September 15, 2010

Body Dysmorphia: Spa for a Cure

I'm not sure what the number one killer of women is--in terms of physical diseases--this week. But I certainly know one of the top emotional diseases that kills women slowly over their whole lives and goes largely unchecked: Body Dysmorphic Disorder. And most women have it, to some degree. What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder? Very simply, it means that you think there is something wrong--often terribly, personally, unforgivably wrong--about part or all of your physical body. And every failed attempt to make your body into something it is not or do something it simply does not want to do tends to make you feel that--unlike the woman on the front of Glamour or Vogue or even Shape magazine--you are a freak of nature. And it just keeps going downhill from there.

As a massage therapist, I see evidence of this disorder ALL THE TIME. Or rather, I hear it in the nasty things women say about themselves. I once heard a comedian say something to the effect of, "If someone else said to you the things you say about yourself, you would have no choice but to try to take his life." It's funny, but it rings rather true, yes? And although many women know consciously that most physical self-slander is unfounded and ridiculous, they still really want to to look like one of those girls in an ad for body butter.

So what to do about this nasty problem? We probably won't be able to boycott the people who set up ads for Victoria's Secret or write those silly Cosmo quizzes. So instead, I'd recommend the occasional visit to your local women's spa, which is not only incredibly enjoyable and good for your health, but reminds you what real women look like.

Seriously. I don't go to stare, but unless your blind, cross-eyed, or looking at the ceiling, you're going to notice some of your surroundings. And your surroundings are utterly, unashamedly naked. Women of all colors, ages, shapes, and sizes . . . and I do mean all. It sounds cliche, but you can never really believe the stories about magazines and air-brushing until you see a full range of naked women, none of whom are going to appear in any ads without a make-up, lighting, clothing, and camera crew. Even if one of them might approach the kind of "beauty" touted in most advertising, she would still be wearing a shapeless cloth "hat," and trust me, no one looks hot in cheap cotton headwear.

When I was a pre-teen, my parents gave me a "sex book" called The Changing You. On the front, there is a little girl looking into a mirror and seeing herself all grown up as the Homecoming Queen. Now, I was very relieved, since I was terrified of becoming an overly-tall version of Little Orphan Annie. Wow! I was going to be the Homecoming Queen! Thank God! But I didn't, of course. And though I was lovely, I could never see it, because I didn't match those pictures. I wish I'D had a spa in my life; I might have been more sane. But I have it now; when it comes to having a healthy emotional life, it's never too late . . .

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