I have vilified Lady Gaga in the past (to much condemnation, given her rabid fanbase): the contrived, weird-for-attention shtick really wears on me, particularly considering it comes hand-in-hand with what basically amounts to catchy, radio-friendly pop music with a pseudo-controversial religious message here and there. I can live with her message of peace, love, and acceptance, but that isn’t enough to make a fan out of me. Here’s what is: in defense of her recent 25-pound weight gain and the ensuing media scrutiny, Gaga gets naked, or at least stripped to her skivvies, to set the “Body Revolution” in motion.
I can’t be alone in thinking this is one of the single most awesome, inspiring things a woman in the public eye could ever do for her fans, right? I’ve long prided myself on my eye-rolling cynicism, especially when it comes to celebrities, but weight is a sensitive subject for me. Let’s get personal here: I was a chubby kid who hit puberty a good two years before anyone else I knew. I had always been mentally and emotionally mature for my age, an old soul, but I was also plagued with a lot of insecurities and periods of depression way before my time (seriously, I started getting existential when I was, like, six), which my expedited physical development only exacerbated. My peers were not kind — in fact, I was often ridiculed, by boys and girls alike — and so my mental state, which previously had just been something to “keep an eye on,” so to speak, slid quickly into a downward spiral of total chaos and self-destruction.
My anxieties, my anger and sadness, stemmed from my hatred of my own body. When I say hatred, I mean utter loathing, a desire to wither and decay and separate from myself. I wanted to die. The torment of my peers shouldn’t have been nearly enough to affect me so profoundly, but it was my lack of confidence, or even any glimmer of such a thing, that did me in. I am 10-years-old on vacation with my parents, crying on the beach as I pinch at my stomach. Later that night, I am wracked with sobs, seizing my fleshy rolls, tearing at my Care Bears T-shirt as my parents struggle to console me. I am 12, cutting myself on the wrists as I stare into the mirror, eyes rimmed red from forcing myself to vomit. I am 13, sitting in the nurse’s office at my middle school, feeling dizzy and disoriented, refusing a pack of Saltine crackers (they used to be my favorite) and actively wishing I could disappear into thin air.
I’m doing just fine for myself now, frankly better than I thought I ever would be, but there isn’t a day — or a meal — that goes by where these thoughts don’t monopolize the vast majority of my intellectual capacity. Years after the worst of it, it is still a constant, ever-present battle. It is a part of my life and a part of me. I am confronted every day with the internal realization that I am still just not skinny enough; I assume it has much less to do with my body than with my brain. With all that said, this is not about me. I am one of millions of people, male and female, who has struggled with, to put it so very lightly, tritely, and insufficiently, body image issues. In the raw, unretouched photos Gaga posted of herself, she declares her own afflictions: “Bulimia and anorexia since I was 15.” I have long identified thinness as a very high personal priority, whatever the means, but seeing these photos makes me, an inveterate non-believer, question that. When I look at this curvy, lush woman — who the media has deemed “fat” in recent days — and think, She looks damn good!, it makes me believe that maybe I can think that way about myself one day, too.
Most of all, it makes me wonder: if I had had someone like Lady Gaga, an incredibly public figure who chooses to embrace her body regardless of her “weight gain” or the invariably unforgiving press microscope that fixates on her, and even goes so far as to show us what she really looks like, and really it’s nothing to be ashamed of, would I have been better off for it? If my idols at the time had been people like that, and not people like Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan, would I have thought more highly of myself and my body rather than strived to maim and destroy it? I do, honestly, believe so, and if that is what Gaga is doing now for this generation of youth, then I am all for it. So fuck yeah, let’s breed some motherfucking compassion.
And yes, for the record, it goes without saying that Gaga and I are cool now.