On being a woman

Screw you, Today's Chicago Man.

Screw you, Today's Chicago Man.

Outside Tribune Tower is an enormous statue of Marilyn Monroe. She straddles a giant replica of a subway grate, bent over, head thrown back in the classic Seven-Year Itch pose. (It’s become a favorite game of mine, when I need a break, to go to the lunchroom and see how many people in a fifteen-minute window take upskirt pictures of Giant Marilyn. The average is about six.)

I’m not really a fan of Monroe’s. She led a troubled life, representing many negative things, and I have a difficult time with the glorification of that. But there’s one thing you can say about Marilyn:

She was a woman.

Sure, she was a sex kitten. But there is nothing girlish about her. She stands memorialized in her size 8, curvy glory outside the Trib. And if you’ve seen her on the screen, you’ve seen how she can own the stage. It is hers when she demands it.

I recently saw a TEDTalk (which I have searched for again fruitlessly) about how women do themselves a disservice when they call themselves girls. Girls aren’t threatening or powerful in any way, the speaker said. Women, on the other hand, take responsibility for things by nature of their maturity.

I really wish I could find the talk, because it was synced well with images of women, doe-eyed and ponytailed, dressed up in clothing that was too young for them, in bodies that were too skinny for them. And as these images went by, the speaker talked about women in the workforce and the very real double-standard that guys can just be guys, but women can’t be girls if they want to be taken seriously.

I’ve struggled with this lately, physically and mentally. As a college athlete, my muscle-to-fat ratio actually brought me in as underweight. As I worked through the stresses of grad school, I lost muscle, but I didn’t gain any weight. Because of my odd schedules throughout college, I developed the bad habit of eating whenever I had the time, whether I was hungry or not, because I never knew when my next meal would be.

This year, as my life has gradually settled into less frenetic patterns, I’ve noticed odd things happening. Jeans that I had left behind as too large became skin-tight. Bras were too small. A form-fitting dress revealed bulges that at another time would have been my six-pack. The backs of my arms developed these weird jiggly bits.

For someone who’s been skinny all her life, this set me into a near-panic. I’m getting fat.

Except I’m not. I’m about eight pounds heavier now than I was in grad school (and it’s all in my hips). Healthy women come in many shapes. Some of them are skinny. Some of them aren’t. While I’ve taken steps to become healthier, such as going to the gym a few times a week and re-training myself about how and when to eat, I’ve (almost) made peace with the fact that I’ll never look like I once did.

So I’ve got an ass now, and the dark circles under my eyes don’t go away no matter how much sleep I get. You know what? That’s OK. I’m 26. There’s more to me than being pretty. I gotta age at some point, and life is getting better with time even if my thighs aren’t. Girls are focused on trivial pursuits like appearance. Women might like to look nice, but they’re too busy pursuing things that actually matter to let trivialities consume them.