The Changing Room Oracle

I like to think Target changing rooms as akin to the Oracle from The Matrix. I go into one, strip down, and Changing Room Oracle reveals things to me about myself that I don’t know, do know, know to be possibly true in the future, know may never be true and maybe it’s just the shitty fluorescent lighting. In other words, when I use a Target changing room and am suddenly able to view my body from about five different angles simultaneously, I usually walk away from the experience with less clarity in my self-image than when I went in.

I visited Target and its changing rooms about a week ago. I didn’t  have solid cause to do so–I didn’t need new clothes, really. I just felt drawn to the ritualistic practice of trying stuff on in a store as a way to evade facing current problems (example: I’m not going to be able to renew my driver’s license before I turn 27 and then I’m going to be driving around on the edge of committing a misdemeanor if I get pulled over, fuuuuuu) and went with Targets red-doored changing rooms in a quest to remain relatively un-harassed by store attendants, as Target’s tend to be pretty neutral on whether or not you actually buy anything.

Who am I? What's going on? Onion rings?
Who am I? What’s going on? Onion rings?

Inside, I tried on the six garments I brought with me–yoga pants (yes!) some shirts (why did I pick these shirts?) and a irregularly-cut sweater (this is either really edgy or stupid-looking). The shirts and weird, decidedly stupid-looking sweater go first and all are voted down. Then I get to the yoga pants and try them on. They fit well through the butt, the thighs, and then bag and gap like crazy down at my knees. What? What is this crap? How can my KNEES be too small? Why is everything too BIG for me somehow? The stream of frustrated internal grumbling begins and leads to a solid round of self-critique.

What does this have to do with lifting? Well, the Matrix’s Oracle would probably be inclined to answer “something, and nothing.” I believe that you’re in the best place to be the best lifter possible when you are in possession of clear, honest self-knowledge on both a corporeal and psychological level. I know that I am not in possession of this level of self-awareness–yet. I strive for it, by way of striving to understand how I set up obstacles for myself mentally and how I might begin to overcome them.

I admit that one of my self-imposed obstacles is a continued struggle to decide how exactly I feel about being a lightweight powerlifter–specifically, how I feel about being a ligthweight female powerlifter in the 105 lb weight class. I am used to deciding on an action and then going after it with single purpose, and my ability to do so in pursuing a successful 105 career is complicated by the following:

1. History. I struggle to set aside a history–mentioned in this blog many times at this point–of eating disorders in which being small meant I self-identified in a certain way.

2. Personal sense of aesthetics. I absolutely love having muscle on my body on a purely aesthetic level. It is fascinating to me, and if I’ve ever felt positive about anything regarding my body–pretty freaking rare on a scale of “how often something is likely to happen–it has been in relation to the evidence of corporeal adaptation to force that is muscle-building. If I want to stay in the 105 weight class, there is a simply a limit to how much muscle size I am “allowed” to put on. This sucks. I really struggle with this.

3. An awareness of the no-man’s-land small lifters sometimes inhabit in the lifting world. In a subculture that touts such slogans as “lift big eat big” and the perilously-close-to-size-shaming “strong is the new skinny” adage aimed at women, I don’t fit in. I can’t eat big on a regular freaking basis, ok? I need to stay in the 105 class and still attempt to lift big. I AM, in many people’s body spectrum, skinny.

I admit to having a desire to “fit in” in the community I love. Yes, there’s “room for all of us.” But within the scope of that room exist a lot of contradictory ideas and conversations. If strength training is to be an answer to negative ways in which many women think about their bodies, these contradictions need to be addressed, and I guess I’m doing so in my whiney, “woe-is-me-I-feel-persecuted”-sounding blog post today.

I will argue that I don’t feel persecuted, but that as someone who feels like a weird outlier in the world from which she escapes feeling like an outlier in “the real world,” I do notice contradicting attitudes and I’m relatively aware of how they might function negatively for other lifters. I have no solution for what I perceive to be a problem in some of the more feminist embraces and bodies of rhetoric surrounding strength training. My job, as I see it, is to persevere and keep trying to lift better. In my pursuit of knowing myself better as a lifter both physically and how I fit within the lifting community, I have to ignore a lot and write my own damned rules.

