I work in an office full of women. As a woman, I can tell you there are days when I want to strangle most of them to save them from themselves, as counter-productive as that may seem. I have lost count of the ones obsessively exercising, dieting, preening and primping in what I hope will not be a vain attempt to live up to an impossible ideal.
On the other end of that spectrum, and likely driving the force of this irrationally compulsive behaviour are the ones who clearly don’t give one single iota about their appearance and utterly embrace their weirdness like it’s some kind of trophy. The ones who have abandoned altogether most of the things that make them feminine.
It’s an odd dichotomy to say the least.
What I’m saying is I’m caught somewhere in the middle. On the one hand, I end up wondering to myself hey, do the primpers see ME as one of those shlubby ones at that table as we all figure out our lunches on a given day, or do they see me in a different light altogether? Admittedly, the more protective aspects of my ego would like to think I’m somewhat of an enigma to them, but it’s likely closer to the truth that they know me better than I’m willing to give them credit for, or even better than I sometimes know myself. It’s certainly (and annoyingly) true of my husband, so why wouldn’t it be for these women?
There are times when I, too, am less convinced of my adequacy. At least in this respect, I do think I am an enigma since I do enjoy, as they say, waving good bye to those inadequate feelings as they pass me by. I do this primarily by focusing my attention on other things, usually trivial and usually so unrelated to work it would astound even my closest friends.
All I’m trying to say is that from my standpoint at least, their physical beauty seems less hard come by than my own.
But, as is my habit when presented with a question to which there is no ready answer, I have given this some thought.
Why is it that I also feel the same way they do and they hopefully feel about me the way I feel about them? Why can I see things in them I cannot see in myself, or vice versa? I don’t have a regimen. I eat, but I don’t diet aside from trying to balance what I eat from day to day to ensure too much of the same thing isn’t going into my system. I am overweight, some would say by a lot, some by a little given the underlying framework. Either way, I could afford to lose a few pounds and yet my last physical revealed a “fantastic” liver, such low cholesterol (the bad kind) where it was recommended I take in some fatty stuff to get it to where it should be, and despite being overweight and apparently having a lazy thyroid, I am in remarkably good shape.
Explain that, Dr. Atkins – the cardiologist who died of heart failure… Too soon?
But I digress. I’ve simply concluded that we’re doing this to each other and allowing those negative thoughts to creep in because we’re so consumed with our outward appearances; that we forget that every action deserves an equal and opposite reaction. So when one of us starts feeling inadequate and takes steps toward fixing that dilemma, the rest of us start asking ourselves if we, too, should be feeling inadequate for some reason, imagined or real. Then we lose sight of the other truly important things in our lives.
This is not to say that I think everyone should throw fitness and nutrition out the window. It is merely to say that I think people should leave room for other things in their lives in addition to maintaining a healthy physical lifestyle.
Is it inherent in the female of our species to constantly question, to try to continually improve and if so, WHY? Perhaps it’s a design flaw by Mother Nature who, as a woman, likely also became obsessed with herself and forgot about fixing her own creation, Us.
When, if ever, will we ever decide we’re fine the way we are in whatever moment we find ourselves? Men have been telling us this for years, but all the female-driven media out there continues to bash us over the heads with new diet and exercise regimes, hair and makeup and what’s acceptable and what’s not.
Arguably the world’s foremost beauty icon, Marilyn Monroe, was by all accounts a total knockout. But by today’s unwieldy standards, she would be grossly overweight and even morbidly obese. Emotionally, she was a wreck and a lot of it was sadly by her own doing. By playing into her own creation of herself, she believed in the end that her physical beauty was the only thing that was worth anything, leaving her emotional and intellectual self struggling for recognition.
Maybe our conscious minds must forcefully and ruthlessly take over our subconscious. Maybe we have to remind ourselves that as individuals, we each have unique traits which no one else on the planet will ever lay claim. Maybe we need to remind ourselves that we are so much more than the sums of our parts, and that the number on the tag of clothing we would like to fit into is merely subjective and unworthy of our attempts to fit into it.
Not once have I ever said to myself, “hey, there’s so and so, she’s a Size 14.“ It simply doesn’t register in my head, and likely no one else`s. Instead, what I see every day are stunning eyes sparkling with robust laughter, gorgeous tousled hair, and traffic-stopping figures in no need of any further dieting lest they should lose some of those wonderfully feminine curves. But overshadowing even all those remarkable physical characteristics are heartbreakingly beautiful souls with such great humour and grace and colourful lives which extend far beyond themselves into their families and other friends.
More than anything, I am thankful each of them is part of my own weird life`s story. No matter where our future steps and paths take us, at least we will always have the here and now.
And I promise to try to resist the urge to force feed each of you a large, greasy burger with all the toppings and fixings I can muster.
No guarantees, though.
Update July 9, 2013: Please check out this video of Dustin Hoffman beautifully articulating his feelings on portraying a woman in “Tootsie”: http://www.upworthy.com/dustin-hoffman-breaks-down-crying-explaining-something-that-every-woman-sadly-already-experienced-3?c=gt1