How Do Others See Me?
Beauty and Gender
I had the privilege of holding a frank conversation today with two close friends: one male, one female. At one point, we began to discuss the beauty that can be found in a woman’s body, while very little is discerned from that of a man’s.
Without clothing, full-figured women are often perceived as being as beautiful as their thin counterparts. Men, on the other hand, don’t enjoy this luxury. Even buff, muscular males usually aren't described as beautiful when fully nude. This isn’t because men aren’t attractive, but because there is a singular and particular beauty about the female form that males inherently lack. Perhaps this has to do with biology, such as the ability to push forth new life, nurture, and feed offspring, while enduring the demands of home, work, and our fragile femininity.
Female Support and Male Chauvinism
In any case, I made a sarcastic, self-deprecating remark about my own body, and how I cannot see beauty in it because I’m unhappy with my weight. My female friend responded with, “No matter how you perceive yourself, you have a beautiful, flawless face; long, healthy hair; and female curves. Stop beating yourself up.”
Her comment, filled with heartfelt kindness, warmed me through and through. My male friend, however, ruined everything with these words, which cut like daggers: “Yeah, but I’m more of a “body” man than a “face” man. I want a woman with a great body. Her face can be so-so, but I need someone who takes care of herself and wants the rest of the world to know it.”
While my thoughts drifted away, I could hear my female friend turn on him with a venomous response. I only heard their argument as if from afar, however, because his comments cut me to the quick. I instantly wondered if that’s how others see me, as not taking care of myself because I’m overweight. Do I look slovenly? Do I look like I don’t care about my body? And if so, is there any touch of truth in these perceptions?
Have I Let Myself Go?
That last question, of course, got me thinking even more. It’s absolutely possible I’ve let myself go, perhaps not deliberately, but certainly knowingly. I don’t recall the exact point at which it happened, but, sometime during my marriage, I stopped caring about how I looked. This wasn’t because I wanted to be ugly, but because I felt that it just didn’t really matter to anyone what I looked like. My marriage fell apart after a mere six months, and knowledge of that failure filled me with so much anger and despair that I forgot to take care of myself. Knowing I had failed as a wife made me feel I had failed myself, so I gave up. I remember going for days without taking a shower, sometimes waiting until late afternoon just to change out of my pajamas. Just thinking those days makes me shudder.
The Heart of the Matter
Since that time, I’ve put on a lot of weight and am now about 65 pounds heavier than I should be. It’s hard to admit this, but ignoring it won’t make it go away. I’m pleased to tell you, though, I’ve gotten much better now that I’m divorced. I dress with care, shower regularly, and fix my hair and makeup. I no longer have that feeling of anguish, and its absence is nothing short of sheer joy.
So, why can’t I lose weight? The short answer is that I don’t try hard enough, but there is probably a much more profound response that explains what’s at the heart of this problem. I hope to find that answer soon myself, not just to benefit my physical appearance, but to make me a better and more complete person.