On having (yet another) bad body image day…
I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of money buying new clothes lately. Not exactly obscene, but, still… holy shite, dreading the January statements, smokin’ hot credit card kind of ridiculous amounts. In the midst of doom and gloom economic talk in the news due to current times and dire financial straits for so many. Right before the holidays. Funds that could — probably read “should” – more justifiably have gone to so many other necessary budget line items and worthy causes. The pre-Christmas sales seemed to call my name and were just too good to pass up.
Necessarily changing sizes can be an expensive proposition.
A mix of functional, trendy, basics and classics, the new pieces were ordered with every best intention of helping me feel better about myself. At best, beautiful. If not that, at least more comfortable in my skin.
If you look good, you feel good, right?
It’s not working. A new black tunic does absolutely nothing to alleviate the discomfort and subsequent near rage I feel when seated, when my boobs meet and rest on my round, much-reviled, tricky-to-fit B-shaped belly. Said boobs cinched by a sturdy now three-hook bra band dually, heavily tasked to both rein the girls in and to attempt to show a classic hour glass.
Except I have zero waist left.
Sitting is just not my friend. Which sucks when you work a desk job.
I hate my body. We’re talking deep-seeded loathing kind of hate that’s been a huge – pardon the pun – part of me for the better part of four decades.
Christmas can be an especially huge trigger in that department. With the focus on love, joy, family and connection. Which is great… except when anxiety and depression convince you that you don’t have that. With being seen, ogled and at risk of judgment from people when it’s been a long, long time in between visits. With the grand, lavish meals, the bountiful sweet treats, and accompanying holiday cheer. With the social media posts and strategically targeted ads that insist on pushing the magic pill, the latest fad January cleanse and the New Year/New You diets disguised as a lifestyle change before we’ve even sat down at the table to want to enjoy the first mouthful.
I was planning to do some holiday baking today.
I work long and hard at my job to make my own money, so I rarely ask permission or apologize for how I spend it. But I’m feeling guilty. Icky. Maybe even downright manipulative. I’m using the season to conceal and smuggle in my multitude of online purchases, under the guise of crossing the names off our list. Even pulling older items I can still make work from the back of the closet to mix in with the new, to hopefully keep my partner guessing. If he even deserves credit for paying that much attention to what I wear to work from home.
But the engineer is very intelligent, and I wonder not if, but when, he will put two and two together to realize that the long line of deliveries do not match the modest pile neatly and painstakingly wrapped and waiting under the tree, three feet from his TV-watching chair.
I can and have simply looked him directly in the eye and honestly told him on a few occasions that what currently crams my closet no longer fits, or is growing Increasingly tight, cumbersome and crazy-making. I simply am in need this new wardrobe. What can the poor man say to that? He proved early on in our relationship that he does not lie to me, sometimes at the expense of my highly sensitive feelings and ultra-fragile ego. But he also established that he knew any answer whatsoever to the question “do my favourite overalls make me look fat?” was never going to end up going well for him. He knows to tightly zip his lip. He dare not even say “no” or be met with my forceful and shrill, “you promised to never lie to me!”
But it was hard admitting my situation out loud to him. Unlike cases – yes, plural — in my past, this man has shown he loves and desires me across now an entire handful of sizes. And I have untwisted my thinking and grown wise enough not to try to talk him out of that.
I hesitated for what felt like forever at this point, wanting not to risk to breach his privacy or betray his trust. But it is probably significant that I am aware he has relatable moments and issues with his own body image these pandemic days, in any case. But as a white, middle-aged, very much left-brained and, yes, alpha male with an ego, I am entirely certain that he feels in even less of a position to openly reveal or discuss his true feelings about such matters than even I do.
My default thought process goes like this: He didn’t express any such thoughts or feelings when we met. Or for the majority of our time together. I always thought his lackadaisical, care-free attitude towards food and movement was healthy and admirable. To be emulated, even. Though that has changed of late. I do the shopping and the cooking. And the complaining. Did I wear off on him? Is it all my fault? Have I done this to him?
Except I’m making efforts to shift to a mode where I just notice and be compassionate, without offering him my unsolicited advice or new-found “solutions.”
My days of trying to fix and save the men in my life or take responsibility of things that aren’t even mine to own in the first place are well behind me.
On my best days, anyway.
Okay. Definitely in theory.
While I’m not a dietician, doctor or therapist, I am pretty sure the seemingly endless guilt, overanalyzing, obsessing and stressing are doing much more harm to my wellbeing – physical and mental – than a damn coconut ball ever would.
Bake on, Patty. Bake on.
An ex drunk-dialed me in the early-morning hours about a decade ago, after we bumped into each other at a favourite local Italian restaurant. I just happened to be with the new guy and his kid. “Patty…” said ex slurred in his voice mail. “I fucked up. I lost you. And that’s on me. The guy that has you now is lucky. You are a gift.”
I wish with every fiber of my being that I didn’t associate the comment with that ex. But if I can strip away the scorn and sarcasm I filtered his inebriated proclamation through and toot my own fucking horn for a change…
I am kind, fiercely loyal, and reliable. Blessed to be intuitive, empathetic, and in touch with others. I am big-hearted, conscientious, witty, and quirky. I do my very best to be the kind of friend and partner I want to have. I live by the fundamental principle of treating others as I want to be treated.
I’d love to be able to affirm that I’m beautiful from the inside out, but I am certainly not there. Though endeavoring to be. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of “fake it ‘til you make it.” I firmly believe the world needs more people who are willing to get real. But as demonstrated by the armloads of new clothes, I acknowledge I am still looking for answers outside of myself.
It’s definitely a process.
I can be empathetic and reassuring of my love for my guy in those moments when he throws a shirt aside, asking if maybe I mistakenly put it in the dryer? With mumblings about it being more form-fitting than the last time he wore it. Can I offer myself that same patience, understanding and acceptance?
Not just for Christmas, can I extend to myself that same grace? Especially on the bad body days.
For those of us lucky enough to gather around a tree this Christmas with a kid — or a kid-at-heart — do they really care about or find the most joy in how their present is wrapped? Or is the real gift, what matters most, what’s on the inside?