As a new, learning as I go blogger, one thing I’m definitely learning is to (when possible, which is not always the case), write about something when it occurs to me. Even if it’s just a few sentences. Because it might be enough to inspire me to keep going the next day, when I’m not really in the mood to write about that particular subject. I’ll often go to bed, and have ideas start running through my head, which isn’t exactly conducive to sleep. It’s usually when I get my great (or not so great!) novel ideas, none of which I can usually remember the next day. Or lately, blog post ideas. I do write them down when they come to me, only to later look at them quizzically and think “Huh, what was I on about?!” Organization is not my strong suit, and if nothing else (hopefully) maintaining a blog will force me into some semblance of an organized thought cataloguer. Maybe!
Anyway…I had written an unpublished post for my old blog and not published it (I actually deleted it as I finished most of it on the blog’s own editor – never a good idea). I didn’t publish it because I was afraid it would be too woe is me/white girl problems sounding. I didn’t publish it because I was scared people would think it was stupid. I didn’t publish it because I was afraid, in short. Which is fine, maybe not every thought is meant to be shared. But in this case I will share (the gist of it) because it’s what’s on my mind (again) today.
It stemmed slightly from a post last year on the xojane.com site which was widely derided. It was about an (American) girl in a yoga class, who wrote a rather dispiriting piece about how an overweight African American girl turned up to the class and couldn’t or didn’t for whatever reason participate fully in most of the postures. The author was mostly whining about how this girl’s mere presence was bringing her down, interrupting her zen yoga smugness presumably, as if how dare she even BE in the room with the rest of these skinny yoga types, all in the most weirdly condescending tone you can imagine. She didn't belong there, she was out of place, her body and ability did not fit in to the overall machine of exercise/self-worship this woman felt was so threatened. It was so horrifically offensive it received nothing but deserved scorn and questioning of why they published it in the first place (as it’s xojane, much of their recent m.o. seems mostly to irk/inflame the readership.)
Unfortunately for me it kind of stirred up some of my worst fears in terms of my own body image issues. You see, I have been attending Pilates semi-regularly (they break for school hols) for almost two years now. And I am the fattest I have ever been in my life. Pilates has not turned me into an elegant, toned swan the way that the Gwyneth Paltrow et al. endorsements assure us it will. I started Pilates because my knees were shot and it was one of the few forms of exercise I was able to do. A block booked class I know will force me to attend as it’s pre-paid fits in well with my needs. I did yoga semi-regularly when I was younger and was always relatively good at it (I’m bendy, but not athletic at all, really).
Pilates is not just hipster yoga, as I initially may have thought. It is much, much harder, and you don’t feel particularly zen at the end. I stagger home on wobbly legs. Usually my whole body hurts the next day. Myself in particular, I get sweaty and red faced and struggle to do many of the positions. Whereas many women in the class are zygote waifs who appear to attend because they’ve got a gap in their schedule in between manicures. They never break a sweat or appear anything but effortless and graceful, moving through the positions in a sleepy, slim-limbed apathy.
As the chubby (middle aged - gasp!) one in the corner it can be dispiriting to say the least. It takes a lot of willpower to force myself to go and not beat myself up too much for not being the more socially size acceptable creature I once was. There is a mirror, which is the devil’s work in any exercise class as far as I’m concerned. I have to look at myself in the mirror and try not to compare my body with other women’s in a negative way, which for me does not exactly come naturally. And after reading that piece in xojane it just kind of confirmed my worst fears – some people are judging me, gasp! The horror. Of course maybe most people are more interested in judging themselves, because I don’t really remember judging anyone besides myself even when I was young and thin.
But still. It takes a lot for me to look in the mirror and focus on the positive, that I have occasional grace of movement, that I can still bend into most postures with the best of them (though definitely not plank!). My own judge-y voices are more than enough for me to contend with without having to worry what anyone else thinks of my less than perfect form.
As the class before Pilates was letting out recently, some sort of youth aerobics hip hop nightmare, a couple of young tween girls were sat across from me giggling. They were, in a mildly passive aggressive mean girls tone, disparaging the efforts of another girl they knew in class. “She tries her best…" mutual giggle. And then a girl approached them, a cute, slightly chubby, red faced girl, and effectively apologized to them for not doing better. And it broke my heart. I wanted to say to her “You are beautiful, and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.” But I didn’t, because I knew she wouldn’t hear me, not really.
It’s something we can only hear from ourselves. And so I keep going to Pilates, which starts back up tonight after a month off for winter holidays, despite having many feelings of "Ugh I feel fat and don't want tooo"; for myself, for all of the other less than perfect girls and women who are maybe afraid to go like me sometimes, because we deserve to be there as much as anyone else.