Back in December, I happened to come home with a book called Unsqueezed:Springing Free from Skinny Jeans, Nose Jobs, Highlights and Stilettos by Margot Starbuck. It came home via my wise and wonderful sister, after we had a couple of discussions about the difficulty of having a healthy body image in sunny Southern California. See, my sister lives in Aberdeen, Scotland, and while there are certainly body issues among all cultures, I definitely recognize a difference there versus here.
I’ve been working on my body image for quite a long time. While I credit myself with making some progress, I often feel like it’s swimming against a very strong current. Maybe I’m just more aware of the barrage of image-related messages women receive each day from friends and media alike, but it feels like I can’t go a day without hearing about someone’s workout or how many peanut butter eggs they need to work off or what a new pair of jeans would do for you. Multiple times, usually.
The book helped a bit, though it had its own share of problems. But if you’re looking for something that might give you a different point of view, you might give it a try. I took away a new understanding of what I need versus what I want, and why I might think I need what I want. Which is a great thing, truly, in a culture that always seems to be trying to fill or correct or change oneself.
One of the things Margot Starbuck writes about in the book is spending an entire year without buying herself anything, something my own sister did as well. I have great admiration for them both, but I put a different spin on it. Starting at the beginning of the year, I decided I would not rewear things from my wardrobe until I’d worn everything. Now, this doesn’t actually work in practice, because I only have so many cold weather clothes, and when I’m cold, it’s not pleasant for anyone, but I did make it until early March before I rewore anything (okay, pants excluded, because I have only a dozen bottoms in all, but they’re all pretty interchangeable anyway). And still, even a month later, I’m still wearing unworn shirts whenever possible.
It’s a crazy thing, how much this has changed my perspective. For one, I realized just how much I have. When my husband offered for me to go out a buy a few new spring things, I laughed out loud: “Are you kidding? Have you seen how many shirts I still have in there that I haven’t worn?” For another, I think less about what I wear: “This will work for today, and then I won’t wear it again for a few months.” Spots, holes, and misfittings don’t matter quite so much when I have that perspective. Not that I want to look shabby, but it’s a long way from a little snag to shabby, when I really put my mind past the popular mantra of perfection. And then, most significantly, it spread. Suddenly, I’m realizing how much there is of everything: makeup, shoes, food, paper, books. That I have so much more than I practically use. So I’ve started using it, and internalizing how long it’s taking me, and I feel filled up in a way that’s unfamiliar but not unpleasant. Or maybe my life just feels more roomy, as if I truly was unsqueezed.