The first time I realized I had cellulite was freshman year of college. I was sittingin my dorm room floor listening to Deana Carter on a tape player, wearing Girbaud jean shorts and eating cafeteria take out. I was sitting cross-legged and reading Beowulf. Thankfully, my roommate Kellie wasn’t there for this cataclysmic moment. If she saw this alien, bubble like substance attached to the inside of my legs and butt she would of freaked. No way she had this stuff.
Am I in an alter reality, I think? Cellulite happens to women who are in their 40’s
or something, right? I feel my hair turning gray as I stew.
I begin pinching and prodding my skin, looking backward in the mirror to see
how bad this cottage cheese situation really is. In my estimation, it’s bad. I sit
down and press my legs together like text books smashed in a backpack. The
terrible truth: divots appear. On both legs. And cheeks.
How has this happened? I’m not overweight and I’ll hit the weights when there
are cute guys bench-pressing after a run. Ok, so cheesecake is my favorite food,
but NO ONE TOLD ME THIS WAS GOING TO HAPPEN.
I call my cousin, Lana. She’s a personal trainer, massage therapist and has great
boobs. Lana is not shocked amazingly. She says this is normal? And then the
other shoe drops: she tells me this stuff will probably never go away. “Be
confident,” she said, “you’re beautiful no matter what.”
I’ll never wear shorts again, I think. I see a Salvation Army drop off in my future.
That was ten years ago. The memory, however, is still fresh. It’s fresh because I
knew there was a freedom with and in my body I would no longer completely feel
again. There was an invincibility, a youthful sense of immortality that
evaporated. Ignorance had been bliss. Now, I needed Eve’s garden coverings
because nakedness had been named.
Most women can point to such a slam-on-the-brakes moment where they
remember feeling physically less than, shamed. Compared. Often, it is infinitely
more traumatic than my silly cellulite discovery. Often it is a criminal act, blatant
misogyny or severe self-flagellation.
But we’re strong, and we bounce back smarter, wiser, more certain of whom we
are as women, even if we take the long road to get there. The challenge is to
continue rolling through the roadblocks as they come: injury, infertility, deep set
laugh lines, weight gain, health failings, and any myriad of issues we face as
women in a society that is obsessed with, in my opinion, all the wrong things.
This crazed pressure and obsession has lead us down the dark and villainous
path of glorifying anorexia and making 12-year-old girls wonder if they have
enough “thigh gap.” Airbrushing is no longer thought deceptive; it’s industry
mandatory. The long road feels longer still.
Despite these not-so-subtle coercions to indulge in near narcissism, I’m happy to
report a triumph: my love for shorts has been re-discovered in my maturation.
Well…Kickboxing in sweatpants just didn’t seem feasible, you know?
And if I had a blackboard I would write it down in colored chalk: Cellulite – 0 Me
But lest I get cocky about my triumph over societal pressures, I must confess
that cellulite woes in my life aren’t gone. No, they just seemed to have
mutated. It’s no longer bubble like butt indents or thigh-pressing that sends me
on a Brazil nut / pomegranate / ice cream stress-eating bonanza.
No, it’s much deeper.
That throat-clutching, divot-exposing moment that I had in my North Russell
dorm ten years ago is re-creating itself in the form of Life Cellulite. I look in the
mirror and see fear, anxiety, anger. This emotional ‘cottage cheese’ is all over my
identity, self worth, and I’m afraid to wear the Daisy Dukes of the Soul.
Every woman I know fights this ongoing battle in varying degrees. As of late, my
response is to throw out the old clothes of who I am just in case they’re too
revealing and let people see too much of me. It feels like I can’t run and play with
reckless abandon in my Self Confidence Shorts. Hiding and covering myself
seems a necessity for survival. I’m less than for a new reason and shamed into
silence, watching West Wing alone.
NO ONE TOLD ME THIS WAS GOING TO HAPPEN, I think.
Or did they?
In an act of seeming colossal time waste, I read my old journals. I learn I’m totally
different and completely the same. The pages turn through years of life and I
read of painful struggles. Life Cellulite, I think. I read of great triumphs: the long
road was actually much more beautiful. My former self keeps reminding me of the
same thing through each page, though.
Who I am as a woman is never to be defined in total by what I do, accomplish,by what people think of me or what my body looks like.
I am to run with Glorious Freedom, recklessly wild down the brambled paths and
dirt roads and not care how my shorts fit; the real one or the metaphorical one,
even when they crawl up and give me a wicked wedgie. No, Life Cellulite is the
stuff that makes our character stronger, makes us people of enduring honesty,
peace, patience, kindness, and actually worth talking to at a dinner party. Real
cellulite makes us women, not girls.
We may be losing a battle today, whether it’s blowing our top with our children
or not fitting into our skinny jeans, but we have already won the war.
Let your divots show.