway.
But when I was thin, that went away. I was scolded for having eating disorders I actually didn’t have and I was called “gaunt” and “thin” with a derogatory tone.
And that, pardon my French, is bullshit.
Lucy said it best at coffee: “All women are real women…women need love from women!”
And she’s 100% right.
We need to lift one another up. And we’re not doing it. We’re failing miserably.
It speaks poorly of our self-image (both internal and external) when the most popular weight-based slogan involves lifting up one group at the expense of another.
We don’t need to imply an exclusion to a group that has historically been complimented in photography and in the media. We just need to include everyone else.
Real women have skin. They have tears and they have humor and they generally have people in their lives that wouldn’t change them for the world…thin or heavy…short or tall.
This idea that we have to cut one another down to lift ourselves up is just as lethal as the notion that you have to starve yourself to be pretty. Some girls won’t ever put on weight. They’ll have to buy breasts if they ever want to fill an A cup and they’ll never have “dat base” everyone keeps singing at (to the peril of my eardrums.)
They’re just as “real” as the girl who fills a larger pant size and who can’t seem to drop the pounds. And we need to love both of them.
It’s a hate campaign disguised as a message of love and acceptance…and that’s what I can’t stand about it. Words mean things and they affect everyone.
So, the next time that you blurt out, “Real Women Have Curves,” think about the sweet girl off to your left that feels awkward about her thin frame and feels like she’s treated like a little kid by people who should be building her up. Think about how you feel whenever someone makes you feel bad about yourself.
And then shut-up.
Turn the phrase around in your head, and change it. Because what you really mean is that curvier girls and heavier girls are pretty too.
So just say that. It includes us all and it builds us up. We need each other, ladies. If we were nicer to one another, maybe we would all stop hurting ourselves to fulfill this unobtainable image of perfection we seem to perpetuate.
And, for the love of god, eat a cupcake. No matter what weight you are, cupcakes rule.