Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What I Wore, and Learning to Love Our Stomachs . . .

Edited to add a Welcome! to those of you visiting from Imogen's blog. I'm busy helping with my daughter's wedding preparations today, then celebrating at the wedding on sunday, but I'll be interested in reading your thoughts on this post. I know new visitors are often shy about commenting at a new blog, but know that your comments -- whether considered responses to my post or simply a quick hello -- are always welcome. Of course, you're also very welcome to read quietly and take your thoughts with you -- but feel free to come back again anytime. Thanks for visiting.
Another in my continuing series of What I Wore -- the jeans edition. Building this mainly around my beloved purchased-in-London, Japanese-denim, Denham jeans, I'm trying to achieve a certain casual chic, and I'm trying to do it primarily from items of some longstanding in my closet. Above, the polka-dot cardigan (Liz Claiborne) is two years old, the olive t-shirt underneath (Smart Set) might be four or five, the belt (FCUK) two years, and those beloved, bought-in-Paris shoes are five or six.
Predictably, I'm wearing my silver First Nations carved bracelet on my right wrist, my double-tour black leather Cape Cod watch on the other. Pater was quite pleased with how the pictures turned out, and I agree that overall and theoretically, they are well composed, show the outfit clearly, catch me with a reasonably pleasant look on my face (I discarded one egregious squint and one overly-toothy smile). What he never noticed -- and I'm guessing you might not immediately stare at either -- is some roundness at my tummy.

But it was, almost comically, the first place my eyes went. In fact, it would be interesting to see a study showing the phenomenology of the gaze through some digital video analysis of whatever kind the technology might support.  While I was ready to throw out the file and leave my What I Wore postings 'til after the wedding, a little voice protested that my politics might be better served by posting them as is. After all, if I believe there's any value in these potentially narcissistic posts, it's in extending the image of what women of a certain age (women in general, for that matter) look like, outside the airbrushed pages of magazines.

But my finger was still hovering over the "delete" button until I serendipitously happened across Imogen's wise and imporant post on stomachs. Or, more accurately, and sadly, on our hatred of our stomachs.

Asking why we've come to be so disdainful of what is natural and healthy, Imogen exhorts us to shift[] our thinking and start[] to love our stomach rather than hate it.  Appreciate that it's a part of us and what makes us uniquely us and that the curves women have naturally make us feminine, attractive and sexy.

And she adds something that made me think twice about these snapshots:
I'd bet too, when you talk to people you're looking at their face, not their stomach (bottom, thighs, hips etc.) and they are doing the same to you.   You're not obsessed with those parts of their body, so why should they be obsessed about yours?  We want to look at eyes and faces, they are the communication center of our being.

So I'm imagining looking at my photographs through your eyes.  While it's hard to discount those possible few who are staring aghast at my middle, I have to acknowledge the truth of what Imogen says, and I suspect that (especially with those strong polka dots), your eyes will not immediately fasten on that small inverted olive V. And if they do, I suppose we have to retrain you as well. Whatever it takes to begin loving our stomachs, right?

20 comments:

  1. First of all, I love this outfit, it's absolutely smashing! I love the structured print of the polka dots juxtaposed with the more artistic elements (shoes and bracelet).

    Secondly, I always think my stomach/ torso looks enormous in pictures, and I'm always so self conscious about anything that's fitted over my abdomen. I've always had a little "pooch" there, even at my thinnest. But no one, other than our mothers and ourselves really notices it!

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  2. Isn't that fascinating? I didn't even LOOK at your stomach until you mentioned it - and even then I don't think you've got much going on! I was admiring this gorgeous outfit. Love the jeans, the polka dot cardigain is just fantastic (I want one!) and the whole combination works perfectly. IT just goes to show that Imogen is right - we're not really looking for 'flaws' or specific body parts to critique when we look at each other. I MUST remember this :)

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  3. Me too, adore this outfit. And that's a very small stomach. Really!

