A plea: stop telling me to show off my body

So we were upstairs folding laundry when the trouble started.

Foodie: What is that?

Beast: What?

Foodie: THAT SHIRT. It’s camouflage.

Beast: Oh that shirt. Listen, before you get mad, let me explain.

Foodie: [Silence]

Beast: You know when I took the car in–your car in–to be serviced, for you? Well, I thought since I was out and about and had to kill some time before your car was ready, I might as well take the subway to this Army surplus store…

Foodie: So the army store wasn’t even near the dealership. You actually had to take the subway there.

Beast: Correct. But I stopped myself. I felt so guilty. So instead I though I would just go to the Army surplus store in Kensington.

Foodie: How much was it?

Beast: Here’s the thing. It was originally $60 but I got it for 50 per cent off. And it’s the same camouflage that Prince Harry would’ve worn when he flew helicopters.

Foodie: Yes OK but Prince Harry was working when he wore the camouflage. It had a purpose. What will the purpose be when you wear it? Also, you look like Tom Hanks in Cast Away right now.

Beast: When Hanks was fucking jacked? Please don’t be mad at me. And this one…

Foodie: YOU BOUGHT TWO?

Beast: This one was also 50 per cent off so it was only $20.

Foodie: It has a hole in it.

Beast: Yes I know but I can sew it up. Look at the herringbone detailing. When I was paying for it, the cashier was telling me how “French work wear” is so in right now so I almost didn’t buy it. It’s like yeah, I saw the Bill Cunningham documentary, too.

Foodie [trying it on]: This one is actually fabulous. We are going to share it.

Beast: Why don’t I just go back and buy you one?

Foodie: No that’s ok because I really like this one.

Beast: The thing is, I hate myself for doing it.

Foodie: I’m not mad at you. But why can’t you just be honest when you buy stuff?

Beast: I didn’t not tell you. And you should’ve seen all the stuff I didn’t buy. There was this cold-weather parka that was also 50 per cent off…

Foodie: It is the middle of summer. And you already have a parka.

Beast: Tell that to Shackleton.

Foodie:[silence]

It’s difficult for me to criticize the Beast for his fashion choices for a couple of reasons. First, he makes incredible dinners every night, does all my errands, and even babysits my nephew, Ben.

One day last week, he introduced Ben to Charlie Chaplin–Ben kept shouting “Again, again!” when he played that iconic factory scene from Modern Times— took him to the park, got him ice cream, and wiped Ben’s butt. Right before my brother retrieved him, Ben decided to have a massive “adult-sized BM,” according to the Beast. He asked Ben if he could do the clean up himself. Ben said “Yeah sure but it will be quicker if you do it.” So he did. And survived to text me about it.

So when he buys, say, an army surplus canvas knapsack the size of a Buick–“it’s to take on my bike rides, to hold my banana and maybe a book,” he explained–I am frustrated and worried, but I let it go.

Especially when I come home to find the dinners.

And the second reason I feel uncomfortable criticizing his fashion is because I am very uncomfortable when people do it to me. It’s strangers, mostly, on The Social’s Facebook page. I know I shouldn’t read the comments. Sometimes I click through in case a viewer has commented on something I’ve said, other times out of ego-driven vanity. But the majority of the comments are: “Jess should show off her curves,” and “Why does the stylist dress Jess in sacks?” and “Jess would look so much better if she showed off her body.”

It happens every time I choose to wear something loose, as in the opposite of what most women on television–from Kellyanne Conway to Wendy Mesley to reality TV stars–wear. And that is often.

It’s as though if you keep telling me to “synch it at the waist” that I’ll discover I actually have a waist. I know I do. You know I do.

If I were thinner, those “sacks” would appear more fashion forward. But a Dries Van Noten dress on me looks like I’m trying to hide something.

I suspect they’re probably worried that somebody is insisting that I cover up my body, which is of the type you don’t often see on television.

That’s not the case. I wasn’t hired because of the way I look. (When you think about that–and I have–it’s pretty amazing.)

Sometimes it’s not even a stranger. A friend once saw me wearing a Horses Atelier loose-fitting white wool dress and asked me why I always wear “tents”.

I suppose because it feels better than wearing a girdle, which is essentially what  those “body con” dresses feel like when I wear them. And showing off my curves–and my body–isn’t the first thing I think about when I wake up and get dressed. I feel better in looser dresses. They don’t require much thought. You just put them on and away you go.

In a recent New Yorker piece, writer Alexandra Lange noted that women like Georgia O’Keeffe and Jane Jacobs both confidently wore Marimekko dresses in the 1960s.  A Herald Tribune fashion critic described the full-skirted, long-sleeved cotton pieces as “a uniform for intellectuals . . . Marimekko is for women whose way of wearing clothes is to forget what they have on.”

“Marimekko was made for the working woman who could afford to ungirdle herself, one in a long line of ‘reform-dress’ movements that started with the nineteenth-century feminist bloomer,” Lange writes. “These dresses are the opposite of the tailored and belted and solid-color sheaths worn as a kind of female armor by Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s Selina Meyer on Veep—and by the Trump women. They aren’t feminine interpretations of the suit-as-uniform but dissent from the idea of sucking it in and putting on a show.”

To be clear, I’m not criticizing women who feel confident and comfortable in those tight, body-con dresses.  What confuses me is that they’ve become the default.

Today, it feels like the only way to be liberated in your body is to show it off. I appreciate the effort: it is a response to having how our bodies should look dictated to us for so long that any attempt to seemingly hide them seems like a retreat. The injunction that you have to be comfortable with your body, accept who you are and flaunt it has become just as restrictive to me as the corsets we struggled for so long to escape. I don’t dress for my hips any more than I dress for society; I dress for myself and I love being comfortable. And I happen to think a lot of these tents are pretty stylish, especially on very thin women. You’ll have to use your imagine with me.

The Beast just makes me promise to not read those comments. And then he body shames me himself: While I was nude the other morning, poured myself a second cup of coffee, he took a good long look at me. “The only thing I regret about your body,” he said, “is that I wish you had a raging muff.”

 

 

9 responses to “A plea: stop telling me to show off my body

  1. Right?!!! So comfortable. And not having to constantly tug something/anything back into place.

  2. Deborah elwood

    Love your blog Jess. I’m with you though comfort is first for me. Enjoy you on the Social you are a breath of fresh air.

  3. Jess, you’re just right! You’re your own person and that’s why so many of us are your fans. If you dressed like some others, won’t mention any names (M______) you wouldn’t be you. You’re beautiful inside and outside.

  4. But yes, from whcih store did the beast find the blue chore jacket? I’ve got to get one!

  5. I love you on and off of the Social. I like that you wear different things (the whole cast does, really) that makes me consider trying different styles. Mind you, I won’t be able to watch for a bit without thinking about ‘raging muff’, so that’s awesome.

  6. Keep on keepin’ on Jess. The world needs more of you. xo

  7. Hello Jess , may I call you Jess? You crack me up. I quite enjoy reading your blog and your appearances on The Social. Just wanted to warn the beast not to take his killer camo shirt with him if he ever travels to Barbados. Camo is a forbidden pattern on any clothing by anybody other than the military.You would be asked to remove it , it may be confiscated and you could receive a fine.

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