I have been an avid reader of Go Fug Yourself for several years now – ok , let’s be honest, for the entirety of my graduate school career. No one can anatomize fashion FAIL like Heather and Jessica, and I’m a big fan of their intelligent brand of snark. But lately I’ve been letting the GFY posts pile up in my RSS feed reader – and when I do page through them, it’s a half-hearted endeavor. I looked at the 97 new entries facing me at lunch today and decided to skip it once again.
Walking home this afternoon, I realized just why I don’t relish reading the blog so much anymore. It has nothing to do with them – they’re as funny as ever, and now that they’ve found sponsors they have even more time to do what they do best. In sum, it has nothing to do with quality of the site – it’s that I’ve changed.
About a year ago I started reading Kate Harding’s Shapely Prose, a blog that has really changed the way I look at myself and other people in the world. Like every woman in this culture, I was raised with a fair amount of body hatred. Add in a self-hating overweight mother who trained me to believe that I was destined to be fat as an adult (even though I was an awkwardly skinny child) and a fundamentalist Christian upbringing that drove home the body-is-icky message and you have the recipe for a person completely at odds with her body. I knew in my heart that I was ugly, and that I would only get uglier as I aged (and consequently gained weight). I decided at an early age that, since my self-esteem was the pits, I might as well be the best as *something* so I’d go ahead and have the worst self-image possible. That way, nobody could hate on me more that I already did – a twisted logic that was, ironically, meant as self-protection.
Obviously, this self-loathing didn’t really attract the boys. Which, of course, was interpreted by me as empirical evidence that I was right all along. Oh, the cycles, how hard they are to break.
I’ve gotten better at accepting myself over the past couple of years, and I try to focus on mehta, or loving-kindness practices when I meditate. And blogs like Shapely Prose have helped me see my mother in a new light: how she has never been happy in her own skin, how she must have fought with her own resentment toward me for having grown up to have a slender body type after all. But I still fight with that critical inner voice, the one that looks at photographs of me and sees only thin lips, crooked teeth and flat hair.
Reading GFY has allowed me to cultivate that voice. Let me be clear – I’m NOT saying that Heather and Jessica are terrible people, nor do I think there’s no place for the kind of critiques that they write. HOWEVER, I am saying that, due to my own personal history, I’m learning that it’s best I stay away from those kind of critiques. They cater to the harsh voice inside my head that shows no compassion to myself or the people around me. The same voice that pops into my head and says “What was she thinking?!” when I see a woman in leggings and cowboy boots is the one that tells me “Why do you even bother putting on make-up?” and “You can’t wear that dress, you’ll look like a fool!” You know what, woman-wearing-leggings-and-cowboy-boots? ROCK ON, sister. Wear what you want. You don’t have to be pretty and neither do I. All that’s needed is that you wear your clothes with confidence, seek out the life that makes you happy, and surround yourself with people who support you for who you are.