On Monday, I turned 27. My goal is to have these rules nailed down by the time I’m 30. Time to amp things up.


^^Nostalgia indulgence ftw, damn do I wish it was still cool to like this movie^^


7 thoughts on “The Changing Room Oracle

  1. I used to think good English, and writing, were all about fancy words and proper form. Through reading your blogs, I have come to realize how much more important the writer’s self inspection, honesty, and accuracy really are meant to be. Yes, I still wish you might have double mastered in Art and English, but because you share the truth with your audience, and give them so much to think and feel about in their own little(big, yes it is) world, I’m so thrilled for you anyway. I often read your blogs believing “this one is the best ‘giving’ to date”, and then you masterfully create the next even more powerful one. This was such a pleasant and thoughtful read! Thanks dear!

  2. reading your blog and your self-image journey, I’m going through something similar but choosing a different path. I began lifting at 125, super skinny from years of cycling competitively. At first I struggled with binging because I tried to keep my weight down as the scale went up, then with the help of my coach and my team I ultimately decided to embrace a gain in mass so I could lift more. It always feels good to put on more plates, that’s why I come to the gym, powerlifting is sport that is essentially about absolute strength and about transformation, not about staying my skinny self. Now I’m around 140, and most surprising to me is that guys are way more attracted to me… I get comments like, “have you gotten leaner?” and a lot of second looks. this is totally shattering my fear of weight, which is good because I am freer to eat to perform and not worry about the scale. I feel good about myself, I think that’s what matters most.

    Have you read, The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner? I’m reading it right now, check it out!!

    1. I love reading recommendations!! That sounds awesome. I will look it up.

      I will take issue with one of your points–powerlifting is about RELATIVE strength–strength relative to size. This is why we have the weight classes. Strongman/strongwoman is closer to a sport in which absolute strength is the goal and even then there are still weight classes. By your logic, I am a lesser lifter than you because I have less weight on my bar and/or am smaller. That is not remotely how things work in powerlifting–if I can lift three times my bodyweight in the deadlift, that is a better deadlift than someone who can only pull twice their bodyweight, no matter if they are larger or smaller than I am.

  3. First thought, your booty looks rocking in that photo.

    Second thought, weight classes are odd things aren’t they. They are fine if you are nowhere near the cut off, but if you are within 10lbs or so the temptation to try and hit that weight so you can compete in a lower class must be overwhelming even if it’s a weight that you would struggle to healthily maintain.
    Would it be better if all lifts were classed by a bodyweight/weight you lift ratio? There would still be temptation to diet down for a meet I suppose. Is there an answer?

    Btw, I HATE Strong is the new skinny. Nothing should be the new skinny apart from health. women come in all shapes and sizes and sometimes you can’t tell if a woman is strong or healthy just by LOOKING at her.

  4. Idk how you found my FB page, but I’m glad you did so that I could find you!

    You look like a shorter version of me in that picture; at least how I perceive myself lol. Except you are WAY stronger.. and I hope when I “grow up” I can be as strong as you! 🙂 Straight powerlifting isn’t my sport, but I am absolutely fascinated by women who lift heavy.

    I love what lifting has done to my body and think a little 3D room would be fun to just sit and reflect.. I often do it with one 1D mirror; in the least vain way possible. I don’t know your background, but prior to lifting, I had ZERO athletic ability. Never did sports, never did anything. I did try Tae Bo once. And Pilates. What the heck. So seeing what my body is capable is awesome.

    Adding you to my reader! 🙂

    1. I have no prior athletic experience either. I rode horses for twelve years–I swear this does not get you in any kind of shape. MAYBE it does something for muscular endurance, otherwise, hell no. So I’m with you 100% there–this change is amazing.

      Glad that we did cross paths on facebook! I don’t know how I find anything on there anymore, I just run across so much. It’s great to have facebook act in a positive way in one’s life. It definitely doesn’t always do so for me.

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