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.