Ladies, your husbands are emailing me. Repeatedly. You may or may not have any idea this is happening. It’s probably while you’re in the shower, or after you go to bed. Or maybe when you think they’re texting a co-worker on the couch, or in the bathroom on their iPads. It usually happens late at night, after my husband has fallen asleep beside me and my kids are snoring upstairs. I open my email one last time before dozing off, and I see the Greg’s and Shawn’s and Dave’s fill my inbox. It’s always one of two things.
2. Help me help my wife stop hating herself.
Number one is easy. Whether it’s a thank you for helping you feel confident and strong, for getting you to agree to have daily sex with him after he forwarded you some of my posts, or a thank you for helping you find clothes you feel beautiful in at last, nothing makes me happier than saying “you’re so welcome.”
Number two is way more complicated and emotional. The responses are always sent back between tear clenched eyelids and snotty sweatshirt sleeves. And while the words are always intended to be helpful and meaningful, sometimes it’s hard to face someone and say… I have absolutely no idea. So, I don’t. I suck it up, blow my nose, and in words that are often paused after and considered, I tell him these 4 things.
1. Let her hate her body. Don’t try to pacify her with but your beautifuls or you’re wrongs, let her tell you how much she hates it. We have to carry this shit around every minute of every day with us in our heads. When we order food, when we wash our hands in the bathroom sink, when we look down at a red light and notice our thighs squishing together. Every single second of every day is directly effected by how we feel about our weight. It’s suffocating and exhausting, and sharing the burden of that with her is a welcome relief. So listen to her, don’t interupt or shake your head, listen and nod, and when she’s done, resist the urge to shower her with every ounce of beauty you already see in her, and instead, say “how can I help?”
2. Be prepared to not be able to fix this shit at all. I held on to teeny tiny jeans from high school in my closet for 14 years, until finally throwing them away a few months ago. They were an entire person smaller than my current size, but I couldn’t let go of that gutteral need to maintain the hope that I would one day fit into the stupid pants again, thus making me a better woman. Fourteen years, dude. It was adorable that Andy thought he could in some way override the longest relationship I’d ever had with unconditional love and commitment. There is no duct tape fix for a woman hating her body.
3. The Julia Roberts Pretty Woman Hooker in a Boutique Moment. Seriously, every girl knows what this is. After being shut down and rejected by the clothing in tiny mall shops staffed by teens and out of touch middle aged men who drive sports cars and quote MTV reality shows, there is nothing like walking into a safe place, crumbled up hundreds in your hands, and having someone genuinely help you find something you feel beautiful in. Make her take off work on a weekday afternoon and send her shopping for the whole day with the caveat she can only purchase clothes for herself. You have to give her permission for this because as women, especially women who hate our bodies to the point we cope by ignoring them all together, we do for ourselves last. I know, we’re a selfless breed, you’re welcome.
Clothing sounds superficial and frivolous, but it’s not. When you want to leave the house and we’re still in the bedroom distraught and sobbing that we have nothing to wear, what that really means is that we have nothing to wear that makes us feel at all worthy to be seen or loved in public. Can you imagine feeling so ashamed of your body that you won’t leave the house? It’s a real thing. Having pieces that genuinely fit and flatter our current shape is a game changer. If you can swing it, give her that Pretty Woman moment. If you can extra swing it, fly me in to help.
4. Help her take responsibility for herself. At the end of the day, this is on her. She has to be the one strong enough to scream “ENOUGH!” to society with it’s obnoxious marketing and unrealistic beauty standards, because they aren’t going to change anytime soon. What will change is the way she lets it effect her. While you can’t step in and fix you wife’s self esteem issues, you can be a really great model of strength and advocacy she can learn from, and eventually apply to her own body issues.
Is her overbearing mom commenting on every fork-full of food she brings to her lips? Speak up and defend her until she’s ready to tell her mom to shut the hell up, herself.
Is your friend making fun of fat chicks during the game in your living room? Shut it down until she gets the tits to stand up and remind him how damn sexy all women are, regardless of size.
Strength and confidence is contagious. I like to use the cliche analogy of climbing Everest. I will never reach the peak, but with time, I’ll stumble less and climb to higher base camps. Some times the best you can do is be her Sherpa; offering guidance when asked, uplifting feminist Emma Watson quotes in times of need, and helping her take sexy ass selfies.