Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Killing Us Softly: Advertising's Image of Women

This video is going around right now, and it's an incredibly important one for us to watch because it emphasizes the point that our obsession with thinness is a public health problem.

I could not agree more.

But though I think this speaker means that our obsession with thinness is a public health problem because it leads to eating disorders and body dysmorphia (something I believe all American women have), I also think it's a public health problem because it leads to obesity.

Sometimes it feels like we have two choices in our country—be thin or be fat. Since being thin in this country means having almost no body fat, which is impossible for those of us who are genetically inclined to be curvy, it's easy to give up and say, if I can't be thin, I might as well eat whatever I want.

Our obsession with thinness also leads to obesity because it causes us to embrace unhealthy crash diets that nearly always—90% of the time—cause us to gain back more weight than we lost.

Two celebrities are quoted as having spoken out about the problem of making women look flawless to the point of being unreal in the media: Cindy Crawford and Kate Winslet.

Crawford (pictured above in before and after shots) says she wishes she looked like Cindy Crawford, indicating that she doesn't look like the Crawford we see featured in magazines and on television.

And about the magazine cover above, Kate Winslet said not only that GQ trimmed her thighs by a third without her permission (the photo on the right is the original), she also says, "I don't look like that, and I don't desire to look like that."

Bravo, Kate.

(And what I don't get is what was wrong with her legs in the original photo???)

The real question is why don't more celebrities have a problem with this? Why aren't they all putting their foot down on this issue? Why aren't they demanding to be depicted in more accurate ways since we all know that it hurts all women in the long run?

I suppose they're afraid that if they speak out, their careers will be over. And it's certainly true that Crawford and Winslet are two of only a handful of untouchable women in the media, so I admire their desire to use that power to speak out. But what about Julia Roberts and Reese Witherspoon? Sandra Bullock and Cameron Diaz? Angelina Jolie? Why aren't these women speaking out and trying to combat this problem?

If they are and I've missed it, I'd love to hear about it. If not, it's time to step up, girls.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Why, in my fantasy life, Annie Leibovitz is my
best friend and travels with me everywhere I go

I was spending the day with a friend of mine recently when she showed me some pictures from a recent family trip. I noticed almost immediately that there weren't any pictures of her, and when I asked about it, she said, "I don't like having my picture taken."

I get it. I really do.

Because that was my attitude most of my adult life—until a few years ago, I HATED having my picture taken and looked pretty awkward almost every time I was forced to do it, which I talked about in my "Who is the girl in the picture" post. I'm still not great about posing for photos now, but I'm working on it and try my best to have a good attitude, which I think is crucial to taking a good photo.

Lately, though, I'm beginning to wonder if it's about more than just having a good attitude. Over the past few months, I've had the opportunity to have my picture taken by more than one professional photographer, and I am always shocked by how good the results turn out. (The photo of me above was taken by one of those pros.)

As a result, it started to occur to me that maybe the reason I hate having my picture taken is because I don't have a professional doing it all the time. In fact, it's usually my husband or one of my friends taking my picture, and they usually do it quickly—in between talking and hanging out—without really thinking about it.

All of this had been in the back of my head when I saw a new photo of a friend on Facebook and actually thought, "Wow, that doesn't even look like her. She is so much more attractive than that." And that's when it hit me—the reason our photos don't look as good as the ones we see in magazines is simply because we don't have a professional photographer following us around all the time.

Maybe this sounds obvious, but I have witnessed too many people—men an women—bemoaning the way they look in pictures for me to believe that people understand this is the case. I think we all want to look like a celebrity every time we have our picture taken even though we don't have half the resources that most of them do.

And then I saw something that made me sure that taking a good photo doesn't usually happen by accident but rather requires some serious effort as well as a professional photographer.

I was watching Letterman a few weeks ago when Courtney Cox was on the show talking about a recent trip to St. Bart's. While she was there, Letterman held up this photo of Cox from that trip:

Letterman oooohed and aahhed over Cox's amazing physique, but she resisted the compliment, explaining that she doesn't normally look like that and that she was doing everything she could to look her best when the photo was taken.

