Walk faster. Run. Don’t run, it’ll show. RUN so you can’t see the other girls. Run so they are still unique and wonderful but you are given a reprieve and are spared the comparison.
Raise your hand if you’ve walked a little faster. Snap your fingers if you’ve shied away from working out because you’d make a poor example next to that Grecian statue come to life in Lululemon.
In the midst of a foggy, bad week, I somehow managed to push myself out of the house. I convinced myself I had to get some exercise because I had been forgoing it.
My leggings scraped against a stretchy midi skirt and my thermal, long sleeve, workout top clung, revealing the pounds.
Many people will say they don’t see it, because most of me looks slim, normal (never skinny, and we all know what the world thinks of skinny). I know it’s there, I see it. It’s the PCOS saucer that sits like a flat tire around your lower abdomen. It’s easy to hide but it still means a shift in wardrobe and those who know how that feels will understand the anxiety of having to change three or four times before you have enough confidence to face the world in the morning. First world problems, maybe, but there are girls in every world, from the privileged to the underdeveloped and I promise you they all struggle with their bodies and how to embrace the strength within those very complicated vessels.
That cloyingly hot evening I couldn’t get myself to run. I made it to the park near my apartment building and it was chock full of joggers. Men and women wearing arm straps for their ipods were showing off flashes of neon in the low lit night. I even saw a few charedi teenagers huffing through their black pants and white shirts.
Too embarrassed to start running alongside these determined and single minded joggers, I pretended I was gaining momentum, walking before I ran. The farther I walked the younger the jogger became, the thinner, the more athletic. After two high-ponied young women ran past, all cool and “glowing” I shut down the jogging idea. I was wearing a zip up so I’d have pockets for my phone and ipod. My skirt was too long. My movements were clumsy and out of practice.
I definitely didn’t have a ponytail that would stay in place. I didn’t look #nofilter #postworkoutglow worthy.
I walked back up Yitzchak Ben Tzvi thinking that the sky was so beautiful and the lights were so warm, and that the world looked much better with your chin up. Tops of buildings and branches of trees and the Jerusalem skyline were enough to get me to walk straight home.
In an age where celebrities decry photoshopped perfection and where curvy is the new skinny, you’d think body image and self love would have righted itself.
I don’t know about you, but to me the world is still off kilter.
I hate it when Bar Rafaeli posts a #nofilter Insta in her yoga clothes looking taught and fresh faced and clear of any blemish. I could cry when Chrissy Teigan proudly displays the stretch marks strung across her thighs like temporary golden tattoo adornments in an attempt at solidarity with imperfect lesser mortals, adding some battle cry hashtag like #realbeauty.
In Israel, where cultures clash into a beautiful mural of skin tones and facial features, you’d think I’d know how to embrace my uniqueness, you’d think I’d understand the exoticness of that particular singularity that makes a person truly beautiful.
In Israel where there is a law that stipulates that advertisers and fashion houses cannot employ or use underweight models for their campaigns, you’d think I’d finally feel like society accepts the little extra flab that gives me my signature ME walk.
I have to walk faster, conscious of my centimeters. Now I’m aware, I can see a ruler everywhere.
Back in Montreal, I created a line of distinction between the world’s version of on screen, commercial beauty, and what was real. I lived among immigrants. From the coast of Van Horne Street to Mackenzie Avenue, I’d see faces from Sri Lanaka, Haiti, the Philippines. Morrocan Lubavitchers and Eastern European bubbies dappled my street’s balconies, grander, sunnier and more stunning than the maples lining the road.
And what sat on the other side of that distinctive line? Something else I couldn’t comprehend. The 90’s films I grew up with were preaching something foreign to me and the books I read(the heroines in them never looked like a formula). I didn’t emulate Mary Kate and Ashley. Like Toula from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, I wasn’t surrounded by Wonder Bread or SUV’s. I visited that life in school. Since I wasn’t wrapped up in it, I looked harder at it. I didn’t understand the appeal of the blonde hair and the sickle, point tip nose.
To me dark was beautiful. Big was sated. Eclectic was more interesting and edgy.
And so Nelly Furtato was way cooler than Britney Spears. It felt rebellious when the protagonist of the new coming of age rom-com was a brunette.
Then I moved.
I came home.
I found myself in a place where a mosaic of peoples created a standard of beauty that was and is more to my taste.
