Yesterday I found a small pocket of time after work and decided to write in my journal. I found a cozy, quiet, cool spot and emptied out my bag of felt tip markers. I wrote. I wrote so much. My aim was to try to wrestle out an articulate way to discuss a recent a-ha moment. What seemed so clear, round and precise proved to be a messy tangle of half- thoughts. There is hesitation and doubt, loads of deconstruction and second-guessing and moments of brilliance and freedom. In short, this post is not a neatly ordered animal. I’m about to cough up a hairball of personal navel-gazing.
Why not keep it in my journal? A journal is pretty much designed for navel-gazing; all my trailing thoughts would safe between pages. Quiet. Still. It would be nice to have nary a ripple to disturb whatever amusing and happy stuff I could be writing about in this space.
The problem is that a lot of us women (and some other folks too) are navel-gazing and we don’t like our navels. We don’t like our legs. Or stomach. Or back rolls. Or chin. Or hips. We don’t like it and we feel badly for not liking it. I know I’m not the only one wrestling with being healthy and accepting my large body. There must be others struggling to find a brand of feminism that allows me to like being a girl, but resent the way girls are treated. I feel like more than ever “the personal is political.” I’m writing about this, because I cannot be the only woman dealing with this shit and feeling like a grown-ass woman who still hasn’t figured herself out. On one hand I feel like I should love my fat body, dress it up, make it fancy, and celebrate the sexiness. On the other hand, I feel like that still gives power to a patriarchal, consumer-controlled idea of femininity. I shouldn’t care about what I wear or how I look. That’s what “they” want. The nebulous “they” of society tell me to choose: fat or healthy, girl or boy, feminine or feminist.
All of the semantics, hand-wringing, and indecision remind me of Esther Greenwood’s dream in The Bell Jar. She’s dreaming that a lush fig tree is bursting with fruit and each one is a major life direction: wife and mother, athlete, writer, lover, etc…. She can only choose one and she cannot make up her mind. The fruit slowly rots and falls away and Esther is left with nothing. She couldn’t limit herself to just one thing. She wants it all and, frankly, society wasn’t made for ladies who want it all. Part of me wants Esther to give a big fuck you to the fig tree and refuse to pick something because she doesn’t want only a little happiness. The other part of me is screaming for her to run and grab as much as she can before it is all taken away.
I’ve identified the problem and it is aptly expressed, in part, in this essay. “In Praise of Women Who Give All the Fucks,” by Emma Gray, celebrates women who care, champion, and seek to create a better society. Gray highlights that the current female media darling is the woman who “doesn’t give a fuck.” The glamorous, bird-flipping, gonna-do-what-I-want-woman is epitomized in the media as one who doesn’t even need a label, she is her own bad-ass self.
I’m here today to say that we need both. In fact, I must be both women. Ladies, we must give all the fucks and not give a fuck. Let me illustrate:
You’re gonna troll me on the internet because I’m fat and want to wear pretty clothes? You think it is shallow if I want to buy dresses and shave my legs? I don’t give a fuck. I’m going to look how I want because I get to decide how I want to dress independent of your opinions. You don’t get to decide what makes me valuable. Fuck your conditional acceptance of my body.
Did you just say that if I’m fat I must not care about my health and I’m perpetuating a harmful way of life by being fat and not dieting? I give so many fucks about my health that I’m not limiting it to just what you can see. Health is more than my weight. Health means getting my annual pelvic exam, seeing a therapist to help me become mindful, visiting the eye doctor and the dentist, and advocating for my right to reproductive choice and healthcare for all. I. Give. So. Many. Fucks.
There it is. A fig tree exists and it does force women to choose. What we’re forgetting is that we are so many. If all of us head straight for that fig tree, knock it down, and take what we want we can have it all. This will take both not giving a fuck and giving a fuck. We have to not care what everyone thinks about us and we have to care about ourselves. Imagine the wild rumpus at the fall of the fig tree! Branches down, we can pluck the hell out of those figs. I’ll help you get to the figs you want. I get the figs I want. Hell, we may even share a fig or two. We may pick one fig and decide we don’t like it and then pick another. We will get to decide on our own figs and we won’t be judging the figs of others.
My big ole fig pile at the end will have three kids, a husband, tattoos, pretty clothes, loads of written articles, a professional career that thrives, and the knowledge that I can do whatever the fuck I want, but I don’t have to do it alone. Your harvest may be vastly different and that’s cool, too.
That is Operation Fig Pluck. Obviously I picked that name because of that scene in The Bell Jar and I thought maybe I should not use the f-bomb all the time. I’m aiming to care less about doing what I’m told and caring more for myself and my community. Now get outta my way, I’m going fig hunting.