ingenuity, devotion, merriment, vanity, and virtue

I first wrote this almost two months ago but resisted finishing or posting it because, you know, feelings. And vulnerability.

I had something of a come-to-Jesus moment this week. I was in the greater DC area, on a business trip. (Before I travelled regularly for work, this sort of thing sounded, if not glamorous, at least very exciting. Now I know it mostly involves frantically trying to get to your meeting on time despite getting lost five times along the way, finally reaching your destination and having to desperately search for parking, trying to send a professional email explaining that you are running a few minutes late–all while still looking for parking–and, due to auto-correct, signing your name “Lottery”. And then later getting a little bit drunk while marathoning HGTV or Law & Order: SVU in your hotel room.)

Anyway, for this business trip I had packed my standard Professional Outfits, a handful of structured dresses that I think make me look like a responsible grown-up who also has friends that went to art school. You know–professional but in a cool way. These are some of my go-to confidence building outfits.  Here’s where I tell you that I’ve been steadily gaining weight since getting married this past summer, and you all instantly know where this is going.

I found myself sweating profusely as I tried desperately to zip up my sharply tailored Ann Taylor dress, unsuccessfully sucking everything in, practically pulling a muscle in my shoulder as I flailed around for the zipper, and ultimately ripping it off with a deep sense of shame and frustration. At the last minute I’d packed a dress that I feel deeply ambivalent about: a bright clown-nose red number that looked much less bright when I saw it online,  but I kept out of laziness and a sense that it wouldn’t wrinkle in a suitcase (but mostly out of laziness). When I realized that none of my other clothes even fit, I threw on this bright red dress of shame (which, true to my theory, had not wrinkled in the suitcase) and ran out the door, already late for my first meeting of the day.

That night, on the phone with my husband, I found myself crying about my ballooning weight and my rock-bottom sense of self-confidence regarding my body.  I have a hard time talking about weight, body-image, exercise or my relationship with food.  (So much so that this was the point in my essay where I took a break from writing: right when I have to talk about weight and body image.) On one level, I am a proud feminist; I hate the ways in which women are valued according to their body; I think that culture’s obsession with women being *small* physically is directly tied to an attempt to keep women *small* in all sorts of other ways. I have watched loved ones wage war against their bodies and stood helplessly from the sidelines.

On the other hand, I’d love to walk into any store, knowing they carry my size. I’d love to assess new outfits, not by how well they hide my belly, but how colorful or sequined or comfortable they are.

From both of these perspectives, what I’m longing for is an ability to not give any fucks about my size.

My come-to-Jesus realization was that: ignoring my rapid weight-gain was not the same thing as not giving any fucks. In fact, I care deeply, in a repressed way that only a lonely hotel room in suburban Maryland can unearth. So I’d like to spend some time in this space talking about body image, weight, exercise, food, and the tangled relationship I have with all of those things. I’m hoping that committing to writing about these things through the lens of feminism and self-acceptance and a continual effort to be a bad-ass will help me shed some negative baggage.

If I were to set a goal, perhaps it would be that when I thought of my body, it would first be from the perspective of this poem, by the ever-brilliant Mary Oliver:

“As for the body, it is solid and strong and curious
and full of detail; it wants to polish itself; it
wants to love another body; it is the only vessel in
the world that can hold, in a a mix of power and
sweetness: words, song, gesture, passion, ideas,
ingenuity, devotion, merriment, vanity, and virtue.”


4 thoughts on “ingenuity, devotion, merriment, vanity, and virtue

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