July 24, 2008

The fun, the shocking truth, & the philosophy

[By Merry]

Okay, so I had this brief, possibly profound moment of illumination, right?

Merry gets a brilliant idea ... for some reason it's in black-and-white...

And I was going to start off the post with the brilliant insight. But then it occurred to me that some people, not that I'm naming any names because I don't want to get sued because I'm too nice for that, come here to have fun. So methought I would put the fun first, and anyone who still wants to read past that can be enlightened. Deal?

The fun
Over at iVillage, they have a makeover section. Yes, I know there are other makeover sites out there; this one involved real photos, not cartoon graphics, and if you sign up for the free registration you can upload your own photo, play with it, and save the results.

The Shocking Truth
Despite the numerous glam shots of a certain crustacean around a certain Party-town, you might have noticed that I've never posted a photo of myself up here.

Until now.

Yes, this is what I look like when I'm wearing a J-Lo-styled wig that's been dyed blue. And fashionable sunglasses. And a questionable hat. And "diva red" lipstick. (Do I have the pout right? I was trying for 'fashion-model' pout, but it looks to me more like 'two-year-old-past-nap-time' pout.)

The philosophical part

It's fascinating to try to make yourself look like someone else. It's an adult version of dress up. But think about it. Seems to me that at the root of this play lies the evil seed of insecurity.

[Editorial note: Can an evil seed lie at the root of something? For the space of this post, let's presume it can.]

Seems to me that the people who get through life with the maximum of enjoyment and the minimum of angst are people who can accept themselves as they are.

I don’t want people to accept me as fat. I don’t want them to accept me as thin either. But yes, I would like to be accepted. It’s a paradox, not a contradiction.

I’ve had the experience of losing lots of weight and being offended by how people reacted to me. They weren’t repulsed; on the contrary they were overjoyed. I know this because they told me so, repeatedly, over and over again how great I looked, I really looked so much better, they wouldn’t have recognized me, really, trust me here, you look sooooo good.

It was annoying as hell.

They repeated themselves to the point where I felt as if that my weight were the only thing in the world that mattered as far as they were concerned. Personality, ability, humor, willingness to enjoy life – none of that mattered, just how much I weighed. I wanted to say “but I’m still the same person I was before when I was overweight. I haven’t changed.” Kind of the same feeling when you still think of yourself as young, but some wet-behind-the-ears kid calls you “ma’am.” I’m still the same person I was then.

That’s what I want people to accept. Not Fat-Merry or Thin-Merry, but just me. The person.

I’ll start a Movement (the capital letter is important) and call it Merry Acceptance.

Enough philosophy, woman! We want more fun!
Okay, fine.

This site shows you what you would look like if you had a Manga makeover.

Or at least, what a J-Lo'd version of me would look like if mangled into a Manga cartoon.

Or do you prefer yourself the way you are? That would be really cool, so long as it's acceptance and not resignation that prompts your preference.

Thanks to Jennifer Crusie at ArghInk for the makeover links.
If you want to laugh at Romance Novel clich├ęs, check out her Romance Heroine's Don'ts List.


  1. would you mind stealing my photo and making me over too?

    Ill take a pixie haircut and some platinum highlights.

    I LOVE your look...especially the blurry.
    I feel that way quite often.



  2. I don't want to let the hilarious Romance Heroine Don't list (LOVE Jennifer Crusie) distract me from the great observations you make about insecurity and appearance and self esteem.

    "Seems to me that the people who get through life with the maximum of enjoyment and the minimum of angst are people who can accept themselves as they are."

    You'd think, knowing this, we could move on to other things, right? But we stay stuck on trying to look like some airbrushed, photo-shopped movie star who isn't even real. And we do it to others, too!

    I know I've been guilty of complimenting folks who've lost a bunch of weight, and I'll have to think carefully about how I handle that from now on. Because you're right, the assumptions behind those compliments can seem kind of insulting!

  3. And by the way, the blue hair, pout, sunglasses and beret--not many could carry it off, but I think you manage quite well.

    (Not to focus on appearance too much, but hey, ya look good!)

    Like the look better when you're not smooshed up though.

  4. Hot new look, Merry! :)

    I hear you. I'm getting into that situation now, where people are realizing I have lost weight and compliment me on it. Part of me wants them to notice and acknowledge it, but the other part wants to whine and ask why they couldn't just appreciate how I looked before I lost the weight.

    What helps is that those who mean the most to me--when they see me, they compliment me on how I look, but the primary point they make is how much happier I am now. I smile and laugh more, I don't let little things bring me down as much. I know a good chunk of that is because I wanted to and now have lost the weight, but it's also because I'm so much happier with the active, healthier lifestyle I've adopted. Knowing I'm doing something positive and beneficial for myself is probably the best thing I could ever have done for my sense of self.

    Gosh, that was a long comment. Thanks for making me think about all this, Merry. It really helps me keep my focus.

  5. First - Love the blue hair. I think you could've gone a little more bold though. Next time, try not to be so subtle;)

    Second - I second "Merry Acceptance"! For all! I am not overweight but it still sends me over the edge when people comment on my weight. Even if it is a compliment, it still triggers every eating disorder thought in my head. I know people mean well but I wish we could just leave weight out of compliments.

