"When you catalog your body, you should first start with the obvious things."
Myla DalBesio is a 5'11" model with a 34" bust, a 29" waistline and hips that round out at 41". She's also a "multi-disciplinary visual and performance artist," and a writer, according to her personal website.
But really, like so many women, she identifies — for better or for worse — with her body.
In an essay for Suited magazine, reprinted in Refinery29, DalBesio examines the many ways women's bodies face scrutiny from the fashion industry but also, alarmingly, from themselves. Writing in a stream-of-consciousness format, DalBesio movingly reflects on the inner turmoil women can face about their bodies, by cataloging her own.
Some of the recollections we index are happy. But as a model — especially one who's often designated plus-size — DalBesio faces the burden of having her body constantly inspected and evaluated by professionals and the Internet. Those subtle critiques are the ones that make us self-conscious and factor into our own cataloging of ourselves:
Isn't that the way it always is? You never notice those things until someone tells you it's wrong. Remember when your sister told you your eyebrows looked like caterpillars? Then you plucked them so thin they were barely there at all.
You found out you had a big chin when you read it in a note, remember? That note for the photographer. "De-emphasize chin." And that comment, you remember that. The one on that website. "She has a cowboy jaw." "Man hands, no offense." "BARF." You remember that one, don't you? Barf.
Or that first time you read about yourself online, at the dawn of the internet as we know it. "She's the fattest one. Zero muscle tone. Last place."
It's critiques like these that we internalize and make a part of our own inner running narratives.
"This is getting depressing," DalBesio writes. "Let's include some nice things. You love yourself, remember? You love your body."
DalBesio made headlines in 2014 when she became the "biggest" model booked by Calvin Klein, an incident that left many wondering whether fashion was off its rocker for declaring a slender woman as larger than average.
Since then, she's continued modeling and written about beauty standards in fashion and culture at large. Those beauty standards can be especially toxic for models, as Cara Delevingne expressed when she said she felt "hollow" working as a model.
"If you hate yourself and your body and the way you look, it just gets worse and worse," Delevingne told London's Sunday Times.
But that progressive spiral isn't limited to models. DalBesio's essay in Suited is a powerful reminder of how thoroughly and often women "catalog" their flaws (remember the Mean Girls mirror scene?). We list every real and perceived flaw that anyone, including ourselves, has ever pointed out to us, a process often triggered by the presence of mirrors.
It's a restless process, gliding — just as DalBesio's essay does — from self-doubt to self-love to self-doubt again.
"And that's what it is, this whole thing, your whole you: something in between, something not at rest," she writes. "From beginning to end, moving, accumulating. Fatter, then thinner, then harder, then softer again. Collecting scrapes and bruises like a ripe, aging peach."
It's not likely to end; perhaps the best we can do is take control of the cataloging, rather than have the runaway litany control us.
"Soon you will count your wrinkles, you will count your grey hairs until there are too many to count, not just that one in your right eyebrow," DalBesio writes. "You will make note of your drooping neck and the skin that hangs off your elbow and all the age spots on the backs of your hands. But not yet."
h/t The Independent