Not In Kansas Anymore...

Click your heels, and see if home is where you hang your hat, or somewhere else inside yourself as this simple, postmodern girl takes on L.A.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

FURTHERMORE -- and this is the last you'll hear me go off on women's issues today, I promise. ( But not the last time ever, sorry!)--

Jenny McCarthy, was on the "Today" show this morning. I actually like Jenny alot and respect a great deal for being open about her life and her struggles with her son's autism ( whether or not her treatement strategy is valid is widely debated, and in my view, that choice remains up to each family. I just like that she's willing to step up and be an activist for a tragic children's disease whose rates climb higher and higher each year, and demand that there be more reseach). Today on "Today", however, she was there to talk about her appearance on the cover of "Weight Watchers" magazine ( Weight Watchers usually being generally accepted as a safe reasonable weight loss plan).

Of course, she looked great ( as usual), and was so bold as to blurt out her weight:

"For LA, I'm good- I'm 5'6'' and 125. But that's for LA."

Now, I gotta give the chick props for understanding that her world and the rest of America are NOT at all on the same wavelength when it comes to average, healthy weight. However, I checked, ( of course), and Jenny's at the lowest end of the scale she can possibly be for any frame size at her height ( in other words, should a bad trip to Mexico come along....well, it won't be pretty. Or healthy, anymore.).

To this declaration, Hoda Kotbe opens her mouth and says, "I'm 5'8" and 145."
(Again, to Jenny's credit, she says, "Well, good for you!" in a what appeared to be a genuine attempt to support whatever weight the woman was.) Hoda, BTW, according to the medical standards, is smack in the middle of the chart. And actually, given her larger frame, could even stand to have dessert a little more often and still be just fine. Hoda, however, looked highly irritable.

Ever the comic save, Kathy Lee Gifford chimed in, "And me, I'm just here!", obviously wanting to move the conversation AWAY from specific numbers.

Of course you know I have something to say about this.

First of all, good for Jenny for NOT calling Jenny (Craig) and actually promoting a plan that's had a long history of being healthy, successful and supportive. Again, mad props for her putting the "for LA" caveat on her weight as if to say, " If you don't meet this criteria, you're okay,because my industry? They get a little tense about these things." Props to Hoda Kotbe for putting out there HER weight, because hey, that's brave. Props even to Kathie Lee, because she didn't feel she had to ( or didn't dare to, whatver), and didn't under pressure. Cookies for everyone!

Now that we've established THAT, let me also add that Jenny McCarthy is 36, soon to be 37. Hoda Kotbe is 45 and a cancer survivor ( which means she's gone into premature menopause from the chemotherapy. Menopause, even for the average healthy woman generally means weight gain as a matter of course.). Everyone knows as you get older, it's unreasonable to expect miracles in the weight catagory unless you've been miraculously genetically blessed. Haven't we all gone to even our 10 year high school reunions and seen a little bit more heft ( even if it is FIT heft) to our old pals?

And yet two out of three of these women are skating towards underweight. One of them is so close to the edge that a bout with bad guacamole would have her in the hospital with an IV drip.
At middle age. How is that....reasonable to ask of them?

It also begs the question: even with that caveat "for LA), what is being promoted as acceptable for young things in their 20s and early 30s? There isn't a young woman alive who doesn't look at magazines and aspire to that ideal. If Jenny McCarthy , at 37, is 5'6"( the average height of a woman ) and 125lbs, what then, are the 22 year old 5'6" girls weighing? ( I can answer all of this for you, actually. Just go take a look at the cast of the new "90210" and "Melrose Place", and ask yourself if those girls are living on more than sno-cones and Marlboro Lights.)

I'm an ( aspiring) actress in Hollywood, and I'll be candid. I'm 5'8, of an average build, and I weigh 165. This video clip of "Today" struck a chord with me in particular because lately I've been gearing up to go back to acting class and out on auditions. In my head ( and according to the health charts), I'm one week of bad PMS binging away from being technically overweight ( and my BMI sits on the edge, too.). I'd like to lose 15 pounds and be slimmer and more confident, and healthier, so I'm working on it.

