Recently I was idling on the computer and did just that. I expect I was looking for reviews for whatever show I was in at the time (yes, I do read my reviews – clearly I’m a glutton for punishment). One of the things I stumbled across was someone’s blog, which contained an essay on the production of Pacific Overtures which I did at Signature Theatre last year. In the essay, which otherwise said nice things about me, the writer described me as:
“…heavy-set, has a long hard face with prominent features…”
The “hard face” thing I could deal with. My parents gifted me with a big nose, a prominent chin and a natural sneer. That kind of face comes in handy for the kind of roles I play. The “heavy-set” thing was a little harder to swallow.
Let me say up front that I have fought with my weight most of my adult life. My mom maintains that I was a chubby baby, but once out of toddlerdom, my childhood photos reveal a fairly skinny kid. However, when I hit puberty, along with breasts and hair in interesting places, I also sprouted hips and thighs, emphasis on the thighs.
Let me also say up front that I’ve never been grossly overweight. Maybe this is why I’ve never really obsessed about my weight, unlike many women of my generation. I remember reading some years ago an interview with Julie Kavner, who went to some therapy session in which the attendees were required to draw on giant pieces of paper what they thought their body looked like. Kavner said that the image she drew was something like seven feet tall and four feet wide. Many of the women I know also have an outsize visual image of themselves; me, I think I look pretty good most of the time, although I don’t much care for the rear view.
But “heavy-set?” Hmph. “Heavy-set” is a block of granite, square and solid. Rod Steiger was “heavy-set.” I reject “heavy-set.”
So what else can I be? I’ve also been described as “statuesque” (too Jayne Mansfield) and “queenly” (oh dear me). An actor friend once said I had “breeder’s hips” (moo). Actually, my favorite description of myself was in Lloyd Rose’s Washington Post review of No Way to Treat A Lady; I had to get murdered by co-star Larry Redmond numerous times throughout the performance, and she said I looked like I could take Larry “three falls out of five.”
Now that didn’t bother me – in fact, I was sort of flattered. I don’t mind when my size is equated to a certain amount of strength, physical or otherwise. I like to think I’m in decent shape, given my age and size – I have certainly never balked at any doing any physical business required in my line of work.
I am never going to be a slim woman. I’m okay with that. What I’m not okay with is feeling that I should be obsessing about my weight. When I want a serving of pasta, a little voice says in my ear: “You shouldn’t be eating that.” I resent that voice; I resent the guilt that goes into every morsel I put in my mouth; I resent weighing my dining options, not by what I want to eat, but by what contains the lowest caloric/carbohydrate/fat/sugar content. I resent most of all that I spend so much time and energy thinking about food, when there are so many more interesting and important things to think about.
And having said that, I’m off to make dinner. We’re having a big salad. Yippee.