Shrek is a discussion of overeating in women, although--I assume--its creators do not know it.
Many if not most women in today’s U.S. society starve ourselves all day, only to consume whatever starchy, fatty products are within easy reach at night. We refuse to allow a single morsel of whatever it is we might truly crave during the daylight hours, when--gasp!--someone might actually see us eating. We prefer in fact not to eat at all, and when we must eat, we eat salad or other varieties of brown-rice-and-leafy-greens alternated with protein shakes. Mean, angry, irritable, and above all else starving, we storm our way into office buildings and stalk the streets looking for a meal sufficient enough to satisfy us. We will never allow ourselves to consume such a meal, but we fool ourselves into believing it is enough to just stare at it. We could spend all day just staring at this meal we will not allow ourselves ever to eat.
Without meaning to, without making a conscious decision to that effect, we wind up striving with every ounce of willpower we have to seem like the “ideal” woman. We starve ourselves, wear high heels that pinch our feet, put on expensive makeup that makes us look like painted dolls rather than people, spray on tanning lotion, buy clothing that embarrasses even us, and generally mold the person that we are into someone of “princess quality.” We attempt to become somebody with no wants or needs other than ‘catching’ the Prince Charming we keep imagining will wake us from the waking sleep we feel we are in.
Imagine our disappointment when we find ourselves attracted to men who are anything but.
These men fart, snort when they laugh, and rarely dress in anything fancier than a t-shirt in jeans. In fact, convincing them to wear a shirt long enough to leave the house to eat is often a battle of nightmarish proportions, perhaps lessened only by the self-consciousness some of them feel. They are jerks, and most of them know it. The ones who don’t are likely to be the biggest jerks of all, the type who give free rein to their jerkdom only on ‘special occasions’ and wake up next to women who claim to have been raped during the period of time the guy was too blacked out to remember. Even the least jerky ones still drink more, do more drugs, have had more sex, stare at other women’s boobs more often, and talk about women other than yourself they would like to fuck way more often than you would like. Ironically, it would seem the only way to cure these men of their jerkdom is to spread said misbehavior out over longer stretches of time.
Meanwhile, to our deep chagrin, when we are around these men we become almost exactly like them. We begin to laugh louder, talk more, and discover new sounds flatulence can make that we have never heard before and would certainly never have imagined could come from our delicate bodies. We devote more of our fantasy life, conversational time, and thoughts to sex. We begin to actually enjoy the company of our bizarre lover’s even more bizarre friends. We watch porn, bad comedies where the word ‘fuck’ is substituted for so many other words that we have lost count, and ‘Rocky’ without complaint. We begin to discover we actually like watching eXtreme sports on television, but we never admit it because that would mean giving up our rights to force our boyfriends to watch ‘Desperate Housewives’ right after. We agree to watch slasher films because they are evidence our dates are working overtime to try to get some physical contact with us, and we don’t want to disappoint them by admitting that we’d jump into their laps anytime we got an invite. Forget roses and candlelight dinners--elevators begin to seem like perfectly practical places to get in quickies. Board room tables start to turn us on. Walking around naked 24/7 starts to seem like the best way to go--indeed, with all the random sex we’re having, it’s really the only way.
We are in love, in a very practical, down-to-earth, grounded, boy-next-door kind of way. We suddenly start to realize we don’t need Prince Charming--what we have here is as close to perfect as we’re gonna get. This love affair makes everything that formerly would have been humiliating seem not just bearable, but downright funny. We’re as happy as we’ve ever been, and looking forward to more in the future. There seems to be nothing capable of bringing us down--except food.
Suddenly, we can’t run on empty and adrenaline anymore. We have someone we are accountable to, someone who will notice when we roll over and fall asleep during sex because starvation has exhausted us and is paying attention when we stop halfway through oral sex because the knees we’ve run a total of 50 miles on already this week are killing us. We can’t spend 48 hours with someone and only eat salad, and we can’t imagine being away from this person for long enough to take the five laxatives that were our previous response to incidents of overeating [only our sick brains call eating a normal-size meal “binging”]. We begin to “slip up.” We stop being able to come up with excuses not to sleep at the guy’s house through the night, and we can’t raid the refrigerator he shares with five other guys seeking sufficient sustenance to carry us through our next very stressful day. Our choices decrease--we must either eat, or lose the relationship.
