Sometimes I grimace. Sometimes I smile. Often I frown, and sometimes I gotAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!! Usually first thing in the morning. So far so good, so normal I guess.
Yesterday I finished reading Portia de Rossi’s memoir: Unbearable Lightness, about her struggle with an eating disorder. I have always loved her character in arrested development, and I think she is a lovely person. I highly, highly recommend it. It is a beautifully written book and painfully honest.
One thing in particular stuck with me. She was once 89 pounds. 40 kgs. Dangerously underweight. And yet, when she looked in the mirror, she saw fat. She saw rolls of fat on her stomach. She wasn’t hallucinating. She could grab it and everything. At first, I thought she was insane. But that stuck with me as I read the next sentences, and my mind started to drift. Hang on, Nina. You do this quite often. You look in the mirror and think you need to lose weight, even though you know you don’t. I don’t diet or anything, I just think I should.
Portia did ballet as a child, and she loved it. The only other eating disorder related book I have read is Gelsey Kirkland’s Dancing on My Grave, which is crazy scary. . Portia does not link ballet with eating disorders, but a lot of people make that connection.
My rational side says that you cannot have an eating disorder and be a ballet dancer. You need to be fit, strong, an athlete. And athletes looks after their bodies.
But I know this is not true. There is a short of Gelsey Kirkland dancing Giselle, and she is absolutely lovely in it. She was smack bang in the middle of her drug use and eating disorder. In her book, she talks about being critically lauded for performances she has no recollection of dancing.
Similarly, Portia de Rossi was surviving at only 300 calories a day (my tomato soup for lunch today has 254 calories) and she still had the energy to follow an extreme workout regime. This is difficult to comprehend for me.
This morning a couple of work colleagues were discussing their diets. They don’t need to lose weight. But they feel they do. Just like I feel. A while ago I thought that if I could not be a ballerina, I could at least look like one. Which I realised a few moments later, was a very stupid idea. But my usual response when I look in the mirror is to frown.
What is up with that? Why do we think we don’t look good enough as we are? Why do we think we need to look thinner? Why in God’s world do I look in the mirror and feel inadequate and unpretty?
I don’t have an eating disorder, my colleagues don’t have it either. But I do have an image disorder.
I am not saying this to fish for compliments. I am just being very unoriginal and repeating something that has been said over, and over, and over again: there is a definite pressure for women to look ‘better’, to feel that they need to look better.
Jean Kilbourne is amazing. I read her book Can’t Buy me Love in school. My English teacher Mr. Snider (best teacher ever) added it to our required reading list for that year. She says everything I want to say in a much more eloquent way:
And she is so, so right.
“Women learn from a very early age that we must spend enourmous amount of time, money striving to achieve this look, and feeling ashamed and guilty when we fail. And failure is inevitable. Because the ideal is based on absolute flawlessness.”
I have to repeat this video over, and over again. And it makes me feel better. And I want to stand up against this. I will try to stop feeling bad about the way I look. I will try to educate myself, and change my attitude to my image. That does not mean I will throw away my make-up and high-heeled shoes. I think it is just as unattainable to look in the mirror first thing in the morning, and feel gorgeous. I mean, when I look in the mirror with no make-up on, the imprint of my pillows, puffy eyes, and swollen sleepy face, the last thing I feel is pretty. (the husband finds me very sexy first thing in the morning. WHO WOULDN’T??). If my self-esteem was based on my first-thing-in-the-morning look, then failure would also be inevitable. But after I wash my face, and put on some eyeliner, I will try my hardest to at least stop thinking about my weight.
This post is not about ballet at all. I have just been thinking about this all day and wanted it to get out of my chest. Now let’s all dance for a little while 😉