More wedding-talk from Slate writer Jessica Grose, who got married not long ago and has evidently been gazing into the navel of the existential angst the idea of marriage gives her for some time. This latest piece begins in the traditional educated-woman-discovers-self-not-impervious-to-gender-and-age-appropriate-desires manner that all defenses of entering into a heterosexual marriage, as a woman, must:
In most ways, I did not fit the bridezilla stereotype: I did not care about the color of our tablecloths; I haphazardly filled our registry with the things my mom told me we should have (as I type this, dust collects on our Le Creuset mortar and pestle); I let my bridesmaids pick their own dresses; my on-the-cheap bachelorette party involved a stoned viewing of Clueless followed by a sleepover rather than a gaudy, overpriced, forced march through Las Vegas.To which a skeptic might respond:
-She had bridesmaids.
-She had a bachelorette party.
-She had a registry.
-With fancy stuff on it.
It is entirely possible to be 100% married without any of those. Ergo, no low-maintenance-ness award. But we're to believe that, but for her intense quest for bridal bodily perfection in the months leading up to her wedding, Grose was laid-back about the whole thing. And who's to say if she was or wasn't? All brides compare themselves to a "bridezilla" extreme that basically no bride will meet. Anyone who did not get transformed into a human Barbie, who did not rent the entirety of Monaco for the occasion, is so totally low-key.
The article itself, though, made me cringe. Not because I'm opposed to girliness or wedding extravagance (as I've mentioned here before, I bought wedding-but-also-post-wedding shoes at Repetto that cost more than the dress, and they were/are spectacular), but because... this is just so, so much more of a problem from a feminist perspective (well, my own feminist perspective) than white dresses, name-changes, father-givething-daughter-away, and engagement rings combined. Grose, you see, opted for the bridal diet-and-workout makeover, and defends this in the way that someone who kind of realizes how ridiculous this was, but also kind of doesn't, might.
[My personal trainer] told me that before we would start training that day, he needed to weigh me and assess my body fat with a caliper. I should explain here that I wasn't embarking on this transformation as a total sloth—I ran or attended spin class four or five times a week and my BMI was already in the low end of normal. I was already in reasonably good shape. Or so I thought.And:
"It's not a complete disaster," the trainer said after looking at the digital read-out on the caliper. "And what are your goals?" he asked. I told him I wanted to lose maybe five pounds, but mostly I just wanted to look really good in my strapless gown. "We can do," he told me, "but you need to come three times a week, and follow the diet."
My then-fiancé looked over my shoulder at the Spartan list of acceptable foods I was allowed to consume. I would come to refer to this as the "squirrel food diet," because nuts and berries seemed to be such a crucial part of it. Otherwise, it was the standard diet that women's magazines encourage month after month after month: Breakfast involved egg whites. Lunch and dinner were 4 ounces of fish or chicken and greens. The nuts and berries were snacks. No booze, no sugar, no fun allowed.
"This is insane," said my fiancé. "You don't need to lose weight."
"It's not about losing weight," I told him. "We're going to have those photos for the rest of our lives and I refuse to have dinner lady arms in them! I promise to be sane about everything else wedding-related."Ah yes. The woman who isn't even fat, but who's bought into the idea that women - particularly those about to get married - should be on diets. Annoying to read about from a YPIS angle for women with BMIs north of the writer's, especially for those without fiancés reassuring them that they're tiny, but also for those of any gender or relationship status who think it's kind of important for women to, you know, eat. Yes, yes, even the low-normal BMI sorts should exercise, but there's no pretending it's about "health" if you're already borderline underweight and your goal is, in part, to lose five pounds. (Relevant "Mean Girls" quote coming to mind.)
I'm sure some will say, it's her body, she should do whatever makes her happy, and being five pounds underweight for one's wedding is unlikely to cause permanent damage. (Natalie Portman, she of the temporary tininess for "Black Swan," has just given birth to a Millepied, so this must be true.) To which I'd respond, it's a bit like the whole thing with "ex-gays." If some folks would prefer to view themselves as straight, for religious reasons or whatever, and get more pleasure from that identity than they would from a same-sex relationship, so be it, in theory. But in reality, these things do not occur in a vacuum, and the "ex-gay" is likely contributing to making life worse for those who'd rather be openly gay than closeted and pious, not to mention for the women they play at being "straight" with.
Women who diet unnecessarily are not always evangelists for doing so, but writing an article like this, phrasing it as a "defense" of the pre-wedding body-overhaul, adds up to as much. I'm not sure what the correct language is to describe this kind of writing ("pro-ana"? "pro-orthorexia"? "triggering"? people more up-to-date on Jezebel - which Grose used to write for! - than I am, help me out), but, guaranteed, it will make other already-thin women wonder if maybe they could stand to lose a few.
But! Grose's overall message, the basis for her "defense," is that her exercise routine was about empowerment. Thus the reference to wanting arms like Michelle Obama's - how liberal and liberating! And thus this, the strangest bridal-makeover-as-empowerment story I've ever heard:
That I was willing to keep at it made me realize that this makeover was about more than just vanity. I was getting much, much stronger. After several sessions I could lift the heavy boxes of wedding goodies that were being shipped to us on a near-daily basis without the aid of my fiancé.A feminist triumph!