More than Beauty

So the other day I took my life in my hands and went clothes shopping. I must have defective woman genes because this is something I hate like none other. I like looking cute, I like new things, but from a sewing pov it drives me crazy because quality has really gone down in the past decade. And as a woman, the whole process of going into a badly lit changing room, trying on five million similar items in different sizes and colors in the hopes that one little thing might work…no thanks. If you ever have to wait on me in a changing room, I’m sorry – I am that horrible person that takes five hundred items in at once. I can’t stand the thought of having to constantly do the Dressing Room Walk of Shame back and forth from rack to room when I inevitably grab the wrong size.

The thing is, I know I’m fairly decent. I’m pretty happy with the way I look, but because of my curves I’m actually a weird amalgam of sizes. I’ve been told I’m a size eight…in reality this means I’m anywhere from a size six to a fourteen. And let’s face it, things never look like they do on the hangers. I’ve found gorgeous sweaters that I really wanted, only to find that the arms are so tight it makes me look like a mutant, the torso twists weird on my middle, or suddenly the shoulder seams evolve into weird knit spikes that curl up and bop me in the ear. Yeah, I’m an hourglass, but my torso is also really long, my limbs are thick, I’m short, I have T-Rex arms and Charlie Brown legs, and not everything is directly proportional to each other. I’m shaped like a human woman and apparently designers aren’t designing things for that species anymore. And those little cami tops and cute little skirts that are supposedly “in” and dudes apparently really like? Yeah, well, there’s no way I could wear those without looking like I’m selling something.

For being told that I have the body that every woman wants, there are many times I want to curl up on the floor of a changing room and cry. It doesn’t help that we’re slammed from idealized versions of beauty from five seconds after we’re born, too (That Gerber baby? Totally the precursor to Barbie and supermodels.). It’s a wonder any woman has anything resembling confidence anymore. And that’s a shame, because if you really, really look at people you’ll see they’re unique and gorgeous in their own way. Seriously, try it. Glance at the cashier, at the people you’re passing on the sidewalk…but don’t use the typical I AM JUDGING YOU eyes. People are gorgeous, unique, interesting, fascinating…there is nothing wrong with the way the random woman on the street looks. What is wrong is that we’re fed a line by very successful marketing companies that know how to feed off our insecurities. And somehow, that line translates into fact.

I can honestly say I’ve been every body type: I was a scrawny, gawky teenager, I put on a lot of weight in my early twenties, lost it, gained some of it back, and lost it again last year. And I still have to remind myself that no matter what, I’m worthwhile. My Achilles heel is that I look younger than I am, and no matter what I tend to come off as cute and adorable. For years I was convinced that I could never be gorgeous, sexy, or anything worth a second glance because I wasn’t ten feet tall and blonde. It doesn’t help that as a performer I am constantly hearing how I’m not measuring up, how I need to look slightly different, dress different, etc. I’ve heard it all.

That, combined with past experiences formed a massive chip on my shoulder which really wasn’t doing anything for my attraction factor, or my happiness factor.  And I used to joke about the ten foot blonde thing a lot, but in reality it was a big block in moving forward in my life. At the end of the day it isn’t just about what weight you are, what your physical handicaps or assets are…it matters who you are. It has taken me a long, long time to realize this, and like a couple of days ago in Changing Room Hell, the insecurities still creep up on me at times. Although I have to admit that looking in that mirror, I finally realized the real problem: I’m the only human who is absolutely perfect and because fashion is for the masses, well of course nothing’s going to fit me! Yeah. That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.

Strangely, post-it notes have saved my sanity. Last year whilst in the middle of some weird health issues (losing weight was an attempt to figure out why my body was revolting…it turned out to be faulty hardware from a past surgery, and luckily everything is hunky dory now.) I found myself just utterly pissed at life, but more so at myself. And then I found the book version of the Operation Beautiful project. You write empowering messages on post-its with the site url on them somewhere. And you spread them, anonymously. I found myself being reminded about the good, simple beauty facts that deep-down I believe. I also found a purpose in spreading that message and pulling myself out of my own funk in the process. What’s also amazing is the other lesson I learned in the process of recuperating – a body that works is a good body. It is a Wonderful body, a Gorgeous body, a BEAUTFUL body. Weight didn’t matter, being the cookie-cutter version of hot didn’t matter…when I suddenly had the energy to work on projects again, when I suddenly was able to have a cold and not have it turn into a six-month long experience my body became a Work of Art.

There’s a chapter of Women Who Run With the Wolves that also touches on what it really means for a woman’s body to be beautiful, and I recommend that book as a whole to any female (or any male who’s curious) wanting to rediscover parts of their dormant soul. Yes, I said dormant soul. I told you, I really talk like that.

Throughout all this I stumbled upon an inspirational essay I’d written years ago. Over the years I’d showed it to The Sibling and various friends, and the curious thing was that most everyone who read it felt like it had been written especially for them. I can’t remember exactly what spawned it, but I think deep down I was probably secretly writing it for myself. I tried submitting it to some magazines and other places bent on empowering women…only to be nicely told the same thing each time: Sorry, this isn’t what women really want to hear.

………what? Have we really become that obsessed with a fake ideal that reminding everyone that they are special is taboo?

I finally decided to submit it to the Operation Beautiful site and see if it could be put to use. To my glee, it was posted on the Change the Way You See page. And then life got in the way and I promptly forgot about it. A few weeks ago I was perusing online on my phone and stumbled across that link. I hadn’t really expected anyone to comment on it. It’s one of those things that meant so much to me while writing it, but like all writing I realize that once you send it out to the universe, it becomes what people want to make of it. And people aren’t always going to let you know.

I not only had comments on it, but I’m not ashamed to say that reading them while walking to my car that evening, I cried all over my phone. I think a lot of people put pen to paper hoping to convey their emotions and feelings that are important to them. Sometimes that’s veiled in genre, other times it’s all out there. And for something I’ve written to touch people openly and for them to share parts of themselves in return…that is incredibly humble. And Beautiful.

For those who are interested, my essay is You are More  If it speaks to you, if it makes you think, if it makes you feel, if it makes you treat someone else with a little more kindness and respect, then I’m  very glad I could be a quiet, momentary voice for that.

Even so, I’m still never going to like buying clothes.

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