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  4. I think Imogen's post is her masterpiece! I too have felt awkward about posting my image, but find it heartening as women are made, so beautifully, in all shapes and sizes.

    I also like that you do not post "what I got" (aka the Loot Post) but how how you work in older, loved items with newer ones.

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  5. I think you are gorgeous! And my stomach (which, natch, I have issues with) is not as compact as yours - and you've had 4 kids!?! I'm not implying that smaller is better - I'm getting with the stomachs in all of their shapes and sizes - but really you are the cutest thing ever.

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  6. I'm loving the outfit and that you had the 'guts' (sorry, terrible pun) to post it. We tend to self-censor our photos to the extreme and it's all stuff that other people don't notice (there's another blog post in this).

    The first thing I noticed was the lovely visual grouping you've done with your shoes and hair! And how fun and modern this outfit is, not a scrap of MDAL to be seen, and that you're an inspiration to other women.

    Your stomach is gorgeous, as you are and has done some serious work for you during your life growing all those babies. Give it the love it deserves.

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  7. You're right, I wouldn't have noticed if you hadn't drawn attention to it because I would have been too busy admiring your outfit, but thank you for pointing it out because it gave me the opportunity to admire your adorable tummy - it's the cutest ever!

    Une femme is beautifully shaped and need not worry. I know, because we recently met her in person.

    Thank you for the link to Imogen's post. I enjoyed reading it, and mostly agree, with one exception -- a little tummy on an hour glass figure such as yours and une femme's looks sexy but does not look sexy on the H/rectangle shape. I think it's because on the hour glass it's just one more curve in a unifying story of curves. On the H/rectangle, it's like "one of these shapes is not like the others." The H/rectangle shape is mostly about vertical and horizontal lines and only looks well proportioned at an ideal weight, i.e, a weight not introducing any curves.

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  8. Imogen is right...I looked at your face and hair first then the outfit, looked behind at the flowers in the pots.

    The title of this post gave me a clue that something tummy related was going to be mentioned...
    if I showed you my belly you might mistake me for a buddha!

    Enjoy your evening...it's warm and sunny here.

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  9. You're right--a study on the phenomenology of the gaze would be interesting. I know that blogging has taught me to focus LESS on my flaws. As for the tummy, I have learned to loosen my waist line in the past decade and my tummy appreciates it. Trying to suck it up only creates internal problems.

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  10. Pseu: I swear, I will lose those ten pounds from everywhere else on my body but the tummy -- it will be the last to go! But I'm glad you like the cardi -- the polka dots are bold, n'est-ce pas?
    Tiffany: I know! It's a lesson I'm trying to absorb -- we seem to be our own worst critics.
    Lesley: Thanks -- how are you?
    Duchesse: It really is a great post, isn't it! And thanks for noticing that my approach has been, more and more, to celebrate what I already have and keep that looking fresh -- I'm surprised at how easy and how pleasurable this is (as opposed to buying more new pieces).

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  11. K: Awwww, thanks! It's work, though, isn't it, this loving our bodies as they are. . .
    Imogen: It's true that we don't give our body parts enough credit for the work they do -- those abs might not make a 6-pack, but they carted around some serious baby-age. . . . thanks so much for your article, and I'll be looking for more on the topic. Also, so interesting that your practised eye picked up the hair-shoes resonance. . . I'd never have recognized that on my own, but you're right that it's there.
    Susan: Funny, I might have mis-interpreted Imogen's guidelines, but I consider myself an H shape. I'm quite small-busted, short-waisted without much waist contrast, hardly an hourglass. In fact, that's probably what bothers me about the way I look here, the excess poundage in just the wrong spot for an H. But it's fairly toned poundage, and I'm working on loving my middle . . .
    Hostess: I should have known your eye would be quickly drawn to checking out the plants!
    Terri: So true -- a liberated tummy is a healthier tummy!

