Keeping it Real

Okay, I’m pretty sure that Her Royal Flyyness Madame Dr. Tha L covered this topic in her blog,* but I don’t think it can be restated enough. *deep breath* How does one define a “real woman?”

Before your mind starts wrapping itself around existentialism, gender politics, and femininity, let me clarify that I am referring to size. Girth, junk in the trunk, thickness and obesity have long been conversation topics in this fast food world we live in.  Add on top of that, the fact that even our meat and vegetables are pumped so full of growth hormones, or spliced with God knows what, healthy eating has almost become a unicorn: oft spoken of, rarely seen.  Obesity is increasing at an alarming rate, and is directly linked to heart disease and Type II diabetes.  Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States.

Therefore, imagine my dismay when iVillage, an e-zine that specializes in women’s health and interests, sent me an email titled “Are Real Women Really the New Sexy?” The email implored me to “[r]ead one woman’s plea for magazines to stop putting these women on a pedestal as an example of ‘real’ women, and tell us what you think.”  So, I read before I came to any conclusions.  The writer bemoans the fact that the representation of women with curves are the likes of Christina Hendricks (who is a smoking hot chick, by the way), Beyonce and Scarlett Johansson, yet according to the Center for Disease Control the average woman is 5’3 and 164 pounds.  The writer went on to say that actresses are not real women, a statement which may well be another blog post in and of itself.

And you want to know what I think?

Well iVillage, I think you’re irresponsible, and I think your writer bitter, and quite likely a little pudgy.  Had she chosen to the path of due diligence, she would have found the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Adult Body Mass Index Calculator.  According to the calculator, a 5’3 woman that is 164 pounds has a BMI of 29.  The BMI of an obese person?  Thirty.  The average woman is overweight.  The average woman is 5.5 pounds away from obesity.  Two hot wings and a slice of pizza, and your DONE son!  The article upset me, because there are two issues at work.

The first being this:  there should be no awards for us, as a culture, eating ourselves into oblivion.  Obese moms make for obese kids.  It is heartbreaking to witness a child under the age of 8, barely able to catch their breath due to minimal exertion.  It’s criminal, it’s obscene, it’s lazy and it is not loving. You are not only stigmatizing your child socially, but also setting your child up for a world of health issues.  Before you criticize these “un-real” women, be honest and ask yourself if you are TRULY healthy and happy with your weight.  The actress Mo’Nique painted herself into a corner on her “skinny women are evil” platform, then suffered backlash from her sistren in backfat when she chose to put down the pie and pick up a carrot.  “But I’m HEALTHY,” she cried.  So, what were you then?  I distinctly remember you in the movie “Phat Girlz” (don’t you dare judge me *kisses*), railing against the evils of Spring Mix.  Oh, but now it’s okay, because you no longer feel like an outsider?  I understand it’s a coping mechanism, but help other women and admit that.

Second, criticizing women who are not overweight is hypocritical, because you are still projecting a negative body image.  If a woman is starving herself, yes, that is unhealthy and awful, but I feel pretty confident in the assertion that a Salma Hayek is NOT skipping meals (neither are her magical, life sustaining chichis).  Why is she not “real?”  Why is the plus sized supermodel (who is a size 12) not real?  Ashley Stewart, a purveyor of plus sized finery, starts at size 12 if memory serves.  And let’s go smaller.  My mother had four children and was a size four.  She also sewed for all four of us, cooked homemade meals every night, and made a conscious decision to abstain from excessive snacking.  Good luck escaping with your teeth if you attempt to tell me that she was not a real woman.  Some women have smaller frames than others.  Some have metabolisms that function at a higher rate.  None should be penalized for nature.  And there is also nothing wrong with a healthy work out plan.  The concept is simple:  If you take in x, you must burn y.  If you do not burn y, x will get all up in that ass…and thighs…and heart.

