Friday, March 20, 2009


I have been so unmotivated this past week. I haven't exercised at all. I fought a migraine for a couple of days, but mostly it was just inertia and spotty sleep.

I saw a childhood friend for the first time in 20 years yesterday and really had a nice time. We had some great conversations that made me think. One that was particularly thought-provoking was about being a teenager and the relative importance of Getting Boys to Like You.

I couldn't Get Boys to Like Me back then and I didn't really try all that hard. I wished one would from time to time, of course; I had all kinds of crushes, but I couldn't have handled any kind of relationship emotionally and I think I knew that on some level. I also wanted boys to listen to me more than I wanted them to like me; and for better or worse, I got my wish. I always had really high standards in that I wanted The Boy That Would Listen AND Like Me, which is, of course, totally unrealistic when you're dealing with teenage boys, but what can I say? I read a lot.

My friend and I had both heard all our lives as girls how important it was to grow up and get married, which sounds so totally 1950s in retrospect that it's pathetic, considering we were growing up in the 1980s. I mean, Mary Tyler Moore had long since tossed her beret in the air by then, bras had been burned, the Pill was on the market, they had NOW pamphlets--why didn't the women in our lives know better? (And what if we had been gay? Of course, that wasn't really discussed back then, at least not in anyone's house that I knew. The first person who came out to me was my male best friend when we were sixteen. I had known him since we were six, and my response was, "Okay...I love you." I remember crying privately afterward, but it was because I knew his life would not be as easy as I would wish for him, and sure enough, it wasn't. But I digress, as usual.)

Some people say that women dress more to impress other women than they do men (and I'm assuming we're referring to straight women). I've thought about that a lot and I think there is definitely truth to it. It has always bothered me how we socialize girls in this society. I hope it's more enlightened now than when I was growing up, but somehow I doubt it. I always hated all that "Mean Girls" crap--the way girls compete with each other, comparing themselves with each other, and basically flat-out torture each other. Who's the prettiest? Whose hair is the longest? Who's the thinnest? I see adult women do it, too, and it makes me want to spit. Whose kids are the cutest? Whose husband makes the most money? Who has the biggest house? What a waste of energy! When I was 12, there wasn't much alternative other than befriend boys or bury myself in books, but I have long since refused to be close friends with women who operate on that level as an adult; as a result, I have several absolutely amazing women as my closest friends today.

But the why-women-dress-up thing! That's what I was thinking about. I've always just wanted to be comfortable. I did make more of an effort when I was younger--more makeup, more dresses, fussier hair, but I wasn't comfortable with myself and thought I had to do that in order to be somehow acceptable. At some point, thankfully, I stopped caring. Now I'm a total T-shirts and comfypants (that's what we call pajama or lounge pants in my house, one word, just like that--"comfypants") person who doesn't put in earrings or wear makeup for weeks sometimes (because I'm not working right now). Some people are really disturbed by this. I've had people tell me I would feel better about myself if I just put on some makeup and dressed up a little more. I do those things--when I go to work, or I'm going out on a date with Mr. Salted. But when I'm at home, who am I supposed to be trying to impress? My husband doesn't care. I've never had a relationship with a man who said, "Why don't you dress up a little more? Why don't you slap on a little warpaint before I'm seen with you in public?" I've also always maintained that if you only dress up once in a while, people really notice it and tell you how great you look the whole time, which is enjoyable for everyone involved. :o) Why set impossibly high standards for yourself for that kind of thing when you don't really enjoy it in the first place? (Or, if you're like me, you downright resent it?)

Recently, I've been watching a couple of reality shows about child beauty pageants. (WETV has one, and so does The Learning Channel.) That whole culture is something I find truly sad--bordering on offensive--and yet strangely fascinating. It raises my feminist-lite hackles, but it's hard to take my eyes away from it; it's the cultural anthropologist in me, for its participants do not seem to be of my planet. I feel so sorry for the little girls. The adults in their lives pour insane amounts of money (enough to pay for a top-notch college education a few times over) into having their offspring be judged and win or lose for the most capricious of reasons. These titles are determined by things with improbable names, like "Wow Wear". If the girls are at the age where they are losing their baby teeth, some wear dental bridges (sometimes called "flippers") to make them look like they have a full set of adult teeth. (Often the effect of a flipper is to appear to put Gary Busey's teeth in a little girl's mouth, and it's disturbing. Besides, what is cuter than a kid with a missing tooth or teeth?) They wear more makeup than Cleopatra at a rave and the hair on each child is bigger than the entire band Poison's hair, circa 1988. They spray tan these children (which looks like pure torture from here). Then there's the coaching--many of the families pay people (I wonder how they qualify them, seriously) to teach the girls to flirt and shake around. I've seen the mothers on these shows yell things at their kids like, "You have a booty, so SHAKE IT!" The lineups at the end when they announce the winners is full of smiles that don't reach the eyes, which is more disturbing to see in any child than all of the above put together. Talk about teaching little girls to compete against each other, only to the nth power. And not only against each other, but against themselves. How are they ever going to feel that they measure up? They are immersed in the pursuit of perfection before they even know it has teeth. And claws.

Women's friendships can be so deep and so profound, and yet there are women walking the Earth--far too many of them--who have scorecards in their heads, noticing how often their coworker wears the same dress, or how long it's been since their sister-in-law changed her hairstyle. It takes so much time and effort for girls and women to overcome relentless programming that teaches you that the world begins and ends with Whether Boys Like You. And if you are a straight woman, do you really want to have a relationship with a man who knows whether or not your Coach bag is fake?

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This blog focuses largely on a personal journey to and through weight-loss surgery. It's also about reading, writing, animals, photography, love, humor, music, thinking out loud, and memes. In other
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