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Sunday, 17 September 2000

Measuring Up: Some Intense Thoughts on Body Image

Written by  Sara Eisen

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So there I am, at 1 a.m., relaxing in front of a mind-numbing - but somehow intoxicating - fashion show on cable. The girls look dead and fiercely alive all at once, and I am reminded of caged panthers at the zoo, sleek and nonchalant, pacing and intent, angry and on display.

And still, against my better judgment, I record those measurements in my brain. 33-23-35. I turn it over, this meaningless piece of information, and savor it like a candy. Against my better judgment

And I look at these mile high stick people and I can't decide what I think about them. Part of me is jealous and admiring, still, after all these years. Grow up! I admonish myself. Get with it. Get real. Get healthy in the head. These girls are not well. They are starving. They are not how grown women should look. I say it over and over. Only part of me believes it.

And then they feature a particular model, listing all of the things that make her who she is: name, date of birth, height, bust, waist, hips - alongside frenetic clips of her purposeful trots down countless catwalks. It is so sad to me that she is reduced to numbers.

And still, against my better judgment, I record those measurements in my brain. 33-23-35. I turn it over, this meaningless piece of information, and savor it like a candy. Against my better judgment.

I head upstairs and take the tape measure out of my sewing basket. I can't believe I'm doing this, I think. I can't believe it's not over for me. I'm years past sixteen. Years past starving myself. Years past never being good enough. But I do it anyway.

And it's not 33-23-35. It's just not.

So I size myself up in front of the mirror, and I think: Am I normal? Or is she?

It's a question I can't answer, never could answer, and it's late. So I go to bed. Still thinking: Am I normal? Or is she?

About a week later, I'm on the phone with my Mom. She wants to buy my five-year-old son a pair of dress pants. Would you measure him? She asks. To give me an idea? Sizes vary. Inseam. Waist. Hips. No problem, I say. Free pants!, I think.

So. I take out the tape measure again, remembering the last time I used it. And I proceed to measure this child, who is big for his age, strongly built, but by no means fat.

Waist: 20.

I check it again. No mistake. Waist: 20. Three inches away from what's-her- name's waist. He's five years old and under four feet tall. She's twenty years old and over six feet tall. And their waists are almost the same.

I turned it over again in my head. I looked in the mirror. I looked at my son.

And for the first time in my life I had the answer. It hit me like a bomb.

I'm normal.

She's not.

She's just not.

And finally, I just feel genuine pity for that pacing panther on the catwalk.

Last modified on Thursday, 07 April 2011 09:47
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Sara Eisen

Sara Eisen

Sara is a journalist and editor.

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