Every Body Is Worth Shopping For

I keep buying THINGS. Mostly clothes and shoes. Oh, and makeup.  I think it might be developing into an actual problem. I told my boyfriend last night I was going to return yet another pair of boots that didn’t quite fit, and that I was really going to try to cut down on all my online shopping in order to start saving more. Because you know, taxes. And down payments. And other boring adult things.

And yet I JUST bought a bunch of clothes online. As in, 30 seconds after I hit “purchase” I started writing this. I mean really though, it was buy one get one half off so it almost would have been irresponsible NOT to buy them now, right?? This is the warped logic I can use to convince myself of just about anything. I work in sales and I like to think of myself as a fairly persuasive person. But when it comes to myself, that shit is dangerous.

I know I need to cut back a little, but clicking and spending and buying is so much FUN. It is, you can’t deny it.

But I’m running out of room for all the things. You see, when my boyfriend moved in he got zero hanging closet space – just a consignment nightstand with 2 drawers I shoved in the back corner. That’s it. I kept the rest of the space, and even then, my stuff was overflowing.

So for the sake of our relationship, I’ve been forced to purge my closet at least twice since he moved in. As in, 4 or 5 garbage bags worth of clothes to donate to Goodwill. Not counting shoes. Seriously, I had so many clothes I needed to get rid of.

But that’s the thing when you have fluctuated in size from a 12 to a 22 in the span of about 5 years. You hold on to all those size 12’s because, come on. They are so cute. And so small. And it wasn’t THAT long ago that you fit into them.

On top of which,  you spent good money on them, and someday they’re TOTALLY going to fit again and it would just be a waste of money to re-buy everything. They’re sexy. And inspirational… and such a tease… and actually kind of soul-crushing when you start to think about it too hard and hold them up and realize that isn’t you anymore.

So you purge. But purging your skinny clothes is hard. It feels like defeat in so many ways. It feels like admitting you’re in this fat body for the long haul, and don’t believe you’ll ever get back to that size. It makes you feel so crappy about yourself that you want to sit down and eat a whole bag of Goldfish. Or is that just me?

Anyway, I purged. I said goodbye, because you know what? It was time. And I needed the closet space. And not just so my boyfriend wouldn’t have to store his clothes in the trunk of his car. But because I finally decided in the last year or so to really start shopping for my current body, and to start dressing it in things I actually liked.

I’ve always been a person who loved fashion and took a lot of care in the way I dressed, whether it was silver platform sneakers and matching metallic jacket, or the perfect maxi dress and beaded necklace. But something happened when I got to a size I didn’t like. I stopped shopping. So I literally had nothing to wear, since nothing in my closet fit me anymore.

hanging clothes

I relegated myself to yoga pants and baggy tops pretty much every day. I didn’t go out and supplement my wardrobe, didn’t get different sizes in the styles I actually liked. I had this warped idea that I should not be spending money on THIS BODY. That THIS BODY wasn’t worth anything, financially or otherwise.

That somehow, I’d magically lose the weight and be back in a body that was worthy of love, and worthy of fashion. And in the meantime, I would dress my ugly, frumpy body in ugly, frumpy clothes. And stare at my size 12 jeans and halter tops while I wept into a bowl of ice cream. (The reduced fat kind, because you know, that’s healthier.)

I almost felt like if I punished myself hard enough for being in this fat body, I might somehow shame myself into changing it. Turns out, that’s not how it works. It just starts to feel hopeless. You start to value yourself less every day.

But at some point last year, something clicked. Some part of my brain recognized I am still beautiful, that this is not the final destination on my journey, and that I deserve to decorate, celebrate and otherwise embrace myself as I am right now. Size 2, size 12 or size 22.

Part of that probably has to do with the fact that I was in a great place in my life – good job, great friends and family, and the most supportive boyfriend on the planet. I have to give Gil a lot of credit for helping me learn to love and accept myself again because he’s played a big role in it. And honestly, he still loves my body more than I do, but I’m working on it.

So I shopped. I clicked. I bought. And I remembered how fun it could be. Especially since there are a lot more plus size options available today than there were a few years ago. I filled my closet with leopard-print tops, black leggings, wide calf boots, bold print maxis, V-neck tees, fitted blazers, and SO MANY STATEMENT NECKLACES.

It didn’t feel like defeat – it felt amazing.

And then a weird thing happened. Over time, I started to like how I looked a little more. I started to feel a little better. I started to want to celebrate my body in other ways, like trying yoga for the first time. I mean obviously I’ll have to go shopping for some yoga outfits first, but I’m on the right path.

