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Friday, May 3, 2013

Just call me "Tubs".

Have you ever felt absolutely disgusted with your own body in general and then mortified by what you see when you look at pictures of yourself - only to revisit those photos years later and WISHED you could be that thin again because you are currently feeling exactly the same way or worse?  Were you ever actually as heavy as you thought?  Will you EVER be happy with your body as it is right. now.?  I rarely have been.  I love food too much to be anorexic -- but never really binged enough to need to purge.... but I definitely have a disorder.  A body disorder?  Is that a thing?  Do all women have that here in America?  I apologize as I realize I am just asking a lot of questions -- and I am not examining uncharted territory by any means.  We know the deal -- our culture does not appear to welcome real women's natural bodies for some bizarre reason.  Of course you find out in reality that nearly every body type is desirable to someone - somewhere....and because there are A LOT of someones all over this country and the world -- we are actually JUST FINE.  Two of my most satisfying & supportive relationships have occurred when I have felt "overweight" (including right now).  Realizing this still doesn't help my own body image and that is just silly. 

There was one point in my life I acquired some peace on this issue.  I bought a book, "The Idiots Guide to Yoga".  I read a lot of the book and looked at the pictures -- but didn't really practice any of the positions.  One thing that really resonated with me was the information about it's connection it's Buddhist philosophies of eliminating negative thoughts, words, & actions - to others - but most importantly to yourself.  For the first time in my life I realized how terrible I had been to myself all those years.  If any friend of mine were saying the things that would go through my head every time I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror to me -- I would definitely rethink that friendship.  So I did the same for myself.  That summer was terrific for me.  I had some extra time on my hands and was able to fit in truly mini workouts almost all week (20 minutes a day -- no kidding)....but I definitely was eating whatever the hell I wanted....and I lost 10 pounds in a month!  This was many moons ago -- and I have experienced a few gains and losses since but my happiest moments with myself have been when I did NOT permit these negative thoughts/words to myself about myself.  When I let myself truly enjoy everything I ate -- whether "good for me" or "bad"....and didn't punish myself.  I have maintained a very happy weight with myself using this "method". 

So - why am I writing about this?  I have recently been rehearsing for the brand new Off-Broadway production of "Spandex the Musical".  I suppose that may explain a lot right there, but for those of you who weren't around in the 80's.....aerobics was the fitness craze which swept the nation.  The wardrobe of choice was a breathable -- stretchy fabric called Spandex!  My role in this musical is that of Linda, a housewife/mother in her 40s who has lost her figure - but mostly her confidence and herself.  She finds her power once again through the inspiring friends she meets at aerobics and while competing in the National Crystal Light Aerobic Olympics - Hosted by Alan Thicke - inspired by real-life events!  I cannot tell you the mental ride I have been on with this experience.  From the callbacks to getting cast - to reading the script and realizing my character is referred to as "Tubs".....I have very conflicting highs and lows.  Winning this role feels amazing as a performer -- but terrible as a woman.  What a bizarre dichotomy for an actress.  Now - I am also not 40...and people claim I don't look 35 (which I am) -- but I have been playing that (& older) for several years now!  So I already am aware that casting often isn't 100% true to character descriptions but I can't help finding this experience so bizarre.  While I know my body is far from thin -- it definitely isn't what I see when I envision "Linda"...yet I could see why I might be perfect for her at the same time. 

This experience is unique for me on so many levels -- one of which is the need for me to wear workout clothes in rehearsal 5 days a week - with the end result being in actual Spandex -- something I don't think I OWNED in the 80's because I did not think I would look right in it (even at 8 to pre-teen I didn't think I could pull it off!).  You stare at yourself in the mirror as you rehearse and think terrible thoughts about all your rolls -- and wonder what other people might think of you (who clearly are paying no attention as they are doing the same thing to themselves).  Only this time --  every time I caught a glimpse of myself and thought of how terrible I looked -- all I could think of was how right that made me for "Linda".  I have NEVER felt so justified in this body I have.  Never.  It is exciting and uncomfortable all at once.  I have been attempting to lose at least 10 pounds for the past 2 years....and thought this might jumpstart that crusade.  The day we started rehearsals - I started another "diet" --- and hoped that - come opening night I could do the show without my "sucky-inny-clothes", as I call them --- otherwise known as "Spanx".  I thought this was when I was going to lose that 10 pounds.  How weird it felt though --- as I was now cast as someone called "Tubs"....maybe I shouldn't?  Well -- have no fear --- the hectic schedule has made it very difficult for me to keep up with my diet -- and that weight has not come off and I still despise my belly every time I see it in the mirror. 

