"But I Don't Want to Look Like You"
This past weekend, my husband and I catered a private event (bachelorette party) for a friend’s friends. It was a lot of fun, A LOT of work, and a pretty hilarious endeavour. To be perfectly honest, most of my girl friends are chicks who lift/strongma’am so I’ve forgotten a little bit about what it is like to be surrounded by what would be considered, “normal” girls. Allow me to set the scene for you:
[sort of like this outfit...with less chalk]
So, I’m standing in the kitchen between courses, talking with my friend (a fellow teammate and lady who is strong as eff) and one of her friends begins talking to us about working out/the gym. I give a spheal on how our gym is fantastic and such (because it is!) and she tells us about her past injuries and her desire to not “bulk up” and how she bulks up quite easily. She specifically refers to how her legs get “huge” and she wants to be able to wear jeans. My friend laughs and says “oh, gabby can’t wear jeans.” Now, I was wearing a very glamourous outfit of leggings, a mens tank top (so much lat freedom!), and an apron so my thighs were covered. At some point, I pull the apron away and the other lady instantly grabs my legs and says “yes! that!” patting my quads. At another point in the conversation, I also end up flexing (I don’t even know) and being called “jacked” and while this very nice woman is complimenting me on my physique, she is also saying that she doesn’t want to “get big”. It was certainly not the first time I’ve heard that or the first time someone has grabbed my barely existing biceps but somehow it was different.
Maybe it was because I was in a totally different and novel environment but it struck me that what this woman was really trying to say was: “I don’t want to look like you”. And that, to me, is not a bothersome statement. She wasn’t being malicious about it or rude in any way (although there certainly are people who DO use that phrase to be insulting), she was just expressing her own opinion. And that person isn’t going to look just like me because, you know, genetics. It was as if she expected me to say “I know! I bulk up easily too. My legs got big and it’s awful”. While that would potentially make the conservation more in line with societal expectations, it would be a lie. I told her that I’ve had big legs all my life, that’s just how they are. They’re legs. They’re supposed to carry my body around and do stuff. They need muscle.
[leg muscles. you can't pull 350# off the blocks without them, you can't front squat without them, and you can't jerk without them]
Why do I bring this up? Because I think it’s something that every woman who lifts can relate to. People say, “I don’t want to get big/muscular/bulky/whatever” while simultaneously complimenting you on your musculature. Contradictory much? Perhaps. But it does force people to reflect on the whole notion of being comfortable in your body, particularly when that body doesn’t look a certain way. And above and beyond that, it made me realize that at some point, women’s bodies are seen as things that can be commented on without question. (As an aside - this isn’t a women’s only thing. I know plenty of guys, particularly very muscular guys, who get constantly poked and prodded and commented on without question). It seems that if someone else isn’t comfortable with your body, then you must not be either. And that’s not a very comfortable feeling.
Rather than getting upset or feeling awkward or shamed or self conscious, I would hope that most women take the opportunity to, for lack of a better phrase, own that shit. I think the initial reaction to any situation is to feel like you have done something wrong and apologize or justify your body. I’ve done it countless times.
But why? No one needs to apologize for their bodies, to anyone. It seems a little ridiculous to say “I’m sorry my lats are just so wide!” but it happens, in some form or fashion, all the time.
So next time you feel like apologizing, don’t. Instead - smile, say thank you, and own it.