Those Appearance Demons

As some of my friends know because I spent a considerable amount of time yesterday gushing in our messaging thread about it, I’m reading Amy Poehler’s Yes Please, which I got a Christmas, which tells you something about this semester. I finished precisely one book not directly work or class prep related, and I finished it at graduation on Saturday. (Yes, folks, your professors bring reading material with them to graduation. We too only like the part where they call your names and you guys get your diplomas.) At any rate, Poehler has this section on the demon that tells women they aren’t attractive enough that dovetails nicely into this Amanda Palmer post about how the whole idea of embracing your flaws implies that there’s something flawed with you in the first place. Palmer argues that embracing a flaw essentially means admitting that wrinkles or stretch marks or any other thing with your body that’s considered wrong by society is in fact just part of the “exactness of” you:

MARRED? dude. i’m FINE, me my personal collection of hard-won scars and hairs and curves and and stretch marks and twinkles and wrinkles and folds and flaps and muscles and and freckles and lashes and nails and veins and stuff.

they’re not “flaws”. fuck that. they are the exactness of me and always will be, nothing to be done about that.

Palmer goes on to slam such companies peddling the love your flaws argument because ultimately it’s about buying a product in the end that will help you moisturize or wash that skin or hair you’re suppose to embrace as flawed. Most marketing to women these days works this way: message of empowerment, sell you this product to help you be empowered, as if soap does that. What I love about Palmer’s argument is that line–“the exactness of me.” We should protect the exactness of ourselves. Poehler talks about the demon that is this obsession with looking perfect? (Side note: I’m not sure it’s an obsession with looking perfect or an obsession with looking good in a picture. Contouring is about photography, as far as I can tell, not about everyday life.) Poehler explains:

     Hopefully as you get older, you start to learn how to live with your demon. It’s hard at first. Some people give their demon so much room that there is not space in their head or bed for love. They feed their demon and it gets really strong and then it makes them stay in abusive relationships or starve their bodies. But sometimes, you get a little older and get a little bored of the demon. Through good therapy and friends and self-love you can practice treating the demon like a hacky, annoying cousin. Maybe a day even comes when you are getting dressed for a fancy event and it whispers, “You aren’t pretty,” and you go, “I know, I know, now let me find my earrings.” Sometimes you say, “Demon, I promise you I will let you remind me of my ugliness, but right now I am having hot sex so I will check in later.”

Other times I take a more direct approach.When the demon starts to slither my way and say bad shit about me I turn around and say, “Hey. Cool it. Amy is my friend. Don’t talk about her like that.” Sticking up for ourselves in the same way we would one of our friends is a hard but satisfying thing to do. Sometimes it works.

Even demons gotta sleep.

Radical self-care–thank you Anne Lamott for teaching me that term–isn’t about fixing the flaws or embracing them. It’s about figuring out that what and who you are is more than the sum of pretty parts. We aren’t blazons, even though poets and photography breaks us down into eyes and cheek bones and lips and skin and cellulite. We’re just people who inhabit bodies. Our exactness matters more, which is something we all need to remind ourselves of.

(Another side note: isn’t it great to live in a world where smart women can voice these ideas.)

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