Women are leaders, women are in the army, play all sports and do what men do. In Germany, there is a female president and overall, the idea of women being treated equal to men has been going around for a while. Women can do what men do, but two things: Grow old and gain weight.
I remember being in second and third grade. I had the double whammy going – I was overweight AND poor, therefore sporting cheap hand-me-downs and clothes that weren’t fashionable. I was bullied, made fun of and largely ignored. I had pretty good grades but the dumb and pretty girls had tons of friends and the boys lined up. By the time I reached 5th grade, I had lost most of the weight and vowed I’d “be prettier than all of these jerks when I get older.”
This started a lifelong experiment, unhealthy behavioral patterns, abuse to my body, psychological damage and self-esteem issues even years of therapy couldn’t quite fix. The horrible experiences I had from being abused at home and by society left me often despising the fact that I was female.
Over the years, I did what most of us girls do: I dieted, I did extreme workouts, I starved myself, I creamed, I used products and spent ungodly amounts of money to become what society tells me I should be; while at the same time sabotaging it and hating it. I got tons of tattoos, I dyed and cut off my “beautiful blond curls” and sported black, red and blue hair. I systematically dismantled the image of the pretty blond girl people wanted me to be. And yes, I paid a price. I will spare you to years of abuse I did to myself, simply because I had learned at the age of about 9 that I was not desirable, pretty and what boys wanted.
The sad thing is that these are engrained society traits. Nothing changes. Look at public figures and actors. Let’s take Johnny Depp – the man is 50 and dates a girl in her 20s. Let me not even start listing the examples of men I know, including my ex.
Men have been conditioned to believe that women should look and behave a certain way. They will say things like “I do like curvy women,” but their idea of curves is large breasts, small waist and nice hips. Ixnay on fat on the belly, thighs and butt, the place women do carry their fat naturally. They will state that they want women who are independent and smart, but the truth is that they are quickly willing to trade these traits for arm-candy. When they say “independent” they merely mean they don’t want to pay for everything and want her to have a job. Men will say that they, too, are put into categories and that women only want certain types and yet, I largely call BS on that. I don’t remember a single time any of the women I know broke up with a guy because he had gone bald, gained weight or grew older. I, however, can list a whole bunch of incidences where I was judged and rejected for having gained weight – even though I never was obese! I was considered too fat at size 8 and definitely a goner at size 10/12, which seems to be the range I am mostly finding myself in, especially since I turned 40. I was told at 125 lbs and 24 years old that I was too fat by my first husband; and that’s just one example.
When we get together with our friends, male or female, they will tell us that we are such a great catch; that we are smart, successful, beautiful and sexy; but if this is not how society sees us because we are not what’s being sold on TV and in the media as “hot,” we might as well see it for what it is – love and support from those who love us. This is why most of us don’t believe that we are what those close to us tell us. Our self-images are distorted and we no longer see ourselves through the eyes of an unbiased bystander. We’ve learned early on that the whole world will judge us, so we might as well follow suit – and this is what’s truly sad. We’ve learned to buy into the notion and actually believe that we are only worth something when we are young and sport a great body.
I find myself at the present stage – at 45, suffering from fibromyalgia, unable to work out hard, a horrible metabolism, a size 10, lots of tattoos, short, spiky red hair, never sporting skirts or dresses and utterly horrified by the idea of dating. I am so afraid of the judgment, the disappointment and rejection that I don’t even want to try. I am successful, I am intelligent, I make great money, I am independent and I am kind. Alas, I’m no longer young and skinny and last time I’ve checked, that really apparently outweighs who I am as a person.
Last time when I was in Germany, I overheard one of my nieces telling my great niece, who is 12, that she is starting to gain weight and better watch out that she doesn’t become fat. I just hung my head and thought “welcome to being a girl.”