Saturday, January 14, 2012

On Vanity

Twice this week, I've heard the word "vain" as it relates to me. I've never thought myself vain. In fact, I've always thought myself the opposite. When I think of vanity, I think of those who love their looks. They cannot pass a mirror without looking and liking what they see. The truth is, I think it's the attentiveness, whether positive or negative, that matters in the discussion.

I look and I hate. That's problematic.

Here's an example that popped up last night: My boyfriend was doing our laundry. He'd sorted the clothes into darks and lights. I thought nothing of the first load, as they were mainly whites: his socks, underwear, and t-shirts. The colored loads, however, were a mix of both our clothes. And I was immediately aware of the tags in my clothes. Do I let him see what size I wear? I mean, he's not a moron. He's not blind. And even if he was, he knows every inch of my body like Braille.

The trouble is, I struggle with the idea that there are too many inches.

At one point during this normal domestic process, I considered cutting out the tags. Lord knows I've seen those cut out tags while thrift store shopping. I know there are an army of tag cutting women out there who feel, if the tag is gone, they are small.

I didn't cut the tags. I stifled the anxiety. But it reared its head once again when my boyfriend came back from the laundromat. We typically fold the laundry together. I hang his shirts, fold jeans and underwear. He went to pick up a pair of my pants, and I freaked out and told him I would fold my own clothes. He raised his sexy eyebrow, pronounced me weird, and went on about his business. I couldn't have explained that I feared seeing him raise a pair of my jeans in front of him and seeing, for instance, how wide the waist is.

It's absolutely ridiculous for multiple reasons:

1.) I'm 6' tall and fairly proportionate.
2.) There are a helluva lot of women out there with bigger body problems than myself.
3.) I've always gotten my fair share of male attention, which seems to suggest that I'm not the monstrous blob my mind tells me I am.
4.) I'm in love with and loved by a man who thinks I'm sexy AS IS.

So how do I quiet this mind?

It's tough. On one hand, I am opposed to the groups out there who celebrate fat. They say fat is beautiful. I'm not saying it can't be, but I think those people need to be realistic: carrying extra weight is symptomatic of poor eating and lack of exercise and can shorten your life.

On the other hand, I think there's nothing wrong with doing a little soul exploration and trying to figure out why you feel the way you do. I don't see anything wrong with writing about it or trying to work it out via art or even counseling. In fact, there are some pretty sweet online workshops out there about the subject. I'm interested in the Body Restoration workshop offered by Brave Girls Club.

I also think it's important to take inventory of those factors that make you feel the way you do. Acknowledge them and then dismiss them. Don't wallow in them. Take charge. Find positive role models who live the way you want to live. Find women (and men) who inspire you with their positive outlook on the body.

I have a lot of these. In no particular order, let me introduce a few:

1.) My sister, Tori. She's in Hawaii right now, and one of her dream gigs down there--the job she was hoping to land (when not swimming and surfing and hiking, I might add)--was a job on site at place where they grow organic fruits and vegetables. She was really jazzed about listening to her body and eating straight off the land.

2.) My Missoula friends: Jacque, Ally, and Ici. I cannot count the number of times they talk about going for dog walks or to yoga classes or to boot camps. These are some of the strongest and happiest women I know--and their dogs are ecstatic, I'm sure!

3.) My Spokane friends, Jonquil and Michael. They both wow me with their dedication to healthy eating and exercise. They help me remember that it's a lifestyle. Slender Uma Thurman-esque legs and six (or is it eight) pack abs are not available in pill form. They're not genetic. Yes, they started with beautiful marble, but there's nothing that says you and I can't do a little chiseling of our own.

4.) My friend, Denise who shows strength each day in avoiding the pitfalls of dieting and quick fixes in favor of hard work. But she reminds me that it's normal to occasionally indulge in your favorite mac and cheese or perhaps a huckleberry milkshake.

5.) My friend Lesa battled cancer, won, and stayed strong mentally and physically throughout that ordeal and after by MOVING.

6.) The lovely Donna Greenberg inspires me to create and to do yoga.

7.) My Hollywood inspirations range from Madonna with her dedication to yoga to Adele and Kate Winslet, who both eschew the idea that their bodies are a career liability because they are not a size 0.

The point is, I need to remember that I am a work in progress. I will have good days and bad days. In fact, it might be more accurate to say I have good seasons and bad seasons. By now, I know myself well enough to know that winter is a time of hibernation. I pack on the pounds and then take them off when spring rolls around. I need to stop comparing. I am not them, but they are not me.

Finally, I want to acknowledge a couple things that came up in an art journal group I'm in.

One of the members recently completed a spread that said "I may not be perfect, but parts of me are AWESOME." I love that. I need to remember that.

Finally, my friend Gigi did a layout about her parents. One of the group members pointed out that her parents seemed to be naked (although tastefully hidden behind some artfully placed calla lilies). Gigi provided background, telling the group that she had taken the photo of her mother during a trip to Palau where they were diving. "And my mom just decided to take off her top. At 76 years old. She does that," said Gigi casually.

"My parents taught us not to be ashamed of our bodies...Nudity is natural. I'm grateful for that," said Gigi.

It's not yet 8 a.m., and I've already learned a powerful lesson.

Thank you, Gigi, and be sure to thank your mom for me too.


  1. Véronique (Gysembergh)January 14, 2012 at 9:18 AM

    U said it all so beautifully, and as you, I'll have to remember : 'I may not be perfect, but parts of me are AWESOME'.
    Thanks to Gigi 4 pointing out your lovely essay about ... vanity.

  2. Once again, you have written with honesty and integrity on a subject most of us can relate to. OMG girl. you are gorgeous, every inch of you. It takes a beautiful human to write the way you do and I am always stunned by your talents. I am floored and incredibly flattered that you included me in your list of role models. I havent always had an easy time with maintaining a healthy lifestyle and I do stray but I try to get back on the horse as soon as I can. I feel blessed in meeting you of FB. Your students are most fortunate to have you as their teacher. I look forward to more of your art and writings. namaste, Donna

  3. What cool parents Gigi has! You make so many good points in this post. There are several in here that I needed to be reminded of today - thanks for the wisdom!

  4. This is a powerful post. Thank you for sharing your insecurity so bravely. I felt like I was reading my own words. I have cut tags. I have bought underwear that looks small in my mind. LOL. I struggle as well. I have scars. Hard earned scars. And a not so perfect but very healthy chest. I am not as thin as I was in my younger days. Some days I think I rock it and others I condemn myself. In the end our bodies are just a vessel which rot away to dust. Treat them well, move them, indulge them, stretch them, rest them. I try to walk often and do Pilates. This makes me feel good inside and in the end that is what matters. You are fabulous Wendy. Awesome. Sexy. Spectacular. Amazing. You. Go strut some of that fabulousness out in the world! xoxo