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I can’t __________, I’m _________!

June 22, 2010

Whatever your body is like, you’ve probably received some not-wisdom about what it can (or, more accurately, what it can’t) do. Here are a few I’ve been rethinking lately.

Myth: I can’t wear skinny jeans, I’m fat!
I bought skinny jeans and they are fabulous.

Myth: I can’t wear a maxi dress, I’m tall!
I bought a maxi dress and it is fabulous.

Myth: I can’t get a leading role in a play, I’m fatter and taller than boys!
This is an old one, from my high school years, when I was a theater nerd, which would probably surprise you if you knew me now. (My mother once told me that the most surprising thing about me to her was that I was involved in performing arts–theater, choir, solo singing, speech–because I was so shy and stage-frightened. Still am, mostly.) I was convinced all through high school that I would never get a lead role in a show because all the shows we did were love-story musicals, and I was physically much larger than all of the men in our theater program. Maybe I could play old people (actually, I did in two shows) or nuns (yep, hit that note too), but not the leading lady. I don’t know if I had the talent for it, but I assumed that was irrelevant. Fake it ’til you make it only works if you buy it yourself.

Myth: I can’t date boys, I’m too [tall/fat/loud/quiet/nerdy/ugly].
I can’t tell you how many boys I liked and assumed would never like me back because I was too ______. Or how many boys flirted with me, and I assumed they were just being friendly, because, you know, I was too ______, but later discovered they had other things on their minds. And it turns out being taller and fatter than my boyfriend is so, so far from the worst thing in the world.

Myth: I can’t exercise, I’m out of shape.
Yeah, this is just bogus. It turns out I really enjoy exercising when I’m not obsessed with how parts of my body were jiggling.

I realize now that, on top of all the actual prejudice in the world–and, probably, because of it–I spent a lot of time insisting that I had no business doing the things I wanted to do, because I was ________. It might be true that skinny jeans do not look awesome on me (full disclosure: it is absolutely false), or that I am not talented enough to play a leading role in a musical (this one is probably actually true). It is definitely the case that assumptions are made about me and my abilities based on what my body looks like. But I know that telling myself I was _______, so I can’t ________ did nothing to help me. It’s part of the insidiousness of this received “wisdom” about what our bodies are or could not possibly be capable of.

So, how about you? What were you too _________ to do?

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. June 23, 2010 8:48 AM

    I THOUGHT I was too flat to attract guys but then in my senior year a bunch of guy friends admitted they used to have crushes on me. šŸ˜€

  2. cellardoor10 permalink
    June 26, 2010 9:38 AM

    Oh god, I was too fat for everything. I was also not enough of a lot things, like feminine, for example. I was always too fat and not feminine enough to date boys. I was too nerdy for cool people to like me. So many thing.

  3. cellardoor10 permalink
    June 26, 2010 11:27 AM

    This is an interesting look at the inner critic concept, from the point of view of someone diagnosed with major depression. I just thought it was interesting that I read both of these on the same day.

    http://disabledfeminists.com/2010/06/25/the-inner-critic/

  4. July 28, 2010 7:03 AM

    too fat to date- i still kinda think that way- idk how to change the way i think

    • August 8, 2010 9:21 PM

      Purleydott, I have felt that so many times too! But recently I asked a guy out and he totally said yes! Up until now, it was completely out of character, but I’m hoping to change that.

  5. August 8, 2010 9:24 PM

    You know what’s nutty Jill, I have always thought that I couldn’t wear a maxi dress because I was too short. Apparently they are for women from 5’5 – 5’8?

    I also learned recently that big girls shouldn’t wear big floral prints because it remind the viewer how big the person is. They also shouldn’t wear small floral prints because that emphasizes how big they are in comparison. Fuck that, I have all sorts of floral.

    (Great Post – a little late!)

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