About a week ago, I made the unfortunate decision to try on bathing suits at the mall. Let me preface this story with one statement, most days I am pretty ok with me and my parts. Of course, there are things about me that I can’t stand… feet that swell up like sausages from the lightest exertion, knee caps that look fat no matter what I do and cuticles that would shame a monkey. These attributes are something I shrug off as just part of being a person and most of the time I feel good in my skin. That is until I step into a tiny dressing room with horrible lighting that nearly makes me glow albino with my pale Michigan winter skin and try to successfully cover my parts with beach apparel.
The first store actually wasn’t too bad. The selection was minimal and so after trying on 3 suits and being dissatisfied with how they looked, it was easy to brush it off as the store’s problem. As I walked to the next store, I wondered to myself why they had only chosen to stock crappy suits? I was positive the next store would have the perfect suit and I’d be delighted with results. Visions of my transforming into a 5’10” Victoria Secret model, hair blowing in the wind filled my mind. Yep, it was going to be great.
I happily plucked a few carefully chosen swim suits off the rack and made my way to the dressing room. I tried on the first. Hmmm, that’s not right. I frowned as I looked in the mirror. This suit not only didn’t make me grow taller, it somehow made me shorter than I really am. A crack in my mental picture but not completely devastated. On with the next one… only worse. I squinted my eyes and tried to imagine I was tan. How would it look then? Horrible, that’s how. I chanted in my head as I put on the last one. Please, please, please, please look at least ok. I’m done trying to find great. I’ll simply settle for adequate. I turned to see my reflection and I was stunned at just how bad it was. It was so terrible, I couldn’t even figure out what was wrong with it. It theoretically covered all the right parts but somehow it had transformed my body into mashed blobs of ultra white flesh. Reflexively, I made the bitter beer face.
Yes, it was that bad.
I dressed. Defeated. Hanging my head a little, I handed my clothes of shame to the sales clerk. “None of those worked out?” she asked me in her perky 18-year-old voice. “Nooo… they so did not” I replied. I didn’t tell her she should probably set fire to them out of basic human kindness to all the other women out there like I wanted to. Instead I walked as quick as possible out of the store, vowing to never try on another bathing suit as long as I lived.
Walking back through the mall, I felt sad. My mind flashed pictures of my body in the suits and piece by piece I trashed every part of my form until my self-esteem bucket was empty. I felt dejected and depressed. The last thing I felt like doing was waiting for Emma to finish her birthday party at Build A Bear. All I wanted to do was leave this evil place. Forget that I’d ever been subjected to this vile experience. But I was forced to stay and slowly my anger turned from myself to the sadistic people that made these things. Surely they had to be men. No woman would do that to another female, right? Every woman knows what it’s like to be sucker punched by the clothes you try on.
As I thought about that, I started to wonder what it is about us women that makes us degrade ourselves so viciously. When did it begin? Has it been since the creation of the female? Is it just in our chemistry? Is it the hormones coursing through our veins? Were we doomed for this path since the dawn of woman? And then I could picture it… a cave woman standing near a pond. Catching her reflection and bemoaning the way the tanned hide laid on her. Her ankles too bony, her hair a tragic mess. Whatever her thoughts, I’m sure at some point she wished for something to be different.
And there it is… the curse of a lady. Hating what is yours and believing that other’s are better. That’s a tough one to get over. I try. Most days I think I succeed.