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Leslie Goldman

Leslie Goldman

Posted May 5, 2009 | 02:15 PM (EST)

How Bea Arthur Helped my Body Image


Golden Girls star Bea Arthur recently passed away, and the news, delivered over a champagne-and-sticky bun Sunday brunch, saddened me. Not because I was a card-carrying member of the Golden Girls Fan Club (though I do have a discreet "Blanche Devereaux Rocks" tattoo on my lower back), but because I've long felt a strange bond with Bea. Let me explain.

As a tall girl growing up, I often felt much...bigger. Bigger than the other girls, bigger than the boys, too big for tapered Guess jeans or cheerleading uniforms. And for some bizarre, warped reason, I always identified with Bea. I thought I looked like her. She was tall and slightly manly looking and when I watched her sipping coffee in her Florida kitchen, chastising Rose (who I now realize I am so like, it's scary) for making some inane St. Olaf remark, I thought, "That's what I look like. I'm going to wear shoulder pads and floor length caftans and look like Bea Arthur when I grow up." I am not fabricating this -- ask my mom or my husband. Of course, I could have looked to any number of tall actresses or models. Cindy Crawford, maybe? But my sweet little lost mind chose Bea.

I'm not alone in my Tall=Big Girl Syndrome. Recently, I read an interview with my Girl Crush, Blake Lively, in Allure, and was shocked (but strangely relieved) when she admitted, "I feel like a tranny a lot of the time. I don't know, I'm...large? They put me in six-inch heels, and I tower over every man. I've got this long hair and lots of clothes and makeup on. I just feel really big a lot of the time, and I'm surrounded by a lot of tiny people. I feel like a man sometimes."

Mind you, she looks like this. IE Not manly.

And now we have former model and current First Lady of France Carla Bruni-Sarkozy suddenly wearing flats everywhere she goes...her heels have disappeared, coinciding with her marriage to a man a few inches shorter than her tall self.

As I've gotten older, I have totally and completely embraced my height. I wear high, high heels at night, frequently surpassing 6'1". I love it. Being tall has made me feel strong and confident and powerful. But there has always been than glimmer of feeling manly, a little hulking. There have even been a few times when I've been checking out at a store and the cashier will say, "Is that all, Miss?" (OK, lately it's "Ma'am") and I, for a split second, think, "Oh, they know I'm a woman." Trust me, my therapist has a field day with this anecdote. Typing it out makes me see even more clearly how absolutely ridiculous it sounds. Still, Bea's death brought these feelings up anew and I just wanted to get them out here. Because, you know, her passing should be all about me.

P.S. Enjoy Bea in this hilarious Sex and the City parody (scroll down to #9) featuring Sally Struthers, Mrs. Garrett and Mona from Who's The Boss! In retrospect, I now realize Bea was totally the original Carrie Bradshaw (and Blanche was Samantha; Rose was Charlotte and Ma was Miranda). Enjoy!

This blog is cross-posted at NeverSayDiet -- click on over to see what other readers have to say about the Bea-body image link.