Friday, May 23, 2008

00. The new 0.

So there are apparently enough women out there who are 5 feet tall (like I am) and 88 pounds (definitely not me) to warrant the fashion industry creating a size 00. Now this is not new, though it is newsworthy. I'm not mathy, in fact, I like to say that I'm the only Indian in the world who is bad at math and science. OK, so that schtick is old for those who know me. Nonetheless, while I was no Mathlete, I don't recall learning about a double 00 unless there was a 7 at the end. The integer preceding 0 is -1, right? So why don't we size those doll clothes made for hideously skinny women a -1? Oh, pardon me. I meant those women who are naturally petite. Wink. Wink. I suppose a size denoted by a negative number would carry a negative perception. Because we all know that the introduction of a size 00 is completely positive. I mean, now those skeletons have a place to shop aside from the little girls' department! Oh yeah! But let's face it, even the girls' department is looking more and more hoochie everyday.

Are women really skinny enough to warrant a size 00 or are clothing designers pulling a fast one on us, creating vanity sizing to boost our egos? Either way you look at it, the practice perpetuates unhealthy, unrealistic expectations. Thin does not equal beautiful. Let's get that straight.

I am 5 feet tall. 105 pounds, give or take that time of the month when I consume more chocolate than anything else in the food pyramid. I am naturally petite. Anything smaller is plain unsightly. Unhealthy. Unnatural. Yes, I have my mushy parts, my thighs are practically Siamese twins, my arms jiggle. I can't complain...well, not too much anyway.

The fashion industry has a long history of creating unreasonable physical "norms" in our society. Girls and women of all ages fall into the trap. Present company included. I lived in a sorority house in college that had a designated puking bathroom. There was a silver spoon on the back of the toilet that the girls used to gag themselves. They'd clean up the spoon and lay it back down for the next bulimic victim. It was a secret sisterhood within a sisterhood. Gross on so many levels. I was horrified when I learned of this practice, and the house mother and sorority president turned the other way. I later found out that the sorority president was a frequent spooner. No wonder her figure looked like that of a 10-year old boy.

My childhood friend Lisa died at age 16. She was always taller than the rest of us, though being a grown woman of 5 feet tall, you can imagine that everyone was taller than me my whole life. She was chunky, but in that baby fat way that you knew she'd outgrow. I moved away and lost touch with Lisa. We were living in different cities during those gawky, confusing, teenage years when we were learning to understand our new bodies and struggling to get to know and like ourselves. Apparently Lisa's baby fat wasn't melting away with puberty so she took control of the situation. That's when she became anorexic. Severely so. After a long battle that left her body weak, decrepit, and unrecognizable, Lisa's heart gave out.

This, my friends, is what anorexia looks like. It is not sexy. Or pretty. Or desirable.

That was my first brush with death. And my first brush with eating disorders and the battle to be thin. Granted, I have been naturally thin my whole life, even being force fed protein shakes for a while to try to keep weight on my tiny frame. Ironically, I was downing calorie laden shakes at the same time Lisa was starving herself 200 miles away. One in the name of health, the other in the name of vanity.

Lisa's ideals of pretty and thin were from 1978.

Fast forward 30 years to what our little girls (and grown women) see now. Bratz dolls, Victoria's Secret Pink ads, Britney, Lindsay, Lauren, Miley, the list goes on. Even DQ has gotten into the act. An entire generation of girls worships celebrities and tries to emulate their outrageous diet fads and styles. Seriously, we're subjecting our children to unrealistic ideals from such a young, tender age. A 5-year old girl should not be worrying about her big belly, as a friend's daughter does. Such influences are coming from the flippant ways we degrade our own bodies, the flurry of inescapable marketing messages, the Disney princesses with waists the size of my upper arm, and those damn celebrity rags.

Look in any catalog, magazine, billboard, movie. You'll see women who don't relish the pure joy of butter oozing on hot bread or giggles over strawberries and homemade vanilla ice cream. What's worse is those women likely smoke to keep the weight off. And we pay them TOP DOLLAR for it. Be thin, be pretty, make a shitload of money. Be smart, be healthy, eek out a living. The pretty girl visions our children conjure up are detrimental to them both physically and emotionally. Lisa starved herself to be thin, simply a manifestation of larger, deeper self-esteem issues. It's our responsibility to arm our children with confidence, self-worth, and dignity.

What messages are we sending to girls these days? Are we encouraging them to be smart, assertive, passionate, powerful? Or pretty, demure, silent, passive? Isn't it our responsibility to society, to our girls and boys, to reinvent the definition of beauty and femininity? To establish the difference between "fit" and "skinny?" Sure, there's a severe problem with obesity in our country. The focus should be on FIT, regardless which side of the weight coin you land on.

A size 00 is an outrage. And that's coming from a girl who wore a 0 until she bore two healthy children. I've come to grips with never wearing a 0 again. I donated all those clothes, with no remorse, tears, or regrets for not having done more crunches or time on the elliptical machine. And I'm cool with that. My body carried and delivered two healthy children. Nothing defines beautiful more perfectly.
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Norman said...

Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness. To quote: "Yes, I have my mushy parts, my thighs are practically Siamese twins, my arms jiggle." Is the world ready for such transparency? Whew. Here I always pictured you as Bollywood beatified and now you tell me you're a mere mortal? What next? You're going to tell me Bush lied?

liv said...

what you see is this: actresses and models ordering the most expensive plates on the menu, having a bite and passing them to their "fat" size 4,6 assistants. they act like they love the foods we love, but they "love" them for the sake of the eating/body disorder defense.

Grumble Girl said...

I'm a five footer and I weigh about 100... I'm a little bit smaller than I've been in the past, but that's just because I walk everywhere, and I'm pushing a stroller. It's a caloric intake VS output thing - I don't have food issues. What I do take issue with is this crazy sizing... I can wear anything from a 00 - 2, but it irks me that there's even such a thing as a 00. I mean, really. Really! And sometimes what's labeled as a 00 hangs off me (and I assure you, I too bore two healthy children) so there's no reason for this kind of crap. I think it has something to do with sizes going up and up... but I wish for healthy, normal sizing for everyone - this stick-thinness ideal is sad and mortifying. Ack.

EatPlayLove said...

I feel very lucky to live in a place where fit and active women are the norm. Especially with two girls. Gosh your college experience sounds crazy! I can't imagine.

About 11 years ago I helped open the Urban Outfitters in Boulder. One of the problems that surfaced when I was meeting with top mgrs from around the country was that UO's "fit model" was anorexic. So when creating clothes on her frame that should have been a size 3, she was actually a girls 14. Pretty scary, huh?