I need a break from all the death-talk, so let’s talk about some of the other things on my