Did you see this year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue? No? Me neither. Hot Firefighter Husband won’t let it in the house. He doesn’t want our kids to see it, and he does’t want the girls in particular to see their mother swooning over it. It’s true! I love looking at those perfect bodies! (Note to self: explore possible bisexuality at next therapy appointment.)
I also habitually compare myself to the models, and this drives Husband crazy. “Those women are freaks. Nobody looks like that,” he says.
“But do I look sort of like that in a bikini?” I ask. Because I’m slightly whack.
Despite my apparent brainwashing, I haven’t really embraced the cause of criticizing media portrayal of women. It’s not that I don’t agree with the premise – of course I do – but it has never seemed as important as, say, global warming. Or George Clooney’s love life.
BUT THEN. The other day the Diva sat next to me and in a quiet little voice, like we were about to have The Talk, she said, “Mom? Why don’t you and Dad have abs?”
WHAT? Really? “You know, abs,” she repeated, rubbing her hand along her belly. “Why don’t you have abs?”
Holy. Olympus. She wanted to know why I don’t have a six-pack. I immediately began explaining that media images are unrealistic art and shouldn’t be held as standards of beauty or fitness. NOT. No, because I’m vain, I instead I ran to the mirror, lifted my shirt and started flexing my core to see if the ridge of a muscle would pop out. It did! So I turned to her and
screeched cheerfully said, “I have abs! Look, see that? That’s an ab.” And I made Husband do the same thing before he knew why I was asking.
“Oh,” the Diva said, sort of doubtfully. “Okay.” And THEN I explained about unrealistic media images, yadda yadda yadda.
I’ve obsessed over the incident ever since. I am an incredibly fit woman. I exercise more often than 95 percent of the adult U.S. population. I can do pull-ups. I dead-lift 205 pounds. I’ve done 50 20-inch box jumps in a row. But not only would my fitness model photo be marked REJECT – I couldn’t even pass as a plus-size model. Think about that: I’m healthier and more fit than the vast majority of American women, and yet if I compare myself to media images of models considered overweight, my body is still insufficiently thin and ripped.
Now I’m pissed. I’m mad because of the hours and hours I’ve spent trying to achieve a stupid goal, and I’m disturbed that my daughter watches me sweat and lift and grow strong and, instead of seeing me as a role model, wonders why I don’t look better than I do.
So many of us buy into it. A woman in one of my fitness classes recently complained about her “problem area” – she was talking about her arms. But she’s a beautiful woman who has given birth to three children and has a perfectly fit body. Size 6, I’m guessing. “Stop that immediately,” I told her. “You have daughters.” One of the perks of being a fitness trainer is the ability to yell at people.
And now I need to yell at myself. I must stop asking Husband whether I’m too fat for a bikini, and start complimenting my kids on their muscles and agility. I have to quit worrying about my weight, and instead be proud of my curves and strength. I’m not Heidi Klum, damn it. But that’s the point. Who is?