Here, brown hair is the norm. I glowed when I once overheard a dati leumi girl compliment another girl in a hijab on her eyebrow game at a makeup counter (her eye makeup was seriously on fleek). Gingi models are more commonly sat next to black haired amazons on the billboards advertising the newest shoes from Gali. The latest Miss Israel was an Ethopian girl who I truly believe is a goddess come to earth to shame us.
But somehow, blonde is still beautiful. Skinny is still the religion. Not only is it strived for, it is what will redeem you. It is “healthy”.
Even in this city, where natural beauty abounds in olive toned skin and watercolor sea eyes, thick lashes and curly hair and skin that would make even Cleopatra jealous, skinny is still the thing. Oh Skinny, you are worshipped.
Blonde is not necessarily golden and lily white. It takes on a new language. It is the girl described above.
In a city where the average age is not a number, but lithe, and naturally, wildly beautiful, you can’t hide either. You’re still not the norm. You still don’t stand out.
Suddenly it becomes clear that they possess something intangible that you realize you’ll never have. It’s a quality that you’ve never seen.
It’s nothing like the aura surrounding the jaded 30 something’s streaming into bars on Lexington Avenue or fancy après work lounges on the Upper West Side, or hipster niche bars in the Village, an image imprinted in your mind from a very recent past.
It’s an intensity of being that can’t be duplicated or captured, bottled and sold in cosmetic stores.
Wanting it makes you dream up the measuring tape, and has you hoping that if you tailor yourself to the right size you might then be bestowed with that something. You know you won’t. It’s the law of centimeters. And knowing this makes you scream inside. It makes you howl. It makes you HOWL louder than a Ginsberg poem. It makes you howl painfully like wind through a reed pipe.
I don’t have it, that elusive quality. I’ll never have it. My edges aren’t sharp and my lines don’t curve, my muscles aren’t pronounced or burnished by the sun into heart-melting tans of dark coffee. I’m not as muscled as I used to be, and I’m no longer young young. I’ll never have good skin. And because I have PCOS, I’ll always have that bit of weight, climbing up my torso and settling on my cheeks and sliding back down again.
To paraphrase one of my favorite post modern literary female heroines, Bridget Jones, I’ll always be just a little bit fat. And a little bit wonky. My skin will never glow, or smoothly churn in the sunlight as if it were a melting caramel on your stuck out tongue.
Sadly, I also won’t be dark beautiful. I’ll never have those logic defying inverted ribs like Gigi Hadid or Kendall Jenner. I won’t be big enough for those Kardashian curves. To make matters worse my eyes are just the right shade of stool brown to be forgettable.
Despite the different shades of stunning that walk the streets of my beloved city, I still feel, and may always feel that hate and discomfort with my body. I am not one of them. Despite the beauty that sways in pleated skirts or shelters inside a head covering, I still don’t feel desirable.
In fact, I must apologize to my beloved city, but you make it worse.
I’m still neither one of the crowd, nor do I stand out.
And a girl just wants to be both.
I still clam up when I pass a cluster of chayalim (being in my mid twenties you’d think I’d be over that girlishness). Not for any rational reason.
It’s because the fifteen year old in me still thrives inside there somewhere and she laments the wasted wallflower years of bad fashion sense, horrendous mullet haircuts and broken scotch-taped glasses. She wants them to look but also doesn’t want them to look. Even then she knew, she’d always be just a little bit fat and that the plains of her face would never grow into “wildly beautiful.”
So I walk faster, counting the centimeters, feeling them thunder in my ears as my feet hit the pavement.
That is my law. Keep walking. Keep walking until the need to feel beautiful evaporates.
I’m not going to say something trite. I’m not going to give you the “you are beautiful” speech, and the “natural is better,” nod. I’ll never say don’t worry, “beauty comes from within.”
It’s easy to say those things when you don’t have that extra jiggle. It’s easy to type #nofilter when you’re a model and your skin has been worked on and fed with organic meals for decades. It’s easy to go to the (VMA’s? Grammy’s?) with no makeup when you have skin as creamy as a six month old baby’s (sorry Alicia Keys, no snaps for you).
For us mere mortals, for the people who just live here and don’t know what life is like because we’re not beautiful, it isn’t easy at all.
For all those who feel invisible, “Holla at ya gurl.”
And maybe look to the sky, like I always do when I feel invisible and like my femme power and faith is running low. Walk a little faster, then howl, HOWL, HOWL.
Howl the centimeters away.