On the pregnancy front, I'm less queasy--hooray!--but I don't sleep well anymore at all. I used to be one of those people that could sleep 8-10 hours straight. Totally solid sleep. Now I toss and turn, my back hurts, I get up to pee all the time. I ordered a body pillow from Amazon that I hope will help with back and abdominal support. I also ordered a prenatal yoga DVD and a prenatal strength training DVD, and I'm looking for a pair of swim shorts to wear over my old one piece so I can start swimming again. I get horrific razor burn around my bikini line and rather than let my embarrassment keep me away from the pool, I'm ready to slap on some shorts and get on with it. Summer is here!
And speaking of my skin, my appearance...I realized the other day that I feel obligated as a woman to a.) either be pretty and pleasant to look at, or b.) cover my flaws as much as possible "out of consideration for others", even if it means being physically uncomfortable or missing out on enjoyable things. As if the retinas of innocent bystanders will actually catch fire if they are subjected to my ugliness.
I know this is a really old topic, and some of the older feminists out there might be rolling their eyes. But it's one of those things that feels fresh and confusing nonetheless, for each person and each generation that grapples with it.
I thought I wanted to be attractive (or hide my numerous flaws) for all sorts of reasons: to avoid ridicule and expressions of disgust from others in order to protect myself from humiliation. On the flip side, to make me likeable to others and for the other social advantages that come from attractiveness. For innate biological reasons of wanting to attract and keep a mate. Etc etc.
But more and more, I'm realizing I feel it's somehow my DUTY to be pleasant to look at, as though being pretty is the decent, considerate thing to do. The other day I was catching some sun on my reclining deck chair in a swimsuit. My middle-aged, overweight, male neighbor came outside and started doing something in his yard, just off to my right. I immediately felt tense and self-conscious and started wondering if I looked disgusting to him. I didn't feel he was staring at me or anything, but I pondered whether I was unpleasant for this man to look at anyway.
It's silly. Not only am I not obligated to serve as eye candy for random men (or women), but I don't find this particular neighbor of mine attractive--I don't view him as a potential sexual partner--I don't think much about him, period. So why did I react this way? Why do I ALWAYS feel almost apologetic about my appearance? It might be a smart move to make oneself as attractive as possible; it may be advantageous on many levels. But is anyone obligated to be hot? Is anyone obligated to attempt to be hot? I don't think so.
I know that these feelings of obligation come from socialization, including aggressive marketing aimed at girls and women. But understanding the origins of it all doesn't really help me reprogram my thinking, it seems. My mom and older sister hated their bodily flaws and would express disgust when some other person lacked the "decency" to cover up bad skin, legs with severe cellulite, back fat, whatever. Over the years, I have found myself thinking similar things: "why doesn't this person simply cover that up? Wear a looser fitting top? Aren't they embarrassed?"
Well, no. Maybe they aren't embarrassed. Maybe they have higher priorities than masking their physical flaws. Maybe they don't even consider themselves flawed! And moreover, they don't owe anyone anything, and they aren't hurting anyone.
Even today, while shopping for swim shorts, I was reading reviews online and saw comments like "these shorts provide good coverage. No woman my age should be walking around in a regular suit. No one needs to see that." Or "I don't want to subject others to my fat thighs so I got these." One person actually said something like "I don't want to see anything old and saggy at the beach, including myself. These shorts do the trick."
So I guess if you can't fit the mainstream definition of attractiveness, you should at least have the decency to hide what makes you ugly? I don't know what else to say or do about this. After all, I'm ordering swim shorts to hide my razor burn (oh, and upper thigh cellulite and any stray hairs I might miss when shaving, because I am rather hairy and...)
Have any readers out there successfully gotten over feelings of obligation/duty/decency in regards to their appearance?