Until I get on Facebook.
I see a picture a of green salad that someone is ostensibly extremely stoked about eating for lunch. Hmm.
And then there’s the zeal with which green smoothies are being chugged on line. Sour Apple jawbreakers notwithstanding, I know that green food is good for me. Smoothies, veggies, salads—that’s healthy stuff. I’ve never felt all that thrilled to eat it. But some people on Facebook are really excited about it.
And they’re all training for marathons, which is so great. I’m proud of my friends who do it. I should definitely exercise more. But if I did (and sometimes I even do) it wouldn’t be the high point of my day that I would photograph and update about. I just wouldn’t because I want to get it over with quickly and not think about it again until I absolutely have to.
So it’s not just that other people are healthier and more fit than me—I am aware of that. It’s the purported enthusiasm people have for it. It makes me feel slovenly. I feel enthusiasm for laying in bed and reading. Now that is something I would tweet about.
Since I’m in the minds (via social media) of basically everyone, I know that people who are (or were) the same size as me feel fat and can’t wait to go on a juice fast. So. . . wheels starting to turn. . . if they feel fat. . . that means. . . I’m fat.
There’s a new mindset that social media (and TV) have contributed to: We can’t have anything that is less than ideal. We are acutely aware of what is ideal. In the case of bodies, ideal is a washboard stomach and thigh gaps. I’m a little old-fashioned because I don’t buy into this. Some might say I’m unambitious, but I don’t think that’s true. I think I’m just old enough to remember a time when having something that wasn’t in style or ideal didn’t mean anything about you. Now it’s almost like if you are a little fat people fear that you don’t know that thin is in style, that you don’t know there are low-fat recipes on Pinterest, or that Zumba exists. In the age of customization and self-branding, everything about us represents our aesthetic.
I think it first happened with houses thanks to HGTV. Growing up I know that there were things about my house that my mom didn’t like. She didn’t have time or money to fix them. She couldn’t and didn’t ever turn our house into her ideal house. I think most people were like that. So you have brass hardware. It doesn’t mean that you don’t know oil-rubbed bronze is more in style. It’s just that you would never spend time and money to replace perfectly good fixtures, even if they are brass.
Then everyone got into flipping houses and home buyers refused to live in a house until the vinyl flooring was replaced and the granite was installed. The result is lots of gorgeous magazine-spreadable houses. But I think it also leads to dissatisfaction for people who don’t have the means (or credit card limits) to achieve this. I used to have vinyl floors that I hated and finally replaced because I knew they weren’t stylish. But if my home and family existed in a vacuum, would I care about vinyl floors? If I were the only one who ever saw them (which is almost the case in most areas of my home), would I care? Vinyl is actually quite serviceable.
Seeing how beautiful other people’s houses are makes us feel discontented with our own.
Now we’re doing it with our bodies. My body works fine and, like vinyl, is totally serviceable in every way. It just doesn’t look awesome in certain outfits that I might want to take pictures of and post on Facebook. So why not put in the effort to get that last little thing for my body or my home? Why indeed. Sometimes it’s totally worth it. But it many cases, it seems to me that the effort in time and expense is disproportionate to the benefits. It’s not my responsibility to do the cost-benefits analysis for anyone else.
My husband used to work out in the mornings. You might say, great. Good for him. But let me fill in some details for you.
This was when my husband worked an hour away and traveld often. So he was already gone all day, usually until after the kids and I were in bed. The only time he could fit in the work outs were before his hour-long drive to work. Since he was going to a gym, he had to travel there, change, work-out, shower and dress for work. When all was said and done, it was a 2-hour venture that wiped out the only time he had left to spend with his family.
I think the common sentiment these days would be to say, “What is 2 hours in the scheme of things! You’re worth it! You need your ‘me’ time! You have to take care of yourself! Put your own oxygen mask on before you put one on your kids!” I definitely understand where that sentiment comes from. But it just doesn’t always apply.
I put the kibosh on his gym work outs because I’m kind of a jerk.
He started working out at home. The 2-hour gym sessions became a 30-minute work out at home while chatting with (or doing it with) the kids. He saw the kids in the morning and was there for breakfast and helped drive them to school which meant less stress for me, more time with the kids, and, surprise! A 30 lb weight loss for my husband. It was just a more efficient way to exercise and, in our case, it worked.
It might be more ideal, glamorous, and Instagram-worthy for my husband to be at a gym in a special outfit preparing for a marathon. I wish we had unlimited funds, time, an energy. But we don’t. If only one thing can be ideal in our life it’s going to be my husband’s relationship with me and the kids. That might mean that our abs aren’t as ideal.
Nevertheless, seeing how beautiful other people’s bodies are makes us feel discontented with our own.
The snapshots on Facebook don’t include the compromising details that every person has to work out in order to get their washboard abs or their Martha-Stewart house.
Sometimes it’s super inspring to see what everyone else is doing on Facebook. Other times, not so much.