Dear Auntie SparkNotes,
I have a problem. After several months of body image issues and weight fluctuations, I started clawing my way back to something healthy. And then, with what I'm assuming is a late skyrocket of puberty (I'm eighteen), I developed. Like, a lot. I now have an ample butt-region and a very ample bust. And my waist, though I wish it was — and it probably should be — a little smaller, is considerably less than that. I look like a brunette, bookish Marilyn Monroe.
Now, Marilyn is one of my favorite people, and normally I wouldn't mind this at all.... if I actually looked like her. But I don't exactly have a beautiful face like hers, and I'm only five feet tall, so that kind of ruins the hourglass illusion. And while Marilyn could literally turn on the sexpot persona and wear her custom-sewn confidence trousers, I have the social skills of a mouse. I'm the girl who sits in the corner and reads. I can practically disappear in a room when I want to, and that's fine with me. Except now it's pretty hard to disappear when nothing I own fits properly anymore.
All my clothes are too tight (and I'm not really in the money to buy a completely new wardrobe), and dress shopping is a nightmare. Picture this: you walk into Bloomingdales to buy a prom dress. The overly-eager saleswoman gathers you am armful of size two and four dresses, judging by your height. You try on an endless array of dresses before settling on a size ten because it's the first thing that will zip around your boobs (and you have to spend a gillion dollars in alterations because there's a good six inches of fabric around your feet because you're short). And the whole time, you hear The Devil Wears Prada condemn you because Anne Hathaway was a size six and got mocked mercilessly for it, and what will your friends say? What will your date say?! (By date, I mean younger friend from the school musical, and you asked him.)
I really don't like unwanted attention. At all. So what do I do when someone "checks me out?" Or worse? My personality does not match my body. I don't know how to deal with this! I have studied every proud, zaftig woman there ever was, from Marilyn to Elizabeth Taylor to Christina Hendricks. Nothing works, and I'm finding myself wishing I was super-thin again. What do I do?
Well, for starters, you can sit down here on the Story Rug—‘cause Auntie’s got a personal anecdote that you might find interesting! Ready? Okay: once upon a time, right around my 13th birthday, puberty hit me like a freakin’ freight train and replaced the body I’d always had with one like Jean Harlow’s, including a pair of hips that even my high school boyfriend referred to as “child-bearing.” (Seriously, when a 15 year-old boy looks at your hips and thinks, “Babies!,” you know you're in serious trouble.) And despite being a reasonably confident kid, and despite doing my best to convince myself that I was totally okay with being suddenly shaped like a cello, you know how old I was before I felt really and truly and totally comfortable with my body?
And that's not unusual. Because making peace with your body takes work, patience, and (most importantly) the confidence to ignore the pervasive message that whatever your body looks like, you should be ashamed that it doesn't look different. And all of that? Takes time.
Which is to say: most girls need years with their grown-up bodies before they can really get comfy with them. You’ve had yours for SIX MONTHS. So cut yourself some slack, okay? And once you do that, do this. In the following order:
1) Recognize that outward presentation is a manifestation of inner self—not the other way around. There is no such thing as a “buxom personality,” and being curvy doesn’t mean that your only chance at confident living is to be All Sexpot, All The Time. (Seriously, Marilyn Monroe’s sex-on-wheels act came from her brain, not her boobs... and considering what happened to her, it’s not like it was a terrific plan, either.) Whatever your body looks like, you’ll find a way to work it, dress it, and display it that fits you.
2) Revamp your wardrobe. I don’t care how you do it—go thrifting, get a cash advance on your next birthday, ask a similarly-shaped girlfriend if she’s got a hand-me-down or two, anything. You cannot feel good about your body when you’re still trying to squeeze it into clothes that don’t fit. So gather your resources, and get yourself at least a couple new pieces that comfortably embrace your hourglass figure—think jersey wrap dresses, A-line skirts, mid-rise or high-waisted pants with some stretch built in—and invest in a good, basic bra that supports and shapes your bust without pushing it up to your chin. (And hey, if Christina Hendricks and Marilyn Monroe are too sex-a-licious to be your style icons, try looking at the more laid-back America Ferrera for ideas.)
3) There is a fine line between working on your body image and losing your damn mind. Make sure you’re on the right side. Specifically: do you really think your prom date cares what the tag on your dress says?! He doesn’t! I promise! And if it bothers you, just snip the thing out and be done with it. Anne Hathaway being mocked for her size-six-ness in TDWP was a joke, not reality. BREATHE. IT’S GOING TO BE OKAY.
4) When you get checked out, here’s what you do: Smile and keep walking. Or frown and give ‘em the finger. Or put on a bear suit, do the Safety Dance, and scream, “HOW YA LIKE ME NOW, MOTHERF***ER?!”
Or in other words: what do you do when you get checked out? Whatever the hell you want. It’s your life, and being noticed by other human beings is an unavoidable fact thereof. And you’ll learn to handle it, as do we all, if you just give yourself the time and freedom to experiment until you find an approach that works for you.
Which brings us to this: the longer you live in your body, the more it’ll feel like your body—and the more you’ll realize that the disconnect between “quiet reader” and “has a great rack” exists only in your own mind. You'll get there, I promise. And until then, the best gift you can give yourself is time, perspective, patience... and at least one pair of jeans that makes you feel like a million bucks.
Now go shopping.
Did puberty give you a body that took some getting used-to? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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