location: various cities around Italy
My recent Italian adventure was food fueled and left me with a bit of a pasta/pizza/wine belly - one which I have no regret for (because truly, what is the point of going to Italy if I wasn't going to properly eat?). But after a few emotionally taxing moments in which my clothes didn't fit quite the way I'd like them to, I signed up for yoga and decided to get this little booty back in shape. I've always considered myself a very body positive person, which I'm sure mostly lay rooted in a fantastic metabolism coupled with living in a city where it's easy to end up walking a few miles every day. But my patience with and affirmation of my little pockets of plump and cellulite - proof of incredible adventures in beautiful places - was waning quickly, leaving me to henpeck at myself.
And then yesterday happened, and succeeded in entirely throwing off my groove, sending me spiraling into a puddle of body shame that I have never experienced before. After a week of yoga and packing in those veggies, I was feeling so much more comfortable in my own skin. London was so kindly sunny, and so for the first time in a few months, I donned a tighter dress and traipsed about town. On a whim, I popped into kate spade cheerily thinking I would perhaps treat myself to a fun birthday present (insert salsa girl emoji here), and was hardly in the store for thirty seconds when a sales associate approached me and asked how many months pregnant I am. Well. I'm not pregnant. In fact I actively try to avoid pregnancy at all costs. And I've always thought of myself as fairly fit - but the goddesses of kate spade have spoken. I suppose it's decent timing that I signed up for a yoga studio last week.
I would love to report back that it was nothing more than a fleeting moment in my otherwise wonderful day, but that comment consumed me. I couldn't stop playing it on repeat, stopping to stare at myself in shop windows to see exactly how I wasn't skinny enough. I desperately consulted Google, which lead to this amazing article, in which a woman shares her stories of strangers assuming she's pregnant. "These incessant queries go beyond people’s curiosity about fertility. They’re another way of co-opting women’s bodies, in the same vein as telling women on the street to smile. Asking if a woman is with child is saying, “I’m a stranger but you owe me an explanation about your body.” And that’s not OK." Read the whole thing. It's good.
So last night I cried myself to sleep. It's ridiculous, but it's true. Because no matter how much I can talk about fighting the good feminist fight, or intellectually process societal pressure, the nagging feeling that I need to be something more than I already am can be all consuming, despite my best intentions. This sort of bodily policing just reinforces the idea that women should either be skinny, or mothers, and that anything in between is shameful. And besides - didn't we all agree years ago never to assume a woman is pregnant unless she's crowning? My body is neither skinny (apparently) nor that of a mother - but it has taken me to tiny hillside restaurants in medieval Italian towns to eat the most exquisite truffle spaghetti you could ever dream up; it's taken me to foggy London where I am quite blissfully living my dream; it's taken me to Australia with my very best friends where we tried emu and kangaroo and crocodile (it was all weird) and spent our nights giggling about boys and staying up too late; it's taken me to mystical Big Sur where I once spent an entire hot summer day reading in a wooden chair set in the middle of a creek. My body has enabled me to taste, see, hear, experience beauty so tangible it hurts. My body is proof of how in love with the world I am, and how much the world has loved me back. And I don't need to look a certain way to experience the joy that comes with being a human person.
On the plus side, I've been meaning to pick up a part time job, and if you get to be that bitchy at kate spade, I would have a marvelous time with it. I think I'll send them my CV.