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the weighting game
Tuesday, Dec. 02, 2003 | link

I tried on a pair of size-eight pants at Banana Republic last week and the fit was so spectacularly bad: super-extra-snug in the thighs and belling wayyy out at the waist. You could have fit a pot roast in the space between the lip of the pants and the small of my back. Like, what the hell, did I put them on upsidedown or something?

But the next thing I tried on, this really cute black skirt with zippery pockets, fit like a dream, a sexy, sexy dream. And it was a size six! Huh? I have never, ever been a six. I think for the five minutes it took my body to grow through that size range, back when I was seven years old or whatever, I was taking a bath and didn't need to worry about what size clothing I wore.

So of course I bought the skirt. It was cute, it was on sale for just $20, but most importantly, it was a SIZE SIX! And I bought it with full knowledge of Banana Republic's rumored vanity sizing scam. Yes anywhere else I'm a ten (just like Bo Derek!), but in the small, small world of this one black, zippery skirt at Banana Republic, I am a six. And a small, small, size-six part of me loves that world.

Meanwhile, as sizing loses all meaning as it stretches to flatter us, the concept of what the "average woman" weighs is shrinking. When I saw this season's uber-romantic comedy Love, Actually, I was horrified to hear Hugh Grant's hot love interest described as "chubby" and burdened with "a fat ass and tree-trunk legs" by an otherwise sane-seeming female character. That Hugh's character (who played the Prime Minister in another lurch away from credibility) clearly thought otherwise didn't really change the fact that we live in an insane world where someone, anyone was capable of pairing actress Martine McCutcheon with the word "chubby".

And now Renee Zellweger is being courted by Weight Watchers to be its next spokesmodel. Do you know how much Renee weighs now that she's fatted up for "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason" (according to this month's Glamour)? 126 pounds. Do you know how tall she is? 5'5".

According to iVillage's healthy weight calculator (which draws on data from the 1983 Metropolitan Life Insurance Company table, which was based on average weights from ages 25 to 59, for whatever that's worth), the healthy weight range for a 5'5" woman with a small frame is anywhere from 117 to 130, or 127 to 141 for someone with a medium frame. Renee's current weight, 126, earns a "Great!" on the calculator scale. When she gets back down to her "normal" weight of 106, after the Weightwatchers (and the personal trainer, and the exercise bulimia, and the whatever extra insanities), her healthy-weight rating descends to a "Be careful."

I think this endless parade of miniature women we see in the media is actually beginning to alter our perspective, as in the very way we perceive size and distance. Like we see a "normal" woman, not much smaller than I am, surely?, standing next to a Honda Civic on CSI Miami or whatever. Then we happen across a photo of ourselves standing next to that same Honda Civic and we look huge, freakish. That's because the actresses we see playing "normal" woman on TV and in the movies are actually a prepubescent size 6X. I think they should be required by law to hire average-sized actresses to play people like us. And they should post disclaimers next to models in magazines that read "Not actual size -- this model is a size 0, plus her image has been digitally altered, plus this is merely the best photo out of three-hundred shots taken by a professional photographer, i.e., just forget about it."

In any case, no wonder the online personals are littered with men looking for women between 5'8" and 5'11" and 90 and 120 pounds. That's what they think women actually weigh!

After my ad on Nerve was featured as a personal of the day, I went out on a date with this guy who told me he had never seen my ad before it got plastered all over EVERY SINGLE WEBSITE ON THE PLANET. We mused for awhile about why that was, because I had posted my ad weeks before then. "Oh! I know," he said, happy to have finally hit upon the reason, "it's your weight!"

You see you can limit your search criteria by things like how far people live from you, whether they smoke, and how much they weigh. How nice to hear that my weight was what had eliminated me from his running! To be fair the guy was shorter and lighter than me, and I can understand his pursuit of parity on the size front. In fact he had lied about his weight in his ad, padding it by 20 pounds, and I must admit, if I'm perfectly honest with myself, that I would have probably not let things get to the date stage if I'd known his true weight in advance, because I'm not the biggest fan of feeling like a giantess next to a potential bed mate. I know, I'm a hypocrite. I am also really complicated.

(I think I've said this before, but that's one of the big pitfalls of online personals: It makes it too easy to dismiss people based on criteria that may otherwise be completely overlooked and ignored if you met in person where whatever minuses they had could be eclipsed by, say, their really nice forearms or deep laugh or whatever. Anyway.)

The thing is, I don't think people, especially boys, even know how much girls weigh. For years my weight hovered around the 160 mark. An ex-boyfriend and I had been dating for like six months when the topic of weight randomly came up, and he admitted that he was surprised that I weighed as much as I did. And this was someone who had seen me naked. With all the lights on! "How much did you think I weighed?" I asked. "I don't know, 135? Uhhh ... 140?" he said. "Are you saying that because that's what you thought I weighed, or because that's what you think I want to hear?" I demanded. "You know," he said, "I think I don't want to talk about this anymore."

