Getting It: Dangerous Curves

by Rachel on September 20, 2010

We all know that looking great means dressing for your body. And if you’re confused about how to dress your body, the women’s magazines are here to help!

I have a stack of new magazines piled almost as tall as the lamp on my bedside table, and each issue offers me advice.

OK. We get it.

And in nearly every issue, the body types are the same.

I’m so OVER IT.

There are just so many things wrong with these articles and body descriptions. First, they include a few people and leave out so many others. What if you are petite and pear-shaped? What if you’re tall with an hourglass figure?

You obviously cannot dress these bodies. Go to work naked, friends.

And then there are the words themselves.

boyish (adj.): naturally skinny women of whom we are jealous. We cannot handle the fact their DNA shaved a few inches off their hips, so we just de-womanize them.

“Boyish” women are always instructed to add ruffles to give the appearance of curves. I guess you better add ruffles…and lots of pink…to give the appearance of a vag! Otherwise, people might think you’re a dude. Because, you know, curves are what make a woman, well, a woman.

curvy (adj.): 1. the politically correct way to say “fat.” 2. referring to a celebrity, it means, “less anorexic-looking than Nicole Richie back in the day.”

Both these words will frequently appear in the hundreds of “What men really think of your naked bod!” articles.

“I don’t want a boyish chick! I want a curvy girl with some meat on her bones.”

“Boyish” is just rude. And “curvy” makes me crazy.

That word gets tossed around to describe so many women. Celebrities are rather fond of calling themselves curvy. Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Simpson, Jessica Biel, Beyonce, Eva Mendes, America Ferrera, Christina Hendricks, January Jones, and Jennifer Lopez have all been called — or called themselves — curvy.

So you’re reading the cover story, reading about these “real women” who call themselves curvy simply because they don’t embody heroin chic and yeah, there will probably always be someone thinner out there  — but they are all still incredibly thin, fit women. When their waists go in, they go in to flat, perfect abs. Where they bulge out, they bulge out with huge, perfect boobs, and hips not more than 30 inches. Yes, they have curves…packed onto teeny, fat-less frames.

But then you flip a few pages, and you’ve got “curvy” meaning “plus-sized.” Many of these curvy bodies are actually overweight. So you’ve a towering glamazon of beauty who is likely underweight for her height on the cover claiming to be “normal” and “curvy” and then you’ve got the random makeover subjects being called “curvy” — and there’s a huge difference between the bodies.

A “curvy” celeb might be 5’7 and 118 pounds, while a “curvy” normal woman might be 5’2 and 218.

And technically, aren’t our boyish and pear-shaped friends curvy too? If you have boobs — even small ones — or junk in your trunk — but less up top — aren’t you curvy as well?

Maybe “curvy” is just a word that lets every woman like her body.

I like my body but I don’t use the word curvy, simply because I think it’s played out and meaningless.

I prefer “ripe” or “juicy” to describe my body.

So I’m wondering, whether for fashion’s sake or for your own sake, what adjectives do you use to describe your body? Do you use the classic but annoying fashion magazine terms? Or do you go against the grain and describe it another way completely?

I’d love to hear what you all think about this!

{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Eunice September 20, 2010 at 8:28 am

I’ve never identified with those body type descriptions in magazines! I’m 5’2″ (ok 5’1″), but the “petite” category also implies that you’re very thin. That I am not. Boyish and curvy don’t fit either. I have boobs! But I don’t have hips! (or a butt, sadly).

I would describe my body as the perfect mix of soft and strong. Kinda like Bounty.

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2 Rachel September 20, 2010 at 8:31 am

“Kinda like Bounty” — literal LOL.

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3 PoP September 20, 2010 at 8:36 am

I found your blog only yesterday but your writing makes me actually LOL which will keep me coming back I’m sure :)

I like to describe my body as boobalicious when I’m feeling hot and squishy when I’m feeling ‘fat’ which has somehow become an emotion for alot of us.

Keep doing what your doing juicy lady. I will be reading :)

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4 Rachel September 20, 2010 at 8:39 am

Thank you!! Making people actually LOL is my favorite thing ever.

And I love “squishy” haha.

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5 Shannon September 20, 2010 at 8:41 am

Hey, just like the person above, I just found you’re blog and you’re cracking me up. I love it. I love how honest you are. Anddd I love the layout of this site. Fonts, colors, theme, lovesss it.

