If you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere. You just might not realize how good looking you are…
About 2 years ago, when I was skinny (and didn’t know it) my mom came to visit me in New York City. When she saw me her first reaction was “You’re so skinny!” And not in a you’re so beautiful way. In a should I be concerned for your health? way.
I, of course, scoffed. I was not skinny. I was thin, certainly. But not terribly so. I was regular. She was just used to me being about 10 lbs heavier.
Later, as we were standing in front of the restaurant waiting for my stepfather to join us after parking the car, my mom watched a woman walk by. She made a funny face when the woman was past and said something like, “Oh. Does everybody here just look like you?”
I think my response was something like, “Sorta. It’s New York City.”
I am bringing this up because until a few days ago, I was feeling big and fat and uncomfortable in my skin. But for the past few days I have been down south with my boyfriend again. And a lot of my body image issues have calmed down. I mean I look in the mirror and I am not any smaller. But I am not embarrassed. Or ashamed. I feel normal. Better than that. Beautiful. Sexy.
Of course, I am spending my time with a man who thinks I am incredibly beautiful and sexy. And I am sure that that helps.
But I knew that he felt that way about me when I was in New York. And I am in love with him. I was not walking around the city looking for male attention. I am perfectly clear that I am madly in love and don’t want anyone else. And yet even knowing that the man I love is deeply attracted to me, I felt fat. Big and gross and ugly. Or maybe just not good enough.
One thing I will say about New York City, often people don’t notice that I have special food needs when I eat in public. Because almost every New York woman is on a diet of some kind. Low fat. No fat. No carb. Just a salad. Dressing on the side. Is there oil in that? Can I get it with no oil? No potatoes, no toast. Can I get tomatoes instead of potatoes? Whites only. No skin. Steamed. Is it baked or fried? How big is it? Just one, two plates.
Women in New York City are hyper-aware of their food. Because they are hyper-aware of their bodies.
New York is filled with thin people. So many, that skinny seems to be average. I think it is self-perpetuating. You look around and see that the majority of people are thin, you work hard to stay thin. The woman you are looking at in comparison to you is looking at you. You are thin, she needs to stay thin.
And it is a culture of judgment. Everyone is being critiqued on their appearance at all times. Usually silently. But it’s around. It’s almost as if it is in the air. There’s an ad that was up in the subway for a while. “New Yorkers. Tolerant of your beliefs. Judgmental of your shoes.” It’s funny ‘cause it’s true.
Please don’t misunderstand. I love New York City. I love the fashion. And the energy. I love the people. And I even love some aspects of the “judging appearances” lifestyle. I love the parade we put on for each other. It’s a real-life runway show all the time. Love your dress! Fantastic shoes! Where did you get that bag? Fabulous!
And I am the one with the issues. I have the eating disorders, and the body image problems. They live in my own brain. I am the one judging my body and my beauty. And my worth based on my body and my beauty. Nobody else gets to dictate how well I love myself.
But being away has me see that the city has its stresses for a girl like me. That it makes it harder for me to love myself the way I am.
I guess more about my body image disorders will become clear as time goes by. I have the whole rest of a life to deal with them. And get to know them better. And I’m sure that they will morph and change as I do. But it’s nice to be in a place, and a time where I can enjoy my body as it is, and not have it be an issue.