"Well, Dave," she said. "You know when the paparrazzi are there, so that's not real . . . I mean that's real, but I was working it pretty hard . . . We made a joke about it. Let's see how Sports Illustrated we can get. And I really was like . . . I sucked in, I moved my body, and my arms are streched out. I don't walk like that!"

Cox even claimed that Letterman would be horrified if he saw the way she sits on the beach when nobody is looking and imitated herself seaside, hunched over and limp.

Whether you believe it or not, her message was clear: people don't normally look the way she did in that photo. And for some reason, I believed her. I believed that she could suck in her gut and pump her arms and legs in such a way that put her best features on display.

Do I believe I could strike the same pose and appear as hot as Cox does in her string bikini? No way, but I do believe that trying to look good and believing you can look good goes a long way towards accomplishing that goal.

And while writing this post, I decided to Google "Courtney Cox at the beach" to see if there were any pics of her looking the way she described, and believe it or not, one of the first pictures I came across was one of Cox looking the same way she imitated herself looking on Letterman . . .

Is she still beautiful? Absolutely. But she also looks real because she's not posing for the paparazzi.

It's easy for us to imagine that the beautiful people look beautiful all the time, but the truth is, when they're just being normal and goofing around with their friends and an iPhone, they take crazy photos too.

The only difference is that their bad photos never show up on Facebook.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Ten steps forward, one step back

Last Thursday, I wrote about why Bridesmaids is a movie that redefines the role of women in film today and why we, therefore, must all get behind it and see it.

As I said then, the movie does this by:

1) avoiding the cliches of the rom-com/chick flick,
2) focusing on the friendships of women instead of a love story between a man and a woman,
3) thereby creating a new genre (the female version of the bromance),
4) passing the Bechdel test,
5) featuring actresses who are not A-listers
6) and women who of all sizes
7) who talk about sex
8) and other real things and
9) are also fully developed characters.
Finally and just as importantly,
10) the film was written by two women—Kristin Wiig and her former Groundlings castmate Annie Mumolo (pictured below).
But what I didn't talk about is the one thing the movie gets desperately wrong.

As I indicated last week when I said that there was more to say about her, this misstep has to do with Melissa McCarthy's character, Megan, who is also the sister of the groom.

Before I saw the film (or any portion of it), I was thrilled that Melissa McCarthy was part of the cast. I loved her on Gilmore Girls, and even though I'm not a fan of her new sitcom, Mike & Molly, I think she's an outstanding actress. And I am happy that her performance in Bridesmaids is getting the positive attention it deserves. But . . .

. . . when I first saw McCarthy in the previews (and on the big screen), I was horrified. The people who made Bridesmaids took an adorable woman . . .
and made her look plain, manly, and mostly unattractive . . .
Not only that, they made her character into a clown who routinely acts the part of the fool and who inappropriately hits on the in-flight air marshall, saying things to him like, "You feel that heat? It's coming from my undercarriage."

The message is clear—a big woman can't hit on a man in a movie (or be in a movie at all) unless we are allowed to laugh at her doing so.

Admittedly, this problem is counteracted to some degree by the fact that McCarthy's character is one of the more well adjusted and confident people in the film, and she's also the voice of reason—she's the one who goes to Kristin Wiig's Annie when she hits bottom and convinces her that she needs to change her life. But that moment still happens inside the bubble of Megan's crazy antics—she brings her nine puppies—yes, nine!—when she rescues Annie from her wallowing and then insists on giving Annie a ridiculous body-slam-type hug before she leaves, reinforcing the message that this character cannot really be taken seriously.

There is a long history of making the "fat" person the funny guy in movies, a history that goes back to classic comedians like John Candy, John Belushi, Chris Farley, Jason Alexander, John Goodman, and Roseanne, and continues today with current comedians such as Kevin James, Larry the Cable Guy, Jonah Hill, and the pre-diet Seth Rogan among others. In fact, in our society, one of the only ways it is acceptable to see big people on the big or small screen is if they're cracking jokes. Or if people are laughing at them.

And, to be honest, I had hoped that a movie that spends so much time redefining how we see women in film would not have given into this cliche. Not only is it cheap and easy humor, it's also rather offensive.

At the same time, I think it would be foolish to focus on this one problem—even though it's a real problem—and ignore all the good that Bridesmaids does for women.

