Monday, September 24, 2007






"Junk in Our Collective Trunk"



Dear Painters of the Renaissance:


I'm sorry I was born 450 years too late.

I apologize for my absence, for I could have inspired you. In your work, Peter Paul Rubens, I see appreciation of a natural, bountiful female sensuality; in your work, Tiziano Vecelli (aka "Titian"), I see admiration of soft, rounded flesh. The women you both painted were veritable chaise-lounges of comfort and ease.

Indeed, as you gents cast about for just the right Venus, no doubt pinching many a servant's bottom and feeling up the bosoms of unwary women at the market under the auspices of "searching for a worthy model," I could have saved you some effort and grief. First off, I'm fairly laid back at having my caboose clutched and my chest copped. Secondly, I have what you sought. My bones are well padded and, even more, I'm very good at sitting still and shutting up or, alternately, at prattling on and excising little cross-sections of life--whatever you required at the moment. I have a good listening ear, if you needed one, and I'm very good at asking questions, if prodding would have edged you towards catharsis and inspiration. All of this finely attuned companionship, of course, would have been supplemented with a frothy chai latte and a hazelnut biscotti.

What?

You haven't heard of chai?

Hark! There is so much I could have brought to you from my futuristic time capsule of global experience. You probably don't even know what blow dryer is. And honeys? Your beards could've used a good blow out. That's some ratty action you had going on there.

Moreover, boys, if you found yourselves hamstrung by painter's block, I could have helped push you through by singing a couple infectious Regina Spektor tunes or humming some Billy Squier 1980's flashback rock. Although I guess it would have been flashforward rock, seeing as we'd be sitting and singing and painting in the 1500 and 1600s, and the words "stroke me/stroke me" may have, at that point, only applied to your canvases and not your own selves (But what a breakthrough that could have been! Talk about an era of light shedding!).

You take my point, though, I'm sure. For you, in your time and place, I would have been a model model.

Beyond saving you boys some time and easing the torturous process of birthing masterpieces, I too would have gotten something from our artist/muse relationship. Truly, fostered under your ideal of the female form, I could have had some kickass Baroque self-esteem. To have been a living, breathing, walking Renaissance hottie--now that would have been novel.

You see, I have a strong, lush body, one that gets very little acclaim in the 21st Century. Until I met my husband, I had never been anyone's ideal. For years, I thought this was somehow tied into personal failings--a weakness of my own character. I mean, when random people would make derogatory comments (like the 6-year-old boy who biked past me when I was 11 and weighed 120 pounds with the height of 5' 3" and hollered "Gawd, you're fat!"), I used to think they were right and that their judgements somehow pertained to my inner self and that, were I a different or a better person, I'd be thin.

If only I'd lived in a time where women with breasts and bellies and hips and flesh were heralded as Venus. See, in my time, beauty = visible bones. And I don't really have those. Wait--try my clavicle. Yup, there are some at the base of my neck. But otherwise? I am gooshy, and no one's ever been clamoring to heft my goosh up on to a pedastal.

Case in point: in college, after much hemming and hawing, and after days of psyching myself up, I called a young man and asked him out for a drink. On the other end of the phone, he went silent, finally chewing out a "No. I don't drink." Funny, I'd seen him at party after party, tripping over himself. I amended my offer to going out for coffee. His answer became even more abbreviated, to a more bitten "no." There was humiliation in my cheeks as my hand hung up the receiver.

A week later, at a party in a parking lot, when everyone had drunk too much, my roomate spotted the cad and vowed to get to the bottom of his refusal. Being small and lovely, she had no trouble gaining his ear. As she returned to me, sheepishly composing a diplomatic reply, the best she could come up with was "He said you're heavy set. That was the problem."


This was the college-era me he had seen and found wanting. Bastard didn't even give me a chance to open my eyes and take the leaf out of my mouth.

I know, dear paintermen, you are aghast. My torso alone could have kept you busy for weeks.

And although I am unique, my experience in this regard is not.

