I want this to be an ever-trending hashtag. I want it written in the sky, scrawled in public restroom stalls, or better yet on public restroom mirrors. While we’re at it, let’s put it on decals and affix them to store windows, let’s make bumper stickers and coffee mugs and little signs to put on our front doors. I want dads to say it to their daughters while they tuck them into bed. I want mean girls to group text it to each other, and hiss it behind other girls’ backs. I want it on the front page of every online news outlet. I want it on cereal boxes and clothing labels and pay stubs.
I first articulated “fuck measuring” when I went back to work at Nordstrom the first months into my move back to Phoenix. I was selling out of the special occasion/dresses department, which meant I was working almost exclusively with women, of all ages. The amount of body disgust was palpable in the fitting rooms, where women disrobed and tried on gowns they hoped would transform, or at least not look terrible on them. There was no flaw (real or imagined) that wasn’t pointed out, examined and bemoaned. It made me sick, and sad. I worked in the beauty industry for years as a makeup artist and watched people do this with their faces, but body was new territory for me. Well, not exactly because I did grow up female in America, where negative body image abounds. One thing my mother did right was to model healthy body image. As an RN she was clinical about the human body, and fixated on health and wellness, in the biological sense. She didn’t keep women’s magazines around or eat diet food. She didn’t go on diets, or talk about her weight. She didn’t talk about anyone’s weight or size or shape. I grew up thinking of my body as the place I lived, and a comfortable, friendly place at that. Positive body image is a tremendous gift, and it’s my responsibility to share it. The beauty and apparel industries are rife with insecurity and negativity, customers manipulated and preyed upon. I mean how else do you think they’re making all that money? When I was selling, I found myself subverting the messages companies use to sell products, and encouraging people to accept themselves.I began to encourage women to stand back from mirrors, at least four feet, before appraising. We tend to get up close and personal with mirrors, the more magnification the better to tear ourselves apart with. We don’t measure up to the ideals of media. We’re still comparing ourselves to completely unrealistic images and ideals that we all know were created on computers, or with the help of plastics and injections. It’s crazy-making, it’s been going on too long, and I want it to stop immediately. Fuck measuring. It’s a guaranteed way, the short route to misery. You will never measure up. No one will. Because fuck measuring. It serves no purpose, but to keep us mired in insecurity and dissatisfaction, which will (hopefully) spur us to buy more products to fix ourselves. No product has ever or will ever fix a glaring lack of self esteem. There’s no serum for self-loathing self-criticism. Spanx won’t make living in your own skin more comfortable.
I challenged women to focus on how they FELT in a certain dress, rather than fixating on how they looked. Aside from the occasional prom girl, I rarely if ever saw a woman light up with delight upon seeing her image. Instead I saw endless turning and twisting to examine all angles, searching for the real or imagined flaws. It was almost like women were desperate to find something wrong with themselves. Some began our interaction by announcing a list of perceived flaws. It was maddening and sickening. I started to ask questions like, does the dress feel like something you’ll be able to dance in? Do you feel like you can eat dinner in this without worry? Will you be able to comfortably hug people in this gown? I wanted to re-frame the dress-wearing experience from “all eyes on my flaws” to “does this compliment my personality and work for the activities I’ll be doing while wearing it?” Once we got to talking about relationships, and event purpose, I saw women begin to soften toward themselves, and move more freely in the dress. Sometimes I saw women straighten up with pride and smile at their image, or even wiggle their hips in a little dance. OK, I’d say to them, that’s the sign that this is the dress. You’re not so busy looking at yourself, that you look like yourself. My goal was to have them leave the experience feeling beautiful in a way that had less to do with what was reflected in the mirror and more to do with being a whole person.
Fuck measuring. It’s a useless, worthless exercise. It’s oppressive and endless. Stand back from the mirror. Turn away from it, even. We are more than the sum of our physical parts, and the ways they may differ from images created on computers in the culture lab, in order to sell products. Fuck measuring. Say it every time you have a negative thought about your face and body, and tell me where it takes you.