As I told you yesterday, I’m reading Shonda Rhimes’ memoir, “Year of Yes,” in which she chronicles her year of doing all the things that scare her; the things she used to automatically say “No” to. I like it so far; it’s a good, quick read that leaves you feeling like Stuff is actually Possible.
I was struck by one passage where she describes talking to her hairdresser about her childhood obsession with making her hair look like Whitney Houston’s:
“I spent an hour every single morning of all four years of high school trying to get my hair to look exactly like Whitney Houston’s. Hours and hours of my life given over to a hot curling iron and a bottle of hair spray and burned fingertips. To me, Whitney’s hair was the definition of flawless…
…I casually mentioned to my hairdresser how much I’d loved [Whitney’s] hairstyle in high school and then spun my story of my morning Whitney ritual…My hairdresser was still wiping the tears of laughter from her face when she said it.
‘Girl’ – she shook her head – ‘you know that was a wig she had on, right?’
I did not hear another word she said. I was lost, thinking of the hours of wasted time and the gallons of wasted hair spray. I relived the inevitable misery, the feeling of failure and insecurity that came every morning when my hair wouldn’t do what I was trying to bully it into doing.
And if I had known…if I had just been told…no matter how hard I worked, my hair was NEVER going to look like that…
If I had only known that not even Whitney’s hair could look like that…”
Who here hasn’t found themselves in a similar situation? I remember doing a home fitness program that promised you’d lose inches and pounds in just thirty days. I followed it religiously. I followed the nutrition program to a T. I wanted a cupcake SO BAD. But I stayed strong and I did the workouts and I truly believed that my body would change. Mr. E took my “before” pictures and even my measurements, using the little measuring tape that came in the package; wrapping it around my arms, legs, waist, hips, bust. I willed it to work.
Day 30 came, and I stood there as Mr. E took my measurements again. They hadn’t budged. Not one bit. By the time he’d finished with my bust, waist, and arms, and started to wind that blasted tape around my thighs, I suddenly collapsed into tears.
“It’s not working. It’s not working. It’s not working.” That was all I could say. Increased strength, energy level, healthy insides be damned – as far as I was concerned, I was fat fatty fat fat and that was all that mattered. I didn’t look like the people on the DVDs and I was a complete and utter failure. All in the blink of an eye, in the time it took for the measuring tape to fall from Mr. E’s hands as he rose to envelop me in a comforting embrace.
What I didn’t know then was that the people on the workout DVDs were most likely life-long athletes, or at the very least were blessed with the right genetic combinations to make them ideal for this fitness program. They had most likely starved themselves in the weeks prior to the shoot; they probably took supplements to get “shredded” and had an entire team of make-up, wardrobe, and lighting specialists to make them look…
But I thought that all I had to do was move my body in a certain way and put specific things on my plate and all the fat would melt off and I would be Perfect too.
But what the heck is Perfect, anyway?
If I move my body every day and fuel it with good, wholesome food (and the occasional burrito) and get plenty of sleep and release my stress properly and STILL have size 16 dresses hanging in my closet and dimples all over my thighs, does that make me a failure?
I certainly hope not. But you wouldn’t know that looking at most of the covers of magazines or most of the people on luxuriously red carpets or most of the faces that swish by on your Facebook feed. The thin people with the gorgeous hair and flawless skin and pristinely aligned teeth. The people who (reminder) only look like that because professional magicians have made it so.
We’ve been commanded to aspire to look like people that don’t even really look like themselves.
Which takes us back to me several years ago, crumbled in my husband’s arms because I did everything Right and still could not achieve Perfection.
Well, screw perfection.
I am thirty-four years old. I have wrinkles and sun spots on my face. I have wide hips that have been known to accidentally check my husband into the next room if we bump into each other suddenly. My thighs make a ridiculously loud clapping sound if I dance too vigorously in the nude (which I do, thankyouverymuch). My bottom front teeth are crooked, despite years of retainers and braces. My boobs have never been, and will never be, perky. I have a permanent indentation in my midsection from years of wearing jeans that were too tight – it’s like when you tie a rope around a tree and it continues to grow around it.
I am far from Perfect.
So I am free.