To my detriment, though, there are two things I cannot change. First, I take a medication for my depression that slows the metabolism. This is very, very common. Most antidepressants these days do the opposite ( mine does), but any mood stabilizer ( a drug you take to lessen the lability of those moods; I take mine mostly for anxiety) will hit you for at least a good 10 lbs or more. Depending on what type you take, there's no way to avoid it. Since I don't want to fuck up a good balance once I've got one, I'm not going to change anything, and so I am stuck with this problematizing factor, like or not. I'm going to have to work really hard to get the pounds to move. Probably as hard as someone would if they wanted to be 25 lbs lighter ( which as averse to the gym as I am, really really sucks.).

Second, there's that "for LA" factor. Apparently, even being 15 pounds lighter than I am now might not be enough. I knew I needed to lose some weight, but at 40 and figuring that I was unlikely to be cast in those will-o-the-wisp ingenue parts 80% of the girls out here are jostling for, I was, going to be okay. Sure, I'd likely be cast as a character actor, but I actually think that's more fun, so that was and is fine by me. I just didn't think, at 150, I'd be pushing into the "Quirkily fun but chunky next door neighbor"roles. To me, that's just WRONG.

Because, people, do you KNOW what I look like at 150? Well, I'll toot my own horn for a minute here and tell you. I look AWESOME. I look like Diana Rigg as Emma Peel, circa 1968, thank you very much ( and yes, I could indeed rock that catsuit at that weight, too!).

But it's not enough; I would never be allowed NEAR a catsuit in this day and age at that weight. I wouldn't be allowed near one at 140, (which, by the way, at 40, with my present metabolism, would require me to spend every waking moment in the gym, and to eating salads and Diet Coke 3 meals a day. ). Why?

Because the average size expected of actresses is nothing over a size 4. Since I'm older, maybe I could squeak by with an 8, but I happen to know that THAT, my friends, is considered still FAT. ( My dear friend Evie worked as a costumer for awhile, and fitted Drew Barrymore for something in a size 8. "Do you know what they called her behind her back?" she seethed. "They called her a 'pig'. A 'pig' in a size 8!"). God knows Demi Moore, Nicole Kidman, Naomi Watts, Julianne Moore, and so on, who are all in my age group ( or over) are NOT a size 8. How they manage it is beyond me. Personally, even as stick thin as I was naturally in high school and my early 20's ( and trust me- I was THIN. If only that metabolism lasted!!), I was still NEVER a size 8. Never! I don't think I've been a size 8 since.....since... jr. high?

It's WRONG, I tell you. WRONG. Wrong, wrong wrong. For so many reasons.

So what's my plan? To lose 15 lbs, make my doctor happy, look hot in a catsuit on Halloween maybe, and fuck the rest of 'em who call me fat. This is what I got, and you take it or leave it. I like to eat occasionally (!), and I like to enjoy my day without thinking "I have to go spend two hours on the treadmill for that cookie at lunch", and I like to think that some decent casting agent or director out there will look at me and say ( even IF the producer is insistng "Good GOD get her to lose 20 lbs!!"), " We like you. We like what you're bringing to the part. " and trust me enough to make whatever weight I am seem like a needless notion in light of a decent performance.

If they don't, well, it's their loss. Jennifer Anniston may be 40 and 125 lbs, but I wouldn't be her any day of the week. It's just too much work to live up to some magazine-level of fabulousness. It's hard enough work just to be ME, and really, that's the only person I want to be. I'm not going to suffer the pains of what it would take to meet those unrealistic and stupid standards. Women come in all shapes and sizes, and while I realize part of Hollywood is to give us the glamour of the unattainable ideal, AND that yes, the camera DOES add pounds ( though it varies with every person, mind you. In my case it turns me into a blowfish. ). I'm okay with that and making some adjustments and working a little harder to lose a little more to compensate. But shouldn't there be some adjustments in what we accept as appropriate for an actress to look like? Shouldn't there be a more diverse selection of women onscreen for crying out loud??!?!

I'm just NOT OKAY with spending my time striving to be 20lbs underweight, trying to be a size I was when I was 12 at 40, and calling it okay. It is NOT okay to ask me to do that when I know they're not asking Tom Hanks to do it. Its not okay to do that because I would prefer NOT to have fertility issues because I have less than 2% body fat. It's not okay, because I would like my bone density to remain intact and my joints to be healthy.

And finally, to clear up any nagging doubts the reader might have, NO. I'm not saying this just because I feel I might fall short of their expectations, but because they're wrong.

Didja hear me? Wrong. And that's my final word on it.