weighty issues

It seems, lately, like I am often thinking about my weight. Not in a negative way, necessarily, or in a positive way, just that I am aware of it. Thinking about the fact of it, wondering what I think about it. Sensing the cultural pressure to be slender, seeing the cultural norm of not being especially slender (of consuming consuming consuming), watching friends and acquaintances care deeply about and suffer over their weight…it is a complex issue.


Today I weigh 136 lbs. This fluctuates easily 3-4 lbs in either direction in a matter of days. I am conscious of wanting to weigh slightly less, not that the number is especially important – in a certain window the number is useless, and not indicative of how I look or feel – but I have a sense of heaviness and lethargy that I know I do not have when I weigh less. It’s incredible how sensitive the body is to these slight changes, we are talking a matter of 5-8 lbs, maybe.  I care about this (being healthier, stronger, more energetic), though not actually enough to try very hard to achieve it at the moment. Lately I eat a bit too much (I prepare too much, and then eat it, and also eat an astonishing quantity of bagels), and my body is getting used to it and now wants too much. To lose the weight is fairly straightforward for me (luckily), I need to drop my caloric intake and ignore the hunger signals my overindulged body will send. To ignore those signals, I just need a very, very good distraction.

Not that I am remotely overweight, here, which is playing into my lack of motivation. The last physical I had, the doctor recommended a goal weight of 125 for me. [And told me to exercise more. I should exercise more, it’s true, though exercising for the sake of exercising is to me the most boring, unsatisfying use of time, and I need to be more strategic.] I have been, at the lowest in adulthood, 123ish lbs, which I can authoritatively say is too low a number for me. I have been, at the highest, 155ish lbs, which is for me too high, though really I was healthy at those weights and all the ones in between, and felt attractive, had body confidence, etc. I am confident now, too, but I  still have a preference. Of the myriad human silhouettes, there are some I prefer over others, and I have  specific ideas about the shapes* I would like to be. I am currently aiming for an athletic 128ish lbs. These numbers are useless to anyone but myself but I give them to show their power (just that I know them, that I was paying so much attention – that you likely know your numbers as well, that we think about size in the confines of this one number rather than in some more useful, nuanced way), which is insidious.

*This plural is so important…perhaps another way to say it is I have specific ideas about the shapes I want at my disposal, my body being just one element of those shapes. Ehhh…I begin to get that feeling that no one has any idea what I am talking about…a topic for another time, maybe.

I give them, too, because it is so taboo to give them, so gauche to ask. This always confused me, the same as the age question taboo confuses me. The fact of the body is visible, the height, weight, age, roughly guessable, the exact number useless, uninteresting to anyone else but you and your mom and your physician and the people coming to your birthday party and such. I am 32, I weigh 136 lbs…who cares? I care, actually, in the sense I am interested in everything about myself (not in the sense that I am somehow ashamed, or think of this as critical secret information), but why should you? Do we want to know exactly how much we have in common? Exactly how much to approve or disapprove, or praise or disparage?

I do remember, as a child, liking when someone was my age. It was more relevant then, with my knowledge-base growing so rapidly from one year to the next. It’s funny, the sense of wonderful coincidence it sometimes had to discover someone was my age, as if there weren’t millions of us. It’s relevant too with babies, who we talk about in months or even weeks rather than years, so quickly are they changing. Perhaps we haven’t outgrown this feeling that it is important, that exact number? Hm. End tangent.

Like so many aspects of beauty and style, all of the anecdotes in the world cannot help me know what to do for myself, and most everything anyone else is doing, while perhaps interesting, is completely irrelevant to me.

I don’t have a point precisely, but I wanted to express that this is on my mind. I consider myself a healthy and body confident person…and still. It isn’t foremost in my thoughts, but it is there. I am so irritated with our culture for doing that to me, and so conscious of the deliberate force with which I have to rebel against the idea that my totally nice and healthy body needs improvement (I compromise by thinking it doesn’t need but could benefit from small improvements, so technically I guess I am still failing at this), and the pressure to be thin, the virtue of which, at the extremes promoted now in the fashion industry and the monster machine of celebrity, are illusory, and socially constructed.

