5 min read
by Emma Glassman-Hughes | 07/13/2016
Here are some telltale signs that you are a living, breathing human and not just a piece of cellophane plastic wrapped around a juicy roast beef sandwich that some carnivorous dude is trying to devour for lunch:
You can see your own reflection and you show up in photographs
You don’t melt in the shower or when someone throws a bucket of water on your head
Your location isn’t beholden to the throwing of pixie dust
Your skin isn’t smooth everywhere, and in fact has bumps or discoloration or dots or marks or scars or puckers or dimples or folds or etc. on it
You don’t (intentionally) turn onlookers into stone when you lock eyes with them on the street
I may not need to sell you very hard on numbers 1, 2, 3, and 5, but I know some of y’all are gonna struggle with number 4. That’s why we’re here today to talk, frank as ever, about a woman’s *actual* best friend: no, not diamonds--cellulite.
Here’s yet another uncomfortable reality check in the string of rude awakenings that has become my life as a professional commentator on women’s health: even though it’s estimated (by #real #scientists) that upwards of 90% of women have some amount of cellulite on their bodies, we are bred to detest it when it manifests itself on our thighs, our stomachs, our asses; we are bred to wear swimsuits like orange jumpsuits, punishment for the crime of being woman; bred to feel like parts of us should be erased with just one more squat or one less candy bar; bred to be ashamed of any extra padding, of any extra patterns. Apparently dimples are only cute when they’re on one set of cheeks and not the other?
Well listen up, world:
Sagging is a virtue. Fleshiness is healthy. Jiggling is a gift. And cellulite is in. (Any number of those would make a fine memoir title, BTW).
And though it's true that I’m still struggling to convince myself to believe all of these things, the first step is saying 'em out loud, right?
The thing about being a human in a 21st century woman’s body is that social media and internet connectedness have put us on demand for viewers at all times. Attention is ever present, and criticism lurks close behind. Much of the time, as a result, it feels as though we have no choice but to keep moving toward some manufactured, false idea of perfection. The hypocrisy is that we’re simultaneously taught to hold our breath and stand as still as possible; to stand only where the light is flattering, to show only the parts of our bodies that invite a collective erection (Collection?) from the male gaze, to deny aspects of ourselves, to take up as little space as possible without completely disappearing, so that you might just have to squint to see us. In my time as a sex object, I have learned that the ideal woman is easily swallowed; slippery smooth enough to slide down the gullet--no chewing--here one moment, digested the next. Her ideal body is quiet--nothing to say that might interrupt the feast. Added lumps and ridges are not palatable.
In my life, I am aware of the many ways I have learned to disguise myself well enough on a daily basis to comfortably fit those standards. It’s not until clothes come off that I’m left with (what I’ve been taught is) unsightly femininity--the cellulite stares at me in the mirror in all its chewy, unsavory, inedible rawness. I feel like a liar, like I’m only masquerading as a good sex object; like I almost made the cut, but like I’m spoiled by this secret that is hidden just beneath my skirt.
How will I be consumed now?
Yikes. What if I don’t want this? What if I only want to be consumed on my own terms, and in all my cellulific glory? Or, what if I don’t want to be consumed at all?
In my never-ending war with myself to stop hating the cellulite that lives in the vast and ebbing delta where my thighs and butt converge, I tell myself, “These are the things that make me unique. If I had a tight ass, I would be a different person. Maybe in exchange for a tight ass, I’d have to trade my biting wit and sarcasm, and then where would we be?” but those inner conversations never seem to make me feel any better. Among other things, my cellulite has been a constant source of confusion for me. I don’t have a body or lifestyle that would traditionally invite such a phenomenon, according to common knowledge on the subject; I’m of wholly average weight and BMI, I’m active (ok don’t look at me like that, I’m active *enough*), I’m a healthy eater. The skin sags just seemed to magically appear when I sprouted my lady legs (read: belovedly thick thighs) around the onset of teenagehood, and I’ve never looked back since. ….Except every time I turn around to stare at my butt in a mirror and lament its complex network of stripes and refusal to be smooth like a magazine cover or my more-fit friends.