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6 Rachel September 20, 2010 at 8:46 am

Thank you so much — that means a lot to me because I put a lot of effort into the design, so it’s really nice to hear that you like it!!

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7 Suzanne September 20, 2010 at 8:44 am

I was just thinking about this the other day when I was reading Glamour (or was it Cosmo… or Marie Claire?)- how annoying is it to have try to squeeze yourself into a category? I am already squeezing myself into size too small jeans (because they always stretch out!).
I don’t even have adjectives to describe my body (5’4″, big boobs, no hips) besides… Jewish? Haha, but seriously… I’m so interested to see what other commenters have to say- maybe I’ll get some ideas and be able to describe my bod as something other than a religious affiliation.

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8 Rachel September 20, 2010 at 8:46 am

hahaha “Jewish”….yes, I think we might need a new word for you.

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9 Jennifer September 20, 2010 at 8:45 am

I hate the word “curvy,” too! It’s awful and it’s just a word that they use in those magazines to try to make you feel better about not being a size 2. It’s okay, I feel fine not being a size 2, I don’t need to call myself “curvy.”

Honestly, I think my body is beautiful, feminine, and strong. It has taken me a while to feel that way, because the media has really encouraged us to hate ourselves, our looks, and our bodies, so that we buy into whatever will make us “beautiful.” I shouldn’t have to justify having a butt by saying “oh, I’m curvy” when I go to the store looking for jeans… No, I’m a woman, I have a butt, help me find some jeans. Sorry I’m not sorry

Best to you!

Jen

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10 Katie @ Health for the Whole Self September 20, 2010 at 8:46 am

I completely agree with you that the words most magazines use are pretty much devoid of meaning. Just another attempt to fit our bodies into socially acceptable, clear-cut little boxes.

I love the idea of replacing the over-used classics with new descriptors. How about sumptuous? Luscious, perhaps? I’d prefer to use those words for my body rather than curvy or boyish or whatever. :)

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11 Gracie September 20, 2010 at 8:56 am

YES!!! I thought I was the only one who cannot stand the word “curvy.” And you totally hit the nail on the head with your description of “boyish” – I literally laughed out loud at that one.

I’m all about learning how to dress one’s shape, but it’s such an individual thing. Even when I’m my most-toned self, strapless tops just don’t look good on me. It has nothing to do with my curvy/boyish/pear-shaped figure, it’s just…me. MY body. I think mags should start suggesting ways of figuring out what works best for your *own* body rather than clumping us into 4-5 different categories. That’d make a great blog post, in fact.

As far as the term curvy, I also think you were dead on in saying: “Maybe ‘curvy’ is just a word that lets every woman like her body.” I guess that could be considered a good thing, but it still annoys the crap of out me.

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12 betsy September 20, 2010 at 9:24 am

I’m not curvy, I’m thick!

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13 Bess September 20, 2010 at 9:43 am

I think it goes without saying that you know how I feel about those (obnoxiously lame) body type classifications.

I never even think about categorizing my body and that’s fine with me…why try to condense “long legs, no torso, no hips, gains weight in tummy” in one phrase?

I like to think of my body type as uniquely me :)

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14 Libby September 20, 2010 at 9:50 am

I had an ex who used “zaftig” to describe me — it’s from the Yiddish word for succulent or juicy. I’m about a million times too WASPy to pull it off, but I really liked that one. Succulent is a glorious way to describe someone’s figure.

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15 Lindsay September 20, 2010 at 10:04 am

I’m what they’d called “boyish,” I guess, but I don’t use that phrase. The thing about the word “curvy” is that almost all women are curvy because they have boobs, and their hips are wider than their waists. And a lot of people they use that word for are no “curvier” than anyone else, they just are not stick-thin. I think it’s a silly-sounding word, too.

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16 Anna September 20, 2010 at 10:07 am

I love this post! You really nailed with words how my attitude has felt towards the magazines, especially recently with all the “jeans” and “fall fashion” issues. I appreciate that they try to recognize that all women are different, but I am so sick of the generic un-changing labels. (My least favorite is when they use produce categories, like apple or pear or banana. What???!) I am “boyish” in terms of straight waist but I definitely have the curves going on back there. But I am not going to label myself, I’m just going to appreciate that I have a body that will be able to push out a baby someday (helloooo hips) and until then, be able to run, hike, bike, and whatever else I try to do with it ;)

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17 Stephanie @ The Cookie Battle September 20, 2010 at 11:00 am

How many real people actually fit into those ridiculous “categories”?? I mean, I myself can identify with almost every one (except tall, because I’m only 5’2) but I am short with a long waist and big boobs. How do you categorize that? You can’t is the point. Every woman has a different shape.

