It would be an exaggeration to say my mother and I nearly came to blows over dinner tonight, but we definitely exchanged harsh words. At the end of the meal, I said that I was still hungry and that we hadn’t eaten nearly enough. She balked. Now, we’re not “counting calories,” but I do find looking at the calories can be something of a reality check. So far today, we’ve had yoghurt with berries, an omelette with some peppers and a green salad with some crabmeat. At one fifty for the yoghurt, another one fifty for the eggs and eighty for the crabmeat, I’d be surprised if we topped eight hundred calories today. She nearly went ballistic when I helped myself to half a matzoh and a handful of nuts. I had to remind her that she asked me to help her, not the other way around. I told her that this is exactly her problem. She’s been bellyaching all day about how she hasn’t lost any weight yet, although we’ve only been on the damn diet for a week. I explained that what she does is deprive herself and then binge. I find myself saying stupid motivational things like, “This is a marathon, not a sprint.” We went to the gym earlier today and I increased the weight I’ve been using. I don’t think three balanced meals is excessive.
I’ve made references several times to my “beauty strike” which I gave up last fall but had lasted a couple of years. People in general, but especially women get really fucked up notions about their bodies, food, weight, beauty. I find that every so often I literally have to deprogram myself. These things start seeping into your mind whether you want them to or not. While I know that I am no longer what people would call “thin” I also know that what I see when I look in the mirror is not realistic. More accurately, I should say that what I think a normal, healthy person looks like is not realistic.
My mother, who considers herself a feminist, is and has always been obsessed with other women’s appearances. She would say constantly when I was growing up, “You look so much better with make-up on.” Despite being a die-hard feminist myself, I wore make-up every day of my life from the age of thirteen until about three or four years ago, with the exception of the years I was in college. I started shaving my legs at ten. I went on a diet for the first time at eleven or twelve. I’ve been working really hard for the past few years to divorce my self-esteem from my appearance, above all my weight. Intellectually, I know this is bad, but it’s so deeply embedded in my subconscious.
The other day, we were standing in the grocery store aisle. She took out one of those celebrity rags. It had pictures of movie stars in their bathing suits on the cover. She quickly thumbed to the article. “Look at that! Oh, my! Who’s that? She looks awful.” And so on. A long monologue critiquing other women’s bodies. Even if she didn’t say anything about me directly, I would still get the message.
All my mother wants to talk about is how other women look. Barbara, a woman with whom my mother used to work, has “legs like a racehorse,” the sort of legs my mother tells me she wishes she had. I have better legs than she does and my sister had better legs than either of us. I don’t, as she observed earlier today, have a “fat back.” Her former boss has a flat ass. “That’s terrible. I hate flat asses.” “Did you see the really fat women at the gym?”
Anyway, I just needed to look at this in a conscious fashion because if I don’t it is more likely to seep into my subconscious and simply start making me feel bad about myself. Actually, I should say worse. I’ve never felt good about myself. I’ve always felt ugly and since the only value I feel I have is in my appearance… ech, well it all just goes around in a circle. I’ve come to realize I’ll never be happy. Every day of my life is misery. I’m just garbage taking up space. I wish no one would look at me. I just want to go in my room and hide.
Damn. I hoped writing about this would make me feel better. It seems to have made me feel worse.
In some of my memories, I’ve mentioned a friend I call “Luscious.” When we first met, I was like my mother. I didn’t even realize it, but I also often critiqued women’s bodies. She would point it out to me and sometimes she’d get mad. She really broke me of the habit of judging other women by their appearances. Unfortunately, it never had a rebound effect on myself. I’ve tried to talk to therapsists about this, but they’re just not interested.
Here, honey, try a little rouge and get some color in your cheeks. God, I’m glad I don’t have to put up with that!
I just read yesterday that during an earthquake, Dolly Parton wouldn’t leave her room until she put on her makeup, and that she often sleeps with her makeup on so that she can get an early start. It’s still hard for me to imagine.
I liked the computer. Maybe I’ll get brave on my next one and do it myself.