We Are Beautiful

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Instead of my usual love-lorn rantings, I want to take on another subject today: body image. Specifically mine.

I spent four days with my mother last weekend on a road trip to Bloomington, MN to shop at the Mall of America. I learned a few things on that trip:

1) The Mall of America is just a mall with some rides and the same stores I have in my own, fabulous city (no offense to Bloomington. The people in Minnesota are incredibly friendly.)

2) I can handle that much time with my mother much better than I thought I could.

3) My size 4 mother has some very serious body dysmorphia.

I’ve struggled with my weight my entire life. I wore a 34C bra by the 4th grade and had very muscular legs thus earning me the title, “Chubby Cheerleader” due to my wearing of over-sized jeans and sweatshirts trying to camouflage a body that was winning the developmental race in my class. In the height of my depression a few years ago, I weighed 180 pounds and wore a size 14. I’m 5’2″ and currently weigh 140 pounds. My body type is hourglass – my friend calls me “BTSW” (Big Tits Small Waist). I have heavy, muscular legs (thanks, Dad!) and have to go up several sizes in skinny jeans just to get them over my thighs. My bra size is now 34DD and I’m usually between a size 6 and a size 8. My closet includes everything between size 4 and size 10, extra smalls to extra larges. I have one sweater that’s a plus size 1, whatever that means. I don’t care because it’s comfy as hell. I’ve learned to try things on in several sizes to find the one that flatters my shape the best. If it doesn’t flatter me I leave it behind. There is no sense in owning an article of clothing that makes me feel insecure.

As I shopped that first day, I picked up items and held them up to judge if I thought they would fit. I wasn’t really paying any attention to the size on the tag. However, my mom would pick up a shirt, look at the size tag and say, “oh, it’s a medium. It’ll be way too big for me.” A few times I noticed the thing she put back was an exact match of what I was holding. I have learned over the years to ignore these comments. Mom has always been in constant competition with me for everything. She can’t stand that I wear size 7 shoe when she needs 7.5 because you can’t really go down in shoe size without some marked discomfort. She used to race me on the stationary bikes at the gym: “I’m going faster than you.” “I’ve gone farther than you.” All the while, I rolled my eyes and concentrated on not passing out from the stank of sour sweat and horrible body odor that haunted our gym.

The shopping comments weren’t the thing that bothered me the most. It was the constant chatter about what I was wearing. When we met at her house, I was wearing yoga leggings, a fitted t-shirt and a zip-up hoodie. Mom looked me up and down then said, “Oh, you’re wearing leggings? I could never wear those because my butt is too lumpy. I guess I could, but I’d need a tunic. No one wants to see my lumpy butt.” Did I mention my mom is 5’6″ and a size 4? She has long, thin legs and a thigh gap that I will never have without some kind of dramatic plastic surgery (which will NEVER happen). She’s kind of pear-shaped, but her boobs have gotten bigger as she has aged. After her lumpy butt comment, she went on that she “can’t find leggings that fit her legs as tight as my leggings fit mine.” My ego was already bruised and we hadn’t even gotten in the car to leave. It reminded me of the time I gave her a pair of capri jeans that had become too tight for me. Instead of “thank you,” she said, “I wish these pants were as tight on my legs as they are on yours. It’s so hard for me to find skinny pants that fit like skinny pants.”

I grew up with a mother and brother who constantly told me I was fat. My brother’s name for me was Miss Piggy and, to this day, he still brings up the blue sailor dress I wore in the 5th grade that was so tight you could see my belly button. My dad never spoke directly to me about my weight, but would instead say things like, “should you be eating that?” The worst part was that they kept soda, chocolate, and candy in the house at all times but I wasn’t allowed to have them. My brother was naturally skinny, like my mom, so he could have whatever he wanted. To this day, I have trouble with self-control around sweets because I was constantly told ‘no’ as a child. One can’t learn self-control when denied something over and over. These days, I can’t have sweets easily accessible or I will take down an entire package of [insert any junk food here].

I couldn’t help that I had cleavage in every slightly V-necked top I owned, and my mother told me they made me look slutty. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I started showing some shadow between the girls. I finally realized I have a great rack and it was going to waste! I was taught by my mother that I should hide my body and feel ashamed of my curves. My mother is trapped by her self-image and focuses so much of her self-worth on her appearance, so she judges mine as well. Her motto is, “What Would Barbie Do?” I’m pretty sure Barbie would tell her to love herself, no matter what she looks like. Mom makes comments about what other people are wearing all of the time. She isn’t a mean person, but she has some real issues. Her mother judged her very harshly and so she judges the rest of the world and, unfortunately, me.

But you know what? I’m beautiful. I have an amazing body. I love to dress up in pin-up style dresses and when I go out, I turn heads. I have cellulite. I have stretch marks. My arms jiggle and my belly bulges when I sit. But I am strong. I can punch a bag like I’m going to knock it off the chains. I can leg press 200 pounds. I can bench press 70 pounds. I know that’s not an insane amount of weight, but it’s nothing to scoff about. I have learned how to wear clothes that make me look good and feel good. I don’t worry that someone might see the size on the tag. If they did, so what? It’s a number or a word. It doesn’t represent my accomplishments or my failures.