The words “curvy” and “boyish” make me crazy because they both have negative conotations. Why does your body shape have to make you feel inadequate? It shouldn’t. Down with labels!

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18 Emily September 20, 2010 at 11:06 am

I HATE “CURVY” in magazines! Just because I have T&A does not mean I am overweight!!! In terms of other ways to describe curvy, I use hourglass, people know what I mean. I once had a boyfriend refer to me as “voluptuous”, I another guy told me I had “child-bearing hips”( never saw him again).

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19 tish September 20, 2010 at 11:39 am

it depends on my mood that day and whether or not aunt flow has come to visit. today i’ll go with “tower of blah” (aunt flow would be in town)…on a good day lanky-licious…hell, on a good day i’m everything licious.

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20 Rachel September 20, 2010 at 11:41 am

“everything licious” — love it!!

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21 Elise September 20, 2010 at 11:41 am

I hate those terms as well! When I was a teenager and in early college, I was consider “boyish” because I was skinny, had no ass and tits, and was really athletic. Now, I’ve got tits for days (but no ass for weeks) but I still have no defined waistline. Some magazines call me an apple, which is also dumb because although yes, my weight is more in the top than the bottom half, I’m really lacking the lumps and bumps of an apple.

The adjectives for me are firm, strong, and sexual. Ha. That sounds ridiculous, but I’m a part of the “like attracts like” thought. If I see my body and think that I would get with that, then I like to think that others will as well.

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22 Summer September 20, 2010 at 11:44 am

I tried to comment earlier and there was just ONE comment…and the site would not load! Just shows you how this topic resonates with the ladies.

I totally agree about the word distortion. Don’t tell me that Scarlett Johansson is “curvy” and then tell me that Nikki Blonsky (from Hairspray) is also “curvy.” It’s not the same.

Another dislike is when magazines says things like, “If you’ve got wide hips, flatter them with a swishy skirt and show off your fantastic legs!” Oh, really? And just how do you know I have fantastic legs?

I was running once, and I heard someone hoot at me and then say, “damn, she’s healthy.” I also had a woman stop me to say I’d be an excellent mom…because I’ve got hips made for childbearing. Most of the time I just feel lumpy. I wish more magazines would focus on what sort of Spanx I should wear to look great under the perfect dress for my figure.

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23 Sara September 20, 2010 at 12:06 pm

Love this!! I snorted out loud when I read that boyish girls should add ruffles and pink to prove they have vajayjays! Lol. I’m sick of celebs calling themselves curvy to prove that theyre not “fat” comparatively. It is booshi.

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24 Angela @ A Healthy Fit September 20, 2010 at 12:12 pm

UGH!! I am SO over this and all of these rail thin models showing us curvy or not curvy. I actually wrote about this today. The Gap triggered my madness!!!

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25 Aj September 20, 2010 at 12:13 pm

YES! None of those categories apply to me. I’m tall (5′ 8″ – or taller depending on my posture) and I like to wear heels to make myself taller (which leads to really funny pictures of me slow dancing with R…she’s 6 inches shorter than I am without heels!). I also have butt, hips, tummy, and boobs. I have never figured out what category I should lump myself into according to women’s magazines. And then I realized “this body wasn’t made to lump! This body broke the mold!”

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26 Jess September 20, 2010 at 6:07 pm

I love it – “this body wasn’t made to lump! This body broke the mold!” Gotta remember that!

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27 Chanelle September 20, 2010 at 12:24 pm

Ok Rachel… at this point I’m having the hardest time verbalizing how freaking AMAZING you are… It’s a little overwhelming so I’m going to get on to the next topic and answer your question now ;-)

Now, this may be a non-answer to the question, but in the past few years of medical drama, brain surgeries, disease and utter hell and the recent few months of health, freedom, peace and happiness, i have kind of stopped referring to my body in a physical way. I think of it more as “perfect” nowadays because it has endured so SO much and has carried my through an incredible journey.

