The Size of “Cool”

I am late to this A & F bashing party.  If you have been living under a social media rock and have no idea what I am talking about, see the snippets from the Salon.com interview here.  I’ve made my opinion known on Facebook and Twitter and have shared several posts from other blogs on their opinions.

Like Snarkfest here here.

And People I Want To Punch In The Throat here.

But I have not, until now, posted my own thoughts.

Because I needed a moment to think about how I’d discuss a topic that is so personal in such a public way. So for the 3 people that follow me, know I’ve put a lot of thought into this. 🙂

It is no secret among my close friends that I have had past struggles with eating disorders. But I have tended to joke about it in a past tense type of way rather than delve into the world of what it is like to be consumed by a disease- yes, a disease- that is almost encouraged by a society’s view that “skinny” is “cool”.

And when you have companies like A & F whose CEO convey’s this:.

He doesn’t want larger people shopping in his store, he wants thin and beautiful people,” Lewis said. “He doesn’t want his core customers to see people who aren’t as hot as them wearing his clothing. People who wear his clothing should feel like they’re one of the ‘cool kids.’” Salon.com via Elite Daily.

you have the thoughts of misguided impressionable teenagers, that in order to fit in you needed to be “skinny”, validated.

Growing up I always thought I wasn’t “skinny” enough. I ran track and was really good- but thought I’d be better if I was “skinnier”. Never mind the fact that you actually need to eat when you train and exercise to be able to function and not do things like, say, pass out.

But to a teenage girl, that did not compute. I’d look in the mirror and hate what I saw. I’d take a shower and hate what I saw. I’d get undressed and hate what I saw. I’d get dressed and I’d hate what I saw.

My body was not overweight, but my mind thought it was. It was a pretty lose-lose situation between my head and my body.

So I set goals. “Only eat one meal today”.  And then more goals. “I won’t eat today and I’ll just eat one meal tomorrow”Helllooo anorexia.

And if I failed and ate, well then, there were ways to get the food out quickly. Helloooo bulimia.

And then when I’d get hungry I’d help myself reach my goal by gulping down diet pills, which are really speed and then I was walking around like a zombie and my high school teacher finally thought something was up and called my mom.

And told her she thought I was abusing drugs.

Which, essentially, was true. But I wasn’t abusing drugs because I wanted to get high. I was abusing diet pills aka drugs because I wanted to get “skinny”.

I wanted to be in the “cool” group and wear the Guess and Jordache jeans (REALLY??).

I wanted to be in the “cool” group and date the cute guys.

What I ended up in was LOTS.OF.THERAPY.

I was in real trouble there for a while. Not “you’re grounded” trouble, but “you could die” trouble. My problem was not “cool”. No, not at all. My problem was life-threatening.

I cannot imagine what my parents went through.

They got me help. They stood by me. They watched while their little girl struggled with something they couldn’t begin to comprehend. 2 years of  weekly individual therapy in a hospital setting. Fucking. Sucked.

Then the year of voluntary group therapy.

Then the year of living dangerously through a serious relapse when I got no help at all. I somehow managed to pull myself up by my too loose pants loops and eat a banana.

And I thought, “What the hell am I doing, crying in the middle of my kitchen floor, anxious that eating a banana is going to make me gain a pound?”

So I stopped.

And I got healthy. I ate better. I made exercise a part of my regular routine. I changed my life.

Actually, I saved my life.

Eating disorders are a strange thing: the issue isn’t really about the clothes, and it’s not about the boys. It’s about your feelings of self-worth.  But when you are at an age where all people talk about are clothes and boys, you start thinking that’s all that matters and if you aren’t wearing the right clothes or aren’t the right “size”, you feel worthless. Crazy, huh?

What is crazy is when people say things such as,

“[We are] only interested in people with washboard stomachs….,”

regarding the people they want to market to.

Because, again, your misguided impressionable teenage minds feel validated that to be cool, you need to be a certain “size”.

This is what makes A & F dangerous. Because they are validating the thoughts of thousands of misguided and impressionable young girls that their looks and what they wear are what make them a “cool” person.

Notice that they don’t say “nice” or “caring” or “funny” or “smart” or “talented”. Just “cool”. And their version of “cool” only invites a small selection of people.

I went through years, YEARS, of therapy, to become convinced that I was better than the size on a pair of pants.

I compromised my health. I let my body shape determine what kind of person I was.

I let “cool” become a “size”.

I don’t want that for my beautiful daughters. I want them to see themselves as beautiful because, well, they are.

