I just got back from our annual trip to Ogunquit, Maine. As always, it was a nice break from our desk jobs/bills/aging parents/if something goes wrong in the house WE have to fix it reality.
It was not, however, a wholesale break from giving myself a break. It usually isn’t.
It was one day of waiting until the pool was free of fellow guests so I could go down and swim laps, because I didn’t want anyone to see me in a bathing suit. It was frantically calculating how much I was “allowed” to eat (if I walk the Marginal Way twice, I can have ice cream). On vacation. I did this ON VACATION.
I was on vacation, and I couldn’t get away from myself.
Listen, it’s tiresome. I know this, but I am hard-wired, to a degree, for self-hatred. I’ve long since stopped trying to force my body to conform to a standard that is simply not realistic. At 40, I am too damn tired to keep fighting my genes. But self-worth as defined by the number on my scale or the tag on my dress is still an issue.
Our bodies are our bodies, and if you’re 5’10” and a size 2 and you’re not killing yourself to look that way, fantastic. I just wish that – well – you weren’t the standard by which the rest of us are being measured. I would like mainstream media to acknowledge beauty in all its shapes and sizes. I would like to see someone who’s – for example – 5’4″ and a size 8. Or 5’2″ and a size 12. Or 6’1″ and a 1X. Whatever. SOMETHING ELSE PLEASE. Are we really that difficult to photograph? To design for? To LOOK AT?
And so I fought with myself all week in Ogunquit, calling myself things that I would never in a million years call my friends and loved ones. Until we decided to go to the museum. There, tucked into the corner of the Barn Gallery Associates Wing, were a couple of sketches by Gaston Lachaise. Bellies, thighs, breasts. I walked around the museum, but I kept going back to those sketches. In just a few strokes, there was this palpable reverence for a body that was so similar to my own.
As soon as I got back, I fired up the laptop and absorbed as much as I could about Lachaise. His inspiration was his wife, Isabel.
Isabel would be his lifelong muse. Her figure was something to be celebrated, adored, immortalized.
And you know, I recognized these sculptures. It’s not as if I’m not aware of the preponderance of art that is entirely appreciative of women like me. But this was the first time I really GOT IT. Gaston thought Isabel was the most beautiful woman alive. I look in the mirror and see something pretty damn similar, and I think (at my nicest): “You know, you could stand to maybe skip lunch today.” I won’t even repeat what I tell myself at my worst.
What am I doing? That up there is BEAUTIFUL. I am beautiful. Who CARES what the people at the pool think?