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Hope Forward: Surviving and Thriving through Emotional Pain: Body Shopping

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Body Shopping

Used to be that going to the beach was really a day at the beach. Sun, sand, waves, the amazing smell of the ocean (and french fries) and what mattered was how to get a great tan without getting fried, and how to blot out the people around you so you could float away into the golden universe of vacation.

But now, I hear, its about body shopping. Not that this is new. Truth is, I've known about it for a while. And certainly, there is nothing new about women comparing their bodies to the bodies around them. Happens all the time everywhere. Dressing rooms, pools, grocery stores. Competitive creatures that we are, and well trained by society and every message at every turn, to attain the perfect body, women are still as consumed as ever with perfecting our look. What I really find awesome though, is how completely absorbing this habit can be. Its like the great blinder, it allows those who do it to forgo any pleasure at actually being in the day, in the warmth of the sand, the ease of the ocean air and be totally focused on the shape, size and structure of the bodies around them.

So here is how I've heard body shopping defined: It is the habit or art of looking around you for the body or bodies that you would most like to have, that you envy, covet and crave. When you find such a body, you can first fill up with jealousy and awe, and then you can start to think really hateful self pitying thougths about your own body. You can make this the most important idea in life. Her good body, and your terrible one. You can assume that everyone on the beach, and in the universe for that matter, knows that your body is awful, and that other bodies are much much better.

The whole world of course, notices this and thinks that nothing in the world matters except the look of the body. Forget that you can hear great music with your ears, or the sound of the waves crashing onto the shore. Forget that you can see all the way out to the horizon where sea meets sky and the blues and greys and whites are so pure that it almost hurts, and forget that you can smell saltwater and feel sea spray and walk on two feet with sand squished between your toes. Or that your heart is beating, your lungs are filling up on without you having to remind them, and that your knees bend so you can walk without stiffness.

What a thief body shopping is. Most women do it to some degree. Some of us have agreed on some deep level to let body shopping take over as our guide to feeling good or bad. If our body rates better than most, we are good. If its worse than most, we are bad. Our measuring stick is not what's inside us, but whats around us.

We size each other up and down, and sooner or later we lose. Its not a day at the beach to live like that. We miss out on so much. Just wondering, what if. What if the next time we start to indulge, we could just thank our liver for functioning so well, and take a deep breath and enjoy our lungs, and look at the sky and think: wow.

46 comments:

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