Even though I questioned his motives, I was well aware that I didn't "look" 160. I'm 5'7", which has a "healthy weight range" of 133 to 147. Even though technically that made me "overweight", I knew that I was and am still cute and attractive and my body made sense with the size of my head and everything. That said, making sure I remembered that cuteness was a matter of extreme vigilance -- if I slipped up for just a moment and let myself think too much about things that don't really matter, namely my weight, a blue funk was almost guaranteed to fall.

Part of it was this weird thing that we do as a culture, this burning drive to give our sadnesses a name. We can't just say, "I feel kind of blue today." We have to say, "I feel blue today because [x]." And this compulsion to identify our motivations leads us again and again to our perceived weaknesses. "I feel blue because my career is retarded" or "I feel blue because I am 13 pounds on the fat side of my 'healthy weight range'." And the reason why that registers as a source of blueness is the other part of it: this whole sick-o weight thing that, oops, weighs on every woman I know -- to greater and lesser extents, yes, but still, it's always there.

And it starts so young! I was 11 when I went on my first diet. My friend Tammy and I decided that summer that we wanted to become models, and by extension we needed to become "model-thin". So we put ourselves on a diet, which somehow translated into the two of us eating lots and lots of toast. I think we actually gained weight that summer (but, you know, you're supposed to when you're 11, what with growing and everything), so the diet didn't actually do much, but still, the very idea that "diet" was in my vocabulary sucks.

When I was 17 and all of 135 pounds, I went on this nutty, nine-eggs-a-day diet and lost ten pounds. At the end of two weeks worth of eggs, I went on a toast binge (toast again!), and within a month had gained 15 pounds. After that, I became vehemently opposed to diets. I defined myself as someone who didn't diet. "Isn't it hideous," I would say, "that 'you look great' is never paired with 'did you gain some weight?'" Or, "why is it that women don't get excited about finally being able to fit into their fat pants again?"

But then my appendix went and exploded and I was unable to eat for weeks and I accidentally lost 15, no 16 pounds. And I'd be lying if I told you that I wasn't just a little bit stoked. It was just like Poundy's coma fantasy (which is just insane as it puts this kind of "sleeping beauty" happy face on almost dying, but yeah, still, it's been a secret fantasy of mine, too, ever since reading Fast Times at Ridgement High, where Stacy gets a horrible flu one summer and loses all her "puppy fat" and everybody starts thinking she's hott). Suddenly, magically, and without-even-tryingly, I had awakened to find myself right in the middle of my healthy weight range (and let me tell you, I'm never weighing myself again -- the longer I stay off the scale, the longer I remain one-forty-cute).

I think a similar thing -- weight loss at the expense of health and sanity combined with a strange desire to "insta-reset" ourselves to a reduced start weight, at which time we promise ourselves, totally, absolutely, for sure, that we'll start eating spinach and fruit and skinless chicken breasts and all that shit -- is going on with the whole Atkins diet craziness.

Knowing all that, still, who was STOKED after losing 15-no-16 pounds? Evany Thomas was! Because no matter how much I consciously know that weight has nothing to do with happiness, it's still wired into me by Renee Zellweger and magazines and movies and television and personal ad requests that if you're looking for something to take the blame for any of life's dissatisfactions, weight is an easy target.

Another amazing, creepy, horrible thing about this "thin = yay" thing is that it never, ever seems to end. After losing the pounds and feeling all the finer for it (though I wish I didn't because I'd much prefer to live in a world where my self-confidence wasn't even on speaking terms with my weight), I still can look at pictures of myself and think, my god, I look completely FATastic! And when super-fox Mo says she hates "people who complain about how they need to lose five pounds," I know exactly what she means. And just as it saddens me to hear myself thinking I look in fat in a photograph when I know, I really do know, that I'm not fat, and that I'm AOK-fine and people really do want to sleep with me, it totally woes me when I hear about teensy-tiny people, like web-darling Megnut, finding fault with their bodies: Megnut recently created these fashion citation tickets with the idea of using them to hand out to people guilty of wearing ill-fitting jeans, a jab she claimed was meant for the fashion industry -- but if so, why punish the individuals versus, say, handing out complaint forms pre-formatted to be sent into the offending pant-making companies? But whatever. Anyway, in an article about these tickets of Megnut's, which ran in The New York Sun, she was quoted as saying, "'Maybe I'm bitter because I can't wear those jeans. I have hips and big thighs'" ("though," the article continues, "she confesses that she's either a size 2 or 4").

Doesn't she get it? Once you get down to the societally embraced weight, or better still if you genetically luck into that weight, it's your JOB to be endlessly happy, ecstatic even. Because if those people aren't happy, then this elusive idea of there being a path to happiness disappears. And if there's no happiness waiting for me, then what, exactly, is the point in limiting myself to just one piece of cake a day?

(PS: My diary has officially moved over to my official evany.com website. Let's meet up over there!)

(PS: My diary has officially moved over to my official evany.com website. Let's meet up over there!)

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