Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Failure

American women are trained to never feel good enough. (French women too, judging by the infomercials for industrial-strength girdles and diet plans that required eating mush 3 meals a day that we saw on TV in Paris.)

I spent months before the wedding worrying about how I hadn't managed to re-lose those 20 pounds. You see, a couple of years ago, I lost 30 pounds, against difficult odds (work stress, travel for work that required eating in restaurants for every meal, tray upon tray of cookies and pastries that they threw at us during the final few weeks of crazy project stress). I hit my goal weight and maintained the loss for 4 months and then the project kicked in again and I started re-gaining.

It's really quite unfair--those 20 pounds don't belong to me. They're the fault of the company I was working for with the crazy project, so if there were any justice in the universe, those 20 pounds would be on the hips of one or more of the senior execs responsible for all the stress and travel.

Then I moved (which involves eating takeout), and switched jobs, and planned the wedding. I counted my points diligently, and still didn't manage to re-lose that weight.

Hopefully, now that the stress is decreasing (heh), I'll show some progress. I had so much more energy when I wasn't lugging around that extra weight and I'd really like to wear the clothes I bought when I hit my goal. Re-losing those 20 pounds is something I want to do for me.

But it may always feel too late.

Because there I am, in those wedding pictures with a double chin in some shots. Mostly candids, where I'm making faces at my cousin or something, but still. The first time I looked at the proofs from my wedding photographer, I felt like a failure.

This was my wedding day. I was marrying the Bert to my Ernie. Happily ever after, starting right there. And looking at the pictures, all I could see was my weight. (And I have a suspicion that if I had managed to re-lose the weight, I still would have only seen my weight in the pictures, just with a different reaction.)

That's fucked up.

It's shallow, but we all do it. Between the expense of the wedding photographer and the knowledge that you're going to still be looking at these pictures in decades to come, how you look in your wedding photos feels incredibly important. The last thing you want is expensive, well done pictures of yourself having a bad hair day. Or a bad jowl day.

On the bright side, for months now, my chiropractor has been trying to convince me that I shouldn't look too good at the wedding. If you're at you're most beautiful at your wedding, then years later, your kids will look at your wedding album and say, "Gosh, Mommy, you used to be so pretty. What happened?" But if you look even better (thinner, heathier, more becoming hairstyle, whatever) after the wedding, then your kids, friends, relatives will look at the album and tell you how good you look now.

So there is that.

Mind you, when I look at most of my wedding pictures, I don't look fat. I look happy. I just hope that years from now, I don't show people my wedding pictures and go into the whole story about how in those pictures I'm carrying around 20 extra pounds that are totally not my fault.

When exactly does the self-loathing let up?

I was going to include this quote about failure that I found on This is So Queer..., but upon further reflection, the fact that I didn't re-lose the weight isn't a failure. The failure, I think, is in viewing it as a failure at all. I've had a lot going on in the past 12 months. Something had to give.

But the quote has also helped me keep my chin (or chins) up during the job search thang, so here it is anyway:

If you have made mistakes, even serious ones, there is always another chance for you. What we call failure is not the falling down, but the staying down. -Mary Pickford


Paris pictures and stories this weekend. I promise, promise.

4 comments:

  1. Well, one thing that french women have on american women is: no wedding pictures! Yep, almost nobody hires a wedding photographer.
    The pressure that is put on american women to have a "perfect" day is incredible! I'd say that the most important thing (which you pointed out) is that you look happy in the pictures.
    Congrats again :)

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  2. In American culture, there's an amazing amount of emotional blackmail surrounding what I think of as the Big Triumverate of Life Events: marriage, the birth of a child, and death.

    "You'll only get married once! How can you NOT want to spend [insert obscene amount of money] on flowers/dress/musicians/whatever? Don't you want to have a PERFECT day?"

    "If you truly want the best for your child, you'll buy her a [mind-bogglingly expensive] bassinet that's hand-carved by blind Italian monks who live in caves in the Alps. Who cares if your kid will fit it in for only two weeks? If you don't get this thing for her, she'll end up sub-par and emotionally scarred."

    "If you really, really, really love your [dead relatives], then you won't hesitate at all to spend [an amount equivalent to or greater than the down-payment for a house] for the funeral arrangements and coffins."

    These are all important events in people's lives, but the material accoutrements are nowhere near as important as the memories and the sharing with friends and family.

    I happen to think that your wedding photos look great, but if you aren't totally satisfied with them (and I can understand that feeling, since we are all our own fiercest critics), don't sweat it. At the end of that day, you got married to someone you love, and you shared the experience with people who care about you. That's the most important part.

    I've only been reading your blog for a few months, so I haven't been around for most of the big life changes you described. But wow, you sure have gone through a lot. Kudos to you for coming through all of that with your sanity intact. Onward!

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  3. Don't sweat the weight, because I know for a fact that in twenty years you will look back at the wedding photos and think, "Damn, I looked good." Trust me on this one.

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  4. I know it probably doesn't help to hear me say it but you do look really pretty and happy in all your wedding pics. I remember for my sister's wedding I had put on a lot of weight that I have since lost. Sometimes I look at the pics and think I wished I were thinner then but I just try to accept that it was what I was going through at that moment in my life. I'll bet now that the wedding planning stress has lifted you'll have an easier time losing the weight.

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