Sure, it’s certainly not what it used to be after dealing with Cushing’s disease and I have plenty of stretch marks and scars to show for the disease and the subsequent surgeries but my body literally TALKS to me and tells me when something is wrong with it. My body ignores what doctors think is wrong and lets me know that my instincts.

Because I have such a wonderful body that doesn’t give up no mater what’s thrown at it, it’s physical appearance literally means less and less to me each day. Of course I like to look good and exercise to stay in shape, but I am so much more CONNECTED with this body that has gone through more things in 20 years than some other bodies have been through in a lifetime.

So my body is perfect because it lets me know when something’s up and it’s mine and the person inside this body has an amazing story to tell.

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28 I'm too embarrassed to write my name due to the last part September 20, 2010 at 1:05 pm

I describe myself as having the body of a WOMAN who is proud of her curves. I usually state that with confidence, though some days, I begrudgingly change my phrasing to hone in on (what feels like) my “round, child bearing hips.” Nothing holy about that.

Other favorite (this came from an ex but I use it today) is “nectarine.” Nothin’ like riding a man with your cleavage spilling over and being likened to a nectarine.

(Was that TMI?)

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29 Kendra September 20, 2010 at 1:24 pm

I guess “lumpy” isn’t what you’re looking for here.

My body is just on this side of impossible to properly classify. Super short legs, really long torso, big hips and butt, not much for boobs but I do get wider in that area. I have the saving grace of a much smaller waist so at least I have something proper to accentuate.

I guess you could call me a really lopsided hourglass.

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30 elaine! September 20, 2010 at 2:08 pm

I don’t go by magazine body type terms because none of them match me. If the subject comes up, I usually tell my friends that I got awesome genes from my mom that let me invisibly gain 20 lbs. ;) When I go shopping for clothes, I usually follow the advice that Stacy and Clinton from What Not To Wear give women with tummies and a chest — empire waist, structured garments, shoulder straps that aren’t too thin, A-line skirts, straight-leg jeans. If you think about it, those guidelines will probably look great on 90% of women!

Also, have you seen the new Babybell cheese commercials? The spokesperson is trying to pawn off those mini mozarella wheels to women in a mall, and one of the women just bought a little black dress. She takes the cheese and runs off. And the spokesperson calls after her, “Do you think they have that dress in my size? Size AWESOME?”

I like that. So if somebody wants to know what my body type is… I’ll just tell them, it’s AWESOME. :)

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31 elaine! September 20, 2010 at 2:16 pm

Also, I tend not to take lifestyle magazine product recommendations seriously. A lot of the editorial in lifestyle magazines is planned around ad placement.

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32 Rachel September 20, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Agree!! I used to work at a magazine and I saw that firsthand. It’s a little ridiculous!!

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33 Jessica September 20, 2010 at 3:27 pm

I’ve never really thought about it, but you’re so right. I usually only relate to the articles if there’s an “athletic” body type… and then I feel bad about myself because I think I must be manly. Sometimes I can embrace the labels that describe me and feel proud of who I am, but I’m not seeing much sense in it when it comes to body shapes.

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34 Holly @ Self-love and Running September 20, 2010 at 6:01 pm

According to magazines I would probably classify as petite and boyish. Boy howdy, do I just love being called boyish. Makes me feel like playing in dirt. Wait, I might be pear-shaped too… This is confusing.

If I am describing my body myself I would say I am athletic. I’m fairly thin but I’m not a rail. I have trouble finding pants that fit because my legs are very muscular. I can wear low cut tops without being too revealing because my chest is *ahem* petite. And I can kick some ass.

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35 Rachel September 20, 2010 at 6:03 pm

Ha — love that last line!!

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36 Jess September 20, 2010 at 6:05 pm

I’m tall and overweight. At first, I started to reject the magazine categories because I was angry that they didn’t apply to me. I’ve finally started to be in a place where it is a more conscious rejection – why should they apply to me? F them, they are wrong in the first place, etc. . Much more empowering!
How I describe my body depends on the day, on the the week, how well I’m taking care of myself. Totally ranges from “lumpy” to “powerful” to “me”.
Thanks for the funny, but still totally critical read on this topic.

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37 Jess-The Semi Abnormal Gal September 20, 2010 at 7:39 pm

Not only am I tired of being “pear shaped” I’m even more sick of being told that if I just put an A-line skirt on it will “hide my hips”….um, I love my hips, thanks, and I think my ass is well, my best ass-it, if you will. Oh and since I’m a shortie too, please don’t suggest that I need dark wash wide legged jeans. Screw you, Cosmo….I rock my skinnies!