The refusal to lose weight (and I say this as an obese woman) is either due to depression, laziness, or in some cases, outright stubbornness (though rarely have I encountered a stubborn “Imma be fat” woman that was not combating her own personal demons).  Stop trying to prove a point.  What baffles me, is how some (not all) of these women who supposedly reject society’s notion of beauty, will spend extraordinary amounts of time and money on every other notion that doesn’t involve weight.  Shoes, cosmetics, hair, nails, clothing are quite often done to excess.  Don’t tell me you don’t care about society’s view on how you look; you wouldn’t spend an hour and a half getting dressed if you didn’t. Let’s get to the core of the matter.

Don’t let stubbornness or discouragement keep us from the road to health and well being.  I know it’s hard.  Weight loss is one of the hardest things I have ever attempted, and I’m a single parent.  I can keep my kids in line; keeping myself in line is a horse of another color.  I am an obese woman who considers myself to be beautiful.  But that beauty has NOTHING to do with how fat or slim I can be.  It is due to my heart, that I desperately want to keep beating for as long as I can.  So I plan to get busy.  I’ve only got one question, and it can best be summed up best by my favorite stoner Brian:

WHO’S COMIN’ WITH ME?

*For the life of me, I can not remember the name or estimated date of the post, please forgive.

But for real…who asked you to do that?

Once a person reaches a certain age, it is not uncommon to look back upon one’s choices and evaluate, “Was that really the right thing?”  It’s essential to your personal evolution.  It is human.  What we recall may cause pleasure, shame, or even an all too familiar, “Ooooh, yeah…I was so young.”  No one gets it all right all the time.  No. Not even you.  There will always be something you could have done better.

Therefore, when I look at my sisters of a certain age, who suddenly bemoan their lives, I get a little tight.  Certainly, there are some who have made deliberate choices that have turned their lives into a total cluster; but still other lives are simply the product of possessing slightly less wisdom than was required of the situation.  Do better today.  That’s what the life cycle is all about.  Even personally, I jokingly (and on bad days, not so jokingly) refer to needing a life revolution, when really, all I need is to make better choices going forward.  But frankly, is growth  what our female quarter/third life revolutions are about?

Hell to.  The naw.  We don’t want to learn from our past wrongs through a consistent stream of good decisions and evolution.  We want Mickey Mouse to show up in that Fantasia get up, wave his wand, and have dancing hippos stomp out that hot mess we’ve created…ballet style.  This is because nobody likes consequences.  Not you.  Not ya mama.  Not ya granny.  We SAY we’re okay with the consequences of our actions, but we’re not really.  And there’s nothing wrong with not liking them.  Show me a person who likes the bad shit, and I’ll show you a person that you need to avoid.  We all appreciate consequences to a point, but once we believe that point has been reached, we’re like, “Uh yeah universe…that’s enough.  Back to my regularly scheduled programming.  NOW!”  I don’t believe in spending the rest of your life playing for human lapses in judgment, but there’s also no off switch.

We spend our 20s living our lives.  That takes on many different meanings – college, motherhood, marriage, at times coming out regarding sexual orientation, the list goes on, because no life is the same.  Since we’re adults with limited knowledge, we are susceptible to a lot of mistakes, and we deal with those mistakes in the best way we can.  We throw ourselves into this, we detach ourselves from that, time marches on.  As we heal from these bumps and bruises, all to often we, either say or hear the dramatic, “And it took my identity. *faint* *swoon* *call for smelling salts*

Stop the madness.  A pleasant life is about balance.  Often, when things become unbalanced, we overcompensate at the opposite end of the spectrum.  That’s OUR bad.  I remember being a new mother and never sending my kids to the sitter outside of work, salon appearances were spotty at best, and I all but gave up shopping.  I had a husband with whom I not only had nothing in common, but we never talked.  Okay, fine.  Upon my divorce, I then went to the opposite extreme: nonstop salon appointments, compulsive shopping, never seeing my kids on the weekends.  I dated men who did nothing BUT talk to me.  I was being ME again.  The me I hadn’t been in YEEEEARS!

