Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Crossing the Bridge From One Hip to the Other

Among the many, many unattainable physical traits women chase (most commonly the thigh gap), is the elusive bikini bridge. Did you know this was a thing? I mean, I know the thigh gap is a thing, as most of us do. But did you know a bikini bridge was a real thing? And so is a skinny collar bone? Dd you know collar bones can be skinny (or fat, for that matter)? I thought bones were just dense; I had no idea they were a thing you could make skinny. Anyway, the bikini bridge is for real. I only recently discovered it was the hip new thing (pun intended) while searching on Pinterest for a squat challenge.

Why a squat challenge?

Because I also chase ridiculous body traits, and currently that happens to be ass-related. 

However, the fact is, I can do enough squats to have the ass I want. That's attainable. That's a goal - and a realistic one. I can, in fact, do 100-300 squats a day and get that Kardashian-esque booty, should I so choose. Because my ass is just muscle, and muscle can be made bigger if you work on it. That's the key point. That's the difference between a squat challenge and a thigh gap or a bikini bridge. 

But this isn't about me or the size of the junk in my trunk.

So, in case you don't know...just what is a bikini bridge?

When you lay down, do your hips jut out? Do they stick far enough out that you could look right down your bikini bottom at your vagina? That, my friends, is a bikini bridge. If you peer down the camera lens right INTO your bikini bottoms, that is a bikini bridge. Read: if you look like you are suffering from an eating disorder, you may have a #bikinibridge.

Did you know that this is an actual hash tag? I didn't make it up; it's real. And it's a "summer challenge." Get a #bikinibridge and show it off on Instagram. Thank you, internet, for the very public campaign for anorexia. This internet challenge went off the chain at this time last year, with girls from a scary ten years old to women in their thirties, both attempting and showing off their bikini bridges. It trended on Twitter. It was an Instagram phenomenon. I am not making this up!

And for those of us who have the sense to know how dangerous this goal is, it was terrifying and sad. 

**Let me side bar here by saying I understand that there is a population of young ladies out there who are naturally rail thin, who without any effort have a thigh gap or a bikini bridge. And you are not the ones I am intending this blog at. You, you lucky little bitches, can just click away now and enjoy your hotness.**

For the rest of us, this is an unattainable, unhealthy, and honestly quite frightening ideal to put our focus on. Not because it looks bad (because it doesn't), but because it's not realistic for most of us. Just like we can't get a thigh gap by working out to no end, we cannot get a bikini bridge by following any sort of healthy diet or exercise routine out there. 

The scariest part about these trends, is that we are raised in a society that pressures us to think it's what we want. I would be lying if in looking at the #bikinibridge on Instagram, I claimed not to feel some angsty want. I look at these photos and I find myself naturally falling into a mindset of, how can I get that lower body? How can I be certain that when I put on a bathing suit in a month or two, my hips jut out just like that? How can I lose enough weight to get that unnatural-looking space between my thighs, and now between my belly and my pelvic bones? 

The short answer: I can't. 

The longer answer: Do I really even want to? Do I think it's sexy to be that bony? Do I think being that rail thin is attractive? How skinny is too skinny? When I look at myself in a mirror, are my goals realistic or insane? When I do a cleanse, is it for the right reasons, or is it because I want to lose 10 pounds in one weekend? Am I mean to myself by using words like fat? Do I care too much what other people think about my body? Do I worry about having sex with the lights on? Am I too cautious about who sees me in my underwear, or am I open about it? Will I refuse to wear a swim suit this summer? Worse, will I refuse to wear shorts? 

I am, by no means, good to myself in regards to body image. I have talked about this before, and it's something I should probably delve into a bit more in therapy, now that my family drama is at bay and can take a back seat. But I would argue that I don't really know any women at all, who are good to themselves about their body. Which is frightening and alarming. In racking my brain, I genuinely cannot think of one woman in my life - friends, family, one.

