Back when I had my own apartment, I didn’t have much of a social life (realistically, not much has changed in that respect), but I did have extended basic cable.
On the weekends I typically parked my derriere (and laptop) on the living room sofa and spent my afternoons lusting over Hal Sparks while loving the 80s, noting (and disregarding) fashion tips from Stacy and Clinton, and wondering if my sister’s hospital rotations were anything like Scrubs.
But, by far, my favorite idiot box entertainment was the America’s Next Top Model marathon.
ANTM was my heroin. Succumbing to the urge to watch super-thin women vying for the title of prettiest live mannequin violated most of the principles I claimed to hold dear. Yet I couldn’t tear myself away. I’d sit there bare-faced in jeans and a hoodie, completely mesmerized by underweight girls with long legs and amazing cheekbones. During commercial breaks I would make pouty faces in the mirror and imagine life as a model. Sure I had thick thighs, bad skin, a wicked overbite, crooked teeth, and a large nose that looks like it’s been broken a few times, but clearly my career as a Victoria’s Secret Angel failed to take off only because I was a mere five foot three and three quarters inches tall.
I was still perfecting my pout, waiting to be discovered, and nursing my ANTM addiction when I saw an episode where several plus-size girls joined the competition. I remember feeling such sympathy for those women because the skinny girls made them look and feel like heifers by comparison and Janice Dickinson was a real bitch about their curvy bodies.
God, I can’t imagine being them, I thought. It must be a constant battle just to maintain healthy self-esteem.
As I watched with rapt attention, one of the plus-size models broke down and started fretting about her shape. The lithe, svelte, traditional models blamed her lack of self control. They scolded her for eating too much and not exercising enough. Then they belittled her for letting herself go and being overweight.
“But I’m a size eight,” the girl cried.
[insert record scratch sound effect]
A size eight?! That’s not plus-size. That’s not even average. Christ, I’m a size eight, and that girl had to be a good head taller than me. She probably weighed less than me too. And she was the fat chick!
My entire sense of self-image shattered.
Like most women, I’m not always happy with the way I look. I dislike mirrors, and when obligated to stand before one, I usually feel a mix of disgust and shame. It doesn’t matter that I’m in ok shape, all I can focus on are my flaws. I hate that I can’t be comfortable in my own skin. I hate that a thorough search of my house would turn up at least one Glamour or In Style because I think I need advice on how to look more attractive. I hate that I feel guilty for wearing sneakers instead of stilettos. I hate that the total investment put into my makeup bag could probably fund dinner for an entire African village. And I hate that I can’t bring myself to just be done with it all.
When I exercise at the gym or avoid certain cuts of clothing or apply mascara, I try to tell myself that I’m doing it for me. I justify that I’m helping myself to look good and feel good. But as much as I live in a state of denial, I am aware that I’m doing these things just as much for the high school boys who rejected me, the optometrist who told me if I wore glasses I’d never get a date, and the models who think a size eight is equivalent to a fat ass. Yes, you’re one of my sources of motivation to look hot, Janice Dickinson, and for that honor you can go fuck yourself.