Sunday, January 29, 2012

NY, NY: The Caretaker Needs Care, Too

This is on the TL;DR side because 1. I have gnarly, tentacled self-esteem issues I'm working on, 2. I'm resorting who I am in the world with a new decade and marriage on the horizon, and 3. it's one of those things where the whole universe is saying, HEY PAY ATTENTION TO THIS, YOU!

Since we're talking glamour and enhancing what one has to gain glorious rewards, let's start with what I know I have working for me and can do a lot with (providing I remember to work it):
  • I'm reasonably attractive. People tell me I'm pretty a lot, so I must be. If I radiate that from the core outward, sometimes I see it, too. It's a useful thing to know how to do if you want people to treat you well or do things for you, like for the Home Depot guy to load your cart with cinder blocks, then load up your car for you.
  • My body is well-proportioned. It's big, but everything is distributed in a pleasing way. My ass is awesome and I've got a good rack and a perfect 0.7 wasit-to-hip ratio. That ratio thing means that I'm particularly well suited to being fertile, so men see me and their lizard brain says, "Hey, that one looks like she could carry on the species... I'm strangely inclined to bend her over that boulder even though she bears no resemblance to a bikini model."
  • I have really thick, manageable hair.
  • I've got lovely, soft skin.
  • I'm graceful, move well, carry myself well.
  • I know etiquette and style, so I almost always know what to do, how to act, and how to dress in any given situation. Not that I always do it, but I know what I should do.

My mom told me this once when I was crying in my late teens. She meant well, but she emphasized it wrong, so it sounded like something was wrong with any man who though I looked good or wanted me.  My reaction to someone thinking I'm hot is STILL to be instantly suspicious of what's wrong with them that they would find me attractive.

I turn 30 in a couple of months. This is exciting because, for whatever stupid reason, I've had it in my head that once I hit that magic number, it's ok to call my own shots and stop trying to please all the people in my life first and please myself last. That's just dumb. I should have done this ten years ago. For the occasion, I've been reassessing things, taking slow stock of who I am now and who I am not, thinking about goals and how to get there from here, and recognizing that my priorities have changed a lot since I set "adulthood goals" in high school and college. Like I'd rather have land in the trees than be a society wife, and the business world doesn't suit me so being a chick with a private jet doesn't look like something I want to work towards. But we're not talking about careers, we're talking about how hot I have the potential to be when I get out of my own way.

I'm an adult. A real adult with dogs and a partner and bills and a job and a commute and a house to take care of and volunteer work and all that jazz. Just as I'm ready to crest that peak into Real Adulthood, my favorite and best Real Adult Clothes have started dying. We're talking about the stuff that was paid dearly for and used as armor to get me through the first years in the corporate world. It's beautiful, impeccable, tasteful, interesting clothing that's been tailored to me. NOT COOL. Cash ate my favorite shoes a couple of years ago. Bleach spots on blouses. Dogs tearing pants. General old age. And last week, a strap ripped out on my favorite dress of all time. That leaves me with jeans and t-shirts mostly. I work at a company that's fine with that, but it doesn't feel good to wear that often or in that setting. I need new clothes, which sucks and costs money I don't have budgeted and should be going to debt or the wedding fund anyway. I've been pouting about it, if you really want to know the truth. I don't even have cute stuff to go out with friends in or look hot on a date. Even if the cash were there, I don't feel like I deserve it or that it's justified, even though HEY! I need to look like a professional and not a clinically depressed housewife at Target.

I don't think I look like a depressed housewife here. But it is a good indication of the kind of thing I wear most of the time - excessive cleavagey goodness and all.
Just to make it more difficult, I'm a big girl. I'm fat. But, like my best friend says, I'm "not a big fat fuck... just big." I've always been big. Even when I did triathlon stuff in college, I was big. When I was in the throes of an eating disorder in high school and my thighs finally, barely didn't touch and my hair was falling out, I was a size 14/16. I'm a big girl. That means whether or not I've looked hot for over a decade has been entirely a product of my mind because I've only fluctuated a maximum of two sizes in that entire time span. Huh. All that angst and loathing is ME and not my glorious ass.