Uh.  Duh.  That’s because that me was gone.  Nobody asked me to walk around looking like my own country cousin and never go anywhere.  There were tons of people willing to take my kids off my hands, my stylist would allow me to assist her in the shop in exchange for services, and it was my choice to spend every spare dime on my kids and buying rather than bringing lunch.  At the end, I could have blamed my choices on a bad marriage or being an overwhelmed mother; but in truth, it was my own lack of foresight, and not utilizing my available resources.  The overcompensating backlash was truly unnecessary.  Thankfully, I had good friends and family who gave me a reality check (in the form of a case full of sitcho*).

I am by no means the only woman that has fallen into this, and it is not specific mothers, wives, or even ex-wives.  We buy into our own various forms of hype, without stopping to realize how absolutely ridiculous we’ve become.  To do things, not because they are right or beneficial, but because you think that’s how you should REACT is ridiculous.  So we look to revolution to erase this pattern of ridiculousness as the quick fix.  If my house smells like shit, and it’s because there’s a bunch of horse shit in the living room, precisely what does throwing that out, and loading a bunch of bull shit in the back room accomplish?

On the topic of men, you will never, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER find a man that is 100% different from every man you have dated.  I’m willing to bet that if you get a man who is 25% different, and it is a quality 25%, count it as a win.  Very rarely do the bad choice guys come 100% wrong; if that was the case, unless you are certifiably insane, he wouldn’t have hooked you.  Objectively looking back, you can pinpoint what elements of his personality you knew were going to be problematic, yet ignored.  Don’t ignore them next time.

We tend to look at those past “uses” with rose colored glasses and ignore one crucial truth:  This is the SAME US that got us in this horrible mess.  I don’t want to go back to 21/22 year old Mel.  That chick was dumb as a bag of Yaki.  Most importantly, in that state, I was not fit to effectively care for two children on the precipice of puberty.  There is nothing wrong with the label mother, as long as you view it as a facet of yourself and not your entire reason for breathing.  If you do that, stop it.  Do not, however, use it as an excuse to plunge headlong into the horizon of irresponsibility.  BALANCE.

We never stop learning and roles never stop shifting, so for as long as we breathe, we will periodically have to acclimate to a new station in life.  We won’t always get it right immediately, and once we get it wrong, it can’t immediately be un-wronged.  Time.  Experience.  Patience.  Tweaks.  Not giant overhauls.  TWEAKS.  You’d be surprised to find that you’re working with more raw material than you gave yourself credit for having.

*  “Sitcho” = “IF YOU DON’T SITCHO ASS DOWN!”

“I’m a grown ass man dawg…”

I am hosting a visitor.  A strange creature arrived at my home, and invaded my 11 year old son’s body.  I don’t know much about their culture, but I do know it involves taking 14,000 showers per day and Axe body spray.  Watching him prepare his clothing is like watching a Peanuts’ special:  “Iron For Your Life Charlie Brown!”

He gives me this strange look  when I ask him what little girl has inspired the 24/7 shower motif.  He’s also taken to wearing hats.  He REFUSES to leave the house without his lid.  When did he develop preferences?  When did he develop a personal style?  Who is this little skanky tramp that has him wearing Axe body spray (which I have gone on record as saying smells like booty call and bad intentions)?

I tell myself I’m not gonna be that mom.  But I also thought I had a few years before I had that kid.  he goes to the bathroom a billion times a day, and I shudder to think what’s going on.  We have pretty frank discussions, but we’re now at the point where I will have to broach uncomfortable subjects, and it makes my eye twitch.  It’s not that I still consider him my baby, it’s that it seemed he was my baby YESTERDAY.  Last week he was crawling to the tune of Winnie the Pooh and asking for “milk juice.”  Now he’s got a mustache and gets annoyed when he can’t find his special brush.

Did I sign up for this shit?