The Ugly Truth About Why I HATE This 'Empowering' Lingerie Campaign

lonely lingerie older woman model empowering

When will women ever catch a break!?

I wanted to love Lonely Lingerie's new ad campaign featuring a 57 year-old model, Mercy Brewer, in all her gorgeous glory.

I wanted to love it because I love Lonely Lingerie's general aesthetic.

I like that I can go there and see women who look gorgeous and sexy in their undies, even if they don't look like Heidi Klum. I love that the photos aren't fully airbrushed to look like these grown women have the skin of newborn babies. 

Generally, I'd rather buy lingerie from Lonely, and other companies who support body diversity (like with the campaign featuring Terina, below) because I think it's important to undermine the narrative that there's only ONE way to be hot.

That's why I wanted to be excited about this campaign.

But when I opened it, all I felt was ... deflated.

This model is lovely, for sure. And her face shows that she truly is over 50, not some 35 year-old with touches of grey added to her temples like the actresses in Cialis ads.

But when it comes to her body, she fits every other expectation for Western beauty standards.

Her breasts are fuller, rounder, more pert than mine have been since I was 25. 

Her waist is tiny, her abs are firm, her hips are smooth, her thighs are slender.

And certainly there are 57 year-old women who look just like her. I probably know a few here in Los Angeles. And, in my mind, all bodies are good bodies and none should be hidden from public view simply because they fit or do not fit society's expectations for what is attractive.

But is this diversity?

It doesn't feel like it to me.

It feels like a reminder that "perfection" — by Hollywood standards — is always achievable.

And that's what the diet and fitness industries have been selling us our entire lives. You can be "perfect" if you just stay committed. If you just want it bad enough.

So, how bad do you want it? How bad do I want it?

I wanted it pretty bad my entire damn life. 

I started my first starvation diet in 8th grade.

I first sought help for disordered eating and body image in high school, though I probably should have much earlier. 

But I thought I was normal. I thought diets were normal. I thought feeling hungry was a victory. I thought being thin and sexy was literally everything.

There comes a point in life where we have to give up on that. Or at least try to.

For me, it was when I was about 33. I had two little kids, an amazing husband, fantastic friends, the beginnings of a new career that I loved. 

And I was sick all the time, tired and irritable.

But I was thin. 

Very thin. 

So thin, in fact, that my body was miserable. 

I went to therapy. I told the doctor about how I couldn't figure out how to just eat like a normal human being. I didn't know how to consume calories without counting them. Every. Single. One.

I didn't know how to just work out a little. I knew how to run until I almost collapsed. To do the hardest yoga. Hike so fast you miss the scenery. Then start again the next day.

I had to change everything, and she helped. But mostly it came from me just getting used to my new body, and reminding myself that I wanted to do a different thing.

I wanted something new for myself — self-acceptance.

Nobody celebrated when I gained 25 pounds. Nobody pulled me aside and said "You look great! What's your secret?" like they did when I was thin.

But I was happy and healthy. And my closest friends could tell.

But here's the big secret: I was still sort of ashamed. Because I wanted it to not be a big deal.

Shouldn't I be able to be 35 years old, a woman with a career and a family, and not have my body be such a huge freaking deal every second of my life?

I was ashamed of still wanting to be super skinny. I wanted to be that woman who pulled on her bikini and ran down to the water with her kids and didn't wonder if that little spot of cellulite or the weird texture of her skin on her belly that came from having babies was ugly. I wanted to be the woman who didn't give a shit if people thought she was beautiful.

But 35 years of living in this society, of living my life in this broken brain, has programmed into me the belief that it all mattered.

And I'm ashamed of feeling that shame. 

 

That's how I feel about Lonely's new lingerie campaign.

The issues surrounding this campaign are complicated. And I feel complicated about it. 

I'm excited to see a 57 year-old lingerie model.

I'm happy that these photos are very lightly retouched, if at all.

I'm happy that her hair is grey, as mine will be soon enough.

But I'm not as excited about this boundary-pushing campaign as I thought I would be.

Because when I look at her body, at her "perfect" body, and all I think is, "Goddammit, I have to do this forever."

This will matter forever.

I know that I don't have to do it forever, really, and that holding myself to this standard isn't mandatory. 

But it's a standard that's become even harder to distance myself from now that I'm skinny again. I lost 15 lbs without trying, without even wanting to lose it when my dog passed away after 16 years together. 

After a few months of grief and an inability to eat, I went to the psychiatrist and started on meds for Depression to try to recover. And it worked.

But combined with my ADHD meds, I'm skinny again, and there's not much I can do about it. I try to focus on being healthy and happy, but it's not easy.

There is a lifetime worth of BS inside of me that tells me my body is "better" when it's skinny.

And it feels bad to feel good about it.

Because I want to be another way. I want to be fully separated from this absurd standard of beauty, in a way that I cannot seem to manage. At least not yet. 

But I'm almost 40 years old.

So when?

When will I let it go? 

When will I accept and love my body the way I accept and love the bodies of every other woman on the planet?

 

I guess that's what made me so mad about Lonely's 57 year-old "perfect body" model.

Because I don't want to do this forever.

I don't want to worry about this forever.

I don't want to have, in the back of my mind, the idea that 57 year-olds can (and should) have Heidi Klum's body, too. 

I had hoped to be free by the time I reach that age.

And I know that has to come from within me. 

But right now, looking at this, all I can think is, can I ever catch a break?

Can women ever catch a goddamn break?

 

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