Shortly after my blog was quoted in The New York Times (Thursday, Mary 10, “Styles”) on the unfortunate rise of the clavicle, I received the following indignant email from a writer in Manhattan who shall remain nameless.
My clavicles stick out and always have. This kind of article makes me feel as if I will be vilified for the way my body is. I wish the voice of someone with my body type got in there, and all other articles that suspect women of malnutrition when they may have just been born small boned and with a high metabolism. I wonder what you think about “the other side.”
Mes enfants, it is true. You deserve to hear, in her own words, from a female who is…how can I put this tactfully…naturally gaunt. (Oui, mayhap gaunt is not quite fair. Petite. ) The writer has, again in her own words “chosen a life teaching and writing in the Humanities.” Since we are both busy, accomplished women with no time to meet in person, The Writer graciously consented to an online interview.
JE: For much of recent fashion history, women have been urged to be as thin as inhumanly possible. My dear, why should anyone feel sympathy for you?
ELLE: I’m 44 and not seeking pity. I get sick of the feeding frenzy on naturally thin women. I don’t think it’s cute when larger women say half-kidding to me, “I hate you,” as they have a number of times.
JE: You ask me my thoughts about the “the other side.” That gave me pause. Is there really another side? What on earth is it?
ELLE: The other side is the other side of the issue—being thin and getting ostracized for it.
JE: I have never noticed thin women being ostracized. Au contraire.
ELLE: This is not just a feminist issue; it’s one of women falling prey to gossip and their vicious sides, usually propelled by insecurity. The meanness is a feminist issue but more, a psychological one. Sadism exists in all of us, and so we must rein it in. If women are to make strides as an empowered group, we will have to especially reign in our sadistic pleasure in tearing each other down.
JE: Then, do you feel like your female friends have a problem with your body? Are you prone to pronouncements like “Anyone can be thin if they want it enough”?
ELLE: My friends and I are all middle-aged and therapized enough to have put most pettiness behind us. What I observe is that most women are about the size of their biological mothers, minus ten pounds as our generation works out more and our era doesn’t extol the hour glass figure so most women don’t aspire to that shape. (Editorial aside: that is society’s great loss.)
JE: Are you able to eat whatever you want, whenever you want? Do you eat small portions? Do you secretly gloat that you can eat more than most women?
ELLE: I don’t want to eat a lot. It may be my Anglo Saxon upbringing that simply didn’t encourage enjoyment of food much; it may be my large tonsils. Since you’re interested, I will say I do love how I feel like a “real” athlete soon after a run when I eat with gusto. (Editorial aside: your faithful correspondent feels it is far healthier to enjoy a box of chocolates while reading French Vogue. Much easier on the knees, for one thing.)
JE: How does it feel to be considered by many the fashion ideal?
ELLE: A fashion ideal? Honey, I don’t bare my legs in the summer. They are black and blue with veins. Doctors ask me how I got bruised. I have a middle-aged body; ya want details?
ELLE: Also, I am 5’2”. I will soon be called a little old lady. Nevertheless, I love my body. I love my collarbones too, even if I’ve been used to demonstrate human anatomy to a yoga class and at physical therapy. I do think we have an obligation to try to understand one another; in fact, it may be the only hope for the continuation of civilization.
JE: Whatever do you mean? Deep thoughts give me such a headache, dahling.
ELLE: It’s essential that women define themselves and invent what they want without commercial influence. At times I’m confused when people complain about media domination, as if we are mere victims. Turn the shit off. Don’t look at the fashion magazines. Create a counter culture. Get your own life, not the one dictated to you.
JE: Oh. One does have to admit to agreement on that point. If I lived the life dictated for moi, I would not be the fabulous, world-famous woman that I am. Thank you so much for this interview, Carol. It has been most enlightening to both me and my readers.
Many thanks to this writer for a glimpse over the other side of the fence.
P.S. Hello to my admirer in Atlanta, Georgia! So glad you love the blog!