The bottom line is that this movie is good for women—women of all sizes. Yes, the writers made a mistake by depicting McCarthy's character as the butt of most of its jokes, but it did so many other things right that I have to believe it will help all of us—big and small—in the long run.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Why we all need to see Bridesmaids

I keep hearing people say they aren't going to see Bridesmaids because it's a rom com or a chick flick, and since this is really an important movie for women, I want to tell you why it is not either of those things and why you need to see it.

(There are no spoilers here, so feel free to read even if you haven't seen the movie. And then after you read, go see it!)

1) First and foremost, this is not a rom-com. Yes, this movie is a comedy, but it's not a rom-com because those movies put the romance first (and it's usually cheesy, unbelievable romance) and the comedy second. Notice that the word "rom" comes before the word "com"? That's because the rom is center stage, and in Bridesmaids, comedy definitely trumps romance. (By the way, women don't exercise in a rom-com; they just look perfect without trying.) Also, this movie is not a rom-com or a chick flick because the main plot of the story is not about a woman who would only be happy if she could just find the right guy, which brings me to my next point . . .

2) No, this is a movie about . . . wait for it . . . female friendship. I know what you're thinking—A movie about female friendship? I've never heard of such a thing. Well, there was Thelma and Louise, but that was like a million years ago. Yes, that's my point. It's been WAY TOO LONG since we've had a movie about female friendship, which is why people are saying. . .

3) This film is the first of a new genre. Perhaps you've heard of the bromance? Well, Bridesmaids is supposed to do for women what Wedding Crashers did for men. This new genre still doesn't have a name—"sismance" and "wom-ance" just don't sound quite right, and if you come up with a clever moniker, I'm sure you could make millions doing so.

4) And because this is a movie about female friendship, it passes the Bechdel test, which asks: 1) Are there two named female characters in the film? There are SIX in this movie. 2) Do they talk to each other? Yes, they do. 3) About something besides men? Absolutely. I don't have the exact numbers but I would venture to guess that about 90% of the movies made in Hollywood do not pass this test, reinforcing the wrong-headed notion that women are only in the world to be accessories to funny male comedians or hot male action stars. In other words, that women are defined by men. And guess what? We're not.

5) It's also the first Hollywood movie in a long time about a woman who is not played by an A-list actress. This may seem like no big deal at first, but when you think about it, it really is. The reason that most movies about women have to feature A-list actresses is because the people in Hollywood think good stories about women aren't interesting enough to make us want to see them on their own and that they need something else—like Julia Roberts or Reese Witherspoon or Angelina Jolie—to get us in the seats of the theatre. But we know that's not true, and by giving Kristin Wiig and Maya Rudolph the leading roles in this movie, the powers-that-be are also giving us a chance to prove that. And because they are played by "regular" actresses . . .

6) Bridesmaids features women who look like real people, which is almost unheard of in Hollywood movies these days. Kristin Wiig, as beautiful as she is, also looks her age in this film. She has wrinkles and bags under her eyes and doesn't dress like she just stepped out of a Prada boutique. Maya Rudolph looks adorable, but she also doesn't look stick thin. Nor does Wendi McLendon-Covey or Melissa McCarthy. Yes, three of the women in this bridal party are Hollywood thin, but three are not. And three out of six really ain't bad. And the fact that we get this range of curvy bodies—from Rudolph to McLendon-Covey to McCarthy* is really unbelievably impressive since normally Hollywood only features the two extremes of big and small with no in-between. Not only do the women in Bridesmaids look real . . .

7) Like real women, they talk about sex . . . If Sex and the City was important because it showed women talking about sex in raunchy ways that we had previously only associated with men, Bridesmaids is important because it shows them talking about it—and acting on it—in believable ways. Now that we've had the insanity that was Samantha (and thank God we did), we can have authenticity, which is what you'll find when Wiig and Rudolph discuss sex over breakfast, a scene that reads like an homage to the post-coitus brunch that was a staple of Sex and the City.

8) They also talk like real women. Like the rest of us, they talk about everything in life . . . they talk about their jobs, their life choices, their regrets, their bodies, their friendships, other women, their hopes and dreams, and, yes, their clothes and even sometimes men. But they don't ONLY talk about men, which is crucial.

