I am washing my hands in the washroom of a greasy spoon diner.
I look up and see myself in the mirror.
I back up a few steps to get a better look at all of me and the outfit of the day.
Hmm... not bad.
And then I decide that this must be one of those 'skinny mirrors'.
This is what it has come to. I am a 41 year old woman, pretty secure in who and what I am and I still have a hard time looking at myself in a mirror without sucking in my cheeks, holding by breath as I suck in my belly and standing up on my tippy toes to create something that I have been taught to believe everyone else thinks is beautiful.
If I do happen to think that I look nice on any particular day, my automatic assumption isn't "Natasha- YOU are beautiful!" it is "what's wrong with this mirror?".
How's that for some messed up thinking?
And I am not sure how, but this insidious thinking is seeping into my little girl's brain too. Yesterday we were getting ready to go outside to do some yard work and she wanted to wear one of her skirts. I said no, that she needed to change into pants. She proceeded to dramatically crumple to the ground in tears claiming that if she was to wear pants that "no one will think I am beautiful!" My BRILLIANT response? "Don't worry honey, Mommy is wearing sweats, so I am not beautiful today either." Thank goodness parenting is a two-person job in our house, as my husband quickly came to the rescue before I inadvertently killed all her self-esteem and said "EVERYONE here is beautiful, we need to wear pants to stay warm. End of story." Logic, that's what my husband brings to the party.
It is no secret that we have a messed up vision of what beauty is in our society. Fashion magazines, TV commercials, giant billboards, all of these things are bombarding us on a daily basis and no matter how hard we try to block it out, this kind of marketing, this perpetual visual reminder of all the "beautiful people" gets into our brains. And into the brains of our little ones too.
Last week the talented, hilarious and beautiful actress Melissa McCarthy was featured on the cover of ELLE magazine in their 'Women in Hollywood' issue. She was photographed in one of fall's hot trends, the oversized jacket and the internet went bonkers! Why? Because she was TOO covered up! Because the photographer did not highlight her curves. Because it can't be a cover shot if there is no skin showing DAMNIT!!
I get it. I get that this is not what we are accustomed to seeing on the cover of magazines. We're used to seeing the thin women in barely there outfits with every supposed 'flaw', every extra pound, every wrinkle, zit, or oversized pore airbrushed to oblivion, (mis)representing the "beautiful people". We all then compare ourselves to this flawless (and photoshopped) ideal that we inevitably are never able to measure up to, you know, because we are not all made from the same human perfection mold.
I looked at that shot of Melissa and thought, 'DAMN girl, you look amazing!' I felt more of a kinship to someone on the cover of a fashion mag than I have in a long time. And then I read a bunch of articles shaming ELLE for covering her up, and tweets from people wanting to see more skin, more of her body and all I could think was how seriously EFF'ed up a society we are that we feel somehow ENTITLED to a woman's body and cheated when we don't get to see as much of it as we want!
I know that the point of all the internet hullabaloo is the double standard. That the thinner women get the skimpy outfits and the full-figured women get covered up. That seems to be the message and the point that everyone from xoJane to HuffPo to Slate and beyond are making in their critique of the cover, but I think this issue goes deeper than that. How is it that somehow if a full-figured woman is in a magazine that she automatically becomes the poster child for curvy ladies everywhere? You don't think that these same media outlets and all the folks demanding to see more of her curves wouldn't be as critical (in a totally different way of course) if she was photographed in a swimsuit?
And do I have to point out as well, that not two weeks before everyone was all, "OMG, don't cover up Melissa, we should see more of her", EVERYONE was telling Miley to "PUT SOME DAMN CLOTHES ON GIRL!!" It seems that we just can't win, so matter what size we are or how much or little we are wearing.
I am a curvy girl, I've got the proverbial junk in my trunk, a 32F bra size and somewhat of a leftover belly from having my babies. And I can tell you that I feel ten times sexier rocking an oversized sweater, jeans and a gorgeous pair of boots, or a maxi dress with some awesome earrings than I ever do in a bathing suit or a skin tight dress that is supposed to "celebrate" all those luscious curves of mine. I know that I would much rather define my beauty according to my standards and comfort in my own skin, than one dictated by a messed up society looking for some skin and a bit more cleavage!
I also have a daughter who, although she shares my husbands and my DNA equally, is my physical mini-clone. And she is the most beautiful creature I have ever set my eyes on. There is no way I am going to let her believe that there is only one way to be beautiful and I am going to make damn sure she knows that no one, and I mean absolutely NO ONE is entitled to seeing, touching or being privy to any part of her body at any time in her life. I don't care what magazine she may or may not eventually be gracing the cover of (crosses all the things and hopes it is Forbes).
Love yourselves my fellow beautiful women, and know that NO, that is not a "skinny mirror", that is all you baby, no airbrushing required!