Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Real Thing

re·al1 [ree-uhl, reel]
1.true; not merely ostensible, nominal, or apparent: the real reason for an act.
2.existing or occurring as fact; actual rather than imaginary, ideal, or fictitious: a story taken from real life.
3.being an actual thing; having objective existence; not imaginary: The events you will see in the film are real and not just made up.
4.being actually such; not merely so-called: a real victory.
5.genuine; not counterfeit, artificial, or imitation; authentic: a real antique; a real diamond; real silk.

It's funny, because no where in the dictionary do I find the definition of real to be "curvy" or "a size 10 and up." And I am so sick of, and offended when, the term "real woman" is used on television or magazines or anywhere else in pop culture. There is no one real woman.

Let me rewind.... Today I was watching a show and a woman was asked her opinion of another woman's body. The woman she was looking at was maybe a size 10 or 12, and very curvy (nothing wrong with this, of course!). The woman said "This is a real woman. THIS is what real women look like!" And the video of her saying this was played twice during the show to reiterate that point. Was she a "real" woman? Did she "exist or occur as a fact?" Yes, obviously. Is this "what real women look like?" NO! This one person with this one particular body shape is not an accurate representation of ALL WOMEN.

When I was a teenager, and was growing faster than my body could keep up; I was rail thin. Rumors (spread by people who didn't know me well) swarmed through school about my eating habits. This, while I was taking two trips though the lunch line, but the girls around me where nibbling on a single bagel with low-fat cream cheese and drinking diet Coke (and our food for the year was included in our tuition, so it wasn't because they left their lunch money at home). I detested my was the typical story of the thin teenager - long, lanky, teased mercilessly about my weight and my lack of curves. Perfect strangers, men and women and boys and girls of ALL ages, seemed to think that because I was thin it was perfectly fine for them to point it out to me, because it's alright to tease skinny girls to their face, but not overweight ones. Women in their teens through their 50's told me that someday I would be "normal" like them, scoffed when I asked my mom for a smaller size, asked if I "ever ate," and countless people told me to "put meat on my bones." This obviously made me crazily insecure and sent me into a frenzy of eating and obsessiveness, while my self-confidence plummeted. I made my mom buy whole milk and Ensure to try and pack the pounds on to my bones (which didn't work), while she reassured me that in my twenties I would fill out (she was right). My feet looked even bigger than they actually were in comparison to my bird legs, and my hip bones stuck out much farther than my stomach. And I wondered why no one else seemed to look like me in the media.

Enter the "grunge era" and Kate Moss, my savior (you heard me, savior). When I was feeling depressed about my knobby knees and flat chest, in bursts someone whose body looked just like mine, and she was plastered all over fashion magazines as a symbol of beauty. Whoa. The time had come...out went the era of the curvy girl-next-door models I could never look like - Cindy Crawford, Christie Brinkley, etc - and in came the waifs. *queue the hallelujah chorus* Although it took years and pounds for the insecurity to fade, suddenly there was someone else in my corner, and when I was getting teased I would think about those fashion magazines, and remind myself that (thank God) high school wouldn't last forever.

I'm not writing this for pity or to make it seem like it was some sob story that I grew up with a high metabolism. I am writing it to make a point; women of all sizes are "real." Do I support the Dove ad campaign? Hell yeah, because they show women of all shapes and sizes. Do I think Hollywood has become far too obsessed with being a size 2 (or smaller)? Hell yeah. But let's not forget that some women can eat all they want and no matter how hard they try, not gain a pound, and others have the opposite problem. Let's be inclusive and not exclusive. Let's not show hate or resentment to thin women to their face while talking about overweight women behind their backs.

Love, acceptance, and understanding for all that's real.

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