24 February 2009

The Right to Bear Arms

Kate Winslet as "Rose" in Titanic (1997)

I love Kate Winslet. And the thing I love about her is her no nonsense attitude about her figure.  She is utterly unapologetic about her shapely curves, her warm, round womanliness. Hers is a shape that is often at odds with contemporary visions of what a woman should look like, e.g., the countless card-board cut out, stick-insect, body-like-a-mop models who populate the fashion pages.

Body image is a funny thing. I have always prided myself on being quite balanced about my figure, that is, until recently…

Last week was quite a hard week for me. On Wednesday, I found myself breathless, lying on the gym floor. No, I hadn’t fallen. I was lying on the mat practicing a new “arm busting” move Eva’d taught me using the Body Ball. I panted and struggled. I pushed my way through the pain, finished, dropped the ball and closed my eyes.

When I opened them, my gym pal, Julia was standing over me, looking down with an encouraging smile: “You’re doing so well.” she soothed. “Really?” I said, struggling to my feet. “Really?” I asked again, feeling tears forming in my eyes. “Yes,” said Julia. “You can really see a difference.”

I threw my sweaty arms around her and thanked her profusely. After she left, I gathered my things, changed and went for my daily swim. When I came back to shower, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. “Julia was only being nice to you. You haven’t changed at all,” said the judgmental voice in my mind. I limped into the shower and burst into tears. I wept like I have never wept before. I felt so small and alone. Well, may be “small” isn’t the right adjective, here, but you get my point.

Truth be told, I am quite small, height-wise. Small and curvy. A tough combination to combat. In other words, if I were 5 ft. 6, I would have no issues at all. But, alas, ones height—like ones feet—is ones height.

The thing I hate the most are my arms. And, the fact that I lost my mind a chose a strapless, sleeveless wedding gown. Is it possible to have liposuction on your arms? Would I really go that far, if it were possible? I hope not.

My first “Bridal Breakdown” took me very much by surprise. The second one was less surprising, though just as unexpected. The DEB and I were out with friends over the weekend. To be sure, British humour is one thing that an American has to get used to. I’m not talking about the Monty Python, BBC America Brit Com humour, I mean the personal, one-on-one British humour.

Ribbing 1. verb [trans] informal - to tease good-naturedly

Noticing that I was having a glass of wine, instead of the usual beer or ale—that I love—our friends inquired as to my sudden change of heart. “I’m on diet.” I confessed. “And she’s doing so well!” The D.E.B. enthused as he went off to the bar to order the next round of drinks. “Dieting are you?” one of our friends pursued the point further. I failed to see the metaphoric trap door, and ran forward: “Yes, and I’m going to the gym for two hours a day, every day.” “Well, you need to don’t you?“ “Do I, really?” like a fool, I asked honestly. “Yes, you do.” the teasing went further.  I was speechless, stunned and hurt. But, of course, it’s all meant in jest, so you have to laugh along, right?

I felt the tears welling up again, but I put on a brave face, and played the good sport. Don’t want to be labeled as “over sensitive” or as someone who “can’t take a joke.”  All that night, I mused over where the fault lay: in the comment itself, or the way in which I received it. Really, I told myself, I should be confident enough to take such ribbing in my stride.

Later, on our way home, in the car, I could hold my tears no longer. The poor D.E.B., who had had no idea of what had transpired, was completely stunned. He pulled the car over into the nearest lay-by, got out and ran round to my side of the car. He opened my door, and gathered me up in his arms. “I love you just the way you are.”  The D.E.B. kept saying over and over.

We got home and went to bed, I tossed and turned all night. Saturday morning, 5:00 AM. Wide awake, crying and fretting about being a fat bride, with big arms. There was just one thing for it. I must work harder. I lie awake in bed staring at the ceiling, waiting for the gym to open at 7:00 AM.

I was the first person in the gym that day.  I was there before Eva arrived for work for the day. “What you doing here, so early?” she sleepily said, in her soft Polish voice. I told her the dreadful story of the night before. “You must not worry what people say.” She was right, and before I knew it, I went from weepy to angry. And I had one of the best workouts I have ever had!

I’m still smarting a bit from the teasing the other night, but I am feeling a bit better about my body, and trying to gain (or regain) a sense of balance about it all. Over the weekend, the DEB and I went shopping for wedding attire for him and his groomsmen. We were referred to a place called “The Wedding Barn” – sounds weird, but was actually really, really cool and fun!

Since I already have my dress, I didn’t need to look in the gown area, but did anyway just for giggles. There was a selection of Bridal jackets near the gowns. Eureka! I thought, the cure for big arms. So, I asked to try one on. I took off my shirt—had a camisole on underneath—and tried the little jacket on. “What you are doing that for,” Catherine the shop owner interrupted, “you’ve got really nice arms.” 

“Are you joking, or did someone pay you to say that?” I said, once burnt and twice shy.

So, the quest continues. My first fitting is exactly two weeks from today. And what is today? Today is Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day. I can only ask myself: "What Would Kate Winslet Do?" I think she’d have pancakes!

p.s. I have a wonderful new back up plan. I discovered this A-M-A-Z-I-N-G thing called a “Wrapor”. It’s an ingenious little design by Kay McEllin. It combines the elegance of a wrap with the modern style of a shrug or bolero jacket. Kay designs each one individually to match the bride’s dress exactly. Marvelous! Check her out: www.wraporshrug.co.uk


giftsofthejourney said...


I am so mad at those "friends" and their unkind remarks.

It's not like society doesn't already try make us feel like we're less than at every turn unless we're a bone and a hank of hair. Then to have friends be so mean... English or American, there's nothing funny about that to me!

You are a beautiful woman and I am so looking forward to seeing you in that dress with or without a "Wrapor."

Spike 1 said...

Don't make me get all Public Enemy...

Forget about it ( say like the NYC/NJ way)

When have we ever cared REALLY. You are the YSL woman...

P.S. love the wrap idea, b/c it's beautiful not b/c it's NEEDED!

Elizabeth said...

I sympathize with the confusion—sitting at a table too stunned to comprehend whether you should yell at the culprit taking the mic or laugh along in good fun. Arrgh! Those damn brits! Luckily it did teach me to laugh at myself more often and now I do it all the time.

I am sure they were right to tease you though. I again can sympathize. I have always been more 'curvy' than 'skinny' and I always felt like the fat arse around my friends (who conveniently were always model thin). My current boy broke up with his skinny, little ex for my voluptuous self so I am starting to feel better about it. He adores my big butt and legs (my two most hated parts) so it helps.

You DEB sounds amazing. You're walking down the aisle for him... just him and you!