Discontent and envy come out in ugly ways.
Why does everyone else get a sweet DSLR setup? Why am I still stuck using a point-and-shoot and toy cameras and a camera phone? I'm talented! I deserve better! It's holding me back! Not fair!
...blah blah blah.
Notes to self:
1. What Elizabeth Sarah said is true.
2. Your own camera setup is not half so lame as you make it out to be.
3. Peaceful spirit first, better equipment later.
Written by Nichole, a member of my contesseration here at Wheaton. She has subtitled it, "A critical response to 'Death to the Wheaton girl.'" I hope you continue to find this mythical (or not-so) Girl a familiar figure, although we have located her in the context of our own college.
She is nicely dressed because during her entire life it has been suggested, directly or implicitly, that she is only as valuable as her appearance. She has grown up on Silver Ring Thing and True Love Waits fare, hearing at least once a year that virgin status is the apex of her virtue, and women who give this gift away have about as much inherent value as once (twice or thrice) chewed gum. As a result of the power structures in her home, church, and community, she has come to view male approval as the ultimate validation of her selfhood. Losing aforementioned approval would jeopardize her ability to have success as it has been defined for her over and over again. Every week, she secretly dashes into the Counseling Center to find healing for depression, eating disorders, anxiety, sexual abuse, and emotional trauma. She has no peace, a fact which only serves to inspire more anxiety about her spirituality.
Is she even real? Absolutely. She is sitting quietly in your classes. Obediently doing her homework in your dorm. Anxiously burning off those extra calories on the treadmill next to you. Condemning herself in the pew in front of you.
It is easy to judge the Wheaton Girl because she embodies the illusion of perfection. She is easy to like, to love even, but that which is being loved is not her Self. No, it is the primped, perfected, and idealized extension of her Self that she puts on display for her community.
It would be a simple task to condemn her for her deception, her willful self-subjugation to unfair power structures, but a few moments of self-reflection will undoubtedly be followed by the soft thud, thud of stones dropping to the ground and hurried feet scuffling away.
We, every one of us, display, market, and advertise some idealized image of our Selves to the world. We may not be selling effortless physical perfection and the soft, accommodating disposition of the Nice Christian Girl, but there are hundreds of other ways to market our vulnerabilities to our relationally consumeristic world.
The high-browed intellectual sells her intelligence. The mysterious outsider markets her nonconformity. The she-jock advertises her physical prowess and mental toughness. Until the day we die, we will all be selling something. It is the inheritance of our culture for better or for worse.
Yet hope remains while the Company is true. While I do not think it is possible to ever truly escape self-objectification in this life, we can make the slow, painful, and often discouraging journey of taking our bodies, minds, and spirits off the shelves. How is this done? Grace, humility, and great generosity. Place your gifts at the service of others. Use your intellect without making others feel small. Employ your physical loveliness to affirm that beauty is not merely the sum of your features. Channel your popularity into helping hurting and wounded people.
Selling your gifts out of a desire to receive some form of compensation from another person will turn every relationship into an economic transaction, a sign-value exchange based on cost-benefit analysis. But placing your gifts, your very Self in the service of others leads to relationships that our bound together by truth and respect and love and life.
And so we are all on this journey. Some of us have been traveling for years, others for weeks. Some of us have only just realized that the path even exists. We all started at the same place, though, and must delight in giving grace to others as bountifully as it has been given to us. I wish life for all my friends. I hope for scraped knees, calloused feet, chipped nails, split ends, no mascara days filled with life, filled with grace for our Selves and for others.
Who is the Wheaton girl?
She is nicely dressed. She is slim, a girl of careful meals and sanctified genes. She probably straightens her hair. She wakes up in time to shower and do her makeup every morning. Takes notes, but doesn't speak in class. She goes on missions trips. She'll be complete when she has a boyfriend. She attends church every Sunday in a pretty skirt and little heels. (She's the reason it's not permissible to wear pajamas to dining hall brunch on Sundays. So what if you just rolled out of bed? Facade, my friend, facade!) She's got nothing but stellar babysitting references. She goes to the gym x times a week and gets the tomorrow's reading done while she's on the elliptical. She's probably from the suburbs. She gets stressed, but it's always graceful and pretty.
