I have been reading the book Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton the past few days. This is my writer. I feel a kinship with her, and I feel that she writes just for me. Of course she doesn’t just write for me, but the fact that so many women can relate to the words she puts on paper shows that she is one of us. She is unveiled. When I found out months ago her new book was coming out I pre-ordered it. I wrote it on my calendar. And when it came in the mail, I sighed with joy as I ripped open the package. Glennon writes about God, her fierce love for her Sister, the death and rebuilding of her marriage, and how becoming a Mother saved her from her addictions. There is so many parts of this book Love Warrior that touched me, but one part stood out so much the other day that my heart felt like it would leap out of my chest.
She writes “Ten is when I noticed that I was chubbier, frizzier, oilier than the other girls. I became self-conscious. My body started to feel like a separate, strange entity, and I thought it odd that people would examine and judge me based on what they saw, something that didn’t have much to do with who I was. I just didn’t feel like my body was at all a decent representation of me, but it was all I had to send out to the world. So I did what I had to do. I went into the world. But being human always felt like too private an experience to share with other people. In public I felt naked, exposed, utterly vulnerable. And so I started hating my body. Not just the shape of it, although there was that. I hated having a body at all. My body made it impossible for me to succeed at being a girl. The universe had presented me with some very obvious rules for females: Be small and quiet and wispy and stoic and light and smooth and don’t fart or sweat or bleed or bloat or tire or hunger or yearn. But the universe had also already issued me this lumpy, loud, smelly, hungry, longing body–making it impossible to follow the rules. Being human in a world with no tolerance for humanity felt like a setup, a game I couldn’t win. But instead of understanding that there might be something wrong with the world, I decided there was something wrong with me. I made a hypothesis about myself: I am damaged and broken. I should be shiny and happy and perfect and since I’m not, I should never expose myself. I should just find a safe hiding place.”
Glennon Doyle Melton, Love Warrior
This society we live in tries to tell us what a woman really is and how she should behave. She should be quiet, pleasant, and smiling. She should please others. A woman with to many opinions is often called a Bitch. A man with to many opinions is called a Leader. You just have to look at the two presidential candidates to see this double standard.
I have a lot of opinions and a lot to say. I’ve been this way since I was a little girl, just ask my Mother. But no girl wants to be seen as a pushy bitch, so I tried to be pleasant. I tried to be smaller (personality and body), more tolerant, and smile more. Apparently I don’t smile enough. I’ve been told by numerous strangers that have come up to me and say “smile” as if they are commanding me to do so. When they would say this my outwardly self would obey and smile while my inwardly self would be telling them to go to hell. Still, I stayed silent. Because no one likes a “bitch” that speaks her mind.
I had some food issues and body issues when I was younger. The day it hit me full force that I was fat was when at a doctor visit, the scale said 100 pounds. My mind panicked and I was in full force anxiety mode, although I hid it well from my Mother and the doctor. I couldn’t believe how huge I was… 100 pounds! Disgusting. And when we went home my cousins were over to go swimming in our pool. They asked me why I didn’t want to swim, and I made up an excuse. There was no way I was going to put a swimsuit on my 100 pound body when I looked like a whale I thought. I was 12 years old and already I knew the truth… I was fat. I was different than other girls. They were all bright and shiny and I was quiet and gross. I battled an eating disorder when I was a teenager and the pictures of the wispy models I would see in magazines would always entice me. I would watch a movie on cable about a girl who battled anorexia and everyone in the movie was worried with how small she looked. I saw the movie as motivation and looked at the bones showing on her body enviously. Bones are beautiful I thought.
Today I got home and was starving. I sat at the table eating bowl after bowl of cereal. The thought entered my mind, “I’m glad Bruce isn’t here to see me.” I caught myself and wondered why I had thought that. Why is a woman being hungry a bad thing? No one would scoff at a man eating quickly. Why is it not feminine to hunger? At 37 years of age I still subscribe to society’s version of femininity. Of the ideas of what a women should or should not do. I’ve always looked at certain women with envy, usually those were the wispy types, the boney types, and thought they were to be highly praised. Sometimes in my mind when I would compare myself to them, I was 12 years old again and knowing that I was fat and gross. Then I would shake off the lie and remind myself I am not the vulnerable teenager anymore, I am a grown woman and a Mother.
How can I tell my daughter she is beautiful, that it is what is on the inside that counts… if somedays I don’t believe it myself? I tell her that health is what matters, and that being strong is beautiful. When I look at photos of women and admire that their collar bones and shoulder blades stick out, I think of my daughter. I don’t want her to think bones are beautiful. Yesterday my daughter and I sat on my bed and talked. I told her that she is so much like me, and often that scares me. I want her to be better than me. I told her that I didn’t want her to have fear in life, that when I was younger fear paralyzed me. I didn’t tell her about my past issues with food, my weight, and my love of bones. I will tell her if she asks someday, but I won’t bring unnecessary attention to it.
When I had a daughter 10 years ago I was thrilled and afraid. How could I raise a daughter to embrace her womanhood, her imperfections, her body when I still struggled with it? Well, I am learning how to every day. I need to practice what I preach when I look into the mirror and agonize over every blemish, every wrinkle, every strand of gray hair, every patch of cellulite, every stretch mark from my babies. My husband notices my struggle and tells me I need to be kinder to myself. Last night Bruce said “man you are beautiful” as I walked across the bedroom. I asked him why he always says that to me. He told me he says it because he thinks I’m beautiful. Such a simple answer with no hidden agendas.
Starting today if my husband compliments me, I’m going to practice saying thank you. Just thank you. No excuses, no rebuffs, no questioning why on earth he would think that. And when I feel hungry, I am going to eat with no shame. I’m not going to apologize anymore for being human. I’m going to model for my daughter and my sons what a real, human woman looks and acts like.
And I really and truly feel bad for the next stranger in a store that tells me to smile. The days of my inward self silencing my outward self are over.
With love and encouragement,