June 20, 2006

Image. And Balls.

Women have it rough. Walk into a grocery store, go see a movie or turn on the television and we're all bombarded with images of how the media thinks women should look. It's a stereotype few can achieve, makes the 99% who can't feel badly about themselves and damns young women to strive for unattainable goals. Speaking for myself, I'm happy that the actual female population doesn't resemble an army of runway-ready top-heavy manicured centerfold wannabes. How boring would that be? Men, however, seem to get lost in this vast sociological discussion. Okay, so, our lips aren't supposed to be full and pouty and we're not expected to have titanic breasts, but still...we're treated like pieces of meat by a shallow media too, you know?

During the great Vacationless Vacation of '06, Beth and I went to the neighborhood pool a couple of times. I'm getting a little older and I'll admit to being just a tad self-conscious. I was a little reluctant to ditch the shirt but I did, despite the fact that I was, to mangle Liz Phair, an exile in girlville. Happy to report the world didn't end. Nor did women pluck their children from the pool and run screaming into the summer day.

This past Sunday, the three of us headed to the pool again. Whilst watching Mia jet around the baby pool in her little yellow inner tube, I made two significant discoveries. First, I wasn't the lone token male. Second, no male present came any closer to that stereotypical Adonis-like man than I. Instead, there were white bellies, spare tires and puffy man-boobs. (Not that I have man boobs. Or a spare tire, really. I will cop to the white belly though.) It made me feel good, this singular lack of washboard abs, six packs and sculpted bi and triceps.

As a result, I figured out an essential truth. There is a great equalizer, something that levels the male playing field making the size of ones biceps or, you know, the little general, irrelevant. Men have a single point of failure - balls. Kick a guy in the balls? He goes down with surprising ease, often accompanies by screaming, tears, vomiting and an expressed desire to have one's mommy nearby. It doesn't matter of he's a gym-rat or a pencil-necked geek. As a matter of fact, the gym-rat, with all his bulky, sculpted man-boobs and tree-trunk arms will probably go down faster. Gravity's a bitch. To which Iím sure the fake-breasted, botox-pumped female living stereotypes can attest as well.

You can bulk yourself up, sculpt yourself, bench-press mobile homes or buy boobs the size of small island nations. But we can all be felled by the same things, first and foremost a lack of confidence in ourselves. You gain that back, it doesn't matter what anyone else looks like.

Posted by Chris at June 20, 2006 7:18 AM

When you're right, you're right. Loving yourself is the only thing you need to worry about.

Posted by: Red at June 20, 2006 7:26 AM

Lots of introspection in your posts lately, Chris.

I like it.

Posted by: Alissa at June 20, 2006 7:47 AM

So true! Regardless of the fact that you may know in the back of your mind you shouldn't want to look like any of the models - it doesn't make it any easier and finding an inner peace with that can be challenging. However, once it's found? You can conquer the world.

Posted by: Emily at June 20, 2006 7:53 AM

Amen! Preach on Rude!

Posted by: Wicked H at June 20, 2006 7:56 AM

I was just thinking about this last night as I was sorting through some pics of me from 10 years ago. I weighed about 10 pounds less than the (still slim) weight I'm at right now, but in every single picture, I'm wearing the baggiest clothes imaginable . Yes, part of it's that late-90s aesthetic, but mostly, I was just PAINFULLY self-conscious about my figure. I just want to shake the crap outta 18-year old me and tell her to enjoy her body, already!

Luckily, I'm now making up for lost time. ;)

Posted by: Sparkles Anon at June 20, 2006 8:14 AM

That is all very true. Seeing the faults of the "beautiful people" always makes me feel much better about myself.

Posted by: Jessie at June 20, 2006 8:33 AM

Very true. Everyone has their weaknesses. With some of those manicured women and men it's self-obsession more than anything else. I'm only jealous because I want to know where they get the time (and cash) to do all that stuff to themselves! Not that I want to change myself... I'd just like a few more hours in the day and a bit more cash.

Posted by: E :) at June 20, 2006 8:42 AM

Very true. And well said. There's more to life than doctored magazine spreads and botox. The real stuff, the little flaws that help define our characters? That's the real goods.

Posted by: mamatulip at June 20, 2006 8:49 AM

Can you imagine the things that humans could accomplish if we didn't spend so much time obsessing over insignificant "flaws"? I could have read more than half of Shakespeare's works in the time I spent in front of a mirror fiddling with my hair when I was a teenager. And now looking at photos of that era, I don't notice much of a difference between "good" and "bad" hair days. (And now I rock out the "I'm five!" haircut to avoid frustration).

Posted by: Betti at June 20, 2006 8:52 AM

*giggles* You said "balls". *hehehe*

Of course, you've got it right. What a great observation! There are a few people I'd like to kick in the balls right now too!

Posted by: Ms. Q at June 20, 2006 9:14 AM

I keep my six pack protected by a soft round, thick layer of fat so they don't break.

Posted by: Bill at June 20, 2006 9:34 AM

It would certainly be nice if you could do the best you can with what you've got, and be happy with it.

I'm not crazy about all that other stuff.


Posted by: cas at June 20, 2006 10:12 AM

Thanks for the giggle!

Posted by: VirgoJen at June 20, 2006 10:19 AM

What's with all the deep thoughts lately? ;)
You definitely got this one right though.