  6. Excellent! There are more people in this movement than I'd thought :)

  7. I get where you are coming from. You are still you, no matter what you weigh or if your hair is blue.

    Flip side, I know I looked better when I was thinner. Does this change who I am? No. But it does affect how I feel.

    This post made me think of a couple of things though...Ever been in one of those "If you could look like any celebrity who would it be" conversations? I can never think of someone else that I want to look like. I don't like getting my hair straightened, because then I don't feel like me. When I got married, I didn't change my name because I didn't want to be somebody else, I still wanted to be me.

    I don't know what all of that means.

    I certainly would not describe myself as a confident person. Yet it seems like I don't want to be somebody else either. I won't claim there is nothing I would want to change about myself (starting with losing 20 lbs), but I must have a certain level of self-acceptance.

    Wow. Long. Sorry. :)

  8. I ran into a former neighbor whom I had not seen in about 6 years. She said to me "wow you look like you've lost a ton of weight". A TON. Funny thing is, I weigh the same now as I did when she knew me back then.

    Did I mention she's a meth ho? Seriously, she is. That's one of the reasons we moved away.

    Her comment still pissed me off though.

  9. What a great post Merry! Wild makeover picture--looks Andy Warholish. Like you better unsmushed.

    It is terrible that our focus, especially women, is so related to weight and that even when we hate it when others do it to us we find ourselves thinking the same way.

    I'll definitely join your Merry Acceptance Movement.

  10. Love the blue hair look - time was, only really old ladies could carry that off....:)
    I understand where you are coming from with your complaint regarding people who gush over how much weight you've lost, etc., but when you have worked hard to lose that weight, and have been almost totally obsessed with the process, wouldn't you feel bad if no-one noticed and/or complimented you on your efforts? Or maybe that's just me - the last time I lost a lot of weight, it was a real struggle, and I was proud of myself for doing it, so I wanted people to notice.
    One of my best friends at that time (who is very slim - lives on coffee and cigarettes, but that's a whole 'nother issue) told me that it didn't matter how much I weighed, she loved me anyway. And that was AFTER I lost the weight...
    Wish more people could see beyond the exterior, don't you?

  11. I think that part of the reason it took me so long to get back on the "get healthy" band wagon was that I was fine with myself when I was fat. Sure, it would be nice to fit in smaller clothes, or at least ones without a big W behind the size. At the end of the day though, I didn't hate myself so I put working out off until another day.
    I enjoy the encouragement and I think I'm lucky because most of mine comes from the internet so they can't see if I look better, they are just encouraging me to keep up the good work but nothing about...you look so great.
    I love your makeover picture! I must play around on there tonight when I get home from work.

  12. This is such an interesting observation, Merry, thank you.

    It's true. You want to be complimented when you lose weight, but I remember feeling a little embarrassed by all the attention I got. And I worried how it affected other people in my life.

    One "friend" was so obsessed with the attention paid to my lost weight, I actually had to "breakup" with her. She was very focused on my success and her non-success and it really ruined our friendship. People would comment about me and it made her uncomfortable, which made me uncomfortable and it made the complimenter uncomfortable. Basically, it was a big stew of uncomfortableness and insecurity.

    Anyway, I felt really badly about it for 3 weeks until I realized that I had literally worked my ass off and deserved to enjoy my success and not feel bad about it. But I also deserved people treating me with respect and not solely focusing on the size of my jeans or what was missing from my body.

    If only it were as simple as being fat and losing weight.

  13. The first 5 or 6 times someone tells me I look good, that's fine. It's when someone really dwells on my physical appearance, harping on it, that I get annoyed.
    I'm not just a pretty face, you know ;)

  14. I read someone's comment at one point who was upset because everyone kept commenting to her all the time about how much weight she'd lost. The problem was, she'd lost the weight because she had cancer, and everyone kept raving about how healthy and great she looked and it was really hard for her.

    I'll have to try that makeover site, that looks awesome! I'm in business meetings all day, though, so while I can get away with commenting here, I don't think I could get away with photo stuff. Darn....

  15. I know the beret is red, but can I call it raspberry? Pretty please? Then you could dance around in your living room with your blue hair flying to Prince, and that, at least to me, would be glorious.

  16. This post summed up some of the things that are close to my heart in an eloquent way that I could never accomplish. Thank you.

  17. Trust me when I say that two-year-old-past-naptime pouts look awful, and are usually accompanied by much noise. Yours is not like that.

    Sign me up for the Merry Acceptance Society as well. Part of that acceptance needs to be accepting ourselves as still growing.

    It can be difficult to be glad for how far you have come, accept where you are now, and still know that you need to grow and change in some areas. Let me stop before I have a flashback to philosophy class...


  18. *sigh*
    Ah Merry, if only we could all apply what we KNOW is best for us. yes, the standards that we set for ourselves (and others) are too high and unrealistic, and yet...

