Surly Girlie

Writing to figure things out and just because she likes it

lesson #17: what i learned from spandex ala whitney houston circa 1988 and from my two-year-old niece

Sweet Hayden.

The other day, I was lying next to Hayden on the Hogan family bed watching Shrek, when she quietly said to me, “I like your body.”

I was a little taken aback by this, but Hayden, you were always a snuggle-bug and I guess I probably felt soft or smooth or something like that—I mean I do moisturize religiously! I responded by saying, “Did you just say you liked my body?”

And Hayden said, “Yes” and so I said, “I like your body, too.”

And she said, “I like my body, too.”

This is probably one of the few positive conversations I have ever had about my body! Seriously! And it was initiated by a two-year old.

A couple of times in my life, I have managed to have what most would call a “good” body. It was not easy, and to be truthful, took every shred of my self-discipline and energy, which is why I have a “normal” body now (meaning fluffy and soft and healthy-enough).

One of those times was when I was in college. I had suffered through a torturous summer of Weight Watchers, aerobics, and broccoli and had finally managed to sweat away enough poundage to feel like I really belonged at the Alpha Chi house. I was curvy in the right way and only twenty years old. I felt like a legit hottie.

The bad news is two-fold. First of all, being skinny or feeling “hot” only brought me a shallow happiness. Oh sure, I loved buying and wearing that gray and white striped spandex mini with matching top and boat neck that somehow reminded me of Whitney Houston. I wore gigantic hoop earrings with it and an acid-washed bolero jean jacket.


I was something.

Whitney Houston from "I Wanna' Dance with Somebody"

And I loved wearing it to an A E Pi frat party that night and acting like a divalicious thing on the dance floor. It was a lot fun to be so taken with, well with my new, thin self.

HOWEVER, being skinny or hot does not make one good or better than or virtuous or (and this is the big one) happy! So many times in my life, I was brainwashed enough to think that if I could just get the right hair, face, body, skin color, I would achieve some sort of permanently happy frame of mind. That is not how it works. In fact, sometimes when I would lose weight (especially when it was from a crash diet and not exercise), I would feel sad, disappointed that no one really felt any differently about me and that I didn’t feel any differently about myself.

That particular year, I think it was my junior year of college, I was soooooo infatuated with my hotness that I purchased too many new outfits and overdrew my bank account. All of the birthday money I got for my twenty-first birthday went to overdraft charges. I gained all of the weight back because no matter how hard I tried, I wanted to have fun! Which should be a good thing. So, I drank keg beer and ate pizza and finally decided to be divalicious anyway.

As a wise friend of mine, Chante, always proclaimed, “Happiness is an inside job.” I am sort of old now, and still struggle with my “outside parts,”  but as Hayden reminded me, we should like our bodies. They serve us. They make us go and we should take care of them, no matter what size they are.

Sure. There are still those disappointing moments when I wish I had the body that I think I should, but there is no virtue in thinness. There is only virtue in acceptance and health, trying to take care and exercise and feed yourself good food because you like your body because it is good to you, and there for you, and clothes are mostly made for women built like twelve-year-old boys (and there is nothing wrong with that either).

So, please be good to your bodies and if you are currently a hottie du jour, be modest enough to not let it go to your head.  Or, as my very thin Grammy was wont to say, “Skinny girls aren’t pretty girls.”

But I think what she meant was: “You’re pretty just how you are.”

And that is what I mean to say, too.

To this day, I cannot eat broccoli.


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