Posted by: Traci at June 20, 2006 10:34 AM

Well said. Just imagine what all those plastic people could get done if they weren't obsessing about their appearance.

(FYI--On the balls side of things? Watch out when Mia starts running in a few weeks... she will reach a point very soon where she will nail you right in the crotch every time she runs up to you.)

Posted by: Kate the Shrew at June 20, 2006 10:40 AM

So true! I remember when I was all of 18 - high and perky and 15 pounds lighter - I still hated my body.

I am glad you don't have man-boobs though.

Posted by: Debbie at June 20, 2006 10:41 AM

I'm going to the Lake this weekend with some friends. One friend who I would kill to look like was asking me if another friend was going because she feels self-conscious about her body around the other girl. I have about 100 pounds on her but I was the one telling her not to worry about it because we were going to be among our best friends and if we can't be in swimsuits around these people then who can we be in swimsuits around. Considering I've been having some major self image issues lately I was pretty proud of myself for truly feeling this way.

Posted by: Beth in StL at June 20, 2006 10:52 AM

It took me years to learn that and I still have my bad days.

Good post.

Posted by: ann adams at June 20, 2006 11:05 AM

Just catching up and enjoying your writing as always. And I love the reference to Liz Phair.

Posted by: Heather at June 20, 2006 11:16 AM

" But we can all be felled by the same things, first and foremost a lack of confidence in ourselves. You gain that back, it doesn't matter what anyone else looks like."

Be sure to teach that to your daughter and remind her of it even when she's 35.

Posted by: Jaycie at June 20, 2006 11:18 AM

Yeah...I generally don't like to think about what I looked like 10 years ago, but for the most part I'm ok. It's definitely freeing when your brain is in that place where you just go "Ah, whatever" and whip off your top. Uh...in your case, I mean. In my case the particulars would probably be a little different. (Is it weird that I just said "probably?") In a similar vein to someone else who commented earlier, I look at my high school pictures now and realize how warped my self-image was then.

Posted by: Kristina at June 20, 2006 11:19 AM

You have no idea how badly I'd like to have my confidence back. If I ever had it. Heh.

Posted by: Sparkle Pants at June 20, 2006 12:22 PM

Interesting, I often think about the body image society projects on women, but I don't often consider that of men. I guess it's nice to know (or consoling, maybe) that men worry, too. (Stupid society.)

Here's another secret: a light tan will do wonders for that self-esteem as well. Seriously. I'm not talking about cooking yourself all summer, but I betcha in August, after a summer at the pool with Beth and Mia, you'll be all "I AM THE HOTTEST GUY AT MAN-BOOB POOL CENTRAL" with that summer-pool-tan you'll be sporting. (Or maybe I'm just projecting my issues with my paleness, I'm practically translucent and there's nothing I love better than a light tan.) (I am weird.)

Posted by: Noelle at June 20, 2006 1:13 PM

I don't have a spare tire. I'm carrying a spare car! I have come to terms with the fact that I don't really care what anyone thinks of my appearance as long as my wife is happy with it is all that matters!

Posted by: Jeff A at June 20, 2006 2:34 PM


my husband couldn't agree more.

Posted by: s@bd at June 20, 2006 2:35 PM

*raises a glass to the barbie dolls gone bad.* Good luck to you all...

Well said. Of course, you men get more "distinguished looking" as you get older. (Husband is SOOO much better looking than he was when we met)

And I? Have a few more lines of "character" on my face. But? They are a sign of lessons learned and life lived.

Yeah. I'll take that.

Posted by: Pammer at June 20, 2006 2:53 PM

i realized a similar thing last week in the women's change room. and suddenly I don't mind the communal shower as much.

Posted by: suze at June 20, 2006 3:02 PM

You are very wise for your time on this planet.

Posted by: Lisa at June 20, 2006 5:17 PM

Lack of experience in pretty much anything made me vulnerable and naive as I left my childhood home behind. A lack of confidence crippled me. It takes years to make up for that. Y-E-A-R-S.

Posted by: wordgirl at June 20, 2006 6:51 PM

I was actually getting self conscious in Vegas this past week with little 20 year old bods running around, but then I realized, I gave birth THREE times. And I ain't 20 any more. That is a woman's little "balls" equalizer. Granted, I'm not your typical mom...I've been called a bitch for looking young and being thin (ish), but we all get a little self conscious and it's good to have something to make us feel equal to the minority.

Posted by: Kate at June 20, 2006 6:59 PM

You're absolutely right, and what makes me so mad is how magazines like Allure devote entire articles to plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures. They talk about them like they are an expected part of a woman's upkeep, because god forbid she actually look her age. Grrr.... anyways.

I was watching the Yankees game yesterday when one of the umpires got hit in the balls with the ball. Ouch! He went down and stayed down... it looked painful. And the hubby couldn't stop grimacing.

Posted by: Kestrel at June 20, 2006 10:32 PM

How refreshing to hear this from a man! And, it's all so true. I love how are little baby girls are rolling around with their rollie pollie legs and pudgy arms and cheeks. They should always love their bodies as they do now.

Posted by: haley-o at June 21, 2006 3:11 PM

So true! Very perceptive of you. :)

Posted by: Zandria at June 22, 2006 1:33 PM

What? You gotten sensitive on us?

Okay. I know. You've always been... just makin' sure I am reading the right blog. :-)

Posted by: Bethany at June 22, 2006 1:53 PM