    That being said, I love the blue hair look, and the beret! My gosh, the beret! You belong to the French, come an join us, we are a whiney bunch, you should like us!

  19. Zee French are lovely. Good wine, great bread, nice berets :)

    I think Nitmos or Vanilla or some manly man should try this makeover site and post their improved photo up on their blog. That's what a 'real' man would do. (Was that too subtle a dare?)

  20. Hehe those makeovers are awesome. And agreed with the acceptance thing- theres more to people than just how they look.

  21. I just have to say that I LOVE Jacki's comment, and I have to add an "amen!" ;)

    I've noticed that 90% of the time I'm ok with my weight. But I have to admit I get LESS ok with it when I start eating better and exercising. Old demons, and all that. :P

  22. Oh, Merry, the blue hair and the beret are fabulous darling!

    Great post and you really hit the nail on the head.

  23. Model perfect with the blue hair!

    I have had a long journey with myself and it's still on going. I think I will always be the self conscious girl that worries too much...but hopefully one of these days I can believe in myself and accept myself not just for looks -- but for who I am.

  24. Excellent post, and it never occurred to me that telling someone who had been working hard to lose weight and had that they looked good would be taken as I didn't accept them just the same as before. To me it meant noticing their effort and acknowledging the results. I have friends who always struggled with their weight, I also told them I didn't love them any less when it went back up.

    As for my own self acceptance, I dislike looking in the mirror and seeing a fatter old fart, and not the slimmer 30 something that was there even 12 years ago. And who didn't have to dye the gray hair. And who wasn't afraid to wear a string bikini except in the ocean where the waves could pull it off. It's mostly resignation now. I used to lift weights, I used to be buff and trim, but my joints hurt now, my back is ruined, my knees are a wreck. But I don't want to get heavier and have even more physical restrictions, so it means I'll have to work much harder just to stay at this weight and keep some flexibility.

    I used to wonder why older people talked so much about all their health problems. Now I realize that it's because they are appalled and astonished! They can't believe it, they still feel 16 or 21 or 30 on the inside, and somehow it just doesn't seem fair.

    But life is a gift, so acceptance of the price payed to have an aging (or "heavy" or whatever) body seems like a smart way to deal and just be grateful to still be here; there are new wonders in every day, and we need to see them and share the joy.

    Like red berets topping blue hair, wow, that is surely worth getting up in the morning! :) Great post!

  25. I don't think the occasional compliment is at all misplaced!

    It's when people keep repeating over and over that I look so much better that it makes me wonder if that's all I am is, what's on the surface. Oh well.

    I only wish that the beret could have been raspberry colored. Thanks to Jenn, I've had that song in my head all morning :)

  26. I love those makeover programs! So much fun.

    I know a little bit of how you felt with the weight loss comments. I stalled for a while when I was losing weight because I was having a hard time philosophically coming to terms with getting attention from strangers of the opposite sex for the first time.

    However, I changed a lot as a person as well as physically, so it doesn't bother me so much anymore. If people from my past even recognize me (many don't anymore), they're eventually more overwhelmed by how different my lifestyle is rather than how different I look.

    It's not like I've got a different personality or anything. But I do have a different outlook on life.

  27. Merry, I've so been there. When I was writing the Weight-Loss Diary column for Shape, people would say things like, "You look SO much better," "You look 10 years younger" and "I can't believe the difference in you."



  28. Merry, I would like to take a moment and say that I love you.

    Now that that's done... well... I'm totally with you on the whole fat/thin samepersondamnit thing.

  29. First, I love, love, LOVE you for writing this post. *fangirls* (Pulling me forcibly out of my dazey crazies over the Bizarro World that is this years' Rogers Cup Tournament.)

    They say: "You look sooooo good now!!"

    I think: "Thank you soooo muchy for implying how much like crap I looked like before!!"

    And a corollary for that subject -- does anyone have a solution for the boys (of all ages) that ignored or laughed at you for years or said "I see us just as friends" and then, when you are smaller, practically DROOL on your feet -- other than an elbow to the throat (which is not nice girl behavior and, I suppose, could technically be characterized as assault)???

    Now finally, I must register a tiny ... I don't even know what to call it.

    Manga version? Nightmares.
    That is all.


  30. There is also - sorry, I've been inspired here - some eloquent and subtle commentary in this post about how we may very well be becoming more superficial as a society -- the more we have to rush and cram into a day, the less time we have to look below the surface of all our relationships (perhaps a commentary on Merry's "is the surface all that you see of me?" question).

    Commenter Poll: Which movie star does Merry remind you of in the first photo?

    And BTW, there is absolutely no doubt that the beret is raspberry.

    "In through the out door" is frequently the only way to go. :D

  31. I'm not sure how I would feel about such comments if I'd lost a noticeable amount of weight. What's been happening to me since I was a teenager is that people who haven't seen me for more than a month (that seems to be when this effect takes place) even people who've known me well for years, say "You've lost weight!" and I answer "No, I haven't, not for years." In the last decade I've had to answer "No, in fact I've gained some."
    Why do people remember me as fatter than I am? It's truly weird.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky


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