... that—in our culture—is the question. Especially at this time of year.
Earlier this week, I wrote about Kelly Ripa's transition to the helm of the "Live!" enterprise. In sum, I was impressed with the way she handled the shift; her willingness to share her experience and vulnerability with viewers.
Apparently, others were and are not so impressed. A look at the comments on most online news and media shows quite a distain for the woman.
In particular, her weight.
An entire article, or book for that matter, could be dedicated to the comment sections of online blogs and articles—the visibility these outlets provide and the psychology of those who use the opportunity for a variety of ends.
For now, I'd like to focus on the attention given—in these responses and the media—to Kelly's weight.
During the holidays, when food takes center stage, it's wise to consider the mixed messages women (and increasingly, men) receive about eating and their bodies: we're to look thin, but not too thin. Healthy, but not as if we work too hard at being healthy. Fit, but not as though we're pathological about fitness.
There is a rather rigid line of physical perfection that we've come to by cultural consent. And while this line is somewhat flexible given personal and community preferences, the punishment is universally severe for crossing it. It's a shame or disgrace to be too far over it. And a crime to be too far under.
Kelly, apparently, is guilty of the latter.
How many of people writing and commenting about Kelly Ripa know her? I don't. Which is why I make no assertions about how she is or isn't built and what she is or isn't dealing with physically (or for that matter, in any other area of her life).
I choose instead to honor what we do know... her courage to take the steps she has in creating her career and family. That courage inspires me, which I write about in the hopes of inspiring others.
We have a long way to go in creating a safe space for women and men to feel great about themselves as they are, however they are... physically, emotionally and spiritually.
That journey, if we really want to take it, begins with each of us.
This Thanksgiving, take a look at yourself in the mirror. Once you allow the voice of the cultural standard to have its say, give thanks for what you actually see. Most of us are blessed to have healthy bodies that work wonderfully, if not perfectly. They house us, they allow us to travel. To create, to dance... to embrace those we love. To take risks, fulfill on what we care about, and enjoy this life.
You may not like everything about your appearance. You may want to change a thing or two. But you're here. You're alive. For that, let's all be grateful. For that, let's celebrate.
And please, let's start the celebration by treating others with the same tenderness and kindness we're learning to bestow upon ourselves.