9) And, for me, the most important thing is that these woman are well-rounded characters who have real personalities and genuine flaws.
And no I'm not talking about their bodies. I'm talking about the fact that these characters sometimes make the wrong decisions about their friendships, their jobs, their roommates, their lives, and as a result, the audience can't help but feel for them while also wanting to kick their butts. Kristin Wiig's character goes through the same kinds of ordeals we all go through—the kinds that make us question who we are and what life is about. And her struggles are so frustrating and so moving that I found myself actually sobbing through the middle of the movie. The crazy thing about it is that while I was sobbing, I also started laughing. I've laughed and cried in a movie, but I've never before done both at the same time, and I did both while watching this movie more than once. I always tell my students that over-the-top comedy only works if it is paired with real, honest emotion, and my response proves that is something Bridesmaids does really well.

10) Finally, this movie was written by two women, Kristin Wiig and her former Groundlings castmate Annie Mumolo (pictured above). As we all know, there are not nearly enough women in Hollywood, so we need to support them as much as we can.

So what are you waiting for???

I've talked many times about the importance of voting with our dollars and how the depiction of women in the media won't be more accurate until we do. Well, this is our chance. If we get behind this movie and spend our hard-earned cash to see it, Hollywood will get the message—we want movies about real women with real bodies and real problems who are not simply accessories to the men in their lives. (That is, unless you want Hollywood to make more movies like Thor.)

I'm going again this week—when are you going?

*There's more to say about Melissa McCarthy's character in this film, and I'll write about that next week.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun . . .
now say that 24,999 more times.

Today a man from Wisconsin ate his 25,000th Big Mac.*

Yes, you heard me right.

A man ate his 25,000th Big Mac.

And that man is still alive.

And healthy.

If you've never seen the movie Super Size Me, you should.
The film follows documentarian Morgan Spurlock as he attempts to find out exactly how bad fast food really is for Americans. In order to do this, Spurlock agrees to eat nothing but food from McDonald's for one entire month. At the beginning of the month, Spurlock is in perfect condition, but after it's all over he's a physcial wreck—he's gained a ton of weight, has heart and blood problems, and is on the verge of liver failure, proving his theory that fast food is killing us.

But there is one person in Spurlock's film who remains a mystery, and his name is Don Gorske.

While Spurlock is traveling the country eating supesized meals, he meets Gorske at his hometown McDonald's in Fon Du Lac, Wisconsin. Everyone there knows Gorske because he goes there every single day. Not only does he go to this McDonald's every day, he also eats a Big Mac and a Coke every day as well. Sometimes Gorske even dines at his favorite restaurant twice in one day.

Gorske ate his first Big Mac thirty-nine years ago when he was eighteen years old. He liked it so much that he ate eight more the same day. After thirty-nine, he's now eaten 25,000 Big Macs. That's an average of 641 hamburgers a year.

Okay, fine, so the guy is completely nuts. We know that. But what doesn't make sense is how he's still going. Spurlock eats McDonald's every day for a month and he almost goes into liver failure. Gorske does it every day of his life, and he's just fine. So fine that his cholesterol is only 156. (Anything under 200 is good.)

This raises the question, why don't the Big Macs have the same effect on Gorske as they do on Spurlock and other people?

Who knows?

Maybe it's because he doesn't get fries with his double decker Big Mac, which many people claim is the worst part of fast food.

Or maybe he's taking in fewer calories than the rest of us. If he limits his diet to about two Big Macs and Cokes a day, that means he's only consuming around 1400 calories, much less than most Americans since it's recommended that people who are only moderately active get at least 2000 calories every day.

Or maybe we are all just different. Some of us can eat a Big Mac—or two!—every day for forty years and still be tall, lean, and healthy. While others just look at a Big Mac and pop an artery. We've known for a long time that genetics play a huge role in our body shape and size. Isn't it possible that Gorske just has good genes and a high metabolism? His father is 81 and still kicking after all. It's really easy to think that people gain weight because they stuff their faces with crap all day long, but Gorske is living proof that a bad eater does not necessarily lead to a bad body.

