Wednesday, February 29, 2012

An Open Letter to Angelina Jolie

Angelina Dearheart,
You first made an impression on me in Tomb Raider. I was 17 years old and awkwardly, painfully fumbling through existence in the womanly body that I was not yet mature enough to inhabit. You had this totally bangin', healthfully athletic figure, and even if they were rubber suit sculpted and not entirely real, girl! You had some boobies. Then you factor in the strong female lead part and you became the kind of role model that every 17 year old girl needs: ass kicking, fiercely independent, powerful, and above all else, healthy. I was so ill at ease in my skin but watching you filled me with a hope that I, too, would someday be just as strong and confidently embodied.

As the years have gone by, I've followed your work and have been particularly moved and inspired by your involvement with the UN. Even if I kind of hated the deeply disturbing Changeling, you have always held a special place in my heart for what you represented to me as an adolescent.

This week everyone is talking about your right leg and the fabulous velvet Versace around it, but I want to know about the rest of you. Like Bill O'Reilly, all I could see on that red carpet was your skeletal frame. It was so shocking to see you this way that I gasped. The dress is fabulous, of course, and you are still so beautiful...well, what's left of you. Where did you go? Are you okay? No, really. You seem to have been struck by the same diminishing disease that plagues so many once-healthy-weighted celebrity women. I'm all for being conscious of what you eat and staying physically active, but honey, I can see bones of yours that I shouldn't be able to see so much of. You nearly have a post-Auschwitz thing going on. What happened to your body?

Forget about being a role model to women. We have Christina Hendricks, Sofia Vergara and Scarlett Johansson to show us how to confidently rock curves. I am concerned for your well being. I can only imagine the intense pressure of being under such constant scrutiny, but nothing matters if you lose the healthy function of your precious body. You and your life matter in ways that have nothing to do with your status and celebrity. You have a mess of babies to raise with care. This is the most important job in the world. Also important is the role you play giving voice to the voiceless in your humanitarian work. And you have a marriage to tend to like a garden, it's vibrancy (or lack thereof) affecting the way your kids approach love and relationships as adults.

Being a loving parent and spouse, and a responsible, active planetary citizen are such vital contributions and guess what? It doesn't matter what you look like. Everything in you has been trained to think otherwise. There is a strange Hollywood non-reality that sells slimness over substance at any cost. Every time a voluptuous woman enters the scene, it breaks my heart to watch the diminishing disease get her until her body is barely recognizable. Yes, sometimes it's good for people to lose weight. My life's work is to help people have a real, conscious, joyful experience of their bodies in their lives and I will support anything which contributes to that.

But it seems like there are always 5 or 10 more pounds, a few more inches or dress sizes and then! Then I can love my body. It's as though we are constantly at war with this sacred space that is the only permanent home we'll ever know in life. I've been taking a lot of group fitness classes at the gym recently and find my attention unconsciously lingering on my form reflected in the mirrored walls, mentally pummeling my gently rounded belly or the place where my thighs touch. For as far as I have come in literally and figuratively embracing myself, in some ways I am still very much the young woman I was when I first met you, shy and ashamed.

My mind keeps returning to a beautiful quote from an article about Bikram yoga I read months ago: "The mirror is there to ask you a single question: Do you love me?" I have been working on taking the mental reins and changing my answer to the question so that I can look myself directly in the eye and say, "Yes, I love you" over and over...and mean it!

There is something I am coming to realize, darling: there is no magic number or size that you can reach which makes you worthy. We are all inherently worthy of love and respect and kindness, regardless of how many holes deep you are on the belt loop. Yogi Bhajan asserted (and I agree) that happiness is our birthright and I would extend that to include being happy in our bodies just as they are, right now.

Your body belongs to you and you alone. Your body does not belong to the paparazzi, to your agent or your husband or your directors. You have a right to enjoy your body, to be gentle to it, to be at peace with it, to be completely comfortable and at home in it. You have a right to the flesh that surrounds and softens your bones, making them less of a hazard to one of your many children. You have a right to eat amply in this land of plenty- let's be real, I know you have money for food. You could even pay someone to buy and prepare it for you.

At some point someone decided that women had to be skinny to be beautiful. We made a collective agreement that this would be the case and the agreement is continuously reinforced, but for a handful of women in the business with great T&A. Why? Why do we keep reinforcing these standards that can be so harmful and aren't even representative of that many women? Why are so many people and their senses of self-worth under the thumb of so few?

Let's have a Radical Revolutionary Occupation of the Body. For the very little that it's worth, I give you permission to tell the whole world to fuck off and put back on the weight you lost that made you look like a very pretty Skeletor. Go for it! You have important work to do in this world and I know how badly impaired my cognitive function becomes when I'm hungry. I give you permission to practice radical self-love, throwing off the repressive agreements about beauty and celebrating everything about you that is so naturally gorgeous.

Above all other rights, you have the right to dictate the terms of your own life. Decide for yourself how you are most genuinely happy and live that with every ounce of passion and guts you have. As far as I'm concerned, it's your passion and guts that make you most beautiful. It's what gave me hope that I could grow gracefully and powerfully into my womanly body. You never seemed to care before what anyone else thought. This would be a great time to start not caring again. It's not like you'll stop being a household name anytime soon. Do whatever is best for you. As Dr. Seuss would remind us, "Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."

Love,
Kirsten

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