I’m beautiful and so are you. If more of us would stop worrying how we are perceived by others, we would be so much happier. Focus on the things that make you happy. If you are uncomfortable with yourself, make a change, but learn to love yourself, imperfections and all. In the words of one of my heroes, the great RuPaul: “If you can’t love yourself, how in the Hell are you going to love somebody else?”

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My Capital “E” Ex-Husband

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Friday evening, J decided to open up conversation with me. Not that we weren’t on speaking terms, but our communications over the past few months have mostly consisted of “where do I find the taxes we paid last year” and “do you know where the documents for the water softener are?” He invited me to our niece’s football game a few weeks ago, and it was the first time we saw each other since October when Angry tried to ruin our friendship by telling him I was casually dating/banging a mutual friend. He looks downright ridiculous. He is growing out his hair and wearing lots of frat bro tank tops. I remember the summer we fell apart, he loved making fun of all the douchebags in their tank tops because “only Bros wear tank tops.” He cut his skinny jeans off into shorts. (I shook my head writing that sentence, just picturing them.) Anyway… He’s not the man I married, and he’s even different from the man I divorced.

I got a message from him Friday night. He asked why it happened to him. I had my issues and he understood that, but why him? What had he done that he deserved to be cheated on? I explained that no person deserves to have their partner cheat, but I needed attention and felt isolated for years. It’s no excuse, but it was my answer. Then he asked if I thought he would be able to make someone else happy. Um, I’m sorry but I’m not really the person to answer that question. I told him that only he knows the answer to that. He goes on: he wants to ask me for some relationship advice. He wants to pursue a young lady and he doesn’t know if he should. I ask her age. He is almost 32. She is 20. Age is relative, but you have to have some common ground and ability to hang out at the same places. I have to be careful here, as I’m almost 31 and my fellow is 25, but Aury is probably more mature than I am in some aspects. J won’t be able to take her out for a drink or certain events that are 21 and over. He goes on to tell me that they have great chemistry and she likes him and he likes her, but he’s worried about her age and her maturity level. Okay, well there’s your red flag. If you’re worried and you have to ask someone about it, you obviously feel it isn’t right so don’t do it. I expressed this to him, and then I tried to change the subject.

Next he tells me about his ex-girlfriend who he just found out started working at a local strip club doing a burlesque show. He says I should check it out. Back story: I’m a fan of the female form. I LOVE pin-up girls and burlesque. Do I want to go see my ex-husband’s ex-girlfriend do a strip tease? Fuck no. So I say “yeah, that’s a great idea! ‘Hey, I’m Sarah. You dated my ex-husband.’ That’ll go over really well for both of us.” He replies: “Well you probably shouldn’t introduce yourself. She doesn’t know much about you, but she’d probably punch you. She’s still a bit attached to me.” I face-palm. Now I realize he’s toying with me. I don’t think he’s doing it on purpose, but he’s still jacking with me. I cut the conversation off by not responding. Meanwhile, I’m screen-sharing with Aury, watching him play a game and talking to him on the phone. I’ve gotten quiet, so he asks me what’s up. I give him the short story and he laughs, confused as to why I’m J’s only source of information. I have to laugh at how ridiculous it is to ask your ex-wife for love advice at the same time she’s on the phone with her current fellow.

Today, J asked me how to go about getting new glasses. I sighed. I told him he needs to make an appointment because it’s been over two years since he was in. So I guess I’ll be seeing him at work in the next couple of weeks… He also asked me for the name of an ENT so that he could get his sinuses checked out (after I nagged him for over 6 years about his deviated septum). He makes a joke about how he has gone totally vegan and his allergies are so much better, but he still snores like a freight train. We had a nice conversation about how we’ve grown as people since we first met. He says the cliché: “If only we had met 10 years later” and “if we knew then what we knew now.” I answered with “if everyone knew everything off the bat, there would be nothing to learn and we would never grow.” Then he blamed our parents for not teaching us how to have a healthy relationship. I’ve come to the point that I don’t blame my parents for my relationship mistakes any longer. I try to learn from their mistakes and not re-create them. I told J that I wasn’t comfortable giving him love advice. We could talk about us or hypothetical situations, but I didn’t want to know about who he was dating or trying to date. Then I said, “unless you want me to start feeding you info about my boyfriend,” to which he quickly responded he wouldn’t give me any more information about his romantic endeavors.

I’m actually glad for the failed relationships I’ve had, including my divorce. I’ve learned an immeasurable amount about myself and what I will and won’t tolerate about another person. Though I would never admit to any of the men I’ve been with, I’m grateful for the experience with them. I have never been one to learn from reading or being told something, but rather from first hand trial and error. I think to what J said about “if we had known ten years ago what we know now;” I still don’t think we would be a couple at this point. My dad asked me last weekend if I thought J and I would ever reconcile and get back together. Honestly, that doesn’t interest me in the least. I’m very content in my current situation and I really do hope J can find his happiness as well.