I know people like Gorske—and lots of them. They shovel food in their mouths from sun up to sun down and never gain a pound. I kind of hate these people, but they do prove something we all like to forget: sometimes the biggest pigs are the hardest to spot.

Watch Gorske eat his 25,000th Big Mac here.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Waxed, plucked, and greased: Okay, she's ready.
a.k.a. Theatre of the Grotesque

A few weeks ago, I was channel surfing one night when I came across Courtney Cox on Letterman. Though I'm not a fan of Cougar Town, I've always thought Cox seems like a smart, sophisticated actress who hasn't yet reached her full potential. So I stopped on that channel to hear what she had to say.

Unfortunately, I was so distracted by how she was dressed I had trouble listening.

She was wearing a super short low-cut dress, and her legs were bare. Not only were they bare, they were also slick looking—as if they had been greased up for appearance.

Immediately I thought of For Your Consideration, Christopher Guest's satirical mockumentary about Hollywood. I didn't like the film as well as his others, and I don't think that's because it wasn't accurate. I think it's because it was too accurate. When you see Best in Show—his best in my opinion—you laugh the whole time. Not just because Guest did such a good job spoofing the Westminster Dog Show, but also because his characters are so ridiculous that you don't take them too seriously. Yes, they are exaggerations of real people you know, but they are not real people. So you can laugh at their unusual behavior without feeling too bad about it.

But in For Your Consideration, the characters seem just like real actors. Though their behavior is unusual to the point of being incredibly odd, they don't seem unbelievable, which is what makes the movie so hard to watch. It's almost too real. You can't laugh at the weirdness of it because it's not much an exaggeration, and laughing at real people seems cruel. And instead of enjoying the film, you leave the theatre feeling bad for these people, which is probably why the movie—billed as a comedy—didn't do as well as Guest's other films.

In one scene, Catherine O'Hara's character is being interviewed on a late-night talk show because she is getting some serious Oscar buzz (which is where the movie gets its name). Before the late-night appearance she looks like a normal middle-aged woman—she has wrinkles around her eyes and mouth and on her forehead, she dresses appropriate for a woman in her mid-fifties, and she has limp dirty-blond hair. . .
But when she shows up for her late-night appearance, she's wearing a too-short, low-cut dress and has had a massive makeover—botoxed skin, plumped lips, waxed legs, blown-out bleached blonde hair, the works. . . .
She looks absolutely insane.

But the message is clear: if a woman wants to be a star, she's got to follow these rules no matter how old she is: show off her bod and make herself over in the image of a twenty-year-old. No, she can't look like an ingenue and may not even look good anymore, but she can stretch and tweeze herself to death trying.

This is why I thought of For Your Consideration when I saw Cox on Letterman: because she was made up almost exactly like O'Hara's character—same low-cut mini-dress, same shiny legs, same pushed-up cleavage. Sure, Cox pulled it off and looked good, not insane. But that's not the point. The point is that we make these women fit a mold that not everyone can or needs to fit, as Tina Fey rightly pointed out on Saturday Night Live this season when she explained that she had to have every hair removed from her body before she was allowed to appear on air. And I've noticed in the years since I've seen For Your Consideration that nearly every actress who appears on late-night television looks this way.

(The Daily Show is the one exception, and I couldn't help but notice that Kristen Wiig looked like a normal person when she appeared there last night in a sweater and jeans . . .
Kristen Wiig
but looked like a frightening Elvira version of herself when she appeared on Letterman earlier this week in a short, tight black dress and goth-like makeup. . .


Cox is 47 next month, and she looks phenomenal for her age (or for any age), but I'm still horrified that she feels like—even at this point in her career, even with all the millions she earned on Friends—she still has to look like a sexpot every time she steps in front of a camera. It also reminds me how accurate Guest's film was—if she wants to continue to succeed in Hollywood, she's got to play by these rules.

I have no solution to this problem. I can tell you to turn off any late-night program that makes woman parade across the stage like some Stepford version of a bombshell, but you probably won't do it. Still, I can suggest this: at least be aware that women are required to look this way if they want to succeed in one of the most profitable industries in our country, and ask yourself, what does it do to the rest of us?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Step right up!

I work really hard at having a good attitude about my body and the way I eat, but every once in a while, I find a situation that causes me to struggle.