Being fat means that my selection is cut dramatically down, and finding nice stuff at good prices is something of an advanced game where you have to know your fabrics, cuts, silhouettes, and body. It's one of the things I'm best at in the world, but it takes some doing and a lot of patience. I owned up to the fact I needed to invest in this maybe a month ago, but didn't really do anything much about it, except to buy a couple sweaters and try on the MOST unfortunate pair of pants to have ever been engineered, which promptly halted all forward progress.

Then, for the last few weeks, people everywhere are suddenly talking about how very, terribly important one's appearance is for magic and success and self-esteem and prosperity and identity. It's in Jason's book. It's in this week's NY, NY related writing prompts. It's on Tumblr and in conversations with my bearded giant about how caretakers need just as much care as the people they care for. It's the massage therapist having to tell me for the dozenth time to stop helping her and just relax because I do too much and care for myself too little and my body tells that tale (plus, I was only there using my massage credit because I sprained my neck taking care of a Very Drunk friend, instead of using it to relax - not cool). I was better dressed as a college nanny than I am as a senior-level professional in my field. That's not ok. So yeah... I need to rearrange my priorities. I'm definitely not putting my best self forward anywhere, ever. I'm tired of taking care of other people and angry that they're not doing it for themselves, let alone doing it reciprocally. I'm tired of grinding myself into the ground so that other people can have the things I wish I could give myself.

If you hate everything AND you're the only common thing in those situations, you either need to change yourself or change all the hated situations, right? Changing yourself changes an element in the situations by default, but I think you should strategically change elements of both self and situation. I don't know how to change all the situations that suck right now, but I can make myself better in all of them. Appearances are a superficial part of that equation, but they affect change in further-reaching ways than most people want to admit. Believe it or not, I've been paid to change people's appearances, change their homes, help them find their style and voice and be comfortable with it. Why I haven't done it for myself is beyond me. (I mean, seriously Peeps, WTF?) But I'm supposed to be doing just that this week for the writing prompt.

So I went to Nordstrom Rack with no expectations and only a little bit of time. Lo and behold, I found a gorgeous sheer blouse that works for going out and dates with a tank top under it. Age appropriate, looks expensive but understated, and it was on sale for $16. Then I found a lovely, classic navy wrap dress that's a marvel of engineering and hourglass figure flattery for $20. It's grand for work, and if I work the top a little differently, more breast enhancing for a nice evening out. A coup, to be sure. I think some sort of haircut or change is in order soon, especially since I stained/varnished a section of my ponytail this morning while working on a piece of furniture I'm building.

I'm working on me in fits and starts, but my bearded giant is helping me give myself permission and take time and resources to do a better job balancing the care I give myself and the care I give others. He's helping around the house more (which is a miracle), we're talking through money to find something we both feel ok with me spending on myself on a regular basis, and we're both taking time to realize that life is better for everyone when I can genuinely feel good about myself and being in my skin. The issues around self-esteem, self-worth, the pressure I feel in the gender role I most strongly identify with, and my jumbled priorities are way too big to knock out with a ritual or two. I'm thinking through the idea of Shoaling a long series of them. If I see any notable success, I'll tell y'all about it.


  1. I love this post! Your beauty shines through in your words.

  2. Style and etiquette take you v. far which is why I get aggreviated that people are so quick to piss on it (to be blunt). I'm glad that you found some lovely clothes at reasonable prices and I'm *super* glad you're starting to take care of you. I'm 33 and let me tell you, 30 is a headfuck. It may take a bit to warm up but it was down the rabbit hole for me and every other chick I know so focusing on taking care of you now to warm up for it is a good idea! Excellent work!

  3. p.s. My mom never knows what to do with my (similar) body type either because I guess she was taught to be ashamed of it. Every time she freaks about my boobs being out I patiently remind her that people pay thousands of dollars to have boobs like ours (and hers).