For my 30th birthday, I ran the Marine Corps marathon in DC. It was a pretty important day for me, not only for having conquered 26.2 miles (and that .2 was a damn hill!), but because it was *me* who did it.
The woman who ran that marathon was the adult version of a kid who dreaded gym, especially when I was 8 and had a terrible gym teacher at Stevens Forest Elementary named Mr. Palmer. Yes, I did indeed just put that guy on blast. Anyone who yells at third graders like that should expect such things.
The woman who ran that marathon was also the adult version of a teenager who was elated about the 90s trend of baggy jeans and oversized shirts so I could feel, if not comfortable in my own skin, then at least less terrified of someone noticing me in my own skin.
And both of those versions of me had already struggled to be proud of my body.
Journey with me back to the 1980s when Jane Fonda made leotards, support hose, and white sneakers the fashion statement. And Bess Motta of the 20 Minute Workout was going to help us get the body we wanted in five more, four more, three more…
Before I worked out next to my mother and sister to either of those, I had Get in Shape, Girl! A system to encourage tween girls to be active and get in a good workout. Would I use the bangle bracelets to build up my arms? Or use the rhythm and ribbons set for overall toning? No matter. Get In Shape, Girl! was, according to their commercial jingle, going to help me show the world what I could do.
But, was it?
Don’t get me wrong, strong is beautiful, no matter what anyone says, but I don’t know if Get In Shape, Girl! made me feel as strong as it did inadequate as I was. Women suffer enough body shaming, we don’t need to start girls off with that, but we do anyway.
We judge ourselves according to the body type of the day. Thinner was better then and curves were shamed. Next thing you know, the Latinas and the black girls who’ve been sporting booties are all of a sudden usurped by the Queen of the Belfies.
Get in shape, girl! So, you can take better belfies.
When I ran that marathon, I wasn’t thinking about my butt looking better or being thin enough to fit the standards of an 80s workout video or a toy for young girls.
When I ran that marathon, I wasn’t showing the world what I could do, I was showing myself.