Re-up: The social implications of a cookie.

“Training the world” — my essay about little girls and body image — has kind of gone slow-mo viral since I posted it last month, first getting decent attention here, then getting picked up by xoJane, then suddenly getting *huge* attention here, then getting picked up by the Huffington Post, and then, just today, getting picked up by HuffPost Canada. I’m so pleased, because if ever there was a post that I would want to go viral, that’s the one — I believe that we do real damage to our girls when we fail to address the ways in which our social norms and mores encourage them to loathe and distrust the only body they will ever have, and we need to talk about that.

But I genuinely believe that we are doing no less damage to ourselves. And so, I decided to re-up the following (first posted this past summer). I think anyone who found this blog because of “Training the world” will find it of interest, too. Thank you so much for being here!

___________

chocolate chip cookieJust once, when I happen to be in a group of women, I’d like to have a cookie without having to consider the social implications of having a cookie.

This happened to me recently — I was at a little teacher-organized gathering of kids and parents, having a brief conversation with a small handful of women. One turned to the rest of us and said “I want a cookie. Does anyone else want a cookie?” and as one, the rest of us smiled and said no. The cookie-fetcher then said “Well, now I feel bad, I’ll be the only one taking a cookie!” and came back with an apple.

Now, I am a fan of apples and have nothing against them. Apples are a fine thing. And sometimes I genuinely do not want a cookie.

But I have no idea if I wanted a cookie in that moment or not. I just know that when I’m in a gathering of women (particularly if I don’t know them very well), I almost never reach for sweets. I am a woman of Joan-esque proportions, minus all the foundation garments, and I know that I live in a society that has a lot of opinions about women of my size and the consumption of baked goods.

I do not talk about it, will not bond (as so many of us are trained to do) over self-hatred, will not discuss anyone’s weight, exercise program, dress size, or shape (unless it’s to be conspicuously comfortable with the fact that I am large-bosomed). I know that sometimes these conversations can be perfectly healthy and self-affirming, but they too often are not, and I lack the skills to judge each and every conversation on the spot, so I participate in none.

But I am too good at hearing the whispers passing through people’s minds (or the whispers that I fear might be passing there, or the whispers of girls with whom I went to junior high, or the ones on TV) — and so while I will not engage in the body-shaming, neither will I engage in the cookie-eating.

Unless I do. Unless I make a conscience choice to make a political statement and have a cookie in front of God and everybody. Nearly as soon as the apple-bearing woman returned with her apple, I was sorry I hadn’t said some suburban-mom version of “Hellyeah I’ll have a motherfucking cookie!!” Because women need to see each other eating normally, enjoying their food, not weighing every bite. We model behavior for each other, we owe that to each other. I don’t know if I wanted a cookie, but I should have had one.

I always have one when there are kids around, especially if those kids are girls. If the kids are girls, I’ll have two cookies, and talk about how good they are, and counter any self-hating, food-limiting, body-slagging talk that may bubble up as quickly as I can. Because I’m the adult, and I need to model behavior for them, I owe that to them, to show them that women can eat normally, enjoy their food, not weigh every bite.

I don’t blame Women. And I certainly don’t blame the women I happened to be with today, or any women with whom I happen to find myself. I blame All Of Us. I blame society as individuals and society as a collective. I blame me, I blame the magazines at the grocery store, I blame 100-calorie packs and the corporate mind that conceived of them. I blame the air we breathe. I even kind of blame religion, because we have forever bought and sold a terrible, soul-killing notion that our bodies are bad, that they must be controlled, that not controlling our bodies in some vague, amorphous way (because we have to eat something, there’s no avoiding that, so constant vigilance is the only way) is a failure, a sin, something to be condemned, to be shunned, to be mocked, to be shamed. As if God did not know what He was doing when He created us. As if God did not make each and everyone of us to love and be loved, for who we are. For who and how He made us.

All of this, on every cookie (or piece of cake, or scoop of ice cream) that I eat in public. All of it.

Sometimes, I wish I could just eat a cookie.

The social implications of a cookie.

chocolate chip cookieJust once, when I happen to be in a group of women, I’d like to have a cookie without having to consider the social implications of having a cookie.

