What Are You Waiting For?

A girlfriend of mine has been unhappy with her body for … well, for as long as I’ve known her. She is one of the most naturally beautiful women I’ve ever known, and her generous, open, loving personality just serves to amplify the startling physical beauty that shines out from her silky hair, and ladylike hands, and creamy skin, and perfect-pout lips, and dive-into-me eyes.

But she battles her body, and loses.


She adjusts her food intake, and then adjusts it some more. She tries meal schedules and diets and avoidance of certain foods. She counts calories. She exercises twice as much as me and twice as hard. She varies her workout routine, and monitors her heart rate to optimize her efforts.

And she stays the same shape, and she stays unhappy.

I don’t know why she can’t seem to lose weight. It’s truly bizarre that someone who is as focused and dedicated as she should see no progress whatsoever. And while it doesn’t matter a whit to me if she gains weight steadily for the rest of her natural days, it drives her insane with frustration. So it hurts me, too.

My girl constantly compliments me on my taste and style, while simultaneously lamenting her own unsatisfying wardrobe. I’ve offered countless times to shop with her, but she always declines, saying she doesn’t want to invest in new clothes until she’s in a better place with her body. And for a while, I understood that. I’ve been there. I’ve shopped for a transitional body, and been frustrated when I had to cast off newish duds after just a few wearings because they no longer fit. But recently, I began to push harder. And here’s why:

Even if she finally hits on the magic combination of diet and exercise that allows her to smallen, why should she feel uncomfortable, uninspired, and unhappy with her appearance in the meantime? Wouldn’t it be possible to bring in a few key pieces – just a few – to make the rest of her wardrobe more flattering, functional, and fun? And what if she doesn’t change her waist size for another year or more? Will it have been worth it to feel frumpy and grumpy that whole time?

My weight and body configuration have shifted more times than I can recount. Well, more times than I can recount without boring you into a stupor. And the most important lesson I’ve learned from all those body shifts is this: You MUST dress for your today-body. Buying too-small clothes that you plan to fit into “someday” is ill-advised, and seldom the motivator you hope it will be. Wearing crappily-made or ancient or stopgap clothes until you’ve reached a different/better physical place just makes you impatient and uneasy while you’re working toward your goal. Dressing for a body you no longer have or don’t yet have encourages you to live in the past or future, and keeps you from enjoying the present.

If your clothes do not fit the woman you are right now, you should get rid of them and get some different ones.

Note that I did not say “new” ones. I recognize that anyone in the throes of a physical transition won’t want to max out her credit card on items that might get worn a single time. Exploring thrift, vintage, swap, and hand-me-down options for these purposes is a fantastic way to keep yourself looking and feeling great – even in transition – on a budget. Don’t get new, get different.

I believe that part of learning to love yourself is learning to see yourself. And that means seeing yourself as you are right now, not as you hope to be in six months or as you used to be six months ago. And that can be so hard: Facing down the numbers on the scale, or the sizes on a rack of skirts at The Gap, or even just the mirror. The emotional effort it takes to see ourselves in our today-bodies can be tremendously draining, I know.

But there is real benefit to be gleaned from dressing your transitional body well. Looking good now can get you hooked on looking good: It can establish a habitual desire to feel awesome when confronted with a mirror, and can even fuel fitness and body-related goals. Even if your body is changing shape, you are likely to maintain the same basic proportions: The process of learning to dress your transitional body will provide knowledge about your figure that will carry over even if you shift again someday. But more than any of that, dressing in a way that flatters your figure right now will make you feel good RIGHT NOW. And you deserve that.

So what are you waiting for? Why are you dressing for a body you don’t have, and neglecting the beautiful one you’ve already got? Start dressing for your today-body, and worry about your tomorrow body … well, tomorrow.

Image courtesy h.koppdelaney.

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You Are Beautiful

My girl Ez over at the relentlessly gorgeous Creature Comforts introduced me to the super-happy-making You Are Beautiful project last week. And you can just imagine the shrieks of delight that I emitted upon seeing these images! This is JUST the kind of guerrilla activism that I adore and employ myself. What could be better than broadcasting this perfectly positive message via installations, photos, stickers, and art of all kinds? It’s quiet but strong, passive but pervasive, and it allows people to absorb the message at their own pace and in their own way.

Pretend you’re strolling past a battered urban wall, and you suddenly notice it’s been adorned with foot-tall letters telling you how gorgeous you are. Even though the words are visible to any and all passersby, wouldn’t it give you a charge to think about the generous spirit that inspired such a work? And wouldn’t it make you far more likely to check out your own ravishing reflection in the next obliging shiny window, and think, “Well lookit that. I AM!”

Write in to get a FREE pack of You Are Beautiful stickers. You know I’m gonna … and then the population of Minneapolis is gonna get all puffed up from hearing how beautiful it is day in and day out.

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Already Prettypoll: Style as Responsibility FOLLOW UP

Damn, you folks do not disappoint!

A lively, intelligent, and multi-faceted conversation sprung up around today’s poll question: “Do you believe that there is absolutely no excuse for celebrities to look awful in public?” I really appreciate your thoughtful and thought-provoking comments, many of which shed new light on this topic for me.

And here’s what that new light illuminated: I still believe that it is every woman’s responsibility to learn about her tastes, learn about her body shape, and learn how to flatter herself stylishly with clothes that she loves. And I still find GFY to be pretty damn funny nine times out of ten, and believe that celebs should put in more effort, overall, than us normals. But enc‘s comment really jarred something loose for me: GFY is not, actually, helping. Maybe celebs should look good all of the time, but making fun of them when they DON’T doesn’t benefit anyone. It doesn’t help the celebs, and it doesn’t help the women reading about the celebs. In fact, it encourages bodysnarking and rancorous stylistic criticism of all kinds from readers. It may even feed that inexplicable competitive urge to view other women as some sort of stylistic threat to our own beauty, and cast them as quasi-enemies.

So – although it certainly won’t affect their traffic – out of the blogroll GFY shall come. Because, as you’ll see from tomorrow’s post, I really am far more interested in helping than … well, anything else.* And regardless of my opinion that style is the responsibility of those who live in the limelight, I just don’t want to condone cattiness. Period.

Thanks again for a great debate, everyone. You’re a thoughtful, analytical, and fabulously opinionated bunch. I’m honored that you allow me to pick your brains on occasion!

*Except possibly French fries. But that’s a whole ‘nuther topic.

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