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Love Isn’t Complicated

Last night I saw It’s Complicated. Just catching up with the rest of America, I guess. The movie made me laugh so hard I was stomping on the floor, but it also struck a chord.

There’s a scene in movie when Meryl Streep, [spoiler alert!] after making love to Alec Baldwin’s character, stands up, drops her robe and exposes her body. Alec’s character had already seen it all, but she still tells him to avert his eyes because she’s scared. The last time he saw her naked and standing she was in her 40s. It’s a beautiful moment. She drops the robe all raw and worried-looking and self-conscious, and yet when he looks at her, naked and over 50, his eyes glow. You could see all over his face how much he loved her. He didn’t see someone in her 50s, with the reality of post-kids, post-life changes. He saw something truly beautiful and sexy.

One of the reasons I do this natural as possible thing is to prolong life, of course and stay healthy and strong, but I would be lying if I said it has nothing to do with staying in my favorite pants. I’ve struggled with body image and weight issues for as long as I can remember. I’ve blogged about how I was always the skinny one growing up until developing at 12.

I can clearly remember one of my more outspoken sixth grade classmates telling me to go get a bra — because I certainly needed it. I stayed thin and chesty until I was 17 waitressing in a diner. Cheese-covered French fries, hot-from-the-stove rice pudding, bread, sandwiches, shakes added up. I gained 40 pounds. A few years later I lost those pounds by very, very unhealthy measures. I struggled with an eating disorder in my early 20s. A super-skinny 5′ 8″ and 123 pounds. (Trust me, I have a larger frame, so that was super-tiny.) Even after I lost all that weight, I hated my body so much I barely let my husband look at me much less touch me. My stomach, of course, was off-limits. So was watching me get out of the shower or even getting dressed. Lots of rules.

My first pregnancy and loads and loads of therapy completely cured me of any disordered eating. As soon as I saw my daughter’s face I knew I could never do anything that could result in her having her grow up without a mother. I also knew she was genetically behind the eight ball, so I needed to do everything I could to help her grow up free of any body image issues. But even though my girls took care of the crazy eating part of things, the rules still remain to some extent. Even today as I tell my daughter how much I love the big, strong legs we share (and I actually do!), I still don’t let my husband see me naked very much. I am afraid he will see the less-than-perfect body left after two pregnancies and be grossed out. But while I was watching that movie, I recognized something. That look Alec Baldwin’s character gives his naked ex-wife? That’s the look my husband gives me all the time. And it hit me at that moment that I am so lucky. He really doesn’t see the small poof I have at my waist or the stretch marks on my inner thighs. All he sees is the woman he loves. And I guess that means that I have to love her, too.

As women our journey is a tough one. Most movies celebrate the super-skinny, and make a more natural-looking woman the butt of the joke. But just because Hollywood gets it wrong most of the time doesn’t mean we have to listen. Unless it’s the one time lately when they’ve gotten it right. Thanks, Meryl and Alec for opening my eyes to what was there all along.

What’s your biggest body image struggle? Do the movies and media affect you for better or for worse? I’d like to hear about it.

8 Responses to “Love Isn’t Complicated”

  1. Polly says:

    I really related to this post. As I’m aging, I trying to be more appreciative of my own body — it’s bumps, and scars and lines. I’m trying to focus more on what this body has been able to do, despite some health struggles. And in that I find myself being more grateful for all that it is…instead of what it is not. It’s a process though. I definitely am sensitive to my aging appearance and post-baby weight and all of it.

  2. sheri says:

    I would bet he also sees the beautiful woman who sacrificed her own body shape to bring your children into this world. That has to be make the changes to your body a tribute to the miracles you created.

    I too have always struggled with body image, even now at 5’6″ and 110 pounds I struggle. I do it with control, I certainly don’t starve myself like I did when I was younger, but it is always there whenever I look into the mirror. I don’t know if it will ever go away but I know now a lot of the time I can laugh at the voice and move on with life. I often wish that I could give myself a break and be happy with who I am and the body I have. Maybe that will happen in my 40’s! 🙂

  3. I found your blog through Dara Chadwick’s “You’d Be So Pretty If…” blog and thought I’d make the same comment here that I made there. I’ve struggled with the same thing: wondering how my husband either doesn’t see or doesn’t care, or even better, loves those things about my body that I seem to hate (but am getting better at loving). And then there’s advice a wise friend once gave me: don’t point out your flaws to your man unless you WANT him to notice.

  4. It’s amazing, isn’t it, that we can still frown at our images in the mirror (particularly our post-baby images!), even as our partners are practically salivating at the very same sight! Why, oh, why — I frequently wonder — can’t I see what my husband sees?! I never struggled that much with body image as a younger woman; what I struggle with now is this body that created and birthed babies, tummy pooch, C-section scar and all. Good post, Karen.

  5. kb says:

    Denise, from one woman to another: You are gorgeous! Good for you that you didn’t have body image issues, BTW! I am impressed.

  6. kb says:

    Thanks for coming over and reading. I appreciate it. Love your friend’s advice. She’s right, of course. Men (sorry for the generalization, men) really don’t see all the little flaws. They just want sex. LOL.

  7. Shari G says:

    Great post. I too struggle with body image but after my daughter turned one and became a chatting, walking, tape recording of my life, I made an executive decision to STOP. I stopped saying negative things about my body, my clothes, how I look, etc. OK I still have a long way to go because I still THINK the negative thoughts, but it’s a start. I know I am making progress because now when I hear friends saying those same things about themselves that I used to say, it makes me glad I stopped saying them.

  8. Hi Karen! Thanks so much for sharing this post. Haven’t seen a pic of you but I imagine your arms, hair and brain ARE gorge.
    I’ll be back to visit soon! and Hope to see you on http://www.perfectlydisheveled.com again too.

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