Turns out my incessant shopping has actually been an important step in the right direction for me. At that’s exactly what I’ll remind Gil every time a new package shows up at our front door.

My Love/Hate Relationship With The Word “FAT”

I am fat. Objectively, this is true. I don’t live in some strange delusion where I don’t know this to be the case. I know it is, and I am taking steps to change it. Some days more than others, but it’s a process, and if you’ve never struggled with your weight, you don’t understand it’s about more than just “eating healthier” and “exercising more,” although those elements are both necessary.

There is a reason I gained the weight in the first place, and it’s more complicated than “I ate too much.” I mean, I totally did. I ate way too much and didn’t exercise nearly enough, but I have to really take a step back to understand all the reasons why and work on them.

Anyway, I accept the fact that I am fat. For now. So in a way, I embrace the word “fat” and love that there is a voice on the internet that is getting louder and louder every day; an army of women stepping up and owning who they are, no matter what size. Proudly rocking bikinis and crop tops and demanding a better selection of clothing for plus-size women. Women who refuse to let their size define them and who accept themselves for the people they are. These are women who have reclaimed the word “fat” and said “eff off” to those who would use it to try to make them feel “less than.”

To them, I tip my hat. I am wildly impressed with their confidence. And part of me embraces the adjective “fat.” It’s just a word, and words only mean what we allow them to. Case in point, my boyfriend tells me all the time how much he loves my “fat butt” and I know it’s a compliment because he can’t keep his hands off me. And I know my butt is “fat” and not “phat.” At first, it ruffled me a little – “fat” has always felt like a dirty word to me, and I was terrified of it in high school and college. So to have someone I love use it to describe me was initially a shock to my system. But now I really embrace it. He really does love my big ol’ butt, cellulite and all. He wouldn’t change a thing about it. He loves my body more than I do, and I’m trying to take a page from his book and embrace me, as I am, right now. So in a sense the word “fat” is helping me to accept myself, which is pretty awesome.

But on the flip side, I freaking hate it. It’s a word that has traditionally been used to put people down, belittle them, and act as a ridiculous excuse to pass judgement on someone’s worth as a person based on their size. And to those people, I say “go to hell.” Being fat does not define who I am as a person – it is a state of being that I happen to exist in right now.

I’m fat, sure. But I’m also funny, successful, happy, beautiful, kind, loving, clumsy, loud, opinionated and strong. If you ask anyone who knows me to describe me, I’m certain they would choose one of those adjectives before “fat.” And fat doesn’t trump any of the things on that list.

No matter who we are, we shouldn’t have to be defined by physical appearance. Unfortunately, that’s not the case – we ARE defined by physical appearance in so many ways, and not just regarding our weight. Our appearance is the first thing people notice when they look at us, and people DO form opinions. And some people will be unkind based on certain physical attributes. So we have to find ways to take ownership of those things, and find self-worth from within. To be kind to ourselves, even if people around us aren’t doing the same. Easier said than done.

I’m not stupid or delusional – I understand the health risks associated with obesity and the fact that no matter how hard we fight, there WILL be judgement passed on those who are overweight. I live in the real world – I understand these things. But as I’ve been reading more and more articles and fashion blogs from plus-size women practicing self-love and body acceptance (whether you’re a size 2 or size 22), I am inspired by them. By their confidence, their bravery, their style, their swagger, and their sexiness. But what I can’t understand is why so many people seem to have such a strong negative reaction to these women who are simply on a quest to love themselves even if they happen to be fat.

Fat is not an obstacle to happiness.

DSC00804

I can only speak for myself when I say that yes, I know I will feel better, more energetic and healthier when I lose some of the weight I’ve gained over the last couple years. But just losing that weight is not what is going to make me a happy and fulfilled human being. Accepting myself and those around me for who they are, travelling the world, saying “yes” to things that scare me, and spending time with friends and family are things that will contribute to my happiness. Loving my “fat butt” as much as my boyfriend does is a personal goal of mine. I’m gonna love my fat butt so hard.

Because you know what? I deserve unconditional love from myself. I am happy to love others unconditionally, and I understand what it means to do so. And I accept unconditional love from others. But unconditional love from myself?? That is a newer concept for me. And it means I need to love myself now, with extra weight, as much as I would if I were a size 6.

