The thing about living in society is that it makes us really good at constructing notions without ever being the wiser. Both as individuals and as groups we have uncountable biases that shape the ways in which view the world. Normally this is just…. normal. We can’t really escape it. We construct our worlds. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t sometimes harmful. In fact, “sometimes” is a gross understatement. It would take a million blogs to discuss all of them. But today I think I can focus on a few of them. What follows are both unconscious and (somewhat) conscious thoughts we have–specifically, unfounded socially constructed notions–that make us want to be skinny. It’s hard to fight them. But acknowledging them is half the battle.
Why do we want to be thin?
Here are some common answers in order of what I think might be increasing acceptance:
Celebrities are doing it.
My friends are doing it.
Other people think I’m pretty.
I think I’m pretty.
Clothes fit me better.
I feel better.
I feel light.
I have more confidence.
Okay. Let’s analyze the list.
a)…Celebrities and friends are dumb. I want to dismiss this point easily. If I did every harmful thing other people do, I’d at the very least pass my afternoons snorting coke under my desk. But—as in all things—it isn’t quite that simple. With so many people in our lives looking and expecting certain things, it’s nearly impossible to not want to live up to them. Having validation is so important for our psychologies. For example: I longed for one friend of mine for years during college. He told me he loved me, but not ‘in that way.’ Once I lost weight, he tripped over himself like an overeager bastard again trying to get my attention. This shit is real. Validation, especially based on our looks, is powerful. Saying no to these impulses is, I think, really the hardest part of healthy eating and living. What’s important to internalize is all that crap-which is true–about true love and true friends and how being a good person is more important than having good looks. Yeah. It’s the true stuff. It’s just the hard stuff, too.
Another way to mitigate this issue, instead of just saying “fuck it” to validation and doing your best to value your personality against the external world telling you otherwise, is to instead surround yourself with the proper types of validation. And the proper types of inspiration. Don’t watch TV. Don’t read magazines. Don’t even go to the gym. And don’t have shitty friends. There are people and worlds out there that love and appreciate you for who you are. There are. So if you don’t have enough of them in your life, seek them out. It’ll help. Enormously.
b) “Other people think I’m prettier.” This is very much related to the validation I was just talking about. Well, sometimes. And “society” in general might like you thinner. But time and time again people contact me through this website and tell me it’s ridiculous to think that men only like thin women. And personally, anecdotally, just plenty of people don’t swear by that. The thing is, as a culture, we can embrace ideas of “thinness” – but true sexiness and true sensuality occur absolutely 100 percent on a case by case basis. Every individual is sexy in his or her own right, and no comparison can ever really dictate that. Ever.
Which connects to a point I’ll make later. “Confidence.” YEAH. Being skinny might make you confident. But the thing is—this is the real reason you’re sexier now. It has not one lick to do with being a size 25 rather than a size 26. Fucking honestly. What absolutely has to do with is your swagger. I’m not going to elaborate on this. Have swag, for god’s sake. If you’ve don’t got it, fake it ‘til you make it. SWAG.
c) “Clothes fit me better.” It’s true. When you’re little, everything “looks good on you.” It’s easy to get dressed. Nothing bunches or pulls in the wrong place. It’s really a very liberating feeling, and one of my favorite parts of being thin. The thing is—the only reason being larger sucks for clothes is that I’m always trying to hide things. No no no, he can’t see my hip fat! No I can’t let anyone know my thighs are actually that wide! So I’d work hard to hide those things. Fuck it! Don’t hide them. Be yourself. Own it. Love your hips. Flaunt everything and cherish everything and obsess over hiding not a god damn thing. No, I’m not saying you should always be naked or in unitards. What I am saying is that clothes fitting you better thin is only a result of our culture trying to force you into a particular shape. Fuck it! Know what I’m going to say next? Have SWAG.
d) “I feel better.”
Well, you might. But—try and be more specific. What do you mean by “better”? I have a pretty good feeling it has to do with confidence. The other thing it might have to do with is lightness. Which is the cornerstone of today’s diatribe:
e) “I feel lighter.” FUCK IT. Tell me: why do you like feeling lighter? Why does it feel so good to be lithe, to fold up real small, to feel like you might float away, or easily be packed away in a box? This is a feeling I have always had. I have always yearned for it, and once I achieved it, I loved it greatly. On the inside, I always felt like I was a “little” person. But WHY. Why do I like it?
In part, I think I want to be little because it’s a surprise. I’ve got a big personality, and when I meet people they often tell me they thought I was taller. That’s nice, I guess. It’s probably not the most important reasons. One of those big reasons is this: being little means that bigger people can take care of me. It sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. I am self sufficient in the most ridiculous way. Sometimes, I like to fantasize about times in my life that I’ve been taken care of. I imagine this as some person (man!) coming up and putting their arms around my whole person, being able to just enfold my worries away. Our society, I think, encourages this in a similar way. Women are supposed to be taken care of. We are supposed to be little in this way. We are supposed to be diminuitive. This is why women rarely date men shorter than them, and vice versa. No one wants to challenge that gender role.
The second reason is related: our society in many ways encourages the disappearance of women. Women are supposed to be light, and to float away. This kind of lightness encourages women to be in the background, to be thrown around. No woman aspires to heaviness. No woman aspires to solidity. Why not? Why don’t we aspire to be established, powerful, strong, big figures? Because men are supposed to be those figures. We are the light ones, the one’s that should be brushed aside.
What the fuck.