Did you know that Marilyn Monroe’s weight varied from 115 lbs to 150 lbs? (Many women experience 35 – 40 lb weight swings.) At about 5’5″ tall, she would have worn the equivalent of a modern size 8 to 12. But, because she was a D cup, even at her lowest weight, many off the rack tops and dresses would not have fit. Some charts give her measurements as bust: 37, waist: 23, hips: 36. But her bra size, 36D, means her actual bust measurement was 39″, that’s 4″ wider than her hips. (That falls into the inverted triangle range. Horrors! Didn’t she have a perfect hourglass figure?) Most of us don’t concern ourselves about her measurements. We watch her films and recognize her as an icon of beauty and style, even if we, personally, have a very different style.
How would we react if we saw a photo of ourselves in a dress that clings like this one? I’d be horrified and not because of modesty? I’d be looking at the bits of me that I’d leave uncovered if my weight were less and moaning because everyone had seen my tremendous hips and thighs.
I’d pull ugly faces. Illness, medicine, and lifestyle changes have added pounds. I look ahead to the day I am strong and fit again. And that’s a great goal. But oughtn’t I be able to appreciate myself as I am now? Today? Is there anything good about judging my body based on the side-effects of illness, steroids, and other meds? Ought I not be happy because of all the hard work I’ve done to get better? If I am judging myself (and too often I am), ought I not be honest and judge myself based everything, not just on what a scale or measuring tape disclose?
But I forget, as do many women. We buy into a false image of beauty. When at 15 I first saw the Statue of Liberty, I appreciated the artistry but found the face mannish and the figure lacking femininity. I wondered why Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi had not used a more beautiful model. Now, I know he sculpted in a different age that had a different sense of beauty. (Besides, he used his mom. What an awesome tribute.) Today, I look at the statue and see great, classical beauty. I’ve learned.
But at 15, I was looking for a model, a dancer, an actress, a musician. I thought Madonna beautiful if only because I was enchanted with the choreography she danced and wanted to learn it. But not only have I learned, I’ve grown up. Just not enough to stop judging my body based on what it looks like at this particular moment. And I know I’m not alone.
Can we all work on not judging our bodies and ourselves based on the way we look after finals, after children, after illness, after lives that hold so much already? Can we stop judging our bodies and comparing them to some abstract ideal of beauty that will change? Can we say, “That’s nice,” when that nagging voice in our minds reminds us our thighs are too heavy, our bust too small, our abs not as flat as we’d like them to be, our weight an amount either we never imagined or haven’t been able to reduce or increase? Can we replace that judgement with a desire to be healthy and fit and to enjoy the life God had given us today? Certainly, I want to try.