Thursday, August 16, 2007

Face to face with the reality...

From the moment I was a little girl, I've had an unhealthy mental image of what the ideal woman should look like.

Of course, I didn't realize it was an unhealthy image until I got older, but when I was 6, 7, 8 years old, few women in the world to me, were prettier than the Miami Dolphins cheerleaders.

Are you cringing yet? The 29-year old me is. But the little girl I used to be just saw pretty faces, big smiles and shimmery outfits. Who wouldn't be fascinated?

I first encountered the Dolphins cheerleaders because of my mom. Prior to opening her own business, she worked in sales in a male-dominated industry. This meant part of her job often involved entertaining clients. She took her female clients to spas to discuss business. Her male clients often got tickets to Miami Dolphins games. Her company used to set up quite the pre-game tailgate and since she was a single mom hard-pressed to find a sitter, I'd get to go down to the Orange Bowl with her and her coworkers to help.

It was hard work, but when you're 7 and your parents are in the middle of a divorce, a Sunday afternoon at the Orange Bowl with all that yummy food and a football to toss around was bliss. And inevitably, someone would always prefer to stay at the tailgate party, giving my mom and I their tickets and into the game we'd go. (No wonder I fell in love with football...)

To make their tailgate even better, the company would often pay the Dolphins to have the cheerleaders make appearances at the tailgate parties. So hours before the game kicked off, those women would show up with their shimmery pom-pons and their shiny white boots. In my mind, they were glamorous. Even as a kid, I knew there was something about them...after all, why would all the cute sons of my mom's clients rush off from playing football with me to pose for pictures with those glamazons?

Is it any wonder that when I was young, if you asked me what I wanted to be my answer was "cheerleader"?

But as I got older, I realized there was more to aspire to than being a professional pretty dancer. Soon the answer to the "What do you want to be when you grow up?" question went from "cheerleader" to "pediatrician." (My mother, understably, was relieved.)

I started getting good grades in school and got a little bit heavier. Inevitably, I was one of the outsiders looking in...the cheerleaders at my school were thin and pretty and popular. And some of them weren't all that nice. But I still wanted to be like them--be liked by them, so for two years, I was on the squad.

Eventually I gave up cheerleading, telling myself I wanted "more" than to just be on the sidelines. In reality, the cheerleaders intimidated me the older we got. I ran from my pompons and embraced my bat and ball. I was a softball player now. But the cheerleaders have always been those girls I've looked up to and thought had the 'perfect' lives. Like the head cheerleader who dated the quarterback of the football team (who I was secretly in love with). Or (again), the Miami Dolphins cheerleaders who could make a crowd of 70,000 (mostly) men go crazy with one toss of their head and one shake of their hips.

The older I got, the more critical my view of cheerleaders became. I viewed them as nothing but eye candy (especially the ones that did nothing but dance...I know quite a few cheerleaders do more than that and train and perform like athletes...I'm not talking about them). My bitterness only grew when while we were dating, Mr. CCC got a job with the Dolphins' marketing department.

Part of that job? Accompany the Dolphin cheerleaders to appearances throughout South Florida. While the cheerleaders would lure the fans (err, men!) in, Mr. CCC would try to sell them season tickets. I hated that he was around those cheerleaders in their skimpy outfits for hours at a pulled at every self-esteem issue I had and I worried that one day, Mr. CCC would come home and tell me he was running off with one of them. And why wouldn't he want to? They were tall. Thin. Beautiful. Voluptuous.

I was not.

Yesterday in my Pilates class, I came face to face with my childhood goal/adult nemesis. There was a new student in class and as the rest of the chubsters and I sweat and groaned through the new moves our instructor demanded, the newbie flew through the routine with the kind of grace and precision you just don't see from newcomers to Pilates. She barely broke a sweat.

Our instructor must have noticed the fact so many people turned to look because she pointed out for the rest of us not to worry--that the new student was a dancer and had been training professionally for years. As I was leaving the studio, I overheard the chatter...the newbie was a Miami Dolphins cheerleader.

I glanced over and wasn't surprised--perfect body, perfect hair, perfect smile. For a moment, all I could think was, "Damn...I can work as hard as I just worked and I can cut back to eating absolutely nothing and I will never, in my wildest dreams, look like that." And part of me internally rolled my eyes---if she was so advanced and so flexible, why the heck was she strutting her stuff in a beginner class? I go to Pilates to escape my body issues. Not run into them head on.

It was rather depressing and took me right back into junior high mode--where the cheerleaders were the ones with the perfect lives and I was alone. But as I recounted the story, to a (very wise) friend, she told me I had to STOP thinking like that...and how we women are so hard on ourselves and overly critical of everything regarding our bodies. She had a point. For the first time since taking Pilates, I left the studio feeling down about myself...not proud of what I had just accomplished. And that bothered me.

