How to begin? My Mother used to tell me a couple of things, repeatedly, that I’m sure she never said to my brothers: 1) “You have to suffer to be beautiful,” and 2) “You can never be too rich or too thin.” I’m afraid that while combing and trying to braid my daughter’s wavy, sand-soaked hair at the beach I may have repeated her first message. Here is the Bride and Bug considering beauty products. I hope she doesn’t hear that message about beauty.
But I tried to banish the second from my mind.
In fact you can be too thin, and if you care to read about one woman’s struggle, Mika Brzezinski and her friend Diane Smith co-wrote a book together, Obsessed. It’s like Jack Spratt and his wife; Brzezinski went from a size 2 to a size 6 (and yes, I guffawed at this) and Smith, a fellow TV journalist, lost 75 pounds.
But Mika was honest about how she may be perceived as the mad, “skinny bitch.” They talked candidly about food as an addiction problem, as a public health problem when I happened to tune into their conversation one morning on Morning Joe, and it was enlightening. They were 2 sides of the same coin, a woman’s body image and our country’s dysfunctional obsession with food. It all started when Mika confronted her friend about her weight gain, calling her “fat and obese,” in case she didn’t hear the fat part. Smith called her a “food Nazi.” And then Mika confessed to a life-long struggle with anorexia and bulimia
Mika said, “How I eat, diet, and look has tied me up in knots my entire life, and I know I am not alone. I have been held hostage by food since I was thirteen years old. My body started filling out more than the figures of other girls in my class, and that set off what has become a thirty-year battle with my body image. Food has been my enemy.” http://tv.msnbc.com/2013/05/06/an-excerpt-from-mika-brzezinskis-obsessed/
My psychologist brother Jim has often said that people are either wrapped too tight or too loose. I worried when the Bride went off to Duke. She was surrounded by Type A young women who were wrapped pretty tight with body dysmorphia – exercising too much, throwing up in bathrooms. It was hard not to see it and not to buy into it. But my daughter is a smart cookie IMHO, and moderation was always her approach. I once heard a friend of hers in med school describe some food as “bad,” and I couldn’t help lecturing her about how food can’t be “bad” or good for that matter. Applying a moral code to ice cream for instance is ridiculous. But putting the spoon down before the pint is finished is a matter of choice. And I realize now, it’s much harder for some of us.
I had a dance teacher who used to say, “I only need a taste,” to be satisfied. What will power, what control she had over her hunger. I was always thin, without trying. I would drink a frappe in Boston on my way back from a dance class. But approaching 40, I was unhappy about moving from MA, I had put on about 10 pounds (don’t laugh, I was a size 10 and these things seemed important at the time) and took my anger out on food. I found an aerobic dance class I loved and started restricting food until I got down to 118, a size 6, with my clavicle protruding. Oh, the attention I got. People said I looked so good and yet I was desperate inside. Thankfully, my self-abusive relationship with food didn’t last long. We moved out of a suburb I hated to live close to the beach, in a town that was very much like New England. And I started writing again for another newspaper.
My feminist brain just loves to think – would this ever happen to a man? Do people ask men how they will juggle this new job with a family? Does that shirt make them look fat? So, here is a little play on that Dove commercial about women and body image. Enjoy!