MIM wrote a post recently that I've been thinking about all weekend. (This isn't the first time, her posts often stay with me.) She and her fellow students in her psychopathology class were discussing a journal article on bulimia and were speculating on why most of the subjects were married women. MIM says she stunned her peers by saying this:
When you’re single, you want to be in good shape not just for yourself, but so that you can feel confident about how you look and feel like you can attract a partner. When you’re married – and especially after having kids – you’re conscious about your weight, which may motivate you to watch what you eat and exercise, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll develop an eating disorder. I am conscious of my weight, so I don’t snack, and I exercise. Personally, I think it would be unfair to Husband if I gained a bunch of weight and did nothing about it.”
The gist of her post is that it's "false advertising" to present yourself one way (as fit, trim etc.) pre-marriage and then change (by gaining weight, letting yourself go) post-marriage.
If I were in her class, you could probably count me among her stunned peers. Stunned because I guess I never put that much time and energy into trying to "catch a man," as it were. Sure we all want to look our best and we feel better about ourselves when we do. Completely agree with the fit=healthy point that MIM is making. However, I just always kinda felt that I'd meet someone eventually, and that person would love me for me (...and my sass and intellect, of course. *tiny eye roll*.)
Physical attraction may be what initially draws us to the person, but we go into long-term relationships or marriage expecting our partners to change, right? So the rest of picture had better be complete. I mean, some of us will gain weight, some of us will go gray prematurely or lose our hair, some of us will have wrinkles, some of us will be stooped, some of us may end up walking with a cane.
We're all not going to be the people we were when we got married. Is that false advertising or just life? We should love the person we chose to be with for all of their wonderful complexities and multi-factedness. Otherwise, I'm sure Donald Trump will be available as soon as Melania loses her shine.
One could also change by cutting her/his hair. MIM explains:
I had plenty of friends who had grown their hair long while single, only to cut it all off in favor of a “practical style” soon after the nuptials. I always thought this a bit unfair – sort of like false advertising. These women used their long hair to attract their husbands, but once the deal was sealed, they’d cut it all off.
I have to poke fun a little bit and say that I think it's hilarious that there are women who use their hair to attract men. (Behold! The hair!) I know there are women out there who are really attached to their long hair, as if it is the ultimate symbol of their sexyness and feminity. (I call this the "Jane Seymour Syndrome.") Short-haired women are all softball-playing lesbians, right?
The fact that there are people out there who dictate the way their wife's/partner's hair should look just boggles me. Oh, I know these asshole control freaks are out there, and I thank the universe everyday that I am not married to one of them. I mean, are there really are men (or women) out there who would be deeply disappointed—just crushed and devastated—if their long-haired partner suddenly cut her hair short? And the women put up with that bullshit? To me, the issue runs far deeper than "false advertising."
I agree with MIM and the commenters who said that people should be healthy, and when you are fit you feel better, look better and all that. But at the same time, I feel for the people who don't like the way they look and/or who have partners that are contributing to the problem. As someone whose weight has been up and down since college, I made a conscious effort to pick a partner who would love me and support me no matter what.
Right now, post baby number two, and in a space in my life where I haven't worked out regularly in three years, I'm feeling a little down on myself, too. For me, it's all about exercise. When I can do it at my former frequency (at least 4x/week), the weight melts off. When I can't, it sticks like glue. but through it all, fit or fat, there's my husband J.
J. who never, in the almost 12 years that we've been married, has said, "Honey, are you depressed?" or "Yeah, your ass does look big in those pants." or "Maybe you should work out."
Yesterday, while we were chatting on the couch, J. leaned over, gave me a hug, and said, "You're beautiful."
My first reaction was to say, "No..." and everything that goes with that. (You know, you've said it.) He cut me off and said a bunch of other mushy, lovey stuff.
So what I want to say is this: maybe it's not just about false advertising. Maybe it's about having (and choosing for a life partner) a quality product to begin with. And, that's what I'm going to tell my girls.