Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Body Image ...

Glamour is following me. The magazine, not the noun.

A few weeks ago, I started seeing copies of it everywhere. I don't remember the first place I saw one lying around (the issue with Naomi Watts on the cover – it's very pink, you know, for March) but then when I was at Jeff's house a couple weekends ago, there was a copy in the bedroom I stayed in, and then the next day, at Nat's house, post-brunch, I saw a copy, and I thought, "Huh. Why do I keep seeing this magazine?"

I used to flip through Glamour from time to time, but it had been years since I'd picked up a copy.

Until last night. I was at Walgreen's, headed for the checkout, and I passed the Naomi issue of Glamour on a rack by another register. I blew by it. Then I backtracked and grabbed a copy.

The coverline that first caught my attention a while back was, "PSSST! Why guys love your body exactly as is" which engendered this reaction in me: "PSSST! They don't."

I flipped to page 220 to "read their head-to-toe lust list." Uh huh. Yeah, scintillating sidebar, that. But the sidebar's host is an article titled "Why men crave real (not perfect) bodies." All right, I'm listening.

It's written by Gabriel Olds. His shirttail on the story (that little italicized bit that tells you something about the author) reads, "Gabriel Olds has appeared on CSI, Law & Order: SVU and Six Feet Under. He's usually the bad guy (on TV). His most recent film is Life of the Party."

Yeah, no idea who he is from TV and film, but he's a good writer, I'll tell you that. (Presuming he actually wrote the article in question. Oh, and here's a picture of him.)

The premise of the piece is that men might fantasize about the fakey-perfect women they see in movies or on TV or on billboards or – let's just say it – Playboy, but they don't want to actually date them.

Really? Wait, let me rephrase: REALLY?

Huh. Well, that's interesting. Tell me more, Gabe.

"To me, surgery somehow implied a lack of confidence. It was as if something purchased to say, 'Hey, check me out,' actually said, 'I don't like myself very much.' I knew that in some ways, this was a ridiculous generalization. Women get surgery for all kinds of reasons. Who was I to decide that every person with a chiseled nose also came with psychological baggage? But I couldn't help it; that's how I felt."

And here's the big payoff: "But I'm pretty sure the woman for me will deal with her physical peccadilloes with humor and self-acceptance, not surgery. This is the part I think women don't understand. When a guy falls in love, his lover's body parts become bewitching. I'm not going to tell you that our heads don't turn when we see a stacked blond walking down the street. But when we fall for you – really, really fall for you – you hijack our sense of beautiful. What's sexy to us? You – in the 'before' picture."

Well, OK, Gabe, I'll take your word for it because you seem like a nice guy. But my own experiences have often proved the contrary.

Almost every guy's profile on – back in the days when I waded in those murky waters - listed the body type he was looking for as "athletic" or "thin." Granted, women are prone to classifying themselves kindly and men are often surprised when someone who said they were "average" walks through the door wearing a size 20, but from this female's perspective, those men always struck me as shallow. They were willing to write off an entire pool of women from the get-go because they might wear a two-digit size? Um, OK. That rules me out, because at my height, I'll never wear a single-digit size. Me as a size 8 would be ridiculous.

And then there was the 6'9" guy who told my 6'3"-size 14 self, "You're heavier than I thought you'd be and I'm having a problem with it." He got points for honesty, but as I've said before, he wasn't looking for a life partner, he was looking for a trophy.

I was always the most impressed by guys who included every possible body type in their "wants" section. Good for them. I mean, maybe they were being disingenous. But then again, maybe they weren't. Maybe they were enlightened enough to realize that the love of their life might be a little doughy in places.

After I read the Glamour piece – which I found really interesting, by the way, not at all deflating – I took a good long look in the mirror. I've been working with Brandon since October. He is most definitely keeping up his part of the bargain. (When I flex things, I can feel parts of my muscles. "Separation," Brandon calls it. Right. That's the word.) Me, less so. I show up three days a week and I do what he asks of me – with minimal whining. But I haven't been as diligent with the cardio as I need to be. I have a treadmill – a rather expensive treadmill, actually – but it's just too easy to hop off it and anyone who knows me knows that willpower is not one of my shining qualities. Ditto self-discipline, which, really, is the same thing.

(In anticipation of going to see Bruce next month, though, I've created a calendar grid for the front of my fridge, and every day that I walk, I give myself a smiley-face sticker. I've also created a table to keep track of my progress. So far, I've walked every day. I like giving myself a sticker and I like filling in all those little boxes with higher numbers than the day before.)

