Dumplin, 3 Diamonds, the Box-Gap, Sports Illustrated and Me: Body Image and the games it plays

Back in high school, yes back when Jimmy Carter was president and interest rates were double-digits, I thought I was fat. There were a few reasons for this.

  1. My Dad teased me.
  2. I wore a size 8 or 10
  3. It was terrible finding jeans that fit.
  4. I was a snoop.

When I look at myself in high school pictures I’m amazed that I thought this, but I’m also glad I didn’t develop and eating disorder because of it. It could have gone that way. When I was a that age teenagers were “moody.” Depression wasn’t a kid thing then. Had it been, I could have felt better about it all. My Mom tried and, in spite of his teasing–which was never intended to hurt–so did my Dad. I’ve learned since then that trying on jeans is a life-long hell. Even when they claim to be the right size–well, they aren’t. That’s that. But then it sent me spiraling for days.

It’s #4 on that list that did me in though. Possibly it was totally the reason for my depression, poor self-image and self-loathing. For the snark and negativity. You see, it made me feel ‘what’s the use? I’ll never be that.’ The snooping that caused this: My Dad’s Esquire magazine (at least in my memory it is–it could have been a girly-mag in my brother’s closet. Neither are exactly written for insecure young teen girls. But then, neither is Seventeen.)

1975 Esq

In an article I read that the perfect woman (I know, I know!! “Perfect” doesn’t exist) had “3 Diamonds” between her legs–near ankles, knees and crotch. Guess what? I didn’t. None. Nada, zip, null, zero.  Perfect women also didn’t have stretch marks–I had grown and “matured” that quickly between 5th and 6th grade that I looked like I’d carried and nursed twins. 3 Diamonds. I practiced trying to stand so there was some light source shining thru my legs. I do have very nice LOWER legs.

But even at my thinnest–even in the pants that miraculously said size 6 that I could wear on my 40th birthday–I never, ever, had any light. Even in size 6 pants my thighs were my enemy. Today’s the 3 Diamonds have been roughed up and slut-if-ied into “the box gap ” (thigh-gap).  If you see nearly skeletal young women, I guarantee they have it. Here’s the thing: they can’t help it any more than I can. It’s body structure, pure and simple.

Thankfully, back in my day, no one had come up with the acronym FUPA (Fat Upper P—- Area). It means that cushion of fat (comfort I would wrongly think) on a woman’s , well, let’s say private “area.” Apparently today  men find it very, very off-putting for a woman to have this. Bones crashing against bones are considered “hot” and not “painful” today. Well, thank heaven no one had identified this feature as a problem area or I likely would have slid into bulimia.


Julie Murphy’s new novel, Dumplin’ is about a girl of a certain size–let’s call her a 16. A size that will never make the cheerleading squad even if she tried  (and, like me, she wouldn’t have tried). Did I mention this poor girl is caught between a recently deceased beloved aunt so obese at 500+lbs that she never left the house and a beauty queen mother? Double-whammy. But something happens to Willowdean, aka ‘Dumplin’ (her mother’s nickname for her). A boy happens. Actually two, but one matters–Bo.

Bo is everything that Dumplin‘ girls don’t get. And poor WillowDean, well, she can’t enjoy it. I totally understood this. This was me every time a boy asked me out–and yes, I did get asked out! You see, it was only me who thought I was fat and unattractive. The whole “I am not worthy” thing is why I pushed away every decent guy I ever met and married (and divorced) the worst.

This book sang out to me loud and clear. No matter that high school was so long ago that I recognized people at my band reunion based on how much they looked like their parents in the 1970s. This book nails it. With a sledge hammer. There’s much more to the story but I won’t ruin it for you. Read it. Read it if you have a negative body image (well, I assume that’ about 98 % of women–including most of those with the hallowed 3 Diamonds). Read it if you have a teenage daughter–but don’t force it on her. She could and likely would take it wrong–like you thought she had body image problems (she does, but this won’t help). Leave it on the coffee table. Let HER find it and shut up. She needs it like you do.

When Sports Illustrated tries to rectify this situation by putting a “curvy” size 16 on the cover of their fabled swimsuit issue, I take notice. But what did I notice?

  1. si-ashley-graham-600x800 I noticed that she had to speak up and say her image wasn’t re-touched. I notice that her bathing suit was bigger (no pun intended) in terms of coverage than that of a skinny model. I notice that she was posed in a way that hid her thighs and gave no indication of her height. So SI? We aren’t fooled. If you really thought her beautiful, why not show her like she really is? Oh, we’d not see light in that so-sexy “box”? Or would there be comfort in the Private-Zone’s upper layer?
  2. Even when shown standing, she is posed to minimize thighs, distract from hips and she has far more fabric coverage than a size 0 model would ever be shown wearing in this sort of layout.


The double standard is still there! SI tells us they want more women to love this issue, to love themselves as they are. But the whole thing is posed for men and men alone. Men who somehow think that 3 Diamonds isn’t as unchangeable as the size of their you-know-what. Men who think “heroin addicted waif” is a look that can be pulled off at any age. Men who think a size 6 is “large.” Thankfully, there are men who like their women the way they are and who are pleased to get a boudoir photo from their wife or lady regardless of the size tag in that corset or bra. Thankfully there are men who see things like the SI swimsuit issue for what it is–selling a fantasy.

This week, and last, I’m writing about fantasy–about those fictional characters, actors, film characters who really “send” me.  Today, with Dumplin and the SI issue, I’m showing the other side of the fantasy–the side that can crush, damage, humiliate. All around us women (and, yes, men too) suffer from living in a world in which porn is now called “romance” and in which seemingly everything is sexualized. It’s ubiquitous. We don’t even feel outraged any more. Sexual images are the norm today. And its hurting even very young children today. Let’s try not to see those images. Let’s not buy those goods that exploit sex to sell. Let’s see the size 16 girl as the beautiful creation she is. Let’s see the man who is ashamed to wear a Speedo as manly simply because he is. Lets stop this madness of defining what a man or woman “must” look like to be “sexy.” Lets focus on finding that one who sees us that way regardless of a tag in our underpants and let’s stay committed to him or her and be sexy only for each other.

2 thoughts on “Dumplin, 3 Diamonds, the Box-Gap, Sports Illustrated and Me: Body Image and the games it plays

Add yours

  1. This may be one of my fave posts of yours ever! I can relate to so much of it. I had similar feelings when I was a teen (although I never was asked out!). I remember mentally realizing (with shame) that I was “moody.” I’ll have to look for this book. I did a lot of eye rolling at the SI model too. To me, one of the big things is that she is a perfectly-proportioned size 16. She is basically a Barbie doll, just larger. I bet they’ll never feature a model with thunder thighs, a muffin top, etc.


I enjoy reading your comments!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: