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This is a manifesto on why, when your pants feel too tight, you should take them off. And no, I’m not joking.
It’s 11:25 in the morning. I haven’t even eaten lunch yet, but already I taste regret. Regret that the theme of my entire day is going to be tight pants. What was I thinking this morning when I stepped into these ultra snug and stiff cords? Why are these pants so damn tight anyways? I have got to stop eating six bowls of cereal at brain break every night. I wonder if I can squeeze a quick run in between class and section?
Recently, much attention on campus has been drawn to mental health issues, and rightfully so. There is nothing more important a university can provide for its students than mental health services that are accessible to all, sympathetic to how difficult it can be to reach out for help and committed to addressing the needs of every student no matter how complicated his or her situation may be. But the issue this manifesto seeks to address has become so normalized that I fear it escapes recognition as a pervasive mental health issue.
I am not talking about diagnosable eating disorders, per se, although they are undoubtedly deserving of attention. Rather, I wish to recognize a phenomenon so common it is not understood to be seriously detrimental—that of body dissatisfaction.
According to a survey conducted in 1996, over half of American women age 18-25 would rather be “run over by a truck” than “be fat,” and two-thirds would rather be “mean or stupid.” In recent years, as obesity-related problems have increased while societal ideals of beauty continue to become less and less attainable, I can only imagine the result this survey question would yield today. In a more recent study of young to middle-aged women never diagnosed with an eating disorder, nearly 75 percent reported experiencing concerns about shape and weight that impeded their happiness.
Perpetual discontent with our own bodies is the status quo, and we must not pretend that it is an issue that only touches a certain “type.” You know…ballerinas, models, perfectionists, and “those girls” who are obsessed with how they look and what others think of them. This manifesto isn’t for a subset of the population who the books say are at risk. No one is immune. If you live in this country (or a whole host of other countries, for that matter) in the 21st century and you’ve ever let pants that feel a little too tight make you feel fat, lazy, ugly, or really anything less than awesome, this manifesto is for you.
We simply cannot accept body dissatisfaction as the norm. We must not, for we have far too many jobs before us to be preoccupied with tight pants and the like. We need to fix a broken education system, solve global climate change, protect women’s rights around the world, improve access to mental health care, fight for marriage equality, cure diseases, explore new planets, and do a host of other things we don’t even know we have to do yet.
You see, we can eat right and exercise, but still, on some days, our pants are going to feel too tight. But what we must not forget is that we get to choose what we do with our tight pants. We can use that thigh-squeezing, belly-compressing feeling as motivation to avoid carbohydrates like the plague, drink water until we’re full, and kick up the treadmill a few notches. We can try to avoid the eminent “rippppppp” right at the crotch by becoming enthralled with egg whites, spending more time squeezing our knees together to see if our thighs touch, and scanning menus for “good” foods.
We can drive ourselves insane doing these things, perhaps unaware of the impact they have on our relationships with others, our energy and personalities, our happiness, and our self-esteem. The tightness of our pants, however seemingly impertinent, controls us—a constant reminder that we are not thin enough, toned enough, fit enough, disciplined enough. Without meaning to, we can let a burning desire to escape tight pants co-opt our identities.
But we don’t have to, for there is something else we can do. We can take those tight pants off—redefine health to include the whole self, embrace our bodies for all that they are, and march forward using our drive and passion to better the world.
Hannah M. Borowsky ’15, a Crimson editorial writer, is an organismic and evolutionary biology concentrator in Leverett House.
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