Get this, lads: a couple of weeks ago, a very fragile, sad, scared woman put herself in front of millions of people and tried to convince them through song and dance that she was an iconic beauty. She was mocked and torn down for her presumptuousness, told that she was "fat" because, like me at age 11, she weighed around 120 pounds while standing 5'3". People couldn't believe one so pudgy tried to sell herself as desirable.

So how should that make me and the rest of The Ladies feel, those of us who would kill to be so "fat"? Here's how: pathological.

Check it: I recently went through a bout of food poisoning, possibly some mild e.coli, that wracked my bowels for almost a month. Eventually, I started to feel lethargic and wasted all day long. But mentally? I was turning somersaults; you see, fellas, even though I do an hour of cardio exercise every single day, and even though I do Pilates and yoga weekly, and even though I am fit as hell, I've still got the goosh. But under the stringent guidance of the food poisoning diet? Dearlings, I lost seven pounds. And I was thrilled. In the sickness of my culture and my brain, I would have welcomed months and months of food poisoning, if it meant the pounds would drop off.

Let's all take a moment to sigh, shake our heads, and long for the relatively-rational thinking of the Borgias.

That's why I have my dreams of time travel. I'd be glad to pack up my goosh and a pan of brownies and head back to the Renaissance, where I would stand a chance of becoming a publicly-revered Venus, freed from the tense relationship that my body and I currently carry on. You'd do that for me, the whole vaunting my womanly form thing, wouldn't you, my little artistic pudding heads?

And if the time-travel channels to the Renaissance are jammed, I'd be willing to jump back even further, say 24,000 years, where I daresay I'd discover a quiet peace while sitting in the corner of a cave, watching some prehistoric sculptor carve out his vision of Mother Earth--the earliest of Venuses:




See, I don't even have to be the model. I just want to witness passionate veneration of breasts held sway by gravity; I want to behold someone treating a rounded belly with awe.

So go ahead and objectify, ya big immortalizers of flesh. I'm not complaining about that one whit. Just give us a jiggling buttock to applaud every now and then.

Stretch your canvas a little, and then fill it up.

40 comments:

Casdok said...

I had to smile!
And i totally agree!
We should just celebrate who we are.

Theresa said...

Brilliant Jocelyn! I love the college picture, that really could inspire a painting. You're so much better off without that guy that turned you down, he doesn't know what he missed out on. :)

Glamourpuss said...

Gawd yes!

I developed a small eating disorder in the aftermath of Evil Ex and my attempts to free myself from the education system and dropped down to a UK size 8 (US size 4, I think). I felt fabulous to be able to buy such tiny, tiny clothes, but when I see pictures of myself from that time, I am appalled by how fragile I look.

Embrace the curves. Fashion is idiotic. Most blokes thinks so, too.

Puss

Glamourpuss said...

Oh, and that college-era photo is stunning. What a twat to turn you down so brutally.

Puss

chelle said...

Take me with you back in time! I am fortunate that my husband has the eye of a classic painter :)

Jeannie said...

Truth be told, most guys like a little something to hold on to. Others, well, just aren't confidant enough. However, like you, I welcome a little ailment that makes me drop a few pounds. Because dropping poundage is wonderful in itself BUT also getting to COMPLAIN that you are dropping poundage is even better.

charlotta-love said...

I think you are BEAUTIFUL in that college picture. I love your hair. (and by love I mean "I want your hair").

In high school, I had the opposite problem: I couldn't gain weight. Most people would roll their eyes and say, "Oh poor girl..." but it really was a problem. I finally hit 100lbs my sophomore year and weighed only 115 at graduation. I am 5'8"! My boyfriend at the time didn't like to cuddle because I was "too pokey/boney".

I've been able to gain weight in the past years so I finally feel comfortable with my body.

Bodies: we all seem to walk a tightrope between loving and hating it. You seem to lean to the LOVE side and that's fantastic!

Jazz said...

Funny, I just posted about lipo...

