Why I’m Rethinking the Words I Use to Describe My Body
10.11.17

“I look really good, my skin’s good, my body’s nice.”

These are the words of actress Debi Mazar as quoted in a recent interview with The Cut. As I read them (once, twice, three times), I marveled at how foreign they sounded. Especially the last bit: “my body’s nice.”

Not a single woman I know has ever complimented her whole body out loud in my presence. Not a single one! On extremely rare occasions, I’ve been privy to the positive self-appraisal of a friend’s single body part, but never the body in its totality. There’s a difference. There’s an even bigger difference when singling-out a set of limbs or pair of eyes implies the rest of the package merits improvement.

My arms are skinny, but I hate my…

It’s not new information that “fat talk” is a currency many women could trade in with their eyes closed. Even those who love their bodies are versed in this language by simple virtue of living in the world. The noise is deafening.

My body’s nice.

Mazar’s words cut through this noise like a knife, not only because she dares to admire her whole physical appearance without caveat, but also because the way she describes it is dizzyingly nonchalant.

Calling something or someone “nice” is the verbal equivalent of a shrug. It’s a filler word plopped into an apathetic characterization for lack of any other newsworthy quality, a word used when you cannot conjure a single strong feeling, positive or negative, about whatever it is you’re being made to describe. That’s what makes Mazar’s gentle indifference radical. It’s as if she’s saying, “What’s the big deal?”

This attitude, intentional or not, reminds me of Romy Oltuski’s meditation on the idea of body-neutrality. “Body neutrality aims for self-acceptance over self-love, attempting to move beyond the reflex to constantly judge our own appearances, positively or negatively,” she writes. “Where body positivity’s motto might be ‘love yourself,’ body neutrality’s would probably be ‘underthink it.’”

Easier said than done, I know. The urge to judge my own body often feels instinctual and involuntary, like sneezing. As these inevitable criticisms surface, though, I’ve resolved to try harpooning them with Mazar’s blade of compassionate apathy: less thinking, more shrugging.

It’s a work in progress, but so far, it’s been nice.

Photo by Raymond Hall/GC Images.

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