I’m a perfect 10, who is sometimes a perfect 12, too!

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38 Caitlin September 20, 2010 at 8:05 pm

I don’t think I use the term “curvy” often, rather, “I have big hips” works just fine for me. I’m not ashamed of my build and I know I can’t change my bones so I don’t feel any need to classify or paint some picture that I am a fruit, a vixen or “an average woman.” I’m pretty sure my finger print is unique – so is the rest of me!

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39 Madelyn September 20, 2010 at 10:36 pm

I love this! My sister and I were just talking about this the other day. Curvy is so ambiguous, and they do always say that about the ruffles. They also love to tell me how to downplay my ass. Just because I have an ass does not mean I am trying to minimize it!

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40 Summer September 21, 2010 at 12:53 pm

THANK you.

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41 Cynthia (It All Changes) September 20, 2010 at 11:45 pm

Finally someone who gets it! I’m not curvy…I have curves but so do men with buts and pecs. I like words like lucious and sensational. I have a large bust and an hour glass figure. Those stupid charts never work. The only thing that works is a dressing room with lots of options and an honest friend. Thanks but no thanks magazines.

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42 Di September 21, 2010 at 7:07 am

I hate the size descriptions in magazines. I hate that everything has to have a label. Why can’t my body just be my body?

I’m 5’3. I have hips. I have boobs. I have a tummy. I’m trying to lose 10lbs cause I know I can — I’ve done it before. I’m pretty sure that magazines would call me plus-sized, which I believe to be utter bullshit. I’m just me! :)

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43 Maya September 21, 2010 at 7:32 am

So true. There are so many body types out there. For years I would look at those silly little magazines and think, “well…I’m tall, so tall+thin? I don’t have much hips or boobs, so boyish? But I do have a butt and thighs…so, curvy?” Woman’s bodies cannot be categorized so simply!

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44 Jennifer September 21, 2010 at 12:39 pm

I agree! Curvy is totally overused. When I write about fashion, I try to be honest and say plus-size because that’s what I am. I’d say I have an hourglass figure…only the plus-size version of hourglass. It’s so hard to fit into those categories that woman’s magazines love because we’re not one-size-fits-all! I’m fairly tall (5’7″) but plus-size (230 lbs.) but I still don’t think I look good in all the outfits they recommend for “curvy” girls.

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45 Anne @ Your Kind of Salad September 21, 2010 at 12:41 pm

I LOVED this post! I’m 5/2; have boobs, hips and thighs; this girl is not petite. My descriptor? A small thing in a good package.

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46 Nikki September 21, 2010 at 3:22 pm

More often than not when I’m shopping I find myself saying, “I’m shaped like a WOMAN. Why don’t these people make clothes for WOMAN shaped people?” I think what I mean by this is I have big boobs, wide-ish hips and a butt (even for a white girl), but go in at the waist. Hourglass is a term that’s overused but not as annoying to me as ‘curvy’ that I’d use to describe my body.

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47 Annabel @ www.FeedMeImCranky.com September 23, 2010 at 11:02 pm

Literal LOL. Because I’m a lit nerd, I like to think of my body like Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice did — as capable. She walked everywhere (and on marshy land & in bad weather) and was protofeminist, if you ask me. So, I think we should use the word “Bennet” to describe strong women with capable bodies.

You’re so Bennet.

<3

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48 Liz May 11, 2011 at 7:58 am

Loved this article. I had to add my husband’s term for my body type: hottie-boom-body. Other people call me thin….probably in that boyish figure category, but one with a real waist, which is great since I have no boobs!

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49 beckymOnster November 24, 2011 at 11:09 pm

I just stumbled upon your blog (and this post) today and I love it! One of my biggest pet peeves are the way magazines and media love to label womens’ bodies, and the phrase I hate the most is “Real Women Have Curves” because I feel like it’s designed to make certain women feel better and other women feel bad about themselves. It’s like the war against skinny girls or something, and it’s not fair, because EVERY woman is a REAL woman.

I dont know how to describe my body shape in a creative way, so I’m just gonna be blunt: I’m 5’5 with small boobs and a big booty! I’m not in love with my body, but it’s the only one I’ve got so I’m going to take good care of it.

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