Come run away with me and we can goosh together!

frannie said...

oh, Joce--- that was just beautiful.

that picture of you is truly a treasure-- as you are in the flesh!

Diana said...

Hey, psychic sister, forget that miserable E. coli with all its GI horror. Pneumonia has it beat. 10 lbs in 2 weeks. I'm thinking of marketing it and hawking it on Oprah. Say! We could go together. Sort of a dual Pneumococcus/E.coli thing. Perhaps throw in a tapeworm for maintenance?

Could work, at least until you get hopping and make that time travel machine.

lime said...

my soul sister, you and i need to plan a trip to africa. i have two dear friends, one from ghana, the other from kenya. they both tell me in their countries women of ampler proportions are considered quite the tasty morsels. an american pal of mine who was a peace corp volunteer in botswana also said her plush posterior always got quite the attention.

wonderful post, and i couldn't agree more.

Hammer said...

I agree completely. I had similar issues with my peers. I find myself appreciating people of all types. Pity others can't always see it.

SQT said...

I've been skinny and heavy-- but no happier either way. It seems that no matter how I look I can find a way to find fault with something. I have finally concluded that it's better to find something else to worry about.

Like my hair.

Logophile said...

Mmmm hmmm,
preach it, sister.
Ive wished chubby redheads were back in fashion for quite some time.

Shari said...

You have such beautiful red hair. That guy? His loss.

We are a nation that glorifies ultra thin bodies. The media throws out magazines with supermodels and superstars with a size of a negative 2. Even those pics are touched up to make them look even thinner.

I hear you. I am obsessed with weight and thinness.

Shari said...

I wanted to add: We should all be happy accept ourselves as is.

urban-urchin said...

britney shaking her thang in a skimpy trashy outfit was an assault to my eyes. not because she's 5 ft 3 and 120 lbs but because she chose an outfit that made my eyes scream. Plus I just can't stand her. But that's just me.

that guy in college was (and probably still is an a**hole) look at that picture- the bone structure the hair- sister you have it going on.

I was raised by an anorexic mother who survived counting out 800 calories a day. I flirted with bulimia post college and then realized I didn't want to live like my mother. i rarely get on the scale, I just can't.

My Reflecting Pool said...

Sing with me sister! I need to belt out a last song here and apparently need an accompanying Botticelli. I've always had curves, embraced them even. Then one day I lost all of them only to be a size 2 US. Do you know what happens to curves that go flat? They go long. Happily bounced back to normal, I'm up for a duet anytime!!

Dorky Dad said...

You could go back in time to become a painter's subject -- come on, it's the 21st century; somebody has invented a time machine by now -- but then you'd have to kill your own food and go to the bathroom in a small, rat-infested room out back. And then there's that whole lack-of-antibiotics thing to think about.

Brilliant post.

Princess Pointful said...

I love the photo. You look lovely and serene. It seems to capture something...

(I know, how vague was that)

I think it is telling, though, to reflect on the socially constructed nature on what is beautiful and what isn't, rather than trying to pretend it is something inherent and value laden.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I always crave auburn hair in the fall so I can look like you do in that picture, blending in with the fallen leaves.

Americans are obsessed with entirely too many things, weight being only one of the more ludicrous.

Even Marilyn Monroe was chubby by the Twiggy standards of today, and many still consider her the most beautiful woman of all time.

my4kids said...

I totally agree!
I've got some goosh to and actually lost a little weight recently do to being sick. I was so excited! Isn't that sad?
I love your posts by the way I can never step away.

Theresa said...

With that lovely hair you look like you came straight out of one of Rossetti's paintings. I am now blond again, but used to dye my hair red, and have always wanted hair just like yours (how much you askin'?). My husband actually thought I was a redhead when we met, what a disappointment he had later on.

Elizabeth said...

Wow. I just stumbled across your blog. Beautifully written.

maddy said...