A very wise friend of mine said to me years ago, as I was having a meltdown over my weight before a night out in Vegas, “Court, we will never be here again. In this moment, right now. Be happy and enjoy the experiences in front of us. Weight is a temporary thing – you can always work to change that. But we can never get this moment or experience back.” He was right. I want a happy and amazing life RIGHT NOW. Not 75 pounds from now. I deserve happiness, at any weight.

So by any standard definition of the word, I am fat. But I do not solely identify myself that way, or even primarily identify myself that way. It’s just part of me right now, a person who is constantly evolving. And one of the elements of my evolution is my body. At the end of the day, this is the body I’m living in right now, so I have to accept it. I can work to improve it, but my worth cannot be tied to a number on the scale. My worth is determined by me, dammit.

Dear Vagina

Petals of Pink Roses on woman's body. Concept of Waxing. Bikini Zone

Dear Vagina,     

I hope we can find someone to just love us for US someday.

Love,

Courtney

Dear Courtney, 

Do it yourself. Seriously. We’re awesome.

PS: I’m cold.

Love,

Vagina

There is a weird mental block that happens to a lot of women when it comes to our vaginas on display, and I want to talk about it.

Most of us have, at some point or another, made the trek to the salon/spa/shady nail place with a backroom and a faded old curtain, to have some or all of our pubic hair ripped out with hot wax. As I type that sentence I can’t help but wonder what broke in our brains to think it was a good idea. That notwithstanding, many of us (myself included) went back, time after time for more of the same. That means a total stranger basically within inches of your lady garden, getting a fully unobstructed view of every last detail, making sure you are getting your $50-$100 worth of torture. And I do mean every last detail, as any woman who has gone through this can attest – they are THOROUGH and get you into positions you didn’t even think were possible for non-gymnasts.

But we happily oblige, letting Olga bodily flip us over on her table in a room with walls that don’t go to the ceiling, barking at us in Russian, grabbing our ankle and spreading us wide to get every last offending hair (true story). Seriously, after the first experience and mild mortification when you belatedly realize that a Brazilian means that OH MY GOD YES THEY ARE ACTUALLY WAXING MY ASSHOLE… SHOULD I SAY SOMETHING? IS THIS NORMAL? OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD, you get used to it. I used to have totally normal, pleasant conversations with my waxers (all female obviously) as they were pulling and stretching and spreading to do their job. It never occurred to me to be self-conscious at that point and there was a predictable routine, so it was essentially like getting my nails done.

And even if you’ve never subjected yourself to that experience, all women have had to hoist their feet up into the stirrups for a pelvic exam – it’s part of our coming of age I suppose, and you do get used to it.

On the flip side, at the same point in my life that I was going Brazilian on the regular, if someone I was dating had asked to just “look at it” and give my vag a full inspection in a well lit room – just looking – I would have been uncomfortable. And I explicitly remember a girlfriend of mine recounting that exact scenario. I remember her telling me how weird and self conscious she felt and me emphatically agreeing. And we’re not alone. I know this concept makes a lot of women uncomfortable. But WHY??

Why, after spending all that time spread eagle in the salon, was I at all self-conscious when a new boyfriend wanted to leave the lights on and visually drink it all in? I spent all this time and money on something I wanted to just hide under the covers? Where is the vagina-love?  I mean, I am no prude and have no objection to oral sex, but the idea of someone really looking that closely without DOING something… I guess I assumed they would be looking for imperfections. Because that was what I did to myself and to my body – look for the things that were wrong.

And that’s the crux of it I think, at least for me. I spent way too much time beating myself up, comparing myself to others, and wondering if I looked ok, that I couldn’t just be. I couldn’t love myself completely. It was different when it was just a stranger at a New York salon – who cares what they thought of me? Who cares if they were comparing my vagina to the one they’d seen an hour before? But with someone I cared about, someone I loved, it was scarier. Somehow, my twisted self-criticism had morphed into an unfair projection that my boyfriend would be doing the same: picking out what was wrong, or comparing me to others.

It took some time and a healthy relationship to drive home the point that in reality, that couldn’t be further from the truth. At the point that someone just wants to admire your body like that, and once you have that level of intimacy, they are THRILLED to be able to see all of you and love every inch, whether it’s waxed or not. We should embrace it. And give our vaginas (and our whole bodies for that matter) some unconditional love.

Men as a whole (at least the ones I know) are very visual creatures, and they relish the chance to enjoy all of you without self-conscious squirming or outright refusal for them to just be able to look. It is actually a very loving and erotic moment in a relationship when you let those insecurities go and literally lay yourself bare for them. Unless you’re having no strings attached one night stands with guys with a gyno fetish, in which case mazel tov and enjoy.