Sunday, March 25, 2012

This is Madness

I'm sure you're familiar with the term kindred spirits.  It's often used to describe like-minded people who come in contact with one another.  Likewise, I'm sure you're familiar with the term mind reader, as well.  So, here's my question.  If someone is stating my thoughts on a topic, are they reading my mind or are they just a kindred spirit – one who has had such a similar experience as mine so that it appears as though they are reading my mind?  And what if the person stating those thoughts did so in a magazine article that I would read well after it was initially written?  In that instance, I don't see how 'mind reader' could really apply.  But how can it be that another person would know so well such personal thoughts?  Wasn't I the only one who felt this way?  As is so often the answer to that question, guess not.


Under the "Life Lessons" section of Real Simple's March issue, author Elizabeth Berg wrote a piece titled "Beautiful, in Every Single Way."  Remember that Real Simple is written for women.  Dealing with body parts that bedevil us, she wrote specifically about her long time insecurity regarding her 'problem area.'  I'm sure as you read that you immediately thought of your problem area, that's what I did.  The thing is her area and my area, well... it's the same area – the belly, or as she called it, the pooch.  UGH!  


Pooch?  When not speaking of puppy dogs, is this even really a word? Pooch?  I don't know, it sounds a little too marsupial for me.  Sac?  No, that's not right.  Disgusting wad of fat?  More to the point, but I guess we'll stick with pooch. 


So, it doesn't take a genius to read between these lines.  I have a personal pooch problem.  (gotta love alliteration).  I was so moved by her article – see, misery really does love company – and how I related to what she wrote, I felt compelled to share my own thoughts on the fatty roll that's plagued me for years.    


Ms. Berg wrote that when she notices a woman with a similar figure, she imagines mentally high-fiving her.  I can affirm the sense of kinship, although I never felt like hand slapping a fellow afflicted.  My mental response has always been an image of a tender empathetic hug.  Either way, we both understand what life is like for women with this unfortunate body type. 


Her belly history began around 8 years old.  I was about 10.  I was swimming with a friend who suggested I may want to wear a one-piece swim suit.  Huh?  As my friend gestured to her flat stomach, I looked at mine – it jiggled over the top of my bikini bottoms.  It was the first time I even noticed my belly.  It was the last time I wore a two-piece.  Ten is too young an age to be introduced to the term adipose tissue (my mom was a nurse).  In many ways that was the end of my innocence.


As I matured, my legs grew more than my body.  At 5'-7", my inseam is nearly 3 feet.  Although people always say, "Oh, what nice long legs you have," what they don't realize is that being short-waisted makes the belly problem that much worse.  In fact, it's probably the main reason for the belly problem in the first place.  But a little height, long legs and thin arms do help to mask the bane of my existence.


In the article, the author wrote of an intimate bath she had taken with a boyfriend while in her 20s.  The parallels were unbelievable.  When I was in my 20s, I had an experience similar to her bathtub episode.  After a romantic interlude, as I laid in the arms of the love of my life (or so I thought), while he gently caressed my arm, he said, "You know, if it wasn't for your belly, you'd have a perfect body."  He wasn't being malicious, just matter-of-fact.  Can you imagine?  I think I responded meekly with, "Oh, um, thanks… I guess."


Originally from the East coast, I've lived in Scottsdale, AZ for 8 years now.  I don't even notice it anymore, but when I first moved here, it seemed as if there was a physical correction center on every street corner – you know, plastic surgery facilities, medi-spas and cosmetic dentistry, you name it, it's here. If one is plagued by physical imperfection or a… deformity, this is the place to be if you want to get it taken care of.  The interesting thing is that the inundation of "we can fix you" places had just the opposite effect for me.  I was appalled at the barrage of messages (primarily geared toward women, I'm sure) saying that we weren't good enough.  That's madness.  We're fine.  We're all just fine.


Until this article, I sort of lost touch with all my belly-induced self-loathing.  It was almost bizarre reading her words.  How could this be?  How could this woman know my feelings and experiences, especially about something so personal?  Amazing.  Or is it?  Maybe we're not so different after all.  I don't think it matters if we're talking about arms, thighs, butts or bellies.  We all have something that bothers us.  But it's never really about what's on the outside, is it?  Elizabeth learned that by things she saw with a friend of hers and her mom.  She loves them for who they are – their issues have no impact on how she feels about them – and it's that realization that brought her to terms with her own issue. I get that.


I'm 47 now and, boy, my little 10-year-old self had no idea what was in store.  Hair grays, skin gets loose and triceps flap – and it's no big deal, not really.  I can't say that I'm happy about it, but it is okay because, after all, we're all just fine.


From the sisterhood,


~ M.