“For too many centuries women have been being muses to artists. I wanted to be the muse, I wanted to be the wife of the artist, but I was really trying to avoid the final issue — that I had to do the job myself.”

― Anaïs Nin

REFLECTIONS

When a culture defines the ideal woman in relation to how men react in her presence, it leaves a woman more interested in her reflection than her heart’s desire.

This thought has been formulating for months as I wrestled with the history of my interactions with men. I’ve rewritten today’s post several times, as I struggled to uncover and then articulate some very embedded notions to which I have adhered, concerning females and their perceived success. This discussion necessitates an examination of the interplay between power and beauty, between being desirable rather than being known and loved.

BODY DYSMORPHIA-IMAGINED UGLINESS

I have observed in myself and most women that I know, a disparity between how we appear to others and how we feel about our selves, deep inside. When I look back at photos of myself, whether I’m in my 20’s, 30’s or 40’s, I see an attractive woman…but in those decades I never, ever feel pretty enough, thin enough or demure enough. In sharp contrast,  I always felt intelligent enough and successful enough. I had a very realistic grasp of my intellectual strengths and weaknesses and made career choices based on this knowledge. Why did I have intense self-consciousness and NO objectivity around my appearance? How is it that the feminist movement did not result in giving women freedom from obsessive attention to their looks? Women now have 3 areas to master…career, family and being thin.

ANOREXIC WOMAN-CHILD

I know the media plays a part by bombarding our senses with the anorexic woman-child, but I willingly participated. I remember making the conscious choice, as a ‘liberated woman’ to compliment my daughters on their intelligence and achievements, rather than their looks. This should have created young girls who found power in their own actions, but they observed me, their primary role model, spending significant time and money going to the gym, Weight Watchers, hair salons, beauty spas and cosmetic counters. Obviously children internalize the unspoken, the unwritten …the unconscious! I may have said “Follow your dreams. You can be anything you desire,” but the unspoken message was… as long as you are thin…because real feminine power resides in mastering your image…in controlling yourself so you will be desirable. Sure we have some examples of successful women who are not razor thin, like Oprah, but to be put on magazine covers, ad infinitum, you have to be thin. No wonder Oprah published her ‘O’wn magazine! Mirrors and cameras create an insidious, pervasive obsession with thinness, which leaves women less able to recognize their own desires.

EVALUATIONS BASED ON HOW ONE LOOKS

When I went on a raw food diet, in 2007, to alkalize my acidic body, I lost 50 pounds. Each time people saw me, their first words always were… “Oh, you’ve lost weight!” followed quickly by “How did you do it?”…from both men and women!  And no, I did not feel thin or pretty. One can only imagine then, me being a woman who is perpetually up and down the weight ladder, that when I had gained weight, their inner comments must have been, “Oh my God, she’s put on a few!” Our adherence to this societal ideal is so unconscious that we never question its ludicrousness. I paid lip service to the adage that being healthy is best, and all body types were equally beautiful, but in a politically correct world, what we think we should say is often not what we truly believe.

THE MUSE IN RELATIONSHIPS

I’ve spent the past 6 months in The Other Woman Blog, acknowledging a lifetime of insecurities, weaknesses and mis-steps, in hopes that I might uncover the part I played in having less than fulfilling relationships with men. I never realized the imprisoning consequences of desiring to be desired. In my 20’s, I was quite comfortable in the role of muse with men. I perfected the muse’s attributes in my first long term relationship. I was self-effacing, demure and attentive, while being oblivious to my own needs as a young woman. My desire to be desired was totally satisfied by the older, wealthy man with whom I was involved. But then I spent the next several years becoming educated and more comfortable in the world. This feminine passivity began to conflict with my need to be more self-determining. Unable though, to untangle this feminine issue, I ignored it while continuing to believe my unhappiness and lack of fulfilment were somehow connected to my less than perfect body. As though to make a cosmic point, my body became more and more disfigured with arthritis, eventually forcing me to unravel the Beauty Myth, and accept that I must become self-determining.

ASPIRATIONS FOR WEEK 29 OF 52

CHANGING THE THIN MYTH

As I begin to live my life from an authentic place, I feel quite confident and certain of my desires until I am out with a man. My role as muse is no longer an attractive option, but having only ever known how to relate to men from this vantage point, I sometimes find myself acting awkward and stilted. I navigated these waters successfully as a passive, self-effacing woman, but I’m at a loss in this new terrain. I’ve been watching French Movies to observe women being strong in the expression of their needs, wants and desires, as they interact with men.

So for Week 29 of 52, and the rest of the year, I will voice my desires, having faith that in doing so, I am not being pushy or demanding.

Sharing My Heart's Desires

Sharing My Heart’s Desires

Advertisements