On Saturday I attended SlutWalk Chicago and had a great time.
The walk was about sexual consent, ultimately. The idea behind it was that we need to come out and say more often that nothing is a substitute for consent–not the clothes a person is wearing, not their level of intoxication, not their flirtatious behavior. Women and men walked, in lots of awesome outfits. I saw a woman in a thong, a fringe skirt, and feather-boa pasties, men in kilts, a girl in a full corseted dress with a sun parasol, and a young woman with a scarlet “S” pinned to her shirt. Not to mention the girl dressed as the Hulk with the sign that said “HULK SMASH RAPE CULTURE!” We marched, we chanted slogans like “Hey hey! Ho ho! Sexual assault has got to go!” We got dehydrated and a little bit sunburned and laughed about it. It was lovely.
I was impressed at the turnout, and especially at all the different types of people who showed up. My friends and I were dressed conservatively in comparison, even in our tiny halter tops and baby shorts. A woman in front of us cut up her T-shirt to show more skin, people were wearing lingerie as outfits, and there were midriffs everywhere. And I thought, “Man. This is a beautiful group.” At the same moment as I thought, “Do I look fat in this halter top?”
Here’s what I’m talking about (I’m the one in the middle):
Isn’t that ridiculous? I love curvy women. I think they’re beautiful. I have so many friends who struggle with their weight and with self-perception who really don’t need to. I’m regularly attracted to guys who have a little more to love, if you know what I mean. And I’m a tall, slender woman myself. But I can’t help wondering and worrying about my weight.
For about a month this spring I did the Dukan Diet, which involves a whole lot of protein and then, slowly, some leniency as to what else you can eat (like vegetables. Is it nuts that you can’t have vegetables from the beginning? It may well be). It worked great for about three weeks. I lost some of the alcohol weight I’ve been carrying since last summer when I discovered beer. I didn’t feel tempted to have bagels or cookies in the office. Fantastic, right?
My weak spot came with alcohol. Not only is it such a huge part of our youth culture, I just really enjoy a glass of wine with dinner or out with a group of friends. And I caught myself rationalizing and justifying. I’m really good at this. When I’ve got any kind of cognitive dissonance, like, I want to stick to this diet but I also want a glass of wine! my brain will just keep turning it around until it convinces me how right or at least harmless it is to do what I want. (This doesn’t happen in moral issues or where other people are concerned, let me clarify. For the most part.) My brain used tricky, healthy arguments like how only eating vegetables every other day is ridiculous and everything in moderation is much better than a diet with rules. But diet-with-rules is getting results! the resistant part of me screamed. And diet-with-rules promises to have fewer and fewer rules as time goes on! If for once I can keep from being a quitter I will be tiny FOREVER!
The turning point was the day I got up at 5am to work a 12-hour day. My coworkers brought donuts and cookies to get us through, and I had no willpower to say no. I need that sugar to stay awake! I thought, and Just one won’t do anything! Then they ordered pizza, and I came home to some beer, and basically counted the diet as dead.
To get back to some sort of point: I noticed, while on the diet, how easily the I’ll-be-satisfied-here marker moved. At first it was that I just wanted to hit my normal weight, about ten (or honestly 15) pounds lighter than I was. Then I thought, why stop there? If this promises to stabilize me at a lower weight, why not go for 20 pounds or more? Maybe I’ve always had a 20-pounds-lighter-me hanging out inside my skin, waiting to be set free by a high-protein diet! I momentarily forgot that I’ve been around the same weight even with different levels of exercise for about six years, that I already eat pretty healthily, and that once I could stop thinking of myself as being on a diet I was going to order fries with my burger, damn it. I was seeing a me with a concave stomach and that was all I wanted.
You would think I’d learn that a couple of pounds won’t change your life. Or remember how much my ugly-duckling middle school self just wanted to be decently pretty and not too overweight, both markers I have (if you will permit me some vanity) hit. How at the end of the day the person you get into bed with without fail is you…unless you have a really dedicated significant other.
The really weird thing? I could lecture on self-acceptance and loving your body for pages and pages more. Don’t worry, I won’t. But tomorrow, when I go to work, I’m still going to be checking out my midsection and wondering if I should have that glass of wine or not. I know it’s not something worth fretting over, I know that just as I see my female friends of all sizes as beautiful, they and their hot brothers see me as beautiful. But I honestly don’t think I’ll ever stop noticing and wondering and trying to be just a little bit better.
And I know that there are a lot of people out there who feel the same way.
(Disclaimer: No need to comment positively on my actual appearance. That’s not really the point. But thanks, if you were thinking about it.)