I was thinking recently about how we womens first begin to diet and to imbue dieting with happy overtones… how do we first begin to see diets as a way to fix and control our bodies?
For me, it was my mom’s Dexatrim diet pills. They looked like candy. And I thought that’s what grown up girls did to have nice grown up bodies. Sort of like shaving your legs, but with amphetamines. I started using over the counter diet pills at some point in junior high. Did you know they would sell those things to kids who can’t even get a learner’s permit? True story.
At some point in college, the mild, FDA approved speed wasn’t enough oomph for my metabolism, so I had a brief and passionate fling with phen fen before the effers recalled it and then I moved on to Metabolife. I had bruises covering my body from the blood thinners and my heart beat like a jackrabbit, but hey, being skinny ain’t easy ya’ll.
Compounding the message that grown up girls diet and take diet pills to be thin was the message I got from the sage beloved by adolescents everywhere, Judy Blume. If you don’t have a complex about your body or menstrual cycle, her books will certainly advise you that you should have one and what exactly you should be obsessing about.
But why do older women talk about diets so much? Here’s my opinion… if diets are a way for us to “fix” what is wrong with our body, talking about diets is a way for us to tell other women that we acknowledge we are flawed. And there’s a hypothesis out there that women can’t like each other. That we have to compete with each other for men/jobs/resources/love/happiness/shoes/discount wedding dresses/cupcakes. So when we talk about our diet or our attempt to lose 5 pounds or the latest food control band wagon, what we’re really saying is, “I’m not a threat to you. I’m not perfect and I’m trying to fix myself. Here’s the diet I’m doing.”
That’s my opinion anyway. It’s sort of like when dogs approach each other and sniff each others’ butts. A woman telling you about how she needs to lose weight is sniffing your butt and is asking you to sniff hers. Metaphorically. I mean, dog metaphorically.
But she’s really saying, I’m not sure I’m okay. Am I okay? She’s also saying I think I’m not good enough, and before you tell me I’m not good enough, I’m going to tell you I already think that by telling you I’m on a diet, so please don’t say I’m not good enough because I can handle me not thinking I’m not good enough, but I’m not sure I can handle you saying it because if you do, it is for reals. It is concrete. Your opinion is unalterable reality. So please don’t say it. I’m cutting you off at the pass.
It’s like when someone comes over to your messy house and you say, apologetically, “It’s laundry day (or it’s the maid’s week off. I think they used to say that in old movies).” It means, “Don’t judge me, you’re catching me before I have my act together.”
Here’s my question: What if you never lose that last 5 pounds? What if you never fit into a size 6? What if you never reach that elusive, ever changing goal weight? What will your life mean? Will your presence on this earth be a mere accident? Will your existence only be valid if your body is a certain size, shape, weight? May I tentatively suggest that you are no accident, that your life is not meant to start when your body is sufficiently obliterated? May I suggest also that life may happen in the moments when you’re not trying to erase yourself?