*Photo credit: Keep It Captured Photography
"And don't freak out when you look at yourself in it for the first time, it never fits right when you first get it."
My own words, the ones I say to all my brides before they pick up their wedding dress, rolled around my head as I stepped into the dress, butterflies moving at full speed throughout my stomach. I easily slide it up my body and heard the zip of the zipper find its destination.
There were no tears, no fireworks going off or back round music that plays when the heroine finally gets what she wants, it was just me looking at myself in the mirror in my wedding dress thinking.
"What. The. Fuck"
As the curtain slide back and I exposed myself to my best friend, her facial expression told me she was thinking the same thing and I immediately felt a pit in my stomach.
"Did I lose weight in certain places and gain it in others? Did my butt shrink? Maybe because I'm not lifting heavy weight as frequently my muscles are smaller. Did my arms look too big? Maybe I should stop eating pizza. Was I going to look like a potato sack? Why was I so pale? Shit, I wonder if my cellulite is going to show through the material. Did I make the right choice? Should I have gotten a different size?"
I stared at myself in this dress, the dress I would be wearing to marry the love of my life in almost exactly 5 months from that day, and I couldn't remember a time I felt more self conscious or critical of my own body.
'The Dress', the layered term that has caused so many humans a full spectrum of emotion because of what we're 'supposed' to look like in it.
When you put it on, you just can't look too fat, too skinny, too muscular, too strong, too pale, too dark, and on, and on, and let me word vomit more, on.
Part of me wanted to blame the fitness industry, the one I've been apart of for almost a decade, where I primarily work with women, a lot of them being brides. My job has given me the opportunity to work with a multitude of clients in which I try my best to help them realize that their validity has nothing to do with what their body looks like and more so, from the strength within. Another part does blame society and the social constructs that have been drilled into our heads about 'what women should look like' according to the patriarchy, the beauty industry, and the baggage our ancestors have delved out to us. But more so, I wanted to blame myself for feeling this icky way because of the body I dwell in. As an athletically built, white, middle class woman, what type of permission do I have to feel these insecurities way in my own skin?
There are times when I look at myself in the mirror and beam with pride because of how my butt looks in a pair of mom jeans.
Then there are times that I feel so unsexy, I wonder why my partner is even attracted to me.
There are workouts that at the end of them, I am so proud of my muscles for enduring through it.
Then there are workouts where I feel like I wasted my time and energy and I wonder if I'll ever feel strong again.
Day in and day out, I work in an industry that has become a platform for vanity that can debilitate people to not even want to step foot into a gym because they feel too self conscious to even begin their journey. It has become so diluted with "try this, don't do that" advice that It can make even the most talented of trainers second guess their own values. And it has done a really good job of making you feel invalid or less desirable if you don't meet the standards, which is a huge problem of its own, but this piece isn't about the issues of the fitness industry, it's about the dress.
Flash back to after we left the store. With my dress in tow, I kept circling back to my knee jerk reaction of making excuses as to why the dress didn't fit my body and why it bothered me so much. Was it in my head or was it all the pressure that revolves around the dress? Why did a dress that I knew wouldn't fit me just make me so self conscious? I help women feel stronger and more confident in their own body everyday, WTF was happening?!
After more than a week of letting the situation roll around in my head, talking it through with people in my life, and letting the dust of the 'dress that doesn't fit settle,' I'm was still going through a list of layered conclusions, but what I keep coming back to, the crux and core of these conclusions was, who made up these rules about this god damn dress anyway?