The women in my family are rounded and curvy [except me] I assumed that my daughter would be a stick insect like me. She isn't. She has an hourglass figure that is not appreciate in current society.

When she was a teen I showed her some of those very same picture. I added the political/feminist slant when she was older.

She's older and wiser now, and I'm happy to say that's she's happy in her own skin, which makes me very happy too.

Best wishes

Tai said...

And me? I'm a "chaise-lounge". LOVE IT!

Voyager said...

I love this post. And right now, for a few minutes anyway, I love my jelly belly, thanks to you.
V.

AmyTree said...

You beauty! What a photo - that boy was an idiot.
I was very ill whilst at University and finally diagnosed with tonsillitis. For a while they thought it was Glandular Fever (or Mono, as I knew it) and one of the doctors (a silly, silly man) tried to comfort me by reminding me that 'at least it's a good way to lose weight'! Luckily I was too sick to care, or I would have probably tried to throttle him.

I've always loved Flaming June - she's got thighs and then some! 3 cheers for Reubenesque redheads!!

Beautiful essay, thank you!!

cathy said...

lpojjanuGive your hubby a hug from me!
Mine is a thin freak and I'm a RUBENS which accounts for a lot of our problems.

Top cat said...

I think you're not only sexy but have a great mind.
Give me voluptuous any day.

Wanna bet the prick that turned you down is 3/4 bald and has a belly so large he hasn't seen his penis in years.

That Chick Over There said...

Sing it sister friend!

WanderingGirl said...

I have a magnet on my fridge with a Rubens painting that says "Some day big butts will be in style."

I say, thank you J-Lo.

WanderingGirl said...

I forgot to mention...

a) My most body-affirming moment was in a gym in Philly when a man walked up to me while on an elliptical and said, "Honey, slow down, you don't want to lose your 'juicy'. It would be a shame."

b) My current beau freakin loves every curvy inch of me, and he's a body builder.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Great post. Your dazzle with wit and intellegence.

Endora said...

I remember when that picture was on your bookshelf in Rice House at Carleton. It's just as stunning today as it was then.

And, from what I've seen, you haven't changed.

velvet said...

That college guy was an idiot! You're lovely, brilliant, and very, very funny. Just ask Groom because I'm sure that he would agree with me.

Our skin-and-bones culture is about as deep as the flesh on a runway model. It's sad.

Spider Girl said...

Firstly, I'm going to vote you as Girl Most Likely to Have fun with a Time Machine.

Secondly, I just read an article on the BBC about the increasinging popularity of certain plastic surgeries in some African nations. What is one of the most popular operations? The injection of more fat into the buttock area to make them bigger and more beautiful.

I guess it's all about where and when you're born.

Thirdly, you look a LOT like a friend of mine--red hair, body type, awesome sense of humour---and she seems to be having to beat the men off with sticks.

Fourthly, I am 5' 3" and, at the time I was 120 lbs at this height thought I needed to lose weight.

Oh, mercy! *wipes a tear of laughter away*

Ahem. I've matured since then.

CS said...

Great college photo.

But I feel compelled to add a plea for a more wide-ranging acceptance. I don't think there is anything to be gained by swinging back in the other direction and having thin women seen as ugly. I have visible hipbones - it's just how I'm made. How about an acceptance of a variety of body types as they naturally occur (meaning, no thinness paired with silicone implanted breasts). Full-bodied or lean, can't we all be appreciated?

CS said...

Just read Topcat's comment and it cracked me up!

Mother of Invention said...

This is a fabulous post, Jocelyn! Hail the Renaissance Rubanesque Revival!
We do live in a crazy culture, over socialized to be the thin Twiggies of the unreal model's world. I bet those Renaissance babes never looked at the 5 lb weight gain on the scales in the early a.m. due to PMS and then formed ugly opinions of themselves all day long. UGH.

Love this one, and although I don't have a particularly Renny body, I can certainly relate well to the idea of weight. (My diabetes docs used to give me proper heck, as did my whole family, if I ate too much and/or gained a few lbs)