Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Everything We Needed to Know, We Forgot After Kindergarten

I’m sad to say that I suffer from high self-esteem. On a typical day, I think of myself as pretty damn cool. I’m a good friend, a great cook, and I look cute in a miniskirt and sneakers. It’s devastatingly hard to be awesome.

Right now, I’m picturing my comments section. “It’s easy for you to like yourself, you’re young/a size 2/barely weigh triple digits. Life so much harder for me!” Thanks. Not only do statements like that render my more excruciatingly painful life experiences irrelevant, they reduce me to a body and an age. Life isn’t easy, no matter who you are or what you look like. And, yes, the deck is stacked in favor of some people and against others. Learn to deal and get on with living. It won’t be easy in the short term, but in the long term, you’ll be a lot happier.

Most of all, it really and truly drives me nuts when women tear each other apart. Didn’t we all learn in kindergarten that it’s possible to feel good about yourself without knocking someone else down? At what point did we lose track of that lesson?

A few months ago, I was at a bar in Silver Spring. I had been chatting with two random women in the ladies’ room, and we’d had a blast comparing our cute shoes. Out of nowhere, one of them called me a “skinny little bitch.” Suddenly, I’d gone from one of the girls to an object of derision. I was knocked speechless, which is a rarity for me. Both of them kicked me around a little more, and went on their way. I'm sure they thought they were being harmlessly funny.

I returned to the bar in a petulant frame of mind. When I mentioned the incident to my tablemates, one of the women said, “They weren’t mad at you, they were mad at society.” So, not only am I a skinny little bitch, I represent all that’s wrong with society! This sort of thing is why I mostly tend to hang out with men. It’s only in the last few years that I’ve had more than a couple of girlfriends.

I’m not telling this story to make anyone feel sorry for me. Like just about every woman, I’ve had weird relationships with my body and my appearance. I thought I needed pricy lingerie and perfect hair to be lovable. I went the total opposite direction, as well, and for a year almost exclusively wore ratty sweaters and jeans. Now I fall somewhere in the middle. I like to look good, but refuse to suffer or spend a lot of money to do so.

I’ve seen women rip into each other over more than just bodies. There’s the stay-at-home versus working mom debate. There’s the married vs. single divide, the tomboy vs. princess, and so on and so forth ad nauseam. It’s ridiculous and exhausting. Is this what the original feminists had in mind? Empowerment via nitpicking?

I think it comes down to owning yourself. Own your choices, own your body, own your appearance, own the mishmash of assets and flaws that make you human. Don’t look outside yourself for things to feel good about, and, for the love of all that is sane, don’t pick on somebody else just to feel better. It’s a cheap rush and will leave you feeling empty. From here on out, the next woman who calls me a “skinny little bitch” or rips me up for no reason is going to get an earful. Can we all get on with living, please?


Hey Pretty said...

I think that a lot of it is motivated by insecurities. I have a long and complicated history with my own body, to long to go into on blogger. Now at 30, I'm just now learning to embrace my curviness. While I envy your size 2-ness, I remember the time I was your size and how miserable I made myself maintaining it. Moreover, I have many girlfiends who would kill for my D-cup and tiny waistline. Really, it's all a matter of self acceptance and adjusting ones expectations.

Shannon said...

I also think it's a matter of eyes on your own papers, so to speak. I don't really care that the Boob Fairy was a little less generous with me than she was with my friends.

I never get why women play the comparison game. You know that one, "I hate my thighs!" "Yeah, well, I'll see your thighs and raise you flabby arms!" I can't tell you how many times girls have tried to suck me into that game. And then I'm some sort of stuck-up jerk because I don't play along. Yuck.

Consul-At-Arms said...

Where you went wrong was drinking in Silver Spring.

Shannon said...

Good lesson, there. This was a bad night all around. I was there on a date. The guy ignored me the entire evening, so I put on my coat and went home.