Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Apple store and the art of self-loathing

195.5 pounds
No matter how much I preach the idea that we should all feel beautiful and accept our bodies the way we are, there are always days when that's not possible. Days when we feel not very beautiful or, worse yet, not attractive at all. I had one of those days today, and to be honest, it really makes me sick. I'm hoping that by telling you about it, I might be able to purge some of those feelings of disgust.

We went to Nashville today because my computer has been acting up, and the closest Apple store is located there, in the Music City. I have used an Apple computer all of my life, but for some reason, whenever I step foot in that store, I feel more self-conscious than normal. I know that may sound strange—most people probably feel self-conscious in a hip boutique or in front of the dressing room mirror, and I do that too. But the Apple store is just so darned cool! A fact best demonstrated by the long-running advertising campaign that features adorable Justin Long as the sexy Mac and nerdy John Hodgeman as the loser P.C. (both shown above). There is even a new commercial in which a young women laments that "maybe [she's] not cool enough for a Mac." And even though I have been an Apple fan from day one—back in 1984 my first computer was an Apple 2E—every time I see that commercial, I think to myself that I know exactly how she feels. For some reason, when I walk through those double glass doors at the front of the bright white Apple retail store, I feel like I'm fifteen again—awkward, nerdy, ugly, and not nearly as shiny as all of those amazing computers. Yes, I said it. Ugly. In fact, I felt so ugly today that before I went back to pick up my repaired computer later in the afternoon, I retrieved my husband from the bookstore (where he spends nearly all of his time when we go to the mall) so that I could return with a man on my arm. I'm embarrassed to admit that I would do anything so clichéd, but it's true.

Probably the worst part of the whole experience was when I confessed all of this to him. Aren't I supposed to be the girl who wants everyone to feel good about themselves? The girl who doesn't want other women to focus on their flaws? But there I was, doing just that. In fact, not only was I focusing on my flaws. I was focusing on my body. I was wearing yoga pants and a fun t-shirt with sneakers, and to be honest, I don't usually go out in public like that very often. At least not to places as cool as the Apple store. Normally when I go somewhere that hip, I do so armed with three-inch heels and a killer bag. But there I was in the Green Hills Apple store wearing the cool girl's equivalent of stretchy pants and carrying a beat-up laptop bag. I loathed myself.

After we left, my husband and I talked about the experience, considering the different reasons why my confidence level had plummeted so low. Sure, I wasn't dressed as well as usual in an environment that I see as the epitome of trendy, and I was wearing clothes that made me feel way more dumpy than normal. But it was more than that. What we finally figured out is that I was also uncomfortable because I feel like I don't know very much about computers. In truth, I'm more insecure about my knowledge of computers than I am about my cellulite. And, of course, as a college professor, I am not very used to being behind the learning curve—in fact, I'm used to being the "expert" in the room. And so maybe that's why walking up to the "Genius Bar" makes my confidence nose-dive. As it turned out, it was the computers that set first me off, not my body. And once I'd started down the path of obsessing about my shortcomings with computers, it wasn't a long walk to the place where I give into loathing my body.

The reason I tell this story is, of course, to share with you that I too can give into my worst tendencies, but also, more importantly, to point out the fact that sometimes our negative feelings about our bodies have nothing to do with our bodies, sometimes their origins have more to do with other deeply hidden insecurities. And I hope that knowing this will help us all recognize this when it inevitably happens again. All the better to fight it with, right?

For an updated on this story, read "Conquering the Apple Store."

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