We don’t know what to do.
Even though our boyfriend is an ‘ogre’--paunchy in several unattractive places, equipped with a hairpiece, not interested in your suggestions he shave his bear-chest, you can’t quite believe he would love the real you. After all, it’s one thing for a man to decide not to exercise and to eat pizza and burritos all day-as long as he’s rich, the world really doesn’t give a crap. The fat dude got Jennifer Aniston’s character in ‘Friends with Money’. We can all name at least one famous woman right off the bat who’s dating some not-terribly-attractive man whose seemingly only redeeming quality is his ability to clothe his round self in Armani suits ‘til the end of time. We could easily see ourselves staying the forced ‘thin’ we have become and remaining with this monster of a guy until the end of time. That’s the least of our worries.
We are actually afraid that deep down every guy wants a fairy-tale princess as much as we all want a Prince Charming. We can only imagine that he has spent as much time imagining what She will look like as we have imagining what He will. Because we know from personal experience the appeal of a fantasy, we can’t quite accept the notion that he might want us as we truly are. Yes, he loves us, we know he loves us, wow-freaking-great. Love, we can accept. Yet with the rate of divorce what it is in this country, will love be enough to keep him faithful to our perfectly ordinary selves? The next time some big-bosomed blonde woman with perfect-10 features, that ghostlike WASP elegance, the kind of waist we haven’t had since we were 15 [if then], and strange eating habits tries to flirt with him, what will he do? Will he mistake her glazed-over gaze and her taut-with-starvation handshake for the air of mystery she tries to pull them off as? Will he be able to resist the offer to grope her Stairmaster-shaped calves, her gym-bunny ass? Yes, he says he prefers our chunkiness and love handles and bouncing breasts to all these things…but can we trust him?
For most of us the answer is no. We have not trusted anyone for so long that we are out of practice. We have watched skinny blonde women with perfect hair steal men out from under the noses of curvier, smarter brunettes who simply have not mastered the ‘art of the pout’ to a competitive degree. We have watched funny women be thrust aside for women without a humorous bone in their stick-thin bodies. We have watched men we know, men we have grown up with, become the kind of man who discusses a woman’s breasts, ass, and face and rates them 1-10. We have watched the bodies that grace the covers of magazines we read shrink smaller and smaller. We have little trust because of the experiences we’ve had.
We have come by our suspicions and our mistrust honestly. We believe what we see.
We are unwilling to let go of the few tools we have to protect ourselves without a fight.
Meanwhile, we don’t know if the men we’ve come to adore for reasons even we cannot claim to know really know what they’ve gotten themselves into. When we’re with them, we find ourselves wanting to eat, big-time. We want to have energy to do all of the many things we’ve been too focused on going to the gym and planning out portion sizes to do. We want to have fun, and we feel ready to take on the world
We have a choice to make. We can either decide to indulge our inner ogress and eat to our hearts‘ content, or we can give up the guy of our dreams and instead become the fairy-tale princess we were always told we should become. We can go off and have adventures, or we can keep our secrets and stay safe. We can do things that involve getting sweaty, dirty, and smelly, or we can continue to devote hours every day to straightening our hair and buying clothes and picking out perfumes to hide the scent of ‘human.’ We can experience the kind of exhaustion that comes from using our muscles, rather than shrinking them…or we could, you know, not and said we did. We can marry our very own ogre or we can continue to hope that some fairy-tale prince finds our princess selves and doesn’t wind up hitting or verbally abusing or cheating on us or gambling away all of our money and then leaving us or raping our children. We can listen to our animal side or continue to repress our feelings. Either way, we take a serious gamble. Either way will inevitably include some brand of heartache, confrontation with despair, difficulty, and grief. Yet when it comes to love, do we want to gamble on its presence or its absence? Do we want to risk it all on the idea that love is the fairy-tale fantasy, or that universal perfection is? Do we want to be the fools who decided even the idea that we could be loved for who we truly are could possibly be true…or the idea that we are so damaged and broken and bad that we don’t deserve to even find out?