I keep waiting for the day when "skinny" will lose its social equation to "beautiful." I keep waiting for magazine covers to show something besides a model with sultry lips, tight stomach, and calves the size of beanstalks.
I wished this even when I was thirteen and new to the world of social beauty. My wish didn't keep me--and 0.9% of American women--from developing anorexia at sixteen. Nor did it keep me from that longing many of us know well: to be thin.
I'm not saying that the entire beauty industry has eyes for skinny girls. Check out #aerieREAL, for example.
But I am saying most of the beauty industry is suggesting some dangerous stuff, such as the notion that you have to be skinny to be sexy, and that you have to be thin to be worthy of a partner.
You won't have to be skinny for the right guy, ladies. I promise.
Many partners prefer confidence to digits on a scale.
When I was fifteen, I asked a close guy friend what he found most attractive in women. (Naturally. I was hungry for this kind of knowledge).
His answer was immediate. "Confidence," he said. "Hands down."
I actually posed this question to multiple men and women in the subsequent decade and received the same answer, unanimously. I'm past the point where this stuns me. It makes sense.
Think about who is most likely to captivate you, romantically, sexually, or otherwise: someone striding into a room in a power pose, or someone who slinks in shyly, hunched over her own form?
We notice people who believe in themselves, and not just in a superficial, physical, or sexual way. I am most compelled to romantic partners who know themselves and own what they have. I only notice their body shape, in these cases, way after the fact, if at all.
The right guy will feel the same way. He won't be there peering over your shoulder as you weigh yourself. Nor will he urge you to squeeze into a size zero or eat less to preserve your figure. (Ew.)
The notion that body shape determines love (or sexual attention) is misguided--even dangerous.
This is a principle perpetuated by media and even by dating apps--endlessly. And it is utterly false.
Your body shape does not preclude a romantic relationship. Nor does it preclude respect, love, and even a healthy sex life.
Yet it is so easy to buy into this notion, even after a quick scroll through social media, a brief glance at the news. It is so easy to believe that our future "person" will only crave a woman with flawless skin and an A-cup.
Such thinking can compel dangerous behavior, including eating disorders, unhealthy dieting, self-mutilation, and even suicide.
And if you do meet a guy who prioritizes body shape over most anything else, run. He's not for you. Enough said.
How do we crawl out from under such messages that media sends our way? I admit this can be challenging. Experience, however, is the only answer. And I don't just mean finding someone to sleep with you. Venturing into the dating world and encountering other lovers, while intimidating, can offer abundant perspectives.
I, for one, have learned that--nearly ubiquitously--many men prefer a woman who doesn't fit the standard skinny mold. My current partner, for example, doesn't question my tummy flab, the jiggle in my thighs. He thinks--bless him--these are feminine staples. He doesn't want my hip bones to protrude any more than they do.
Besides, "Skinny," "Normal," and Even "Dieting" Isn't Hip Anymore
You may have noticed that there is a huge self-acceptance movement building. A few clues I've noticed lately are the incredible success of movies with an "acceptance" theme, like The Greatest Showman. In fact, the soundtrack, with (with a theme song, "This Is Me") is experiencing a historic run on the top of the Billboard charts accomplished only a few times in music history by names like the Beatles and Adele.
Did you notice that even Weight Watchers has changed their name and branding? Yes, they now cringe at being labeled as a "weight loss diet," (diets usually fail) because diets like Noom are all about "wellness," focusing more on overall health than weight. That's a pretty significant sign of the times, don't you think?
He may have insecurities too.
Body image is not exclusive to women. Gendered and non-gendered individuals also have, at bare minimum, some concept of how they look. It's only natural that some of us may nurse some healthy anxieties. You may not be the only one in a relationship fighting with a mirror. It's a human thing, not a female thing.
Recognizing that no one is exempt may help ease the pressure, just like an ice-breaker. Better yet, have a conversation with your partner about body image, positivity, and confidence.
Other things will matter more.
In the right relationship, you may find yourself stepping further and further away from that scale.
Sure, I still have those ugly stares with myself in the mirror, the ones where I feel frustrated with how I look. (Who doesn't?)
But these grow more infrequent the more I commit to a relationship, the more I immerse myself in it and honor it. This is because true commitment, in my eyes, merits self-love. And when I'm flying high in the self-love department, I could give a damn about my jean size.
Focusing on your partner, the health of your relationship, how to get to know your lover's language more -- these things will, you may find, matter more than anything else.
And that's when you may know it's right.