The self-loathing is exhausting. Cellf-loathing? Self-ulite-loathing? We’ll figure it out.
At THINX, we know the journey to self-acceptance is arduous, and this edition of WHW is not intended to be a cure-all for the deep shame and emotional trauma that are products of living in a woman’s body (it’s not all that bad, but I’m going for drama here). It is, however, a love letter to all the ladies who have ever felt less-than because of their “cottage cheese” thighs; who have been conditioned to strive toward looking plastic instead of human. Don’t let ‘em swallow you whole--demand to be chewed, demand to be difficult, demand to be complicated. Demand to exist as your whole self whenever possible, cellulite and all. Demand control over your own consumption.
****Also, thank GODDESS for Ashley Graham, the queenly plus-size model who is on an insta-crusade to normalize cellulite. Her posts (seen here) legit brought me to tears, ‘cause I’m a softy through and through, from my thighs to my eyes.
...But without further ado, here are the answers to all your burnin’ (chafin’?) cellulite questions, in this handy guide below (the belt):
From Team THINX
WHAT IS CELLULITE?
Though its name makes it sound like a medical condition or a vocab term on the Bio 101 final, cellulite is nothing more than normal fat beneath the skin. The fat appears bumpy because it pushes against connective tissue, causing the skin above it to pucker.
Cellulite isn't harmful. Many people, though, would like to get rid of it because of the way it looks. Just ask these meanies.
WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?
Cellulite, which, again, is composed entirely of *normal* fat cells, is not necessarily a sign of obesity, inactivity, or ill health. Because women characteristically have more subcutaneous--fancy word for under the skin, not to be confused with unda da sea--fat than men, it is reasonable to expect females to have more cellulite. Fattier, softer, and more supple bodies are biologically characteristic of women, as our bods prep for childbirth.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
As addressed above, cellulite is more common among women than men. If other women in your family have cellulite, there's a good chance you will, too. #GotItFromMyMama #AndMyMama’sMama #AndAlsoMaybeMyDad
Other factors that influence how much cellulite you have and how visible it is include:
Lack of physical activity
Total body fat
Thickness and color of your skin
HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE IT?
Roughly 98% of women have cellulite. Photoshop is real, people!
CAN YOU GET RID OF IT?
This remains up in the air. Fun fact: cellulite tends to be less noticeable on darker skin. If you have light skin and plan to be out in a bathing suit or short shorts, applying a self-tanner may make the bumps and dimples on your thighs less noticeable, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Massage and other spa treatments may have a temporary effect on the dimpling appearance of skin, but they do not remove cellulite, and most effects are short-lived. There’s also the possibility of laser treatments, which sounds pretty violent but, again, you do you. The FDA has cleared the use of a device that uses laser energy to treat cellulite. According to the manufacturer, the device can melt fat under the skin, break up the fibrous bands under the skin, and stimulate collagen production. Sounds totally...worth it? *rolls eyes* There are also cellulite creams out there. These creams are said to dissolve fat and smooth the skin, but many cellulite creams contain aminophylline, a prescription drug approved for treating asthma. There is no scientific evidence that these creams are effective against cellulite, and for some people, they can be harmful. Their apparent effect on cellulite may be due to narrowing blood vessels and forcing water from the skin, which could be dangerous for people with circulatory problems. Aminophylline can also cause an allergic reaction in some people.
And finally, there’s the possibility of liposuction. This is a surgical procedure to remove fat deposits from the body. Liposuction, though, removes deep fat, not cellulite, which is just beneath the skin. The American Academy of Dermatology warns that liposuction may actually worsen the appearance of cellulite by creating more depressions in the skin. Super!
There is a wealth of options for attempting to remove cellulite, but nothing is guaranteed to produce results, or is particularly healthy to try. Cellulite is a natural side effect of being fleshy, which is a natural side effect of being a lady, which is a natural side effect of having super powers. So maybe instead of trying to erase it, we should consider embracing it. Who’s in!?
In love and dimples,
xoxo Team THINX
by Emma Glassman-Hughes