25 April 2014

I'm Not Paid To Look Good, And I'm Thankful For That

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of attending the premiere of a documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival. I'm not usually a festival-goer or a Hollywood party type, but this documentary is special: it's about a case that my husband and I worked on, and my husband, as one of the lead defense attorneys in the case, is featured pretty prominently in it. I'm not in the film, but last week I authored the petition for certiorari that we submitted to the United States Supreme Court. (Click on the links here to read more about the case and the film. If you are interested in seeing it, it premieres on July 21 on HBO. Check your local listings.)

When I heard that we were invited to the film festival premiere, guess what my first thought was? No, not What an honor. Not Wow, this is exciting. I had those thoughts later. My first thought was Oh my God, they're going to photograph us and I am going to look awful and what on earth am I going to wear? Because I'm a work-at-home mom, and I spend my days in jeans and homemade sweaters, or in those university sweatshirts we buy when I take my kids to visit prospective colleges. I don't spend a lot of time or effort on my appearance. I don't spend my days working out or drinking protein shakes. I spend my days in front of a computer, writing appellate briefs to be submitted to tribunals all over the country. I knit and I write blog posts and look after my family. I occasionally run or walk around my neighborhood or take my bike for a spin, but I'm not a marathoner.

And I don't look like a marathoner. This causes me some distress, whether it should or not.

I eventually decided on a big, billowy, forgiving maxi-dress for the premiere. As I got dressed, I fretted about how I looked, and my husband said something very wise and very kind to me.

"Stop worrying," he said. "You look beautiful. Besides, you aren't paid to be skinny. You're attending this thing because of who you are and what you can do, not what you look like."

And that got me thinking about all the people I know who are paid to be skinny, who are forced to worry more about what they look like than about who they are. So many women in my age group are obsessed with fitness that I can't even count them. They spend their days at exercise classes, constantly have to say no to the french fries, debate the value of juice cleanses and spin classes. Sometimes it's all they talk about. I can't blame them, because many of them depend for their livelihood on how they look. That's true of women in the fashion and fitness industry but also in business: unlike men, we are so often judged by how we look that it becomes part of our job.

I'd like to be a svelte beauty, but I am grateful that it's not my job. I'm happy that I am not a slave to the laws of thermodynamics. I worry about my health, as everyone does - my mother recently survived a massive stroke, and that has me on heightened alert about my weight and my general cardiovascular health - but I am glad that I am judged, for the most part, on my use of my brain and not the size of my thighs. I try to opt for the side salad when I can. But I can have the fries sometimes, and I can go for a run or ride my bike around town when I feel like it, but I don't need to obsess about losing my livelihood, or the affection of those who matter to me, with every gained pound.

And it occurs to me, this morning, that that's one more thing to be grateful for.

1 comment:

hbksloss said...

I love your line: "I am glad that I am judged, for the most part, on my use of my brain and not the size of my thighs." Frankly I have struggled with my weight all my life. I come from a family in which 6 relatives of mine have suffered from anerexia. Not good!

It really messed with my head and I joined the "clean plate" club to show my mother that I was not sick too. But in the process I crossed a line and struggled with this issue for decades.

It wasn't about being judged by others as much as how much I used to judge myself. Thank goodness it has gotten better as I have aged. I wrote about this issue in February 2014 on my blog. Would love to hear your thoughts on the piece: http://www.themagicofmothering.com/the-naked-truth-about-mothering-your-body/