I have been dying to share this experience with people....not because I have some incredible insight to share -- but because I feel like most women with similar feelings never get to have this type of experience.  Most American women never feel 100% perfect in the body they are in.  And that is a shame.  I still don't -- but I get to as I play "Linda" - who is taking control of her life and getting in shape.  Sure, she is doing aerobics - but I like to think she is finding her success the only way I think anyone does - by eliminating those negative thoughts which sabotage your efforts and truly loving and being kind to yourself.  It all reminds me of how we do have the power within ourselves to alter those thoughts which hinder our well-being.  If I had lost that 10 pounds 1 or 2 years ago -- as I had been attempting, and my body looked like I wish it did -- would I have booked this show?  Probably not. 

I won't lie -- I am still 100% terrified by any publicity shots that are coming --- or just at the thought of any of my friends and family seeing my imperfectness on display in Spandex costumes in the theatre district just Off-Broadway!  After several years doing some of my best work outside of NYC -- now my imperfections will be the most accessible in whatever press we get and obviously visible on stage every show.  I am uncomfortable with every inch of this -- but doing my best to identify with being so "right" to play Linda -- a sweetheart of a woman who has to learn to love herself just as she is - right now - something we should all be doing - all the time.

2 comments :

PaulBlog1 said...

Loving ourselves as we are right now is often very difficult for both genders. The world we live in provides much opportunity for conflict within and between us. Body image trouble is not exclusive to women but seems to be particularly pervasive and persistent for them. I didn't have a name for it but when I was a child I realized that my mother had no real concept of how she looked. When they were married both of my parents looked very good. My mother could have been a model as they are now were she less conservative and modest. Despite what many told her then and since she has always felt that she was ugly and no one has been able to convince her otherwise even when looking at photos of her in younger times she's convinced that she was hideous. Many times we were going places in the car and she would see a woman walking along that, I think, was well over 100 pounds heavier than my mother, yet mom would ask if that's what she looked like. We would all try to convince her that she wasn't in the same ball park with the woman she'd pointed to but she couldn't hear it. We even tried to show her women who more closely compared to her but she couldn't believe that either. This is in the '60s and '70s before super thin models were everywhere.

All of that to say, you're far from alone. This has been going on a long time and seems to have a way to go still. It's good that you found a role that gave you cause to be glad of your physical features despite the internal conflict you dealt with on that very subject. Keep moving in the right direction and hopefully you'll reach a point that mirrors are not dreaded for you and you'll be able to hear the voices of those who already accept you for who you are right now.

JM said...

Hello PaulBlog1!
Thank you again for connecting with one of my more personal posts. I agree -- this is NOT an issue solely for women and I am sorry to have generalized like that. I will say that - on the whole - women are held to a MUCH more stringent standard as far as weight is concerned (and age - for that matter). That's just how it is. I am not saying that men aren't also ridiculed by the general population for being overweight. Our society is highly cruel to all overweight individuals be they men or women. Mainstream media portrays a myriad of overweight men with tiny hot bodied women all the time though -- hammering away the notion that men can let themselves go but women - not so much. I definitely agree though -- at the heart of it all -- our own idea of what we look like can be VASTLY different than what everyone else sees and this can happen to men or women. We all have tremendous body issues and it is really quite unnatural yet it is so common. I do think our society has created this and I also believe it is slightly more of a problem for women based on society's standards. How sad that you all could not convince your mother of how beautiful she truly was. That breaks my heart and inspires me to stay out of my paranoid mind which - unfortunately has the world's most unflattering funhouse mirror inside it. I have to consciously choose to hear and believe those voices outside myself who so strongly disagree!