Is she even real? Is there such a person? Probably not. But I'd still rather be a fat mutinous mess than be her!
Lately she's been giving me minor meltdowns at breakfast. So I scuttle back to my room instead of going to lecture with her and her gentlemanly, conversation-dominating, football-player poli-sci male counterparts/potential boyfriends.
Someday I shall have the confidence to define myself not in opposition to her, but independent of her. (True defiance.) Not overeating just because her dieting aggravates me, not skipping church to offend her, not muttering profanity just to dissociate myself from her.
And someday I'll accept that there is no one girl who has it all together and makes the rest of us grumble along in pursuit of her. That instead there are just twelve hundred of us who all feel like we don't measure up.
I'm working on it.
*(I do recognize that compared to the general population, I am neither fat nor that terrible of a mess.)
All you do is click a button on each site, and a good cause gets revenues from the advertisers. I'm sure you know about these kinds of sites, but I thought a nice list to put them all in one place would not go amiss.
PLEASE hit me up with links to additional click-to-donate sites, and I will add them to the list.
I encourage you to make a habit of visiting these sites, and perhaps post a collection of links like this one on your own internet space. It's small money, of course, but it's not coming from your pocket and it really adds up, because there are a lot of us doing it.
- A Click for the Forest
- Craig Research Labs
- die Waldseite [the Forest Site: click the STOP! button]
- The Environment Site
- Hunger Fighters [will give you a safe pop-up]
- The Hunger Site et al. [tabs along the top for The Animal Rescue Site and others]
- Hungry Children
- Land Care Niagara
- Pajacyk [click the stomach]
- Por Los Chicos [click the blue "Doná" button]
- Semi-Arid Campaign
- Tarahumara Children's Hospital Fund
"All the way to heaven is heaven, because He said I am the Way."
- Catherine of Siena
Stress, fear, anxiety, etc. etc. etc. I feel a bit broken.
Comforting would be if you told me...one of your favorite memories. Yes, let's have a small storytime, please.
I remember Germany / how it rained. We emailed about sunflowers.
It rained / we made rice pudding for lunch, Milchreis, and ate it hot, pouring cherries in their syrup onto it to keep from burning our tongues.
Days of heat and stifling humidity, one after the other until nothing could bear it any longer. I rolled up my shirt to let my sweating stomach breathe in the free bicycle breeze. Just coming back from a walking errand you would climb in the shower first thing. So it would build up and build up, cold chamomile with three meals a day, and then the sky would crack open and bring downpour, bring us running upstairs to shut the windows and out onto the terrace to rescue the cushions, bring us relief from the Schnaken and the weight of every particle of water between us and that sky.
Later, maybe the storm is over. Maybe there are still raindrops on my window up there in the sloping roof, or maybe I go to bed with the sound of sky still every now and again like God's ripping fabric, still the falling water, and Mona calls to me Erschreck dich nicht meaning in the night when the thunder wakes you, don't frighten yourself — don't be frightened — and then to her own bed, then all of us in darkness.
A set of Holga lenses was my favorite birthday gift. I'm starting to play with them more, but here are the firstfruits.
Final exams and papers and three weeks and then I'm HOME!
A taste of my April for you, and my nose goes back in the books. What does your April taste like?
I thought I'd compile a list of my favorite places to find people who are talking about body image, eating disorder recovery, etc.
Internet fiend that I am, I could hardly ignore the interwebs as a potential source of good body-image medicine for myself, and having done the finding, why not share?
Also stuck a few favorite relevant books on at the end.
If you know of something that should be on this list but isn't, please drop me a comment!
- Already Pretty
- Operation Beautiful
- REVOLUTION OF REAL WOMEN flickr pool
- Sociological Images
- You Are Remarkable
Eating disorder recovery:
- MentorCONNECT: mentorship and moderated forums for eating disorder recovery
- We Bite Back: "post-pro-ana" site and forum
- Empty Bellies Do Not Beget Genius
- How Do You Embrace & Celebrate Your Body?
- How To Practice Major Mega Supreme Body Love...Daily!
- It's All Good. No, Really. *All* of It.
