Looking back at my earliest blog post. Caution: dangerous self-acceptance road ahead. This post was an expression of my distaste for assumptions, something for which we are all guilty at some point.
“Look in the mirror. You are now looking at the person responsible for your happiness.”~Charles Orlando~
The bathroom mirror, the fun-house effect of the one in the dressing room, the sideways glances from total strangers, the snarky “should you really be eating that?” look we get from our loved ones, the daily barrage of criticism and self-loathing that occurs because we females cannot see past the number on the scale and through to our own beauty, power, and strength. Without a total feminist rant, I will honestly say that I, myself, succumb to this continual ridicule, and it needs to stop. I had two experiences last week that solidified the “weight issue” conversation for me, and made me decide to find ways to appreciate myself and other women for what we are, not what we weigh.
Typical Saturday afternoon browsing the pants section of Kohls, my hawk-eyes scanning the dismantled, picked-nearly-clean sales racks, hoping to purchase a new set of black slacks or second pair of jeans for school (I live for Friday jeans days). Focused on my mission like a soldier on the battlefield, I failed to notice a rather curvaceous, frosted blonde haired, oatmeal color-wearing, 50’s-something woman two racks from me, who was eyeing me like a lioness would a helpless gazelle. A woman who felt it her duty to make a comment to me, as though I were part of some cabal, some secret sisterhood of disgruntled shoppers. Lucky me. As I picked up a pair of pants, contemplating the dressing room, she whips around the rack and says to me, “Ya know, I’m so disgusted with this store and its lack of variety. Just because we are overweight doesn’t mean that we can’t have a sense of fashion.” Sniff. Huff. Knowing look. Furrowing of the brows. WE. She said “we.” I was suddenly awash with a cocktail of shame, anger, and hurt. She had “sized me up,” as the phrase goes, and boxed me into that category. Overweight. Fat. Unattractive.
I flushed. I wanted to say, “Lady, I have a ten-month old baby, I am trying to find pants to camouflage myself behind, I hate shopping in the Plus-Size department for the same reason you do (because I don’t want to be PS, but, let’s face it, I have been for almost a decade now, despite ups and downs), I come from a family with ‘big-boned’ women, I am creeped out that you’re talking to me, and I.Just.Want.To.Be.Left.Alone.” Sheesh. Instead, all I could muster was, “I feel ya.” Suddenly, I wanted to be anywhere but looking for the jeans I previously sought out. If I were six years old again, I’d crawl into the rack and wait for my mom to find me. Is it embarrassing that I can’t even hold my own in this arena, but I typically feel stronger than this on any other topic? I left without jeans and not much of my dignity.
Part two to this nightmare. Lunch with two colleagues. Trading stories. Laughter. We are ordering our meals & somehow the topic of food/weight crops up. After one friend orders a multi-plate meal and receives two comments from the waitstaff about it, I tell them that they have nothing to worry about because they are thin and radiant. Kind friend gives speech about my looks (“You were beautiful while pregnant”…thank you. I appreciate it, but I know I was the size of a whole CONTINENT). I mention the judgment I received from family. I was told by someone dear to me that they would have preferred me to be a bit thinner before this new phase of my life. Excellent. I didn’t speak to that person for nearly three months. I have always dealt with familial tension when it comes to my size, but c’mon. What other positive things can you say to a girl who’s going to experience one of life’s biggest miracles (and who was scared senseless, too!)?? Friends at lunch table assure me that this was a ridiculous comment.
I also sheepishly admit that I have felt in constant competition with the thinner family and friends I have, as though being the biggest girl makes me the worst. I temporarily flash back to a picture I have framed in our house, one where my width is the whole width of Tim’s 96yr old grandma Lucy. I dwarf her with my size. We move on to other stories, but their shock and awe at the fact that I endured these types of judgment sticks with me. These days I feel like I have to prepare a face to meet the faces that I meet (“Prufrock”).
This is what I realized. I have strong arms, capable of good, long hugs when someone is aching with the pain of disappointment or loss. Those same arms rock my baby girl to sleep nearly every night, giving her comfort, security, and love. I will never have the “thigh gap” that so many are worried about. I have always had a round “chipmunk face” (which got a bit rounder last year and is finally going back to ‘normal’), but if you look at the smile lines around my eyes and see where laughter has touched me, then so what?!
I am not 15 years old, running ragged in the high school Theatre department, traversing the landscape of puberty, a mosaic of pimples, awkward 90’s hair, terrible fashion, but I do have the same ambitious spirit, the same love of books, plays, cooking and good times with loved ones. I am educated, funny, fiercely loyal, adventurous, and real.
Me. Just me.
Next time you see a woman like me who is holding in a lot of emotional “baggage,” as well as carrying around a few extra undesirable pounds, don’t just label her the ‘fat girl’ and assume, well, anything you want about her. There is a lot more to her than pounds. I think we should shed more than a layer of this ‘house’ we live in. I want those I love to be the mirrors for me, so they can reflect back the image of who I am and who I dare to be.
~Kindred Spirit, from the past~