Ideals of beauty are social constructs. Construct your own ideal.


trending, part i


Being on trend (let’s put off for now whether or not this desirable) is both more difficult and easier than ever before. There are currently, in this era, this time, more trends simultaneously alive and well than ever before. Pick up a magazine, read the fashion and style pages of some newsmonger or another, poke around on pinterest and street style blogs, watch Bill Cunningham, pay attention when you’re walking down the street – once you hit a certain threshold of data the trends jump out at you left and right. No matter how many there are, though, there’s still a [shifting, arbitrary, somewhat mysterious] hierarchy of cool.

Trends used to be small, powerful details, widely adopted, one following another from season to season. The length of a sleeve, the height of a hem, the volume or cut of a skirt, the placement of a broach. A distinct silhouette can be identified (there are fascinating charts for all kinds of fashion patterns) for almost every year throughout the 1800’s and much of the 1900’s.


 image via dressmakingresearch.com

After this dating a photo with clothing gets a bit more difficult, perhaps you can only guess within a decade. We can still do this well up through the 90s. Perhaps there is a bit of branching off, several schools of trends can identify (or evoke) an 80s look. The Madonna school, the Michael Jackson school, the Pat Benetar school, and so on, but even these share umbrella traits of bold, geometric/unnatural silhouettes (think cone bra, think boxy shoulders), bright colors, loud accessories, over-the-top patterns. Like so many things that are tiresome or tricky to define, you know it when you see it.

Today, though, even aside from the fact that it’s impossible to have a comprehensive perspective on your own time, the trends are multiplying faster than we can wear them, and many of them stay active for years. There are so many it’s almost (almost) as if there aren’t any, and we have entered a new era of freedom and flexibility of dress*.

*Still nothing like what the future will see, surely.

There is no getting around it, trends are strange, complex social phenomena. Often baffling (if not outright awful), once in a while classic (a revival of some historic style of dress, maybe), or sophisticated to the modern eye. Highly mutable and notoriously difficult to predict, often with murky origins, they remind me a little of traffic patterns, which I understand to be difficult to predict and untangle cause-wise, approaching true randomness. They sometimes peter out within a month or so, and sometimes persist for many seasons, or persist to graduate out of trend status and into just…stuff we often wear. Some seem to become (or seem to be becoming—historians, I do not envy you your job) part of the conception of basic modern style.

Like anyone, I like some and don’t like others. I do sometimes find it difficult to suspend the awareness that something is a trend while assessing it, which can have a negative impact on my take. When I’ve seen something over and over…sometimes I start to come around. Some are broad (skinny jeans with heels), and some are almost comically detailed (dainty gold knuckle rings with a hammered finish, worn on multiple fingers at different heights). I suppose one convenient thing about trends is that they provide a straightforward formula to follow to look fashionable in the mainstream sense, and if you like the trend, why not? On the other hand, they can leech originality and personality right out of things, such that everyone looks kind of vaguely nice, and kind of vaguely like everyone else*. Then, too, there is the difficulty of discerning when a trend is on the wane, when it has passed some critical point of popularity and takes on an element of vulgarity (one sense of vulgar is simply common to the masses). I think ombre hair is entering this phase now, for example (I was never too keen on that one).

Sporting a trend successfully is about timing, and an ill-timed trend (at least, blindly followed, in the absence of individuality) undermines its own aim. There is something tiresome about the game of this, especially when they can turn sour so suddenly, but I think if you like a trend, go for it. If you stop liking it, you know…stop going for it (and question: did you really like it in the first place?).

Part ii will be a little list. Stay tuned.

*Type any keyword from the next post into pinterest and see what I mean.