Everybody’s a Critic, But You’re the Worst
Recently I tried to think back to a time when I wasn’t engaged in some sort of useless war against myself.
It was difficult to imagine, but I finally had to admit that the last time I remember being without the weight of crippling personal criticism, was in the late 70s, when I was a freewheeling, life-loving wearer of Garanimals separates and Underoos.
It was a simpler time with lots of bad hair, questionable fashion choices and lax parental supervision, but there were also fewer social rules about what you could and couldn’t say about someone’s physical appearance.
So when we had a family friend or relative who would put on a few pounds, there were endless jokes and merciless ribbing until the target got on track and cleared the drugstore shelves of Dexatrim.
There were any number of things in life I could use at that point to get what seemed like a more accurate indication of someone’s character other than what they looked like.
Could they run an obstacle course?
Did they like dogs?
Could they box? If yes, would they be the George Foreman to my Muhammad Ali?
Would they dress up as a member of KISS for Halloween without a hint of irony?
During this golden time, I was also lenient on myself. Almost unaware of how others perceived me and never considering that someone might be judging me. If they were, I was so blissfully ignorant of the fact that it may as well have not been happening at all. My body was a vessel to get me from one fun-filled childhood activity to another, not something for display. I was a kinetic energy machine, pumping out ideas and executing them with focus and laser precision. I was a Titan.
Then prepubescent awkwardness and the awareness of my body in comparison to others hit like a freight train, like it does for everyone. Puberty wasn’t far behind. Suddenly, I hated my hips, my curves, all the things that pulled me out of my careless childhood pursuits and made me declare war on my own body. Too be hypercritical was to be vigilant. I was angry at the jeans that didn’t fit, the button-down blouse that didn’t hang correctly, but most of all I wanted to beat my perfectly normal body into something it was never meant to be: thin.
Brutal exercise regimens, caloric restriction, constant manufactured worry and anxiety that someone around every corner was saying your ass was far too large to parade around in those stretch pants. It was exhausting.
Years passed, priorities shifted and little by little I’ve begun to catch glimpses of that crazy ’70s kid who used to break it down like she was on the Soul Train groove line and just didn’t have any shits to give about other people’s criticisms. She tells me to take it easy and have a little mercy on myself, and others; that our bodies are amazing machines that get shit done and, while some poor woman toils away in the offices of a slick fashion magazine photoshopping flesh off of an already svelte models fashion shoot, we’ll be out here doing our thing and signing our peace accords with ourselves.