That's my cross to bear, my issue to work through. I shouldn't be placing value on the person I am by the way I look. I shouldn't see a beautiful woman and roll my eyes, telling myself internally that she's automatically a bitch or that she's bound to be mean. I shouldn't look at a woman with a perfect figure and rationalize she has a perfect life. Because I don't know her. For all I know, she's lost her job, her husband, a child and is burning with pain inside.

For all the times we preach to our children and our friends about how looks don't matter, how often do we really believe that ourselves? I know I have issues. And I also know I need to find a way to stop that negative thinking.

Instead, I can (and should) look at that Dolphins Cheerleader and think, "Wow...I bet she has to work really hard to look that good." Because I'm sure she does. She's probably passed up cookies and cake her entire life. Or she spends six hours a day exercising. Is that something to be envious of? I don't think so. Would I want to skip some of the fabulous meals I've had in my life to be that thin? I don't know that I would. Am I willing to spend hours upon hours cooped up in a gym, instead of enjoying time with my family and friends? Nah.

But more power to those that do...that have to for their jobs. There's nothing to envy have to just admire their self-control and their willpower. (Unless of course, you discover her dinners consist entirely of chocolate, wine and cheese and her exercise is limited to walking outside to get the mail. If that's the case, then yeah, I'm gonna be really, really jealous!)


sandy said...

ohmygod i totally sympathize. all of the hot mommies and hot old ladies in my step classes are KILLING me! and i do the same thing - i demonize them. and then feel crappy about myself because i'm obviously prejudiced. i think it's a defense mechanism...i'm mean to them in my head, but the truth is - i hope to BE one of them one day!

i'll hang in there if you will!

Livy said...

I really enjoyed this entry. Since I am from Australia, we don't have the same All American Cheerleader traditions that you guys have (it's funny, I forget you are american sometimes!). The way I look at it, Cheerleaders are no different to gymnasts, or models, or Playboy bunnies. I have friends who are penthouse pets, and models, and I tell ya' it's just like you say. There is no cake and curry, there is no icecream choctops and popcorn at the movies. These girls have preset daily menus, and vigilant training programs that they must stick to. If they put on a kilo, they are very likely to be tormented by their boss or manager and told to lose it or lose their job. That kind of pressure is just plain torture I think. Not to mention the fact that those jobs don't last forever. Eventually their boobies will sag, their eyes will get crows feet, and they will end up with turkey neck syndrome just like the rest of the world. I quite like being free to make my own choices regarding my weight these days. Don't you?

Lynn said...

I too, really enjoyed this post. Seems like you're haunted by the Dolphin's cheerleaders *smiles* I think you said what every one of us overweight but trying to be healthy girls thinks, when we're in sweating our asses off and the tiny, perfect looking girl comes in and you ask yourself, why is she here?

I sometimes find myself judging "flawless" people when I know I shouldn't. Most probably do have the same issues as the rest of the world.

Great topic, thanks for sharing!

Chic Ink Designs said...

Hello there Ms Carrie Bradshaw!

Ok seriously ccc, I'm guilty of it too, I always see those women and feel crappy about myself and then instantly hate them (not necessarily in that order) But you know what happened to the pretty girl in my dance class? the one with the rocking bod, beautiful blonde hair and can dance like a pro, well she's the sweetest thing there is, she's my new gym BFF. LOL

Ash said...

Good job of writing!
You spoke for a lot of us.

Lora said...

Sometimes I think you and I have a telepathic connection! I just got done posting about the party I attended this weekend with all my old cheerleader friends! To gently burst your bubble - we are not all living perfect lives and still in perfect shape (as in ME!) But I will admit - I felt a bit overwhelmed because almost all of the girls at the party DID seem to have the perfect lives...the perfect bodies...the perfect hair.... It's hard not to be envious. And while I came home wishing I had different hair...different hips....different teeth....I also came home with some fond memories of some really great friends who love me for who I am.

SarahA said...

My best friend and I used to imagine how great our lives would be if we were both thin instead of round. (I blogged about TSB (those skinny bitches) but can't find it in my archives right this second.)

We imagined our lives totally different, better, easier, more fun. But I know plenty of cheerleaders, ex-dancers, skinny mini's who have horrible lives or who are just plain old average. I've learned to not equate thinness with happiness because even when you get there you're going to have crap days.

Great post!

aydin said...

I <3 you, ccc! I love reading your blog! You are beautiful to me and always will be :) I don't have any words of wisdom. You already know the truth about life. Hang in there!

Melissa said...

They were tall. Thin. Beautiful. Voluptuous. YEAH BUT THEY ARE ALSO DUMB AS A BOX OF ROCKS. LOL.

beautiful, thin, voluptuous women have major probs too man, hale berry's hubby cheated on her. so did uma thurman's.

lmao at the pp TSB! LOVE IT!