“You’re prettier but she’s way sexier.” Thus started one of the worst back-handed compliments I’ve ever received. “She just knows how to use what she’s got. You’re… kinda spastic.”
The speaker was Shane, my rakishly handsome neighbor my freshman year of college. My roommates and I all had massive crushes on him which he both knew and used to his advantage. Two of my roommates were quickly out of the game, one by her own volition (she claimed she was playing hard to get but it came across as just not playing) and one was summarily dismissed when it was discovered she was running from the law. That left my roommate Becky and I to vie pathetically for his affections.
For reasons I can only now attribute to a lackadaisical attitude towards school and an overconfidence in his parents’ ability to take care of him the rest of his life (what a winner!), he was constantly over at our apartment. And his favorite game was wrestling. Preferably both of us at the same time. You have no idea how embarrassed I am to have just typed that so please forgive my idiocy and remember I was young – I was on campus part-time at 15, full-time at 17. Young girls do stupid things. Girls Gone Wild is a billion dollar industry based on that one fact. Not that what I did was Girls Gone Wild worthy. Wow, I’m just digging this hole deeper and deeper. Anyhow.
It was during one of these epic wrestling matches that he decided to lay that bit of wisdom on me. My face burned red and I knew I’d lost to the less-pretty but more-sexy Becky. Sure enough he was soon sampling all the flavors of her Lip Smackers – Dr. Pepper was the clear winner – and I was relegated to pretending not to hear despite the fact that Becky and I shared a room. (Sadly, that was not my worst roommate-makeout experience. That award goes to my junior year when I woke up to my bunk bed rocking. While I was getting my beauty rest on the top bunk, my adorable freshman roommate who only wore daisy dukes and camis even in the dead of winter, was playing birth control bingo on the lower bunk. Best part? As he was a (drunk) cop, he handcuffed her to the bed with real handcuffs… and lost the key. Yours truly to the rescue, hiking to his house in the middle of the night to get the spare. Hey at least it got me off the Noah’s Ark Bed.)
But back to my original humiliation: Shane quickly learned that Becky, being more of a buffet fan than a single entree girl, was really more interested in the touchdown than the after party (10 yard penalty for the mixed metahpor!). Becky moved on to other more evasive men and he and I remained friends. In fact, when I had a pus-filled infected wound on my finger from – no joke – scraping it on a jagged corner of a formica desk, he was the one who volunteered to drain it for me and then hugged me while I cried for 10 minutes because it hurt. (Seriously – one of the most painful stupid injuries I’ve ever had! And I’ve had a lot them.)
One evening we were watching late night infomercials together after we’d both returned home early from bad dates when I asked him to explain. He was brutally honest. “You have no sense of self, no confidence. You have a great body but no idea how to use it. I love you but you are such a dork. When you try and act sexy, it’s almost comical but in a painful way. You even hug self-consciously.”
“I don’t know how you do it but you do.”
This was the memory that came back to me after reading the Fabulous Body Poll. The commenters were going back and forth about whether the men in the poll were lying through their British teeth when they said they most liked a “size 12” (size 8 US) woman and yet voted for bombshell Kelly Brooke (the only size 12 thing about her are her boobs) as their ideal woman. And then one of the commenters wrote: “I honestly think confidence is more important than any of it.” And after my experience with Shane I have to agree.
Since body confidence comes from trusting and loving your body, it would make sense that I had none of it. Especially at that time in my life. I was geeky and weird. Way too transparent. Intellectually smart but dumb in common sense. So how does one get it if you are not born with it? If I were awesome, I’d come up with an inspiring bulleted list – with a picture of someone jumping! In front of a sunrise! On a big rock! – of five easy steps to loving the skin your in. Do I get bonus points for quoting a commercial too!
But the truth is I still don’t know. I was discussing my obsession with those STUPID 10 POUNDS with my therapist the other day when she made an interesting point. She asked, “Why do those 10 pounds matter to you? Losing 10 pounds puts your BMI into the unhealthy range. Why would you want that?”
I answered, “Because people like me better when I’m that skinny. I get more compliments. People are nicer to me. People trust me more. Bag boys offer to get things off high shelves for me. I swear I even get more Google hits on those days.”
She shot back, “Maybe it’s because you’re more confident and other people pick up on it. Maybe it has nothing to do with your weight and everything to do with how you feel about yourself.”
The light went on.
So now I need to figure out a way, besides losing weight, to feel confident in myself. I’ve made a good start with aging – amazing what getting older can do – and also dancing, kick boxing, and running but I’m not there yet. Help me out – how have you learned to love your body? Do you have a favorite trick for those days when you need a little confidence boost? High heels? Sassy lipstick? Clinical strength deodorant?? Bonus points for aspirational pics!