Chris will never let me watch What Not To Wear again.
I love the show. But it makes me depressed.
Recently, I made the huge mistake of admitting to Chris that watching 'What Not To Wear' depresses me. I identify so heavily with the nominees on the show that I feel their pain. Whenever one of them talks about self-esteem or body issues, my own issues come flooding in, and I hurt for them - and for me.
However, I also really love the show. I love Stacey and Clinton, and I am especially thrilled about Ted, the new hair guy. So last night, I convinced him that I was going to be absolutely fine watching the three episodes in a row that were on. The first episode I was fine with - the woman was much taller than me and really had nothing in common with me, so I could happily watch and be pleased for her outcome. But. The second episode. The second episode featured a woman who had (and they harped on this quite a lot) been raised as a Mennonite, and whose wardrobe was designed to help her blend into the background. At first, I was a little bit offended at their insistence on really hammering home her Mennonite upbringing. I was brought up Mennonite, and I had a record player and a tv and everything - even zippers and a car! They were making it sound like we all grew up with long skirts and horses and buggies, and that's just not always the case.
However, as I sat there and stewed in my own indignatude (I'm pretty sure I just worded that one), a little voice in the back of my head was saying 'are they so off the mark? Were you raised in a community where the women were made to feel comfortable about their femininity? Can you honestly say that the women who showed up to church on Sunday morning with their hair styled and sprayed and wearing make-up didn't seem a little out of place?' And I had to admit to myself that the anwer to these questions was no. As a girl raised in that community, I never got a sense that making sure I looked good was anything important. What was valued in our extended family was hard work and family values. Looks weren't important. To that end, I can't remember either of my parents ever telling me I was pretty.
To be sure, as I got older and made friends who weren't Mennonites, I did the usual young teen girl experimentation with make-up. My friends were just so relieved that I had come around to normal, but I always felt like such a fake, like I was just pretending to be a normal girl, when clearly I wasn't. Clearly - to me at least - I was less than a girl. I would rather watch hockey than chick flicks, and I was raised in a family that was almost all boys. My interactions with my girl friends growing up were different than those of their other girl friends. I got to the point where I didn't want to talk about boys, because I was pretty 100% sure that I was invisible to those creatures. So sure, in fact, that when one very dear boy asked me out in grade 11 or 12, I assumed he was playing a cruel joke on me and laughed in his face. Anyway, my point is, I took on the role of ugly friend, ugly cousin, ugly wingperson - the one you took with you when you wanted to talk to a boy but wanted back-up with a sharp tongue who didn't care if the boys liked her or not. I was the muscle.
This carried on into my wedding plans. When I married a boy who didn't buy my crap and liked me anyway, I wore a dress that was on sale for about $100. It was cotton and loose and flowy. I had barefeet. I got my hair and makeup did, and still refer to that day as Whore Day. I am still so acutely uncomfortable thinking abou that day, when someone had taken the time to try and make me look nice, and where other people were looking at me, that I feel nauseous whenever I do. Oh, for an elopement. But Chris insisted on an actual wedding. And so I bought the first white dress that I found that fit. It currently sits rolled up in a paper bag in a cedar chest. Part of me is just too practical to want to spend that much money on a dress I'll only wear once, but it goes deeper than that. I just didn't think that any actual wedding dresses out there had done anything bad enough to deserve to have me ruining them by putting them on. And I knew in the very core of my being that had I put on an actual dress, people would have looked at me and thought "poser. Who does she think she is, trying to look like a girl?". And I would have thought the same thing.
Wah wah wah. My point is, everytime I watch What Not To Wear, and the people have their big epiphany about how they deserve to take care of themselves, it bums me out. Because I know that I, just as I would have felt in an actual wedding dress, would have no epiphany, and would instead feel like someone who was trying to pretend she was better than what she was. Someone who didn't deserve the new start she'd been given. And honestly, I think that's where I'm going to be stuck until I can figure out a way to feel useful to society again as me - and by that, I mean as more than as a mom or a wife. How does one come to value themself again when so much of what has happened in the past year tells you that you're just not worth it? How do I grab life by the balls and make it go my way?
Yes. These are the thoughts that come when I watch that show. Well, that and how much I love Ted and his hair magic. And I was very pleased that the ex-Menno was now colourful and feeling like she deserved it.