The Whale and My Current BMI

The 2023 Academy Awards ceremony was one of my all time favorites. I sobbed during the moving acceptance speeches, was mesmerized by the spectacular musical performances, and felt transported to Inishirin every time the camera panned to dreamy Colin Farrell. Even better, my demographic (women of a certain age) dominated in their categories.

Better than last year

A year ago, Will Smith’s antics at the Oscars compelled me to write an essay: “King Richard or Royal Dick?” This year, as Brendan Fraser accepted his Best Actor trophy for The Whale, my dear friend Liz made a comment that inspired me to write again.

“I don’t like it when actors wear fat suits in movies,” Liz said.

Are fat suits the last acceptable form of appropriation?

I’d never given it much thought before, but I agreed with her. I don’t like that either. Why not hire a plus-size actor? Are fat suits another form of cultural appropriation? Only in this case we celebrate the perpetrators rather than censure them? Unlike Brendan during his acceptance speech, I won’t go too far down the rabbit hole. (Could he have made any more whale and sea analogies? I think not, but I digress.)

Social media doesn’t help…looking at you, Facebook

Instead, I’ll use this essay as a vehicle to vent about another pet peeve. Admittedly, I spend way too much time on Facebook. But lately, I’ve been seeing an excessive number of posts from people shilling “wellness.” They inevitably include “before and after” photos accompanied by inspirational word vomit. It seems wellness comes in the form of a mysterious pill or powder that miraculously takes years off one’s appearance and inches off the waistline.

Peddlers of these tinctures (aka “wellness coaches”) really, really want to share their secrets with you. Just send them a PM and you will be opted into a pricey subscription that, when you realize it’s all a scam, will suck countless hours from your life as you try to claw your way out of it. The fountain of youth and thinness has finally arrived; you just need a wellness coach (and a credit card) to help you find it.

“I’ll leave you if you get fat.”

What does all of this have to do with divorce? For me, a lot. When I was expecting my first child, my ex told me matter-of-factly that if I got “fat” at any point in our marriage, he would leave me. His crush at the time was Calista Flockhart who was at the height of her Ally McBeal fame and the depths of an eating disorder (kudos to Calista for her honesty).

So I smoked and starved for years to maintain the bag-of-bones look that he found so appealing. I was skinny, but still insecure and often implored, “If you are going to leave me, please do it while I’m still young. Don’t wait until I’m past my prime.”

Spoiler alert: He did wait until I was well into my dreaded 40s. Shocking move for such a charming guy, I know.

Middle age women won–and win

Who run the world? Women, actually.

Anyway, that brings me back to my favorite part of the Oscars. It was seeing the glittery, gray-haired, and gorgeous women like Jamie Lee Curtis and Andie McDowell on stage and in the spotlight. When my new role model, Academy Award winning actress Michelle Yeoh, said, ‘Ladies, don’t let anybody tell you that you are ever past your prime’ I had an epiphany: my ex didn’t leave me when I was past my prime – he thankfully made his exit before I was even close.

BMI needs a rebrand

Today, for me, BMI stands for Body Mass Indifference. I’m healthy, generally happy, and have plenty of energy to do the things I want to do. My “before and after” pictures are the opposite of those I’m seeing on Facebook these days. In the married “before” photos, you may see the wellness ideal: a thin, active youthful mom and wife; but I see an emotionally drained bobblehead who wants a cookie.

In the post-divorce “after” pictures, the beaming, fuller face you see belongs to a woman who is in her prime, conquering the white whale of someone else’s expectations and clearly able to stand her ground in a strong wind.

Congrats to all the Oscar winners – and congrats to all of us who got out of bad relationships, both with our exes and our bodies. We are the champions.