I read an essay by Kate Cohen titled, "I stopped caring about my body image in 2020. I’ll miss that gift." It begins, "Every January, I choose between two New Year’s resolutions: to get thinner or to stop caring about being thin. I know that not caring is the better goal. Still, every year I choose 'thinner.'" Kate, you are hardly alone. This is my perennial resolution, and no more so than this year. After the past year of endless crises, it's time to wrap my head around my superficial desire to be thinner and look younger.

As women, having grown up in a culture that valued our appearance over all else, we've been conditioned to harbor unrealistic physical aspirations, but I more so than many. Few grew up in a household with a women's magazine editor at the helm and coffee tables laden with product. Seventeen magazine was my first love, and later Vogue and Elle. It was impossible to be beautiful enough, sexy enough, sophisticated enough. I didn't realize at the time how ridiculously unrealistic this all was.

Later, when Cosmopolitan arrived every month in my college mailbox, my roommates and I would gather to learn how to be thinner and thereby desirable, and to unlock the secret desires of men so as to be equipped to understand how to make them happy and how to hold onto them. Cosmo articles alternated between illuminating ("How Sexy Are You?"), inspiring ("Get Thin, Stay Thin") deflating ("What It's Like to Be a Beautiful, Bouncy NFL Cheerleader") confusing ("Sex Surrogates: How Does it Feel for Them and Their Partners?") and just plain disturbing ("When Three's Not a Crowd").

You can never be too rich or too thin. I've heard this all my life but learned only recently it's attributed to Wallis Simpson. Having finally gained access to streaming (deep South Conway doesn't lend itself to technological accessibility) I'm feverishly trying to catch up on "The Crown."

I'd always held in highest regard the Duke and Duchess of Windsor because of his/their epic sacrifice in the name of true love. Well, that bubble was burst in Season Two. Their attraction to fascism and their consorting with high-ranking Nazi officials has left me with an aversion toward my romantic icons.

Rich and thin. While I would very much like to be more of both, thin seems to be the more realistic goal. Hence Jan. 1, 2021 — a day of hope, promise and resolve as a light at the end of a very long tunnel was for a moment visible. On Jan. 2, the light became obscured and we realized 2020 hadn't completed its death rattle. During an eventful week, COVID-19 fatalities in the United States became the highest in the world followed by the horrific attempt to destroy our democracy.

But back to me. I'm not sure I agree with Kate that this has been a "gift."  I'm a mess. Not only am I toting excess pounds, but clean laundry doesn't even get put away because I just put it on. I'm rotating the same three outfits. I'd never gone a day in my life that my underwear and socks didn't color-coordinate with my ensemble. Now I'm running to the supermarket or post office — going out in public, mind you — wearing my husband's shirts and jackets. Ill-fitting is an understatement.

I've been deluding myself that I'm incognito in my mask, but I seem always to be identified. I'm unrecognizable only to myself in my unmatched undergarments, a far cry from the obsessive perfectionist I once was. After months of isolation, I find myself just this side of bag lady. I do still have all my teeth, but truly they only enable chewing and I need to stop doing so much of that. If this all isn't a cry for help, I don't know what is!

I understand the plastic surgery industry is booming. Isn't this ... dangerous right now? Or is it worth the risk? There's definitely opportunity to recuperate with no one being the wiser. I'd posit that anyone emerging from this pandemic looking good is suspect.

In closing, I do have one weight-loss success story. I did once lose 150 pounds, but then again he was not a large man. This was, however, permanent, and how many can make such a claim of victory?

Jonna Carter lives in South Conway with her husband and five crazy rescue dogs.

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