Women discuss body image: 36:24:36
By Kaitlin Mayhew and Jessica Shearwood
Just 50 years ago, 36:24:36 meant the shoulder, waist and hip measurements of the perfect woman. Today, those three numbers mean something different to 7 women.
The play 36:24:36, based upon battles with eating disorders, was performed at the UMW campus on Friday, March 28. Each of the stories are based on an experience of one of the writers or actors.
“[36:24:36 were] Marilyn Monroe’s measurements,” Ann Malinowsky the play’s creator, said. “Sadly that has changed.”
According to Malinowsky, Monroe had a much fuller figure than many women in Hollywood today.
Malinowsky wrote the show collaboratively along with six other women who have faced similar challenges with eating disorders.
Malinowsky, who battled bulimia for seven years, believes that these disorders are mental as well as physical.
“I think [disorders] are a great coping mechanism,” she said. “[They cater to] the need to be in control.”
She said that she remembers thinking that people who weighed less were being treated differently and “had better lives.”
“Things hurt and I had to do something about it and bulimia was always there when I needed it,” Veronica, one of Malinowsky’s characters in 36:24:36, said.
However, even after recovery, the scars from disorders past are never gone. Malinowsky said that for a long time she felt as if she didn’t even deserve acting roles she was getting.
“I wasn’t bulimic anymore, but I felt like I was limiting myself,” [It took time before I could say] wait your amazing, why are you limiting yourself?”
Remembering her old cycles of thinking inspired Malinowsky to create 36:24:36 and try to help other girls escape from those thoughts and know that they aren’t alone.
“I think people need to be a part of a community, and supporting could be a great solution,” she said.
36:24:36 is much more than a play to the writers and actors involved, it is their own recovery community.
“Kimberly Smith is a recovering bulimic who wanted to be a part of this project not only to prevent others from succumbing to this painful disease, but also to continue her own recovery, which is a daily struggle,” the plays website 36-24-36-nyc.com said of one of the script collaborators.
“My relationship with the cast of 36:24:36 has probably been one of the most rewarding aspects of working on the show,” Stephanie Schweitzer, one of the collaborators and performers, said. “I’ve found a family of sorts that is incredibly supportive.”
The show at UMW was their fourth college/university performance. Schweitzer believes that these are their most important audiences.
“Personally this has always been a major goal for me,” she said. “I was at my worst with my eating disorder when I was in college. Eating disorders run rampant on college campuses and if I can inspire even one person to seek help or treatment my work on this show is complete.”
“We cannot let others hurt the way we hurt,” one of the last lines of 26:24:36 said.