- How to Survive a Case of The Uglies
- Another Reminder
- 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food, by Susan Albers
- Intuitive Eating, by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch
- North of Beautiful, by Justina Chen Headley
- Traveling Mercies, by Anne Lamott
- The Beauty Myth, by Naomi Wolf
- The Good Body, by Eve Ensler
- Life Inside the "Thin" Cage, by Constance Rhodes
- The Diet Survivor's Handbook, by Judith Matz and Ellen Frankel
- Shannon Cutts' list of nonfiction recovery books
- Sui's list of 8 books to transform your body image and eating
I read this piece a few days ago in a book of Lisel Mueller's poetry and it made me laugh aloud. I share this especially for my fellow participants in the NaPoWriMo poem-a-day challenge. Keep on trucking. We're over the hump!
Stalking the Poem
Only one word will do. It isn't on the tip of your tongue, but you know it's not far. It's the one fish that won't swim into your net, a figure that hides in a crowd of similar figures, a domino stone in the face-down pool. Your need to find it becomes an obsession, singleminded and relentless as lust. It's a long time before you can free yourself, let it go. "Forget it," you say, and think that you do. When the word is sure you have forgotten it, it comes out of hiding. But it isn't taking any chances even now and has prepared its appearance with care. It surrounds itself with new and inconspicuous friends and faces you in a showup line in which everyone looks equally innocent. Of course you know it instantly, the way Joan of Arc knew the Dauphin and Augustine knew God. You haven't been so happy in weeks. You rush the word to your poem, which had died for lack of it, and it arises pink-cheeked as Lazarus. The two of you share the wine.
You've got the poem cornered. It gives up, lies down, plays dead. No more resistance. How easily you could take it into your teeth and walk off with it! But you are afraid of the sound they will make crunching the bones. You are afraid of the taste of blood, of the poem's dark, unknown insides. So you stand above it, sniffing its fur, poking and pushing it, turning it over. Suddenly you see that its eyes are open and that they stare at you with contempt. You walk away with your tail between your legs. When you return the poem has disappeared.
The poem is complete in your head, its long, lovely shape black against the white space in your mind. Each line is there, secure, recallable, pulled forth by the line before it and the one before that, like a melody whose second part you can sing once you have sung the first, but not before. All there, all perfectly linked. But when you pick up the pen, the shape dissolves, pales, spreads into slovenliness. You feel the poem escaping; you can't write fast enough. By some miracle you recover all the bits and pieces, and you manage to put them in their proper order. You have been saved, you think. But the poem is not the beautiful figure you held in your mind. It is gawky and gaptoothed; its arms are too long for its body; its clothes don't fit. It looks up at you from the page accusingly. "Look at the mess you've made," it says. "See what you can do with me. Last chance. Don't blow it." Filled with gratitude, you roll up your sleeves and go to work.
- Lisel Mueller
Of course it's on the heels of these two posts that I am having the hardest time keeping my eating regular that I've had all semester.
I think of a couple lines from a Brecht poem that go: "Alas, we/Who wished to lay the foundations of kindness/Could not ourselves be kind."
That's how I feel at my worst. All these tremendous changes I wish for in the wider world, and I can't even implement them successfully in my own life every day.
But no, that's not what is going to happen in the long term. I will come out on top again. Defiance, defiance.
Right now I'm just hauling myself through each day as well as I can. The beautiful parts are still very beautiful, though. All the more beautiful, actually.
P.S. Sarah Von of Yes and Yes has kindly reposted Your Surrender is Significant. You might enjoy the comments.
celebrating my twenty-first by being taken to TEA CLASS by best friends
the fact that the title "tea master" exists (it's a position on a tea plantation)
tea connoisseurs and their contagious, adorably particular ways
what does it say about us that tea class is actually a really exciting thing for all of us? hah!
Lisel Mueller's poetry
Shane Claiborne visiting campus
our room with the windows left open
blossoms in the trees
feminist Friday and postmodern Monday in politsophy
my twitter friends, especially festivalfashion, suzigurl, ellie_beth87, and fairytalelover
knowing how to calm myself down when I'm starting to freak out (when I do it, that is)
the nightly exercise of writing my NaPoWriMo poem
long brunches with my wonderful Alaskan Anna spent discussing copy editing issues and constructing hilariously complex German sentences
copy editing itself (paid position at my college's newspaper, woohoo)