One of those situations is when my husband doesn't want to eat anything and I do.

For some reason, it makes me feel like a horrible person if I want to eat and he doesn't. I'm not sure why I feel this way. I wish I could blame him—because that would be so much easier, right?—but in truth, he's the most supportive person in my life. He backs me up even when I tell him I want to eat ice cream from the carton or an entire box of processed mac 'n cheese by myself. Okay, so I only do these kinds of things about once a year, but still, the point is that he's there for me when I do.

Which raises the question why do I feel guilty when I eat without him? I'm not really sure, but this weekend I finally decided I was sick of it.

We went to Cincinnati to celebrate a friend's wedding—Congratulations, Katie and Murray!—and see our moms on Mother's Day, and per usual, being on the road meant that we ate WAY too much unhealthy food.

(We did manage to exercise two of the four days we were gone, so not all was lost.)

After two and a half days of subsisting on fast food and an all-you-can-eat-Mother's-Day buffet, Dave hit the wall and declared he didn't want to eat another bite until we got home. (Yes, he's prone to these kinds of extreme statements.) That was fine for him, but this was Sunday afternoon, and we hadn't had dinner yet. No way I was going almost twenty hours without food.

But that meant doing something I loathe—eating when he doesn't.

To make matters worse, we were staying with friends, and by the time we got back to their house after a long day with Dave's family, they'd already eaten their dinner. This meant that not only would Dave not be eating with me, but they wouldn't either. AND on top of that, I'd have to eat my meal while all three of them watched me do it.

In other words, I'd be the floor show . . .

Step right up, ladies and gentleman, and see something that will make you cringe in horror. Appearing in this tent right behind me is the curvy lady who eats by herself. Yes, that's right—a curvy lady who eats by herself! Come inside and see her do it . . . if you dare!

Needless to say, the idea wasn't very appealing.

On the other hand, neither was skipping dinner.

As far as I could see, I had two choices: miss a meal or pressure Dave into eating with me. And I knew the latter would not be pretty.

And then it occurred to me I had a third choice: I could eat by myself and not let it get to me. After all, it was up to me whether or not I wanted to feel uncomfortable about eating alone in front of three other people. I could just do it and not make a big deal out of it, right?

As soon as I realized this, I felt like a new person. A person who didn't worry about eating when no one else was eating. A person who doesn't mind eating in front of others. All I had to do was be that person.

So I put on my big girl panties, walked right up to Habañero, and got myself a veggie taco and some chips and salsa, which I brought home and ate in front of three people who couldn't have cared less.

I am not kidding when I say it was one of the best meals I've ever had.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and the Evil

Leaving the church: Princess Diana and the Princess of Wales looked away from each other as they left St Paul's, the new Duke and Duchess couldn't take their eyes off each other
Well, it's been a hell of a week . . . from the Royal Wedding to the death of Osama Bin Laden to Cinco de Mayo, there has been no lack of drama in our world. As a result, I want to quickly mention a number of thoughts I've had over the past week or two related to the subject of body issues.

First up, the Royal Wedding . . . I'm probably the only person on the planet (besides my Facebook peeps Sophia, Kristie, and Ajsela) who didn't love Kate Middleton's dress—what was up with that stiff armor-like bodice?—but I did appreciate some aspects of the royal gown.

I was thrilled, for instance, that the new Duchess of Cambridge wore sleeves. Not because I'm a prude who wants everyone to dress like a sister wife but because I'm sick to death of the long-running American obsession with all things sleeveless. Most of us don't look good in sleeveless, people! Let's try something else for a while.

For that reason, I'll file Waity Katie's dress under bad with a huge side of good.

I'm also happy that Kate—unlike Diana—did not have to be a virgin to marry her prince. Nor did she have to be of royal blood. These outdated requirements are no better for us than the idea that only thin women are beautiful.

This is very, very good.

Second, the death of Osama . . . I'm not a big fan of celebrating the death of anyone—even someone we can actually call a mastermind of evil without exaggerating, but it was hard not to be a bit pleased that a person who killed so many people has been banished from the earth. I'm also glad that a man who still wants women to be covered from head-to-toe is gone too. I may not want to wear sleeveless, but I want the RIGHT to wear sleeveless.

