John Mayer is well known for his creepy song, “Your Body is a Wonderland”.
At first glance, this tune sounds like an affirming (albeit cringey) anthem to the female form. But the fact that in the video he is serenading his girlfriend, who looks like she was built with specs from the Hot Woman Factory, undermines the body-positive message.
I like John Mayer the cyst’s message better.
Who is John Mayer the cyst, you ask?
Well, I’ve had a cyst on my scalp for years. It was tiny and innocuous until a month ago, when I cut all of my hair off, and it suddenly inflated to the size of a puffy quarter.
I named it John Mayer, because I felt the same way about it as I do about John Mayer. I tried a few things to get rid of John Mayer the cyst, but they simply made him change size and shape daily.
Because of the inflammation, all of the hair on John Mayer fell out. And I’m short, so anyone my height or taller could see him clearly.
I went to a networking meeting and I was self conscious about John Mayer. I went to dinner with new friends and warned them in advance about John Mayer, because I didn’t want them to see him as they were eating and get grossed out. I went about my life with John Mayer for several weeks, imagining that most people saw him and were repelled. He was pretty hard to miss!
I finally got John Mayer treated. I will spare you the details, and I will only share that the dermatologist and her assistant wore goggles and full-length gowns. They stuffed the empty John Mayer with iodine gauze to prevent infection, and I couldn’t wash my hair for a day and a half. As a result, I had to wear a puffy wool hat on a 90 degree afternoon during which I had to interact with several colleagues. Most of them asked me about my fashion choice.
“I had surgery on my scalp,” I explained. “You know that big cyst I’ve had on my head for weeks?”
EVERY SINGLE ONE said, “uhhhh….no?”
How was it possible that they had not noticed John Mayer???
But they hadn’t.
In fact, not ONE PERSON with whom I had interacted during John Mayer’s reign acknowledged that they had seen him (aside from my husband).
I learned two very important things from my rendezvous with John Mayer.
1. No one’s looking.
All kinds of prejudice exists against all kinds of bodies in our culture. That’s undeniable. Don’t believe me? Spend five minutes glancing at a celebrity gossip magazine, or simply listening to your own thoughts in a crowded room. (And by the way, you can deduce exactly how critical someone is of her own body by how critical she is of others’ bodies.) But at the end of the day, people are also way less observant than we give them credit for. We’re at the beach and we think everyone is looking at our cellulite and fat rolls. And yes, some are, but the majority are watching their kids, bemoaning their own lack of bodily perfection, or – hopefully – enjoying the sun, sand, and surf.
2. Bodies are cool, and can be beautiful, but they’re also gross (and when I say “gross”, please know that I mean that in a loving way).
Our bodies are not meant to be hairless, perfumed, fat-free paragons of perfection, like mall mannequins. There’s a whole room in your house dedicated to hiding your body’s natural processes…which are actually kind of gross. You have a toilet to flush away your poop and pee, and toilet paper to clean that stuff out of your crevices. You have a shower with soap to wash away smells. You have a medicine cabinet with deodorant and perfume and tweezers and razors. This room has a door that you can close, and maybe even a scented candle or air freshener. And this whole tiled temple of hygiene is, historically speaking, a relatively recent development. If you travel in a developing country, or go camping, you will observe fewer barriers to the grossness of being human. How about we start acknowledging and accepting our natural grossness?
In Western culture, women are in a bind. We receive two contradictory messages:
1. We have to look as hot at possible as much as possible.
2. We must accept ourselves and love ourselves as we are.
I hope my adventures with John Mayer have opened up some exploration around new messages. Why not try on “no one’s looking” and “bodies are gross” for a while, and see how it changes your experience of your and others’ bodies?