I want them to see “cool” as being kind and never thinking that someone is good or bad based on what size pants they wear.

I want my daughters to be accepted for who they are, not for what shape or size they are.

Of course I want them to be healthy. Of course I don’t want them to be overweight because that comes with a whole host of medical concerns including diabeties, high cholestoral and high blood pressure.

But to have their worth determined by their pant size.

Hell. NO.

So to you Mr. Jeffries- consider your reign at A & F on borrowed time. Because your message is NOT okay. Your message is NOT acceptable. These beautiful girls DO. NOT. ACCEPT. YOUR. MESSAGE.

 

just like mommy

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15 thoughts on “The Size of “Cool”

    • Thank you! Brave made possible by wine (which explains atrocious editing!)! Thanks for your positive feedback and lovely comment!

  1. Wow that was amazing! Everything that you have written was like a punch to my gut. I suffered through various stages of what a beautiful girl should look like and have also joked around past tense about that part of my life. I totally agree with you and want my boys to view girls as beautiful because of who they are and not how thin they are. I also want my daughter to feel beautiful not because of how thin she is but how smart, funny and caring she is. A & F CEO is on borrowed time and I can’t wait. Everyone who will listen to me will know it is absolutely not OK! LOVE YA CHRISTIE! You have and are and will always be beautiful and truly a wonderful mother!♥

    • Thanks my friend! I hope that my message resonates with many moms AND dads. It is so important to develop strong, confident kids that believe in themselves for who they are, and not what they wear and how they look on the outside. Body image should be based on being healthy and feeling good, not how skinny you are and how you look in some jack asses clothing line.
      You are also a beautiful mom and I miss you guys! Hugs all around!

  2. I’ve been mulling this one over. In high school (well, always really), I was the fat kid. I still always feel like the fattest thing in the room. And while folks tell me how beautiful I am, it often feels like lip service, because when I lose weight, I get compliments. No one ever says, “Wow…you gained weight – you look terrific!” There’s a huge stigma around the obesity epidemic right now — I swear if I see one more headless belly shot on the news objectifying and depersonalizing fat folks…but I digress. It’s a message that’s hard to combat, and I think young women especially internalize it.

    Back in high school, I recall one classmate saying how she admired the girls in her ballet class because of their anorexia: “They have so much self control!” You hit on an incredibly important point — no shape or size is ever small enough if the root of the problem is one of self-image. And building that self-image starts early and never ends…even as I struggle with my own self-image, I’m trying to give my kids the self-possession to love themselves in the face of societal pressures that they’re not right. Whether it’s because my son likes pink and takes ballet (his choice) as much as he likes fire trucks and karate, or because I don’t let my daughter buy in to the princesses and Barbie fads, even in preschool it’s a daily conscious choice to raise independent kids who like what they like and, more importantly, love who they are.

    Gotta visit StC soon to see you and the folks.

    • Helllooooo Lucy!
      “Fat” is a word we don’t allow in our house. It carries a huge negative image and is used in teases and taunts.
      I feel for you and your experiences. You are a wonderful person, great friend, talented teacher and loving mom.
      That makes you pretty cool in my book!
      And seriously, you are part of one of my fav memories ever at work!

  3. Wow, Christie! As I have known you since well before high school, I never imagined that you weren’t anything but naturally skinny. Kudos to you for coming through all that without permamnent damage. I had no idea! “Fitting in” at WWHS was always a struggle…so competitive, so many over-inflated ego’s, but, in the end, probably a good place to learn many of life’s lessons before most others did. Going back now even further (and on a much lighter note), you were always the fastest runner at Radnor ES, even though it pained me greatly in 5th or 6th grade to admit it 🙂 Anyway, just wanted to leave a comment…keep up this great blog you got going here, it’s clear you are truly a multi-talented gal!

    • My greatest accomplishment in 6th grade was beating you in the 40 yard dash. Yep, don’t think I forgot that!!!!

  4. Totally agree with you on the definition of “cool.” I hope to teach my girls the same. I think you were already into your 2 years of “not fun” therapy when we met. Perspective is funny because I was always jealous that you were so nicely muscular!

  5. I have always thought you were pretty on the outside, but truth be told, your not one of my besties because of your looks. It’s the amazing person you are on the inside! Keep on blogging my friend! Cheers!

    • You are one of my besties because if I said, “hey, I need someone to wear a purple wig and drink wine with” you’d be all “rock on sista!”
      Love ya-

  6. Pingback: Happy Anniversary To My Crazy Little Blog! | My Special Kind of Crazy

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