The Ice Bucket Challenge Meets Body Image Issues



I made the mistake of showing my kids a few of the ice bucket challenges on my Facebook page.  Next thing  I knew, the kids were spending hours in the bathtub pouring water on themselves.  With their clothes on.  Actually, Sadie talked Simon into standing in the tub and while she poured water on him.  When he said it was his turn to pour the water, she said, “Nah, I don’t really want to get wet.”  Then, she poured more water on Simon.

Ad infinitum.

Eventually, I got tagged.  We took the party outside and filled a bucket full of ice and water. (Sorry, Africa, I’m an asshole.)  Sadie put on her raincoat and boots and asked a neighbor to help lift the bucket.  Jeff had me practice my spiel about ALS in a dry run. (Ha! Get it?)

Then, show time!

The ice, it was so cold. My daughter, her laugh was so bubbly. The neighbors, they so gamely joined us.

All good, right? We raised the money.  We went out of our comfort zone. We taught the kids about why raising money and awareness for causes is a valuable use of our time.

Then, I watched the video.

Like a giant eraser smudging out all the joy, all I could see was my stomach.  I zeroed in on my muffin top like a shipwrecked sailer spotting land.  I could no longer hear my daughter’s infectious giggles or remember the thrill of having my breath taken away by the deluge of cold water on my head.  Suddenly, this was no longer about anything except for a strip of my body between my breasts and my hips.

F*ck you, body image issues.

Seriously.  I’ve got them and hate them.  And I’m 41 years old.  I’m supposed to be too busy, too feminist and too enlightened to do this. To fall into an obsession about how my body got this way, what I should do about it, and why didn’t anyone tell me things had gotten so … so … muffiny?

I want to get back to the joy of the afternoon.  I want to crawl back on my hands and knees across the hot pavement of shame and be in that space of time before I saw myself and formed a judgment.

In the 18 hours since Jeff showed me the video, I’ve vacillated between two poles.

Pole one: I wish I had done the challenge standing up, not slumped in a stadium fold-up chair, so my stomach wouldn’t be so smooshed.  I wish that I had just let my kids do the challenge and stayed out of the picture.  I wish that all the desserts I’ve eaten in the past four years had been eaten by someone else.  These wishes roll up into the meta-wish that the circumstances (my body) were different, or at least looked different.

Pole two: I wish I could just accept my 41-year-old body just as it is.  It’s the same body that can run 8-minute miles for six miles.  It’s the same body that housed two small children for nine months.  I wish that when I saw the video I zeroed in on the love between me and Sadie or the look on Jeff’s face when it was his turn.  These wishes roll up into a meta-wish that I didn’t need anything to be different for me to feel okay.

Whether I like it or not, I have a touch of body dysmorphia.  I don’t really know what I look like.  When I was 110 pounds, I remember crying to someone about feeling fat.  She looked at me like I was crazy.  Because I was.  Still, it felt pretty real.  Then and now.

So until this passes, I pray to be too busy parenting or writing or doing my job to spend too much time thinking about me and that strip of my body.   Everytime I look down and see it, I smile and say, “Hi.”  I’ve no idea why I am doing that, except it sounds so much more pleasant then, “Who let you in here? Get the f*ck out!”

I call that making peace until I can reach Pole two.



20 thoughts on “The Ice Bucket Challenge Meets Body Image Issues

  1. Yes, ma’am.

    Every bit of this. What I see, what I wish I saw.

    And reading this, the shame of hearing mostly “if she can run 8 minute miles I’d better get back to speed training because how pathetic are 8:34s?!”

    Congrats on teaching them well, even if you can’t treat yourself well. That’s a big accomplishment!

  2. First I think you’re awesome for doing it. I, have been tagged twice and still haven’t said ok. Not because of body issues, but because I am out of my comfort zone doing something that is- in essence, so silly. Or silly and making fun of myself. I don’t know. But with regard to body image issues, I know you have history. I am not comparing my body image with what yours is for you. I’ve carried around my own battle aging, having a stomach stretched out by twins, and nursing. I often look at my stomach in the mirror and wonder what it used to look like. But it doesn’t BOTHER me any more.

    I know this sounds trite- but after being on the beaches the past 2 summers and seeing the moms and women in all shapes and sizes- I feel much more at home in my body. If more people understood that perfection isn’t real, I truly think that many of the issues we carry around are for naught. I became brave enough this summer to topless beach it with the best of them- because I look no better or worse than anyone else. I even *gasp* walked around. It was so freeing. And the feeling of the water on my skin without a top? Incredible. It reminds you that that’s what life is about. And wasting time worrying about the inevitable or what you ‘could/should’ look like is just that- a waste.

  3. I agree that I look just as good as most other 43 year olds. The problem is that most other 43 year olds also worry about muffin tops. I don’t see that changing any time soon, but I admire you for realizing that there is a whole other world outside our body issues, and seeing your kids joy is a good thing.

  4. A whole slew of reasons had me thwart tags and challenges from friends. I blogged about it to prevent further invitations. There were a handful of reasons why I didn’t want to be a part of it (these things being complicated for the cancer-ed, coupled with our smugly inalienable right to be assholes). But one of those reasons was certainly vanity. This essay is so so so so so good. Sometimes I think I am gorgeous goddess mommy… but then the fucking bathing suit, and the shame of caring about the fucking bathing suit. Thanks for this.

    I couldn’t walk one mile in 8 minutes. Jesus.


    • I get that too– the reasons that have to do with other diseases and the mix of emotions there. I’m grateful to all the people who shared the reasons they were opting out. It taught me something.


  5. Sitting in wet clingy clothes is probably never a good idea. No matter what kind of body you have (unless you’re Paris Hilton or another stick figure). But, I think those body images are something that everyone deals with. Unfortunately. Hopefully we can all reach Pole 2 someday. Maybe when we are old and grey and wrinkly and don’t care anymore?

  6. so impressed with your 8 min mile for 6 miles!! i have completely slowed down this past year. i’ve cut my time and distance. i swear my legs often feel like lead and i’m happy to pull off the 3 miles i’m doing. but enough about me! clearly i’m self absorbed enough to understand your pain. and i really do. and i don’t even know if there’s hope for people like us. i will say, i’ve worn a bikini pretty much for the first time in two decades this summer and didn’t feel horrible. but – i’m at my lightest weight in forever. i figured it was now or never. that didn’t help at all did it. sorry. forget your eyes, they don’t see right like mine, other people think you look totally hot! and you do! 🙂

  7. Does it matter? No one will say in your eulogy, “and she rocked her bikini until she was 50!”. I rather be known for a million other things than how I looked. What matters, you are sitting there laughing, happy and loved with your husband and kids, family. Lots of people would give you skinny in a instant to be you!

    NIBSIH 😘

  8. Pingback: How I Feel Running v. How I Look In Pictures Where I’m Running | Outlaw Mama

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