wayward beauty advice
April 1, 2002 09:58 AM

Friday night a little girl who was afraid of fire [we were at hibachi; I don't ordinarily test little kids' fear of fire] told her mother that I was pretty. She said preeetty like little girls do. I thought at first that she was talking about the kimono-clad waitress who walked past, but she was talking about me.

I'm preeetty.

I am, of course. Though most of the time I don't think so. I entertain the notion that this is all because I'm a fat chick, but of course it's more complicated than that. It's hard for women to see ourselves as pretty.

Yes, the media, blah blah blah. But also because we're taught things like "be modest" and "be nice" and the nature of society is so competitive that being pretty isn't just that. It's prettier than someone else. Complicated.

I wore a plungingly cleavagey dress to an early dinner with the family on Saturday. Because I can. Because we've disagreed on appearances so much that they don't dare talk about it, making me free to do whatever. Not that they're horrid monsters of recrimination, simply that I was very sensitive for awhile when I first started reconciling myself to looking like me. I don't know what they think now, and the truth is I'm better off not knowing.

So. I wore this dress, and on my way to the ladies', an older woman gave me this "-er" look. More specifically, she gave my breasts the look. I'm not sure in what way she was "-er" than I, but she clearly thought something that amounted to my appearance being not up to her standards. It made me feel dirty.

Ah, but I realised: I don't even remotely care what a 50 year old woman in a peach and white striped sweater, pleated pants and espadrilles thinks of my outfit. We are so very not on the same page of the fashion magazine, sister. We're not even in the same bookstore. Avert your eyes if you must, or stare. I don't care.

Still. We need to learn to take the silent "-er" off the end of everything.

I've discovered a strong motivator for working out on Saturday mornings. There is, almost invariably, som show or other about the crisis of obesity on one of the many Discovery channels. These shows tend to be full of misinformation, blaming the fat, blaming the fast food industry, sending an awful lot of blame in an awful lot of directions. Most of them wrong directions. These shows succeed in making me angry every time I turn them on.

So why do I watch them? Because they make me angry. Because I need to be reminded of all the misinformation. Because I need not to propagate that information, not even to myself. It's like reading fashion magazines in the grocery store checkout line; it's important to differentiate between content that's trying to sell you crap you don't need and content that's trying to sell you crap you might want. Or something like that. It's important to keep your seditious lie detector skills working, both on the things you tell yourself and the things you're being told.

Know your enemy. Most of the time, it's you.

And also, because they make a great soundtrack to a morning work out. There's nothing like being a happily healthy fat person watching a show about how unhealthy you are, how sad you are and how much you wish you were thin, to make you feel smug, healthy and self-satisfied. I am all about smug self-satisfaction.

In other words, I watch these shows because I am above them. And above any little vestigial voices of me that tow that party line.

Because I'm preeetty, and I know it.

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