But looking in the mirror just now, sucking in my stomach, I said to myself, "You're getting thin!" And then I immediately said, "Fit! You're getting fit! Fitter. Fitter? More fit."

Because it's not about "thin." It really is about my health first.

Back in September, when I was contemplating hiring a personal trainer, I wrote this post entitled "Accountability" in which I promised to write weekly updates about my quest.

Well, I never did, but not because I didn't want to be accountable. No, I just forgot. What? I'm old. My brain, it's often addled.

But I did indeed find a trainer. Those of you who are regular readers have read about him before. I adore Brandon. (There's a picture of him posing in that post. A little eye candy for the ladies. And the gentlemen, if that's "how you roll," as Brandon would say.) We have a great time together. I often pause in the middle of a set because I'm laughing too hard to keep lifting.

And these days, not only am I diligent about getting on the treadmill, I'm also shoveling several hundred pounds of snow. Welcome to Cardio City, Beth Kujawski!

I'll be in those skinny jeans jeans wore by a person who is fit in no time.


Anonymous Alison said...

You're 6'3"? and a size 14? Good lord, I'm 5'4" and a size 14 right now.

But yeah, my current yoga thing is becoming more about my health than skinniness. I think. I tend to flip-flop on that!

5:00 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

I figure the skinniness is a lovely side benefit to the health aspect.

5:13 PM  
Blogger Mercurie said...

Well, speaking as a guy, I am not going to lie and say appearance is not important. At the same time, however, I don't think a woman needs to look like a Playboy centrefold to be attractive. I think women are at their most attractive when they are not too heavy (Rosie O'Donnell) or too skinny (Kate Moss). In fact, a lot of the celebrities that are put up on pedestals (particularly runway model) just look to thin to me. There is a happy medium where a woman looks just right.

Indeed, my Number Two Best Friend has complained that she is fat before (I won't reveal her size here, but it is in two digits), but to me she looks very attractive. I think the problem is simply the media, which have brainwashed people into thinking "Thin is in"--it's NOT.

Anyway, when it comes to oneself I think it should be more about health than appearance. When it comes to looking for a partner, I'm not going to say appearance doesn't matter (obviously one wants a partner to takes care of herself or himself), but I am going to say there are more important things, such as common interests, personalities that jive well together, and so on.

7:23 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

I had a trainer who made me laugh to the point of breaking the workout. Fun, no? :)

In all honesty, the thin/skinny/anorexic types are horribly unattractive to me. Healthy is a so-much-better alternative, because people, men and women, should be shaped (and happily so), like real people, not emaciated drought survivors.

At least, that's how I see it.

(and I'm a horrible blogger, commenter, and friend. I am so sorry I have been out of touch. This full-time-school-and-work thing is going to kill me.)

8:55 PM  
Blogger Jen said...

Wow, I had no idea you were so tall! I don't think you could ever be considered heavy at a size 14 though, as tall as you are.

There are some men that are not attracted to the typical skinny model type. My husband looks at them and says they look like skeletons, God love him. But seriously, he likes women that do not look sickly thin. And there are others like him who prefer women of a reasonable weight- not fat, but not the typical men's magazine type of woman.

Maybe this writer is of the same type of mindset?

7:37 PM  
Anonymous Gregg said...

I don't like the skinny model types, either. I guess my ideal is more the fitness type...just not at a low competition BMI. Muscle definition is GOOD, though.

I also agree with the idea that when you fall for someone, they become perfect for you. My wife is fit, but not perfect by outside standards. I call her "hot momma" and mean it. I think she's gorgeous...she doesn't always buy it. Reading this post made me realize that perhaps she's gorgeous to me because I'm crazy about her. We've been married for 15 years, now.

1:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like women. A lot of them. I only like sexy women.
Sexy is not a dress size. Sexy is a glance and a bit of a smile, it's a brush of the hand, it tousled hair, it a certain knowing look. My wife has put on 80# in the last year due to a medication that she must take and I love it. It's like getting a different lover than I had before. She's all soft and curvy and fun.
She was once hard as a rock, biceps and quads rippling under her skin when she was in the military, that was great. This is great too. Cleavage and warm soft skin. it's ALL good.
Make the most of what you have without any scalpels, please.
Be happy and fun and imperfect. Don't be a sour bitch with perfect parts fitted to a total loss.

5:57 PM  

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