An evil killer who hated women is no longer among us?


Third, my haircut this afternoon . . . today I got my hair cut for what feels like the first time since Princess Diana's wedding. And while the stylist was lopping off my split ends, she looked at me and said, "You know, your hair could look just like mine if you wanted."

This woman had bleached blonde hair that she had blown out in a straight but fluffy cupcake-like style. I couldn't imagine why she would think someone with dark, curly hair would want to look like she did. But rather than say this directly, I said, "I like my hair curly."

Unfortunately, the stylist didn't take the hint.

"But it could look like mine," she pleaded. "Just use a big curling iron every morning. And you could have highlights like mine too. That would look great!"

A person who wants me to change who I am to fit her image of beauty?

Bad. Very bad.

Fourth, tonight's episode of The Office . . . in which the old boy network, embodied with scary authenticity by Will Ferrell, finally gets what it deserves . . .

So good I want it to get an Emmy.

Fifth, the guy who waited on me a couple of weeks ago and said "Big appetite, huh?" after I cleaned my plate of lean pork, rice, and vegetables?

Bad and maybe even a bit evil given that kind of comment is designed to undermine our self-esteem.

Finally, last week's Glee . . . I haven't had a chance to write about last week's amazing episode in which all of the glee clubbers don t-shirts advertising what the world sees as their worst quality, thereby reclaiming that part of themselves.

If you missed it, Rachel Berry's shirt said "nose", Artie's said "four eyes," Emma's said "OCD," Finn's said "Can't Dance," Mr. Shoe's said "butt chin," and Kurt's said, "likes boys." (Perhaps the funniest, though, was Puck's which said "I'm with stupid" and had an arrow pointing to his crotch.)

If you know me at all, you know that I simply loved this idea. So much so that I'm thinking about getting a t-shirt that says "curvy." Or maybe "gossip." Or both.

A television show that encourages us to turn our "flaws" into something we wear with pride?

All good!!!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

"Birdcage Thighs"
by guest poet Jane Wyatt

I was pushed out of the womb of a woman

with legs small and thin.

I was rocked in my cradle at night by

two hands with slender lady fingers

and long red nails.

I suckled the breast of She whose breasts

were large and soft.

I was raised by a lady fair—midnight

in her hair

and ornaments

in her eyes.

I was pushed toward the bowl

to feed myself when hunger came.

I was thrust toward a table's fare, with the

cheese and the loaves, the knife so hot

the butter melted down

the yeasty bread—doughy to match my growing

thighs and widening hips. My breasts

made mountains of themselves and my eyes

grew wide at the thought of the bowl—

the bowl from which I fed.

I grew from child to Me overnight,

my tongue forever dipped

in tastes I wanted to forget.

I was called thunder thighs by boys in school—

the same boys who wanted my thighs wrapped

'round their bird-frame waists—like cages.

I was laughed at for my breasts by girls

who wanted them on their own chests.

I was dressed in women's clothing

by age fourteen, and my woman shape filled out every

line—my body bled out of its lines

like a child's coloring, and filled the folds

to make a young woman.

My hips grew round and legs grew strong,

and I was called fat by those who

grazed on callous words—I devoured my pain

with a side of fries.

I had a large nose and large eyes—

large breasts and the loins to match. Large

woman to tempt the little bird boys into her

cage and to make them feel her heavy thighs tighten

'round their waists, choking their breath out till

they fell on her in defeat.

No more, they cried.

No more of that. Let me go find a bird-boned

girl to twist and creak her bird-bone legs 'round

my waist, so I can heave in and out while she rasps my name.

No more—they couldn't hear my thick woman whispers and feel

the sway of my hips and the beat of my step.

They wanted their cages breakable,

so they could escape easier from the bird-boned women too weak

to hold them tight and ruffle their feathers.

JANE WYATT is a thirty-year-old creative writing major at Western Kentucky University. She writes a column called "Bluegrass Beat" for Down Home in the Barrens, a magazine based in her hometown, and has just discovered that poetry and memoir are her two favorite genres. She claims to have struggled with her body image all of her life. Wyatt lives in Glasgow, Kentucky with her children, Max (6) and Sophie (5).