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.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Tossing Out the Marriage Bed

This is our second big purchase (the first being a trip we plan to take in August). For him, the reasoning is more practical. He has a bad back, and the crater on his side of the bed is either the cause or is making it worse.

Big purchases are a cause for research. This begins with a casual stroll down the Costco aisle. The price tags make it a drive by. Also, there is the question of how, even if we had $1000 in our pockets, we would get a mattress home, considering that he drives a sub-compact car.

The next day, he is consulting Consumer Reports online--the Last Word on any and all items one might need to purchase. The only trouble is, the mattress is the only item they pretty much refuse to rate. Consumer Reports explained that pretty much all mattresses are constructed in a similar manner. After all, it really falls to a matter of personal taste: Do you like soft? Or do you like hard?

This question resulted in a bonafide date. We showered, dressed, and braved pre-rush hour traffic on Division to test mattresses. At the second store, we were shown our first bed: marriage bed replacement #1 (MBR1). MBR1 contained springs which were specially made so as not to make a crater. Our shiny salesman instructed us to lie down and see how it felt.

Good. It felt good. Better than the bed we have now (which contains the residue of a past marriage). It is residue free.

The shiny salesman walks us over to another bed, a bed he predicts will be too soft. We concur. It is too soft. At this point shiny salesman tells us about his wife, Katie, who has an unspecified nervous condition. She, it seems, prefers a softer bed. I begin to wonder about Katie's health. I find myself wanting to see a photo of her.

The shiny salesman walks us over to a bed made of foam and space-age gel. This bed has no springs. The salesman offers us a square of the foam to squeeze. He tells us to lie down and then completes the illusion with pillows. My man and I are flat on our backs, a bit out of our elements, considering that this is a storefront, with a group of salesmen over in the corner around a small TV watching a football game. Journey's "Open Arms" is playing overhead. This isn't the slightest bit romantic, and the salesman comes off as the waiter in search of a good tip. He leaves, comes back, leaves, comes back. Upon every return, he asks, "How's that feel?"

Eventually we end up in the best and most expensive model. This is the model I've seen on TV. It has a remote. The bed is remotely operated, with each side able to be manipulated according to its occupant's desire. You want to sit up and read while your lover sleeps? Buzzzzz. It is done. You want your legs elevated? Buzzzzzz. It is done. You want a g-spot rocking massage? Buzzzzzz. It is done. This bed has us glaze-eyed, sleepy, and strangely feeling like we should be smoking a post-coital cigarette even though there has been no coitus.

"How's that feel?" Indeed.

Alas, this bed costs as much as a new car, especially if one decides to buy mattress, box spring, and the remote-control pleasure center.

It is decided. We will buy bed number 3 of 6. We are Goldilocks. We have tried the soft beds, the medium beds, the hard beds, the spring bed, the foam beds, the non-motorized beds, and the motorized beds, and we have decided that one is....just right.

Shiny salesman leads us to the front desk. Before we know it, we are filling out paper work, deciding on delivery dates. Somewhere in there, I recognize that feeling that's been coming on more and more lately as I settle blissfully into domesticity. I've been nesting, and I know it. But what happens in a situation like this is that OTHERS--complete strangers, sales people, cashiers, waitresses, etc.--recognize that we are a solid unit. We are stable. We do normal things. We buy groceries. We eat out. We buy beds together. We make purchases that speak of a future.

Shiny salesman staples our paperwork together. He reminds us that the bed will not initially feel like the one in the showroom. He reminds us that you can break the bed in by taking your shoes off and walking around on the mattress, or you can break it in by sleeping on it. We smirk at this, as we both know there are other ways to break a bed in.

He informs us the delivery company will arrive with the bed on Thursday, and he sends us off into the evening, but not before reminding us that, technically, that's the last bed we may ever need. He reminds us that it has a 25-year warranty. He reminds us of its 90+% satisfaction rate.

We leave a bit exhausted from having tested so many beds. We leave a bit giddy. We aren't done. It is out with the old and in with the new. Why should we dress a new bed in old clothes? We shop for new bedding, visiting 3 or 4 stores until we settle on a charcoal gray quilt with intricate stitching. Operating under something akin to a sugar high, I make the bed. I cut the tags off. I stuff the pillows into shams. I smooth the wrinkles. I invite him to look at what we've made.

We both think these new blankets and this new bed will work miracles. We will sleep better than we ever have. Truth is, since we've met, we've slept better because we're at ease. We've slept better because we are in love.