Typical thin and gorgeous West Village woman. My friend Susan lives on the Upper West Side and even she says "The people in your neighborhood are so much better looking than the people in mine!"
Photo by The Sartorialist
When you live in New York, especially in the West Village where models run wild like young giraffes (albeit with cigarettes and Eastern European accents), it's almost impossible not to be critical about your body. The quaint Mom-and-Pop shops and dusty antique stores on Bleecker Street have been replaced with high-end designer boutiques where a size 4 is considered a "medium," a 6 is a "large," and a size 8? Well, you'd better just give up and head to Magnolia Bakery for a box of Red Velvet cupcakes! (This may also be the reason a number of makeup stores now springing up overnight like mushrooms on Bleecker Street. After all, a new lipstick slips onto a size 12 as easily as a size 2.)
And yet, I've never really compared myself to those lithe beauties. They're like creatures from another planet where gravity doesn't squish them into average size Earth women. They're something pretty to look at, like a painting in a museum, but not something I can actually imagine seeing reflected back in my bathroom mirror. It's like when my solid little terrier Petey bumps into an Italian greyhound - we're simply two different breeds of the same species.
Since puberty, my body has always been in the figure fruit bowl as a "pear." Even when I went on an extreme diet and exercise program before my 30th birthday (what I like to call my "Fuck 30" regime), I still had curvy hips and thighs, despite the complete disappearance of my tits and the hollowing of my cheeks. So when I see photos of skinny celebs or models, I never sigh and think "oh, this could be me, if only I had a live-in personal trainer, a microbiotic home chef and just the slightest cocaine addiction...") Not that I've resigned myself to a lifetime of elastic waistbands and caftans, but I have realistic expectations of what my body —and will not— look like. Weighing 115 lbs. is not going to make my legs any longer or change the proportions of my waist-to-hip ratio. And I can live with that. Hopefully the next time around on this big blue marble, I'll have frizz-free naturally straight hair, slim hips and thighs, and no bags under my eyes. My only saddlebag will come from Louis Vuitton. But in the meantime. my body may not be ideal, but it works and it's healthy and fairly strong. So I'll work with what I've got.
Okay, so I don't imagine some towhead cherub/rug rat crawling up my perfectly toned shin, but this is pretty much what is running through my head when I'm working out. Okay, so my hair is shorter, otherwise, exactly the same.
That said, when it comes to exercising, I have the opposite of bad body image. (As opposed to those women you see at the gym with panicked looks on their sunken little faces, pounding out their fourth hour on the treadmill because, in a moment of weakness, they splurged and had half a bagel for breakfast and will now explode!)
Truthfully, I probably have too-good-of-a-body image. I'll do a single workout and I imagine I'm Cindy Crawford, straight off the cover of her exercise video. I've been taking Core Fusion classes at Exhale Spa at the Gansevoort Hotel in Meatpacking District (again, amid reed thin ex-model mommies and junior editors in their snug Lululemon yoga pants and racerback belly-baring tops) and one of the things I love about it is that there are no mirrors. No mirrors! Nothing to dissuade me from thinking I look like Cindy Crawford as I grimace my way through tricep curls. I'm Natalie Portman in Black Swan as I do my barre work "en pointe," instead of a lumpy 53 year old, tugging on her Nike workout pants. Of course, then I am shocked -- shocked I tell you! -- when I pass my reflection in a plate glass window. Where did Cindy go??? Oh well - I'll see her again at my next Core Fusion class.
The miraculous Norma Kamali "Bill" swimsuit.
This woman is actually 185 lbs. and a size 16. And she's in her 50's. See? I told you this was a good swimsuit! Actually my friend Sandy bought it last Spring for $300 (yes, Oprah has a few dozen of these babies) and was sooo pissed when I told her I'd ordered mine online for $98.
Worth every rib-crushing dollar.
Earlier this summer, my friend Natane asked if I'd be interested in sharing a beach house with her and another 1990's supermodel. These women are more than a decade younger than I am and oh, did I mention? They're former supermodels! Could I really face a summer of the two of them with their flawless, golden bodies, cavorting in tiny Lisa Fernandez bikinis? Meanwhile, I'd be slathering on SPF 1000 while wearing my Norma Kamali "Bill" suit, a retro one-piece with more internal power structure than the Pentagon. Seriously, this suit is flattering on every single body, but it also requires the Jaws of Life to remove it. Resign yourself to not drinking any beverages if you plan on wearing it poolside, as it will take a good 30 minutes (45 if it's damp from a swim) to squeeze all your body parts back into it. Could my ego really survive this trial by fire? Fortunately, I didn't have to decide as the summer share discussion faded away.
So now, with Labor Day tapping on the backdoor of August—and not a moment too soon—I can fold up my Bill swimsuit, along with thin tees and leg-baring shorts and nestle back into more figure-friendly layers of sweaters, leg-covering cords and neck-concealing scarves. Oh, I'll still keep up my Core Fusion regime and stay in touch with my inner Cindy Crawford, but winter is such a gentler, kinder season, when who knows what kind of physique is hiding underneath that oversize parka? It could be a Victoria's Secret model or it could be me! And until I reluctantly remove that parka, no one has to be the wiser!