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  12. You are an hour glass. I see curvature.

    Martin protests when I claim H shape status -- he says I've got curves. Hmm.

    Hmm.

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  13. I've had a belly all my life. We laugh at the pics of me when I was young, I look pregnant aged ten!
    I've had to accept mine, all the women in my family have genetic pot bellies. What we would do for bottoms!

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  14. This post is 'spot on'...Sorry couldn’t resist that one.
    Seriously, only you could be that hyper critical, I on the other hand would have danced a happy dance if I could for one second actually tuck in! Those days are long gone, my muffin top the runaway winner of that little (OK not so little) battle.
    You are right though no one ever really sees any one in 2D, when we meet, we meet the whole kit and caboodle, and so rarely focus on the minutiae we ourselves dwell on in photographs. So keep snapping!

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  15. You are my new hero! You and your outfit look very cute - I especially love the polka dots!

    Thank you for posting this! I am basically thin, but have become obsessed with my tummy, and often torture myself by trying on outfits and then looking at them in the mirror to see if my tummy rounds out over my waistband when I sit down. It does, of course. My husband says I am insane, but you are right that I compare myself with celebrity photos that are probably airbrushed. I'm going to print out Imogene's post and your post and put them in my closet!

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  16. Susan: Indeed, hmmmmm. . . . do you suspect you're making my point? hmmmm
    B&P: I know what you mean -- I reassure myself by looking at my younger sister who, while training for an Ironman triathlon, managed to maintain her tummy while losing everywhere else. . . my daughters, though have small waists and not-so-small bottoms, an example of why it's worth switching up the gene pool ;-)
    Alison: I thought of you when I posted the dots -- now if I could have put them together with some stripes . . . as a photographer, you must think about this a bit. Surely, when you're looking through the viewfinder, you're not generally focussing (ha, sorry) on middles but most likely on faces, right?
    Murphy: Wow! Heroic? I love it even as I wave the praise away. . . we're our own worst enemies, though, and it does take a certain resolve, if not heroism, to fight off our critical selves. Listen to your man . . . listen to Imogen. . . be your own hero!

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  17. Those look like Emily Carr trees behind you! And love the mix of prints. There's so much beauty here to embrace!

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  18. To tell the truth, I did not notice the tum. I noticed how the cardigan, buttoned high, brought attention to your face with that witty and knowing half smile. I noticed how your shoes echoed the color of your hair, anchoring and unifying the outfit, and I notice how nice you look and how comfortable and confident surrounded by the beautiful garden.

    Still, I understand the reservations. I am far harsher with my own photos than with those of anyone else although I must also admit that blogging, both reading other blogs and posting to my own has softened my response and made me less self-critical. No that is not true. I am still self-critical, but I am in the process of learning objectivity.

    At my most critical I think that the high button cardi shows off the middle, but actually it doesn't, it draws the eye up to the face. I love the dots and the colors and everything about this outfit. It seems so perfectly suited to the person and the place. Thank you for posting

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  19. I can still hear my mother telling me to suck in my stomach. I may have been ten. And from that age noticing other girls bellies. For me it's an old message - flat is good, rounded or pot belly is bad.

    Now that my middle has thickened I'm very self concious about it. I don't like to wear anything fitted in that area. But I notice that lots of women bigger than me wear whatever style they like and they don't look that bad. I wish I could just get over it. Must go and read Imogen's blog on the subject.

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  20. Miss C: Funny what we come to take for granted -- our trees are impressive when I see them through someone else's eyes -- Emily Carr's though, wow!
    Mardel: It's a process, isn't it. Not at all easy, but although I catch myself cringing, sometimes, just thinking of photos I've posted, overall, I think the end is worthwhile. And so must you. . . thanks for the encouragement.
    Northmoon: So true, that incorporated voice of our mothers. Was that mostly our generation, I wonder? Do mothers still tell their daughters that? I know I didn't. . .

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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