A lot has been made of this photo since it appeared in the September issue of Glamour. Women all over the country have embraced the image. They see themselves and their postpartum (or not) belly in it and from the sampling of letters that Glamour is sharing, they like what they see. The woman in the photo is Lizzie Miller, a 20-year old, childless model from San Jose. Here’s what Lizzie had to say about body image:
“When I was young I really struggled with my body and how it looked because I didn’t understand why my friends were so effortlessly skinny. As I got older I realized that everyone’s body is different and not everyone is skinny naturally–me included! I learned to love my body for how it is, every curve of it. I used to be so self-conscious in a bikini because my stomach wasn’t perfectly defined. But everyone has different body shapes! And it’s not all about the physical! If you walk on the beach in your bikini with confidence and you feel sexy, people will see you that way too.”
I hope this is true for Lizzie. I hope this is true for all of the women- young and old, with or without kids- who rejoiced in seeing this photo. I rejoiced as well! But there was a tiny piece of me that felt something else. As I read Lizzie’s words (and those of the revelers) a thought kept creeping in and raining on my parade: “Something stinks in Suburbia.” How many times have we stood in horror as our size-2 friend has dissected their imperceptible cellulite or the gorgeous woman washing her hands next to us in the public restroom has bemoaned her “ugly” nose/hips/knees/earlobes/feet/fill-in-the-blank? Is any woman really this accepting of what they see when they look in the mirror (Gisele Bundchen notwithstanding)? I won’t claim to speak for every girl on the planet here. To paraphrase what Regis Philbin said so astutely in his best-selling 1996 biography, I’m Only One Man!, “I’m only one woman!” But, sadly, it seems unlikely. And a 20-year old, no less? Oy!
Lizzie is beautiful. Breathtaking! If I had her arms I would risk frostbite and go sleeveless 12 months out of the year. I’m not interested in dissecting the flaws of other women. There are only 24 hours in the day and my schedule is pretty full right now dissecting my own. I think most women in America hold this full-time, unpaid position. And yes, we’re doing a shitty job and should fire ourselves. So it is cause for celebration to see a non-emaciated woman in the pages of a national magazine. Sure, she’s buried on page-194 instead of being featured front-and-center on the cover but Rome wasn’t built in a day, right? Hey, maybe we could all borrow some of Lizzie’s youthful exuberance and hit the beach with our bellies in plain sight. I hear soft lighting can do magical things. Candlelight, moonlight… When’s the next new moon? I’ll meet you there. I’ll be the one with the ponchos, blankets, sarongs and sarapes. Just in case it’s a chilly evening…