Recently, I posted this photo of myself from a few years ago, and a friend's boyfriend commented on it that I looked far too skinny; so skinny he wasn't sure it was me in the photo. And in all honesty, he's not the first person who has made that comment about that same photo of me. Lots of people have. 

But the fact is, I was really offended. Not even offended, that's not the right word. I was mad. I felt attacked. Because I look at this picture of myself and think I look awesome. I look at this picture and think my arms look amazing, and my neck and jawline look thin, and I like that. I think my boobs look fantastic. And then I think - and do not judge me here because I know how bad it is - that my thigh looks fat.

Note, that was the thinnest I've been since I was a freshman in high school. I weighed 106 pounds when this photo was taken. I was the maid of honor in a wedding the next day, and my goal weight for that wedding was 110. I had never been so proud of myself for attaining a goal. And to clarify how small I am at 106 pounds, I graduated high school weighing 115 pounds.

And yes, I realize how unhealthy and crazy that sounds. That does not make it any less true. 

My logical brain knows that I am the healthiest in a size 8-10, weighing 125-140. That is when other people tell me I am the most attractive. That is when I feel the best, when I am not tired or hungry or grouchy. That's when I know I am healthy. However, that is not when I feel the most satisfied with my own body, nor is that when I stop shaming myself about my weight or my size. Those things don't happen until I weigh 106 pounds and wear a size 4.

And apparently, not really even then, since I did just admit I think my thighs were fat in that picture. 

When I am looking at #bikinibridge or #thighgap or #collarbone on Instagram, I thank my lucky stars that I am not in high school now. That I didn't go to school in a time where what I ate, weighed, or looked like in my bikini could be posted on Facebook. I am so lucky that in order to find images of unhealthy skinny women, I had to actually purchase a magazine, not just open an app on my phone. 

Because if this shit were available to my high school brain instead of my 32-year-old brain, I would have an eating disorder. On the real. Not even a doubt in my head.

Because at least at 32, I can be logical. Teenagers cannot be logical. Teenagers cannot look at a photo and understand that it's shopped or morphed, or that the model in it is actually starving. A teenager cannot tell the difference between the bone structure of a Taylor Swift versus that of Khloe Kardhasian. All a teenager sees is skinny and fat; they cannot identify with genetics.

There is something seriously wrong with the body shaming women are raised to do to themselves - and to other women - in America. Very, very wrong. And instead of getting better as we advance in the world, it is getting worse. We should be smarter than this. Instead we're getting seemingly dumber. We're continuing to create insane hash tags feeding into even more insane ideals of what a woman "should" aspire to, and we're doing it in mass quantities via the pound symbol. What the fuck is wrong with us??!

The worst part is that it's not men behind it; it's women. Men are not the ones who are creating these hash tags; men are not the ones following #bikinibridge on Instagram. It is us. We're doing it to ourselves, and we're doing it to each other. Women are judging other women, other bodies. We're calling each other (and ourselves) fat. Women are creating the problem with fat shaming for each other. Why??! Why are we doing that?! Why are we allowing society to convince us that we're fat, that we should hate our bodies, that we look disgusting?! Why are we letting our daughters grow up in the shadows of photo shop? We are perpetuating this trend of women feeling bad and unhappy, based on unrealistic, impossible, fake images of what we decide a woman's body should look like.

It's so bad. It has to stop, needs to change. Because your little girls are standing behind you while you call yourself fat in the mirror. Because your little boys are sitting outside the fitting room hearing you look at your body in disgust as you try on clothes. Because I can assure you right now, that all of the tweenagers in your life, are at home searching #bikinibridge on social media, trying to figure out how to lose an unhealthy amount of weight before their summer vacation. And many of them are taking it way too far. You know at least one teenager who is throwing up her food or leaving her lunch in her locker at school. You know at least one woman on a cleanse for the wrong reasons, or on a fad diet trying to get her body ready for vacation. It's everywhere. And it isn't changing, And it isn't changing because we aren't demanding change.

Women have the power to change the message.

But we don't.

The question is, how far will this trend go before we finally do?