This blog may be evolving into more of an MS blog than anything else, or maybe that’s just what I need to use it for right now, I don’t know. I’ve always let this be just kind of an unbranded space for me to say whatever about anything. Honestly, it’s more for me than a specific anticipated audience in my mind, and I am always just grateful and surprised when someone else is interested. But lately I find myself waking up in the mornings needing to do this first or else stew in my own misery. Sadness, or any kind of negative emotion, needs to be moved somehow. Through crying or yelling or punching something or, in my case, writing. The point is, you can’t let it just sit on you or you’ll get suffocated.
I woke up this morning in pain again, the vision in my left eye shot to hell, my legs working about as well as a newborn giraffe’s, and well, I just sobbed. I cried and cried and just let myself go. I hobbled down the stairs for coffee and cried in front of my family. I cried in front of the mirror, like you do when you’re a kid, because it’s so fascinating to watch how red and distorted your face gets. There’s something soothing about watching it in the mirror, right? Like, ‘this desperate, hysterical troll couldn’t possibly be ME, right? So that means I must be fine!’
Anyway, I cried and cried and gave about zero fucks about it.
Mornings are rough, because I think in the back of my mind, I still keep thinking that this is all like a really nasty flu that will go away. But as morning stacks up upon morning, an unwelcome thought looms large: maybe this is just morning now. Maybe this is how morning will feel for the rest of my life. Maybe I will never have another morning where I wake up feeling like a goddamn hummingbird and eat a nice, light fruit and yogurt parfait before hitting the gym like a blue ribbon trophy wife.
Maybe my body turned seventy overnight. Maybe I’m going to feel seventy for forty more years.
How does, how can, this happen so fast? It just seems impossible, and I think that’s why it’s not quite sinking in all the way. A year ago I was in the best shape of my life. I was hitting the gym four times a week, I could do five miles on the elliptical without batting an eyelash. Sure, I drank and smoked like an idiot, but I’m a comedian. That’s just a given.
The fact is, I was 20 pounds smaller a year ago and I finally felt like “yes, this is a body I genuinely like.” And other people liked it, too. When you’re a woman, it’s just assumed that you desire feedback about every aspect of yourself from the rest of the world, so it’s impossible not to know you look good. This is why hot girls always know they are hot, period. They just pretend like they don’t because men (at least the white ones) prefer to date a woman who is unaware of her high market value. It’s way less scary.
But I digress.
Anyway, the point is, a year ago, my hotness stock peaked. Now, I am unable to exercise like I used to, taking daily steroids that blow me up to the size of the Stay Puft marshmallow man, and eating my feelings at night when I’m alone and sad. I’ve gained twenty fucking pounds. My Twitter avatar is of me in a bikini a year ago, and every time I look at it I feel guilty, like I’m lying to the world, and I totally am. I look at myself naked in the mirror and can’t believe anyone would want to look at me, much less touch me, much less have sex with me (NOTE: I am sure if I were looking at another naked woman who looked exactly like me, I would say she looks great, but alas, that is not the way we view ourselves). I know I’m not supposed to say any of this. I’m supposed to say I love my body no matter what and say I love my “curves” and something about “real women” and yada yada yada and my health is more important than any superficial body image concerns and blah blah blah, but let’s get real here, folks: I got kinda fat. And that’s hard. And it’s frustrating. And I feel like there is less I can do about it now that I’m sick.
I feel like at LEAST until you’re forty, you should have the option of being skinny if you really try. Like, sure, you can let yourself go at Christmas and put on 10 pounds, but if you get your shit together and get to the gym, you can take it off in a month or so. I feel like at 29, you should at least get to entertain the fantasy that you’re not yet at your physical peak, that you still have time to get your idea of a perfect body if you buckle down and do the work.
But holy shit, maybe this is it. Maybe this is my new body. And how shallow am I that weight gain is even on my radar as a concern when my legs are not working right. I don’t know, I blame America. Or Obama.
And why should it matter anyway? I’m a comedian, not a model or actress. But it seems like these days, you can’t make it as a female comic unless you’re also worthy of a Maxim spread. They want you to “have it all.” Fuck that, by the way.
But whether you’re a comedian or you have MS or you’re just a regular American woman going through the aging process, I think we all eventually come to this transition: ‘the world isn’t telling me I’m pretty anymore, so how do I feel good about myself now?’
And here’s the proposed silver lining here: maybe we are only allowed to truly come into ourselves once we extricate ourselves from all this pressure to be gorgeous. Maybe, as we are slowly forced to let go of the bottomless need for outside validation that girls are trained to develop — the need to be constantly reassured that we are desirable, that we are not invisible, that we are worthy of things and people — maybe only then are we truly free. Like any addiction, the need to be told we are beautiful sucks up a lot of time and resources. I mean, Jesus, think about all the things we could do and create with the time we spend researching diets and getting our nails done and shopping for the perfect cocktail dress and painting our faces just right. I won’t lie, I am the very worst of offenders in this regard. There is nothing wrong with investing and taking pride in your appearance, but man, I could have been writing a book or saving the whales or some shit.
Since I started to get sick, I have been distracting myself from it by writing jokes and blogging and filming Barbie Lifetime movies. It makes me forget about my symptoms and my fear and escape into my own imagination for a while. I have probably produced more creative material in one week than I have in the last six months. My work, however silly and stupid, has been an invaluable sanctuary to me during this time. But perhaps more importantly, it has also allowed me to transfer my basis of self-worth to a deeper and more stable place. It feels one hundred times better to receive praise for something I created than for some contrived selfie I posted on Twitter. Why? Because getting attention is easy. Getting respect takes work.
And here’s the kicker, and I swear it’s true: I have gotten much, much more attention from men since I stopped focusing on my attractiveness and started focusing on my work. Even before I was diagnosed with M.S., this was a transition I was consciously trying to make in the months prior. I do not think it is a coincidence that in that same period of time, I found the man of my dreams.
Really, when I look back at years of old Facebook pictures, the times when I was skinniest and prettiest were the times when I was miserable and couldn’t get a date to save my life. I was trying too hard. I was putting out this energy of “love me please god love me love me love me,” and people can unconsciously sense that, and it repels them. I do know this about love and attraction: pull and you will get pushed. Push and you will get pulled. When you don’t have to do either, and you can just be, that’s rare and that’s love. When I started focusing on what I wanted to do instead of who I wanted to love me, the right person came into my life. And he makes me feel more desirable than a thousand “likes” on Facebook ever could.
So as much as it is hard to accept that I have gained weight and swollen up on steroids and sometimes I walk funny and run into shit; as painful as it is to think that maybe I was already as pretty as I’ll ever be…maybe it’s time to grow up. Maybe it’s time to let go of all that and become the boss bitch I was meant to be. And frankly, I’m ready for that, and it’s a relief.
I’m not saying I’m going to just let myself go and wear wolf t-shirts and stop wearing fake eyelashes. I’m not saying I have magically risen above all basic human ego drives and will now resign myself to an admirable life of sacrifice and high contemplation. I’m not saying I am hideous and giving up on myself. I am just saying that I am embracing what may be a new phase in how I define my own worthiness, and I think maybe the world will follow suit.