I really thought I was gonna stay away from talking about Lady Gaga, and stick with my own story. But it was either this or talk about how my love is a burden and no one is ever going to want it…So Lady Gaga it is!
If you don’t already know, Lady Gaga has come out about struggling with anorexia and bulimia since she was 15. She said she did it to “inspire bravery. and BREED some m$therf—ing COMPASSION.” She wants to start a “Body Revolution” of self acceptance.
Um…Yay? I feel like I should be psyched. Because she’s bringing light to the conversation I want to bring into the light. So why does it feel so yucky to me? Am I really jealous of a superstar? Not for her money, fame, or status, but because she has a built in audience and she’s talking about “my thing”? Really, Kate?
Or is it maybe that she posted “fat” (?) pictures of herself in her underwear and she doesn’t have a single stretch mark, while I am covered in them. And she does have a flat stomach, while I have a big round belly and flaps of skin that embarrass me. Maybe it’s because I look at her stick-it-to-the-man, 25 lbs-heavier-than-her-usual-Hollywood-standard photos and note that her body is still so much closer to the American standard of beauty than my own. And really, is still within the perimeter of that standard. Maybe blurs the edges. But just barely. And that made me feel even worse about myself. When I have already been dealing with my body image issues for weeks. If Lady Gaga’s “fat” body isn’t good enough, mine is a disgusting blob of ugly. Who would ever love that?
Yes I understand that she was feeling shamed by the media for gaining 25 lbs. And that she was making a point. I am willing to believe that it was meant as an act of bravery. Defiance of “the system.” And yes, I think it is gross, wrong, and even evil to express opinions about another person’s body. Even if you are in the media and she is in the public eye. Yes, I know she’s there by choice. It doesn’t matter to me. She’s a human being. That body is her only vehicle. And it belongs to her alone. It should be respected.
But I have a hard time forgetting that her practically naked image has been shaming women for years. Regular women in regular bodies. Me, by the way. She has been shaming me. Hasn’t she been selling skinny as sexy for the past several years? Am I supposed to forget that she has been part of the money-making, ideal-woman-image machine? She is certainly a victim. I won’t begrudge her that. But isn’t she also a perpetrator?
Or maybe I’m feeling jealous and yucky because she’s selling a “quick fix” to an issue that has complicated my entire life. Not only is she talking about my issue, but she’s totally half-assing it.
Does she really think we can just “out” our perceived body flaws and as a human collective we will stop judging one another? And stop hating ourselves? Will we also stop photoshopping the hell out of women in ads to sell an impossible image? And will we stop buying that image? And stop buying it for our daughters? Will we join hands around the world and sing “What the World Needs Now Is Love” too?
And will Lady Gaga declare that her body is beautiful exactly the way it is and be able to believe it? I mean really believe it. Will she stop starving herself (if she does that)? Will she stop making herself throw up (if she does that)? My point is, she’s claiming some serious eating and body disorders. So whatever her issues are, will she stop engaging in the behaviors that make up her personal brand of disordered eating? And will she be able to share that with her community so that they can find some relief? And peace?
I know that eating disorders are no joke. I know that anorexics and bulimics suffer. And that must include Lady Gaga, for all of her money and fame. That it is not about what one looks like on the outside. Or what one has. Or has accomplished. I know that eating disorders are equal opportunity destroyers. That it is the head and heart that go crazy. I know the kind of self-hatred that you have to experience to torture yourself with food. And starvation. And all of the other awful things there are to do to oneself. I know because I have tried a bunch of them personally. And that in many ways, it is this kind of eating disorder that is more damaging than run of the mill, get fat, compulsive eating/binge eating.
At least it was for me. Being fat was hard. Not being able to stop eating was deeply humiliating. And living in a big body was shameful and exhausting. But the exhaustion of the body was nothing compared to the exhaustion of acting on the whims of the bulimic girl in my head. The scheming and worrying. The hiding. I lived in constant action and panic. It was imperative that nobody should ever find out my secret. That I am a fat girl. That I have no will power. That I can’t stop eating. That I am unworthy of love and I will never be good enough. That I am an utter and detestable failure as a human being. My fat girl let it all be out in the open. But my bulimic girl wanted to hide it. She would go to any lengths. To her, my life was a lie, and every day I lived in a socially acceptable body was one more day she managed to fool the world into thinking I had any value as a person.
I have had my eating, as well as my eating disorders, under control for over six years now. I have more peace and freedom than I ever had in my life. My worst day living within my food boundaries is better than my best day with no boundaries and my eating out of control. But none of it is solved for me. I have to cultivate it. I have to honor myself every day. I have to have integrity in my life. I have to have integrity around eating. It remains intensely complicated in spite of all that I have accomplished around peace, self-love and food.
Yes I had to learn to love myself so that I could get some peace and love around my food and my body. But part of that love is in actions of self-care and honor. Actions! Every single day! And it’s still f*cking hard to love myself!
So yes. Declare your self-love to the world. Yes, out yourself for your stretch marks. Or that your breasts are two different sizes. Or that your thighs rub together. Or that you make yourself throw up your food. But what are you going to do to take care of yourself? What are you going to do to hold the demons at bay every day? What are you going to do to not fall into the hole of punishment and torture and despair? How are you going to let go of self-hatred? Because that f*cker is sneaky. And regardless of where it originates, it does not live outside of the self. As much as I would like to blame the beauty and fashion industries. Advertising and society. Self-hatred lives in the boys and girls (men and women) who are taking drastic, dangerous, and harmful actions just to feel worthy of showing up in the world.
I really don’t want to be a hater. But I’m angry. Because today’s publicity opp is not going to stop anorexia and bulimia from living on in actual human beings (who don’t have millions of fans). I want to know what comes next for them. What do you say to the girl who wants to love herself, but can’t. And feels like a failure? And are you willing to be honest about the actual struggle? Because it’s hard to be honest about the actual struggle, Lady Gaga! It can be deeply embarrassing. And shockingly unglamourous. I know. I’ve been doing it for about 10 months. And it’s scary!
I will say that I am grateful that somebody has brought about a call for self-acceptance and love. But I would like it to be a responsible, empowering, honest call. Maybe sh*t’s about to get real. But I think I could handle that. I could be on board. In fact, if that’s the case, I say Viva la Revolucion!
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