I got naked while writing this essay. It was not sexy. Or it might have been, in a desperate, drunk kindof way. From waist to hips, from bust to thighs, I poured myself an obscene serving of sake and went to town with a measuring tape.
I wanted to know if this dress would fit. I found it online, and it was cute as hell, but according to the size chart, some parts of me required a medium while other parts were large. At some points, I may have just edged over into the territory of extra large.
I was all out of whack. Hips, ass and belly, all the way around, 40 inches. Natural waist, 32 inches. Rib cage, 32 inches. Breasts, with support, 38. Support removed, ditto. I kept measuring, walking purposefully from my writing desk to the full-length bathroom mirror, losing articles of clothing on each trip.
Circumference of thigh, 24 inches relaxed. Circumference of calf, 15. Distance from navel to crotch, 8 inches. Areola, in a warm room, not aroused, 2.25 inches. Distance between right and left nipples, 8 inches. Ankles, approximately 8 inches around, each. Feet, 9 inches long, 3.5 inches wide. Size sevens. Big toe, two inches long. Baby toe, one inch.
I was curious about proportions. Was there a golden ratio of waist-to-hip measurements? Was there a standard deviation? Could measure enough to prove something, to calculate the volume of the space I inhabit, or to index my qualities and weigh them against one another? Is breast size more important than thigh circumference? How valuable are my fingers, which are slender and type quickly?
From top of knee to sole of foot 19 inches on the left leg, ditto on the right. Bonus points for symmetry. From bend of knee to outer hip bone, about 18 inches, give or take a touch.
The navel posed an issue. My belly button is 1/2 inch wide, by 1 inch tall and approximately 1/2 inch deep — determining its depth was a little rough. I stuck a finger in and then measured the portion of the finger that went in. It was about half the first bone of left pointer finger. The first bone is about 1 inch long. But this is all approximate, as beauty is approximate.
Perhaps I could develop a system: Points for visible collarbones, hip bones and slender fingers. Points for length of hair and fingernails, size of breasts, style of belly button. With all these things measured and recorded, I could know my exact worth at any given moment. I could go public. People could invest.
Right shoulder to right middle finger tip, 28 inches. Right bicep, 11.5. Right forearm, 10. Right wrist, 6. Circumference of right ring finger, 2.25 inches. Wrist to middle finger tip, 7 inches. I could sell my own line of measuring tapes, little size chart notebooks for keeping a daily tally, and even start a series of classes to train appraisers to make house calls and teach women how to use the system.
Distance from outer edge of right shoulder to left, 16 inches. Circumference of neck, 13. Lips, 2 inches across, 1 inch high. Nose, 2 inches from brow to tip. Eyes, 1.5 inches wide each, plus one full inch in between. Point seven five inches high each. Eyebrows, 3 inches wide, dependent on plucking. Cranium circumference, 22 inches.
I struggled to measure my baby toe nail, which has long been one of my least favorite body parts — following close behind the backs of my thighs. The nail is about 2/8 inch wide and slightly less than 1/8 inch long. It is impossible to pedicure. You have to paint on the skin.
I’m being a little bit funny here (or trying) and more than a bit obtuse, I know. But how can you know the depth of a person if you can’t even tell the depth of her navel? I was trying to pull an ee cummings on my body — and don’t think I’m not aware of the pun — I was trying to punctuate myself into some fashionable absurdity. But just like a sentence, I found, my body loses its meaning when diagrammed to death. At the same time it becomes endowed with a whole new syntactical weight.
I’d like to say I reached some great realization, but other than the fact that this dress wasn’t going to fit, there was nothing. Only me. Heel to crown, 64 inches, barefoot, in the bathroom, on linoleum.