The Shape of a Woman

I caught of glimpse of myself — el nudo — in a full length mirror the other day and stopped. “Hmmm, not bad.” Not as bad as I thought, anyway.

I hardly ever see myself full length, especially without clothes, and I bet most women don’t.

The mirrors where we get intimate are the ones we use to pull hairs from our eyebrows and chins, or to apply mascara. And I guess because I have such a hang-up about the size of my butt, I rarely ever look at myself below the waist. I’m glad if my Old Navy size 10 jeans fit, and if the shirt I am wearing buttons around the hips, without straining.

The Pieces and The Sum

I’ve been thinking a lot about form and shape though lately… my students are writing essays and I’ve noticed that they are, as usual, clinging to what they are sure of. That safe, five-paragraph form they had drilled into them in high school. They are tentative about realizing that the shape of the essay is not what the essay becomes.

An essay is the sum of all the internal connections, the context and the ideas that make it meaningful. The form works to hold those pieces together.

Fitting a Woman

I think, for women though, we are being fed the same message, constantly, that my students are: form first. It’s why we diet so much, why we are ashamed of our sometime most-prominent and defining features– boobs, butt, stomach (even when they are the favorite features of our male counterparts… my husband loves my butt and I’ve had more than a few whistles from construction workers!)

The irony is that women are not designed for objectification, or for pining over pores and nail length. Our bodies are designed for labor, and for love.  Women have to endure the joy/pain of childbirth, the separation of children leaving or dying, the love of her family, her husband, all deeply and fully. A woman is an emotional caretaker– of the Earth, its children, and the men who need her.

Shall we reconsider the Brazilian bikini wax and the 4-inch heels then? It’s the internal connections that matter– her context, her ideas and the way she loves that make a woman great. Why are we continually being distracted by “form?” That is someone else’s idea of who we are.

I used to do live modeling for art classes and I loved it. I felt beautiful in the moment of posing, and I was happy to see the artists’ depictions of me, however rough. They were the shape of a woman.

It Fits

I’ve never minded my naked body, or felt self-conscious. To me, it is just the right packaging. The problem always came when I tried to fit clothes made for some other person’s idea of a woman onto me. That was when I felt stubby, fat, short-waisted, unstylish, drab, ugly. Suddenly, the shape of me felt wrong.

I was glad to have spotted myself in the mirror the other day. It reminded me that I have a body, that it fits me, and it looks good, even with its imperfections.

  4 comments for “The Shape of a Woman

  1. Tammy
    October 3, 2008 at 8:47 am

    You always have looked great! I’ve always thought your body says exactly what I like about you – short and spunky with lots of fight!! And I’m totally with you on the clothes thing – too bad we don’t have our own personal designers to make us clothes that flatter our best “ass”ets!

  2. October 3, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    Thanks Tammy! I’ve been contemplating just making my own clothes, but I don’t know how good I will look in sacks with threads trailing behind me.

  3. Shakenbsis
    October 17, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    Wonderful post Elizabeth! Thank you…

  4. May 16, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Thank you for this post. I have often felt the same as you in particularly your last paragraph. I have no hangups about my body or my shape on its own. In the summer I have often not thought twice of declaring a naked day and spending the day in my office working in the buff, but as soon as I go to put clothes around this shape it’s all wrong. Thank you for the reassuring thoughts in this post, loved it.

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