What do you do when someone you dearly love (a woman) tells you that someone else you dearly love (her partner, a dude) recently took her to task for allowing her ass to get too big, and you have a lot of Feelings about it? If you are me, you write this blog post ...
Because, you know, I have it so good in the people-shutting-the-fuck-up-about-my-body department that I sometimes forget that not all husbands are kind and not all women have assimilated the Be Less Crazy About Your Body point of view.
What is that? Well, thanks for asking. It's basically boils down to understanding that
- Your body is yours. You get to decide how you feel about it.
- Hating on our bodies for whatever reason is a habit instilled in us by our patriarchal culture, and it's neither required nor advisable.
- We can learn to let go of these self-defeating habits and instead appreciate our bodies for what they are -- vehicles that allow us to experience and contribute to this world. Nothing more and nothing less.
But none of this is what we are taught, and unless we choose to change our minds, most of us will be stuck with our culture's default settings ...
- What your body is for is to please and serve other people. To cause and alleviate boners.
- Your value as a human has a great deal to do with how many boners you are able to cause.
- Other people should make themselves free to comment on your body, because how else will you know how much you are worth?
Even typing that out fills me with white-hot rage, because this way of seeing women including ourselves holds us back in about a million ways. It means that men and women alike feel entitled to assess us based on our looks, throughout our entire lives.
Even grosser, it means that we get used to these assessments, even seeking them out for validation that we are worth something. We learn to see our value as approximately equal to the sum of what other people think about the way we look. We learn to sit outside ourselves and endlessly critique, trying to imagine what other people see. Instead of learning to fully inhabit and make use of these vehicles which we totally and completely own, we hand over the keys to anyone who has an opinion about them.
It is heartbreaking. But it is NOT DESTINY. These are simply shitty emotional habits that we learned from a culture that does not value our personhood, and these habits can be changed. Each of us can learn to see ourselves in a fuller, kinder, more accurate, and more useful way.
And as we do that, we can also draw boundaries about how we will allow ourselves to be spoken to.
When your husband tells you your ass is looking fat in those jeans, you can be like, "Bitch, who asked you?"
When a well-meaning but irritating relative offers diet advice, you can tell them, "I'm not interested in talking about that."
When someone you don't even know offers any kind of opinion on your body that you don't care to hear, you can tell them, "I honestly could not care any less about your opinion on my body."
Because, friends, even though these kinds of comments are as common as deranged tweets from our president, they are still completely fucked. They are all about trying to control you. They are all about others feeling entitled to dictate how you feel about yourself. And they are certainly all reflections of how these people see themselves.
Personally, I'm kind of a bitch, so I shut this kind of shit down instinctively quite a while ago. But if you are nicer than me (which you probably are), you may need some practice. I suggest calling upon memories of when people made unsolicited comments about your appearance to get hyped up, and speaking these phrases out loud.
"That's not a topic I'm interested in talking about with you."
"Hahaha, I'm not that fussed about it. MOVING ON ..."
"Diet talk again? Ugh, can we not?"
"I can't imagine why you think I care about your opinion."
"My body is not up for discussion."
And then you hold the line. If they double back on what they were trying to say, you walk away. You protect your brainspace like a lioness protects her baby lions. You be, and stay, less crazy.
You also help the hapless opinion-sharer, because, honestly? Someone should tell them how deeply no one cares what they think.
It's not the easiest thing to do, but it's not that hard, either. And when you let go of the habit of hating on your body, you gain so much freedom. It's like Konmari-ing your brain. So much light and empty space!
If your loved ones don't get it right away, that's OK. You just hold the line, and they eventually will change their thinking ... or at least they will shut up about it. I used a simple and loving version of this script with my grandma when she'd continually bring up the topic of my weight -- "I'm not interested in taking about that" -- and it didn't take her long to get it.
I leave it to you to decide who deserves a "Bitch, who asked you?" and who deserves a simple "I don't want to talk about that." But I do really hope that you (and my beloved person) will commit to holding the line on behalf of your own personhood and bodily integrity.
The only opinion about your body that matters is yours, so focus on getting that straight, and let everyone else's thoughts go.