Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What I did last weekend

Now that I've declared a hiatus and don't feel obligated to blog three times a week, I find I have more to say. Funny how that works.

Today I saw prints of the first photos I've had taken in almost four years. Not counting my wedding pictures, of course, and these were just test photos. And I hated them. My tummy seemed huge, my thighs likewise. I looked lumpy and bloated and strange. I sat with tears in my eyes as the photographer and his wife/collaborator (with whom I posed for some shots) praised me and the photographs. I felt shame, disgust, and failure. I was ready to plead illness and help them get everything back down the stairs. It's one thing to prattle on about body acceptance and size celebration, but I learned today that where the rubber meets the road, I still don't like my body.

I don't always have the eyes to see my beauty, or whatever other people see when they look at me that they find attractive and worthy of capturing for their art. When the photographer told me, "Big is beautiful!" I replied, "Yeah, on other people." This led into a conversation about body image and art, and I was told that I am "red-haired, freckled, chubby, shapely, and beautiful -- you're the classical ideal, with your shape." I still felt like not eating ever again and torturing myself at the Y. I love to swim, but I found myself thinking that it might be time to hit the elliptical for, say, three hours a night. I stopped that line of thinking long enough to listen to what the photographer was telling me, and the frantic, crazy thoughts went away.

After all my appointments today (my psychiatrist actually weighed me, so size was on my mind anyway), I met again with the photographer and his wife. We hauled equipment up the stairs and spent four hours making art. I had fun, and enjoyed every bit of it once I calmed down and, as I joked with them, "got my mojo back." Both my collaborators were, I think, making an effort to praise me, which I appreciated very much. Their acceptance freed me to be more creative than I ever have been. I think we got some good photos, and this time, I'm armored against seeing my changed body in the new images.

I wouldn't really wish my sick thyroid back, and my contours have only exaggerated, not entirely transformed; I'm hardly Venus of Willendorf. I have a waist, a big bust, and wide hips. My legs are short and heavily muscled under a moderate layer of adipose tissue. My thighs have texture, and sometimes my tummy does, too.

I spoke with my husband (he's in Florida doing family work) after the photographer left this evening, and told him how I had felt about the first photos. He became quite impassioned, telling me that at no point in history besides our own has skinny been the ideal, and how now the curves that you see in ads are surgically created and digitally manipulated. He reminded me that I am both happier and healthier now than when I could squeeze into size 10 jeans, at my thinnest back in college. He said that if I wanted to give up eating, spend four hours a night at the gym, six days a week, and take $50,000 for touch-up surgery, I could look like a run-of-the-mill Model Mayhem girl, but would still find something about my body to loathe. I know all this, but it did me good to hear him saying it. He said some other things relating to my body, but those remarks are not for public consumption.

I've always been one to worry whether I'm "doing it right." I felt today, when I first saw the prints, that I was doing it wrong, my body was wrong, that I was a fool and a freak to take my clothes off for an artist. Sometimes, I still don't feel that I have permission to consider myself beautiful, that this shape I'm in is lovely and right for me. All I can do is try again tomorrow.

(all images copyrighted)


MLW said...

I think the way you are actually dealing with these thoughts and feelings is very good and healthy. Tough, it does sound painful.
I have always, and still do, think you are beautiful. It's a fact.
I'm proud of you, and I hope I can work on accepting myself the waay you are. It's a long hard road. I'm not even sure I know where my road is yet.

Meryt Bast said...

Thank you, beautiful Marta. I'm glad to know I'm not alone. And I have all the faith in the world in you. xoxoxo

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