I once read an article that said that 86% of females feel bad about themselves within the first five minutes of picking up a “women’s magazine” like Cosmo. (There’s a standard deviation of {+/-infinity} on that statistic because I can’t actually remember what the article said. But I recall that it was a big percentage/short time.)

I identified as one of those statistical females. So I stopped reading those magazines. This was about 8 years ago, and I still don’t look at them. It has helped.

But you know, you don’t have to be flipping through Vogue to find unreasonable body standards in the world.  They’re around us all the time. Movies, TV, the music industry. Shit, there are toys on the market that’ll mess with a little girl’s mind and make her not love herself because her stomach’s not concave like the doll’s or her hair is not flaxen like the doll’s or her cooter doesn’t smell like strawberry bubble gum like the doll’s.

Our stupid culture has told me for a long time my body’s wrong, and despite being educated and of fair-to-middling intelligence, I’ve believed it every single step of the way. My ass is too big; my thighs are too dimply; my arms are squishy; my belly pooches out; I have cankles; my stretch marks look like the Rand-McNally of the Washington, D.C. environs; my boobs don’t defy gravity; my chin has a chin.

Cut to the end of last week when this photo started popping up in my Facebook feed:

You seen it?

Look how thin and taut and angular and boob-y and shiny the women in the Victoria’s Secret ad are. Silky tresses for daaaayyyys. Exact same height. Skin colors like on the townhouse exteriors in The Promenades at Spryngdale neighborhood, or whatever homogeneous enclave is two miles from your house.

And, to a woman, they are identical from the neck down.

I don’t know a goddamn soul who looks like that in real life. All the women I know look like the ones in the Dove ad (WHO I THINK ARE GORGEOUS): tall ones, short ones, busty ones, flat ones, curvy ones, straight ones, ones shaped like blueberries, ones shaped like pencils, and ones shaped like Coke bottles. Some carry their weight between shoulders and waist, and others from the hips down [raises hand]. Long hair, short hair. Skin of every color on the palette.

And this ad, or maybe this juxtaposition of ads (because I never would’ve noticed the total freaky-deakiness of the VS ad without the other), made me feel so much better about myself. I mean, I know Dove is a business, and businesses are in the business of making money, and this whole Social Mission blah-di-blah is probably just a really slick marketing ploy. I hope not. But even if it is, I don’t care because I feel so much better about myself after seeing this ad.

I. Look. Like. Them.

In fact—am I really going to do this?

Yes, yes I am. Fuck it. Hey, look at me, mostly naked on the internet (that’s a bathing suit… I just couldn’t do undies):

Now I’ve become one of those assholes

who takes pictures of herself in the mirror.

Here’s the back view:

Ha ha ha! So much junk!

I look at these photos, and while none of the Dove models is quite the chubster I am, my shape would totally fit in their ad. Because they’re all different shapes. And heights. And hair colors. And skin colors.

I’m sick of hating my body. I’m going to be 37 next month; this needs to end. The fact of the matter is, that roll of back fat you see up there and those stacked marshmallows I’ve got for arms and that hip-to-knee cellulite (which you can’t really see well in the photos but it’s totally there—high-five, iPhone camera!… Note to self: Buy Apple stock)? That fat and those marshmallows and that cellulite are my body, and that body carts this gal around and provides a venue for this blog to germinate and gives me orgasms and lifts heavy things. I am that body. That body is me.

Here are the parts I need to remember:

(1) There is no “normal woman”; we’re all different;

(2) yelling at myself about my body has never succeeded in effecting change;

(3) there will be people who look at me in these photos and go, Ew; I don’t have to be one of them; and

(4) somebody out there is going to like this body exactly the way it is.

But only when I do it first.

So this is my Love My Body/Real Beauty campaign. This is me. I am this. STFU, Amy, and stop being mean to yourself.