The illusion of difference.

Nikki and I have been talking body types a lot. I talk about how I’m not in my “race day body” right now – but as I pick up my miles that body will make an apperance. However, I also talk about how there are things I’ll miss about this body – like how I really like my boobs at this weight. She knows I love this body for some reasons but that as I run more I’ll thin out again for my big race, but I’ll never get TOO thin because that’s just not my body type. I talk about that, how my body is best for running at a certain size, but never as small as some of the runners we know and that’s fine. That’s THEIR body. I talk about how some clothes fit better on THIS body but won’t fit right on my race day body. And that the trick with ANY body is to find the clothes that make you feel GREAT about your body and wear the shit out of them.

There’s a certain dress style that I love but the waistline hits me weird and somehow makes me feel shorter than I am. I use that as an example, I’ve even tried one on before to show her what I mean. But a high-waist/empire-waist dress? Those make me feel SO TALL, and I love those dresses. I explain to her, that when we’re shopping for clothes she needs to feel GREAT in what she chooses. We do not need to shop based on what her FRIENDS look great in, but what she FEELS great in.

And a lot of this works. She really seems to grasp that not all of us have the same body and things that look great on women we love, don’t necessarily work on us. And that there are outfits you will find that you look at yourself in and think YES! THIS IS THE PERFECT OUTFIT! But then your friends might try on that same outfit and it doesn’t look as good. Or vice versa – you could borrow clothes from your friend and it won’t quite look the same on you. I guess I’m trying my best to lay the groundwork so she doesn’t unfairly compare herself to others or expect clothes to look the same on her as they do her friends.

But all of this has been hitting me as incredibly futile lately because…EVERYONE ON TV LOOKS THE SAME…EVERYONE ON THE MAGAZINE COVERS LOOKS THE SAME…EVERYONE IN THE MOVIES LOOKS THE SAME.

Yes, there are anomalies, but for the most part every face she sees on TV, in the theater, and on magazines is attached to a long, lean body. Maybe it’s been photoshopped, but for the most part they are ALL THE SAME. So while I’m home trying to provide real-world examples of the variety of beautiful bodies in the real world, she turns on the TV and everyone is lean and perfect.

And this is the part I struggle with.

She sees our friends and family and gets that there are different bodies but she turns out our favorite superhero shows and all of the girls look the same. Long and Lean. “Perfect” bodies to the eye of an 11-year old.

This is the same with older women and the beauty industry’s hatred of wrinkles. No one puts wrinkly faces on magazines or on TV shows or in movies except when they need a grandma-aged character. But if you need/want a middle-aged woman? She’s not showing wrinkles so we start to think wrinkles are not normal and suddenly everywhere I turn there’s ads for $250 anti-wrinkle “systems” that we’re supposed to be using.

DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY DONUTS I CAN BUY FOR THAT MONEY?

We all live with two realities. The one that we see around us every day in our sisters and our coworkers and our friends and family: Many beautiful bodies in many beautiful shapes and sizes.

But then we turn on the TV or look at a magazine and every female body looks the same: Long, Lean, Perfect Skin.

It’s very easy to see how we all get such distorted ideas of beauty. Women hate their wrinkles because no one on TV or in the movies has them. Girls hate muffin tops because everyone has flat bellies on magazine covers. Women are ashamed of rolls under their bra strap because no one on TV has extra pounds ANYWHERE. We see the beauty of variety in the real world, but not in the world that sells us clothing and food and cars. That world all women have the exact same body: so of course we think any variation is bad.

I don’t really have a point other than just expressing frustration that no amount of coaching at home about the different kinds of BEAUTIFUL bodies can erase the fact that the media we all ingest is homogenized. We can all name the same actresses that don’t fit that standard mold, but how many of those women have been cast with that body because that body is part of the punchline? How many times is the bigger women used as the source of comedy?

Hollywood tends to cast gay men being gay, black women being black, and fat people being fat. What we need is gay characters that could also be straight, or black women being cast in parts that allow them to be something where “blackness” is not the story, or fat women being cast in a roll that could be just as funny being played by a thin women. If the comedy REQUIRES the character be fat, then we’re not normalizing anything.

We are all complex in our beauty and our flaws. And the older I get, the more frustrated I get that the media we consume – more often than not – only casts outside this mold if the story is about how the character does not fit the mold. Let’s see more characters that don’t fit that unrealistic “beauty” standard, and then just go on living their normal lives. I want to see a character in a main storyline that is gay, or has brown skin, or does not have a lean body…and I want to see that character be involved in a story that doesn’t relate to ANY OF THOSE THINGS. I want to see a Melissa McCarthy cast in a roll Jennifer Lawrence could have played and it not changed the story. I want to see Jennifer Hudson cast in a roll that Emily Blunt could have played and it not changed the story. I want the main character in an action movie be gay and the only reason we know that is the background shots of his family portraits featuring his husband.

It’s just hard to convince my child that our world is a mosaic of differences when she doesn’t see it reflected back in Hollywood. Hell, we don’t even see it reflected back in our government. Our representatives are more overwhelmingly straight, white, Christian men…at a much higher percentage than our actual population is.

I’m just discouraged lately, I guess. I’ll keep delivering the messages but it sure would be nice if the people who choose magazine covers and movie leads and TV cast would back me up once in awhile.