This happened to me just now — I was at the park at a little teacher-organized end-of-year gathering of kids, having a brief conversation with a small handful of women. One turned to the rest of us and said “I want a cookie. Does anyone else want a cookie?” and as one, the rest of us smiled and said no. The cookie-fetcher then said “Well, now I feel bad, I’ll be the only one taking a cookie!” and came back with an apple.

Now, I am a fan of apples and have nothing against them. Apples are a fine thing. And sometime I genuinely do not want a cookie.

But I have no idea if I wanted a cookie in that moment or not. I just know that when I’m in a gathering of women (particularly if I don’t know them very well), I almost never reach for sweets. I am a woman of Joan-esque proportions, minus all the foundation garments, and I know that I live in a society that has a lot of opinions about women of my size and the consumption of baked goods.

I do not talk about it, will not bond (as so many of us are trained to do) over self-hatred, will not discuss anyone’s weight, exercise program, dress size, or shape (unless it’s to be conspicuously comfortable with the fact that I am large-bosomed). I know that sometimes these conversations can be perfectly healthy and self-affirming, but they too often are not, and I lack the skills to judge each and every conversation on the spot, so I participate in none.

But I am too good at hearing the whispers passing through people’s minds (or the whispers that I fear might be passing there, or the whispers of girls with whom I went to junior high, or the ones on TV) — and so while I will not engage in the body-shaming, neither will I engage in the cookie-eating.

Unless I do. Unless I make a conscience choice to make a political statement and have a cookie in front of God and everybody. Nearly as soon as the apple-bearing woman returned with her apple, I was sorry I hadn’t said some suburban-mom version of “Hell yeah I’ll have a motherfucking cookie!!” Because women need to see each other eating normally, enjoying their food, not weighing every bite. We model behavior for each other, we owe that to each other. I don’t know if I wanted a cookie, but I should have had one.

I always have one when there are kids around, especially if those kids are girls. If the kids are girls, I’ll have two cookies, and talk about how good they are, and counter any self-hating, food-limiting, body-slagging talk that may bubble up as quickly as I can. Because I’m the adult, and I need to model behavior for them, I owe that to them, to show them that women can eat normally, enjoy their food, not weigh every bite.

I don’t blame Women. And I certainly don’t blame the women I happened to be with today, or any women with whom I happen to find myself. I blame All Of Us. I blame society as individuals and society as a collective. I blame me, I blame the magazines at the grocery store, I blame 100-calorie packs and the corporate mind that conceived of them. I blame the air we breathe. I even kind of blame religion, because we have forever bought and sold a terrible, soul-killing notion that our bodies are bad, that they must be controlled, that not controlling our bodies in some vague, amorphous way (because we have to eat something, there’s no avoiding that, so constant vigilance is the only way) is a failure, a sin, something to be condemned, to be shunned, to be mocked, to be shamed. As if God did not know what He was doing when He created us. As if God did not make each and everyone of us to love and be loved, for who we are. For who and how He made us.

All of this, on every cookie (or piece of cake, or scoop of ice cream) that I eat in public. All of it.

Sometimes, I wish I could just eat a cookie.

A few notes on Girls [& not just that one episode] because apparently that’s what everyone does now.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lena_Dunham_TFF_2012_Shankbone_3.JPGAs anyone who pays attention to pop culture knows, Girls has raised something of a ruckus since its first airing. At first the ruckus was good, then it was a little back-lashy, then Girls had the weight of American culture placed on it, and that’s never helpful. That’s pretty much why I never wound up watching the first season — too much ruckus.

But I got on board with the second, thinking (I think) that maybe the noise had died down some? Heh.

The ruckus continues. As is so often the case with pop culture phenoms, the noise surrounding last week’s episode had nothing to do with the actual content of the episode, the humor, the drama, the knowing sorrow, but with bodies. Specifically: Lena Dunham’s body as the 24 year old character Hannah, and that of Patrick Wilson, who played the hot 42 doctor with whom Hannah has a sudden, typically explicit, two-day love affair. Naked bodies everywhere. The general consensus among many was “he’s so hot, he would never do someone who looks like Lena Dunham.” Which oh my god.

I’m not going to get into that, though! Because better people than I have handled it already, and also I just can’t go down that rabbit hole. It’s too awful.

However! Last night I discovered that Dagmara Dominczyk, Patrick Wilson’s own wife, had weighed in, and done so kick-assed-ly: “His wife is a size 10, muffin-top & all,” she tweeted at one hater, “& he does her just fine. Least that’s what I hear. ; ) rule #1 – never say never.”

