I’ve been watching Mad Men (finally, I know) as part of an assignment for a TV writing workshop I’m taking. I like its complicated and moody characters and the struggle of women on the show. But it wasn’t until I was in a changing room the other day that I realized just how much what we watch affects what we think about the world and about ourselves. And how Mad Men was doing wonders for me.
I have my very first book signing in Philadelphia this coming Saturday. If that’s not a good excuse for a new dress, I don’t know what is. (There is also a cocktail party afterwards, so it might just turn out to be two new dresses).
Changing rooms usually make me very sad. First of all, why has no one explained to retailers that if they just figured out how to put in nice ambient lighting instead of those harsh overhead interrogation lights I’d probably buy twice as much? Changing rooms are esteem-shredding machines, and I avoid them like boils and telemarketers.
But, the morning before this particular shopping session I’d taken in a marathon Mad Men viewing session. I’d watched Christina Hendricks sashay down the drab little Sterling Cooper offices in her bold, beautiful, curve-hugging dresses, pulling eyeballs in like tractor beams. She and I have a similar bra size and bodyshape – curvy and full. I Googled her and I saw sites that say she wears a size 14, others that she wears a size 8 (I’m somewhere in the middle of all that).
Watching her rock her curves, reminiscent of a time when that was the desired female body type, made me think of all the millions of flashes of brainpower I’ve wasted wondering why I can’t be model-skinny, into spin class and willowy and muscular like all the cool kids are today. I see the young women at work eat lettuce for lunch and I despise myself for not having that kind of will power. How much time and energy have I wasted wanting something I’ll never be while not appreciating what I am? A lot. I bet if I could get it all back I’d like about 20 extra years to conquer the world.
So, the other day, in that dressing room, instead of a woman who will never again fit into a size 4 (the size I was before my kids), I saw a voluptuous woman with plenty of pretty curves. Instead of hunching my shoulders, wondering how to make my double Ds look flatter, I stood up straight and liked what I saw. It was as if by knowing I had company – proud, beautiful company – in my dress size I finally gave myself permission to love what I see instead of trying to fit into what society wants to see and feeling myself a failure.
Will it last? I don’t know. Certainly there are a lot more Keira Knightleys in the media than Christina Hendricks. But in the cacophony of of bone-skinny, it sure is sweet to hear the sweet tones of zaftig. Thank you so much, Christina Hendricks.