And this led to me thinking about the power of Lena Dunham’s naked body.

Which led me to the other things I’ve been thinking about Girls, which led me to decide to write them down. And hereunder be random spoilers (and approximate quotes, as I’m working from memory), if that matters to you.

Going back to the first episode of the season, we see Thomas-John present his brand new wife (Hannah’s friend) Jessa, whom he married on a whim, with a basket full of puppies. Surprise! Big happy gift! Then he runs out the door to work. Jessa and Hannah take the puppies to the park, Jessa says she’s “really well,” better than she’s ever been. In a later episode we learn, completely in passing, that the puppies were all returned, and then we go on to see what starts out a very sexy evening with the newlyweds but turns into an absolute nightmare as the two go out with Thomas-John’s parents. Jessa gets annoyed with their upper class judgmental natures, and lets fly with all her sordid past, in pseudo-pleasant passive-aggressive style. They go home, Thomas-John declares her the worst mistake of his life, calls her a whore, copious tears, breaking of things, he demands “how much will it take” to make her go away.

Much has been made of the fact that Jessa’s essentially a grifter, but a) there’s this wonderful pause when she’s storming up the stairs and she turns to look at Thomas-John as he says that hateful thing – and she decides she might as well get something out of what was clearly the worst mistake of her life, too. We have no reason to believe she’s lying when she tells Hannah she’s “really well” in the park – but b) let’s look at Thomas-John, shall we? I think the puppies are the key here: He picked up something he thought would be fun and delightful without really thinking about the consequences, and then when the consequences turned out to be too much for him to handle? He returned it. I think Jessa is a puppy in a basket for Thomas-John, and her failure is only in her inability (apparently consistent with her past) to recognize that ahead of time.

Next!

In one episode, Hannah’s holding a dinner party for friends, the kind of dinner party you hold when you’re in your twenties and still have roommates and your apartment is tiny and adding fairy lights and matching chairs makes you feel like you’ve really spruced the place up. The party falls apart around her ears, as all the guests are awful to each other or themselves or storm off or whatnot, and through it all, Hannah’s really trying to be calm and collected and a grown up – she keeps serving food, and talking calmly about the upset as if it doesn’t matter, and then there’s this one moment when you see her with the dessert, a bundt cake (a bundt cake!), and a fork, and she’s just eating it, her enormous brown eyes looking up at the insanity around her, and I just want to say: I loved that moment so much I wanted to give it a hug.

Next!

In last week’s Patrick Wilson episode, the affair starts to fall apart when Hannah starts to reveal more of herself than she has heretofore, the side of her (which is kind of All Of Her) which insists that she gather life experiences, the weirder the better, in order to write novels about Life later.

If you’re watching closely, you’ll see the moment it happens: Hannah says something about possibly being touched inappropriately as a toddler, and Joshua, trying to connect with her, reveals that he “let someone touch my penis” when he was nine — and Hannah poo-poos it, because he “let it happen” and she didn’t have a choice. Patrick Wilson’s face reveals it all, the attempt to understand, the instant distancing when someone rejects your (likely pretty painful) story, the desire to not have this be happening, and that’s it: He’s gone. And then she drives the final nail when she insists on calling him “Josh,” which he’s repeatedly asked her not to call him. Everything else she says in that moment is more of the same, and it really is who she is (at least in this moment of her life): a person so busy trying to see her own life that she can’t be bothered to really see anyone else’s. Sometimes this leads to humor (Girls is a comedy, after all), and sometimes it leads to that kind of painful moment, where I literally had to cover my eyes.

And finally!

Lena Dunham’s naked body.

I’ll be brief, because (again) a lot of pixels have been spilled on this already but it boils down to this: In a world in which conventionally beautiful — nay, conventionally gorgeous — women like Beyonce, Megan Fox, and Penelope Cruz are regularly photoshopped (to see what I mean, and how ridiculous it is, click here), the vision of an un-retouched, un-butt-doubled, un-apologetic female form that does not conform to the standards set for us by someone’s photoshop version of Penelope Cruz is borderline revolutionary. It shocks the sensibilities in a way that threatens to re-wire thought, and has power in ways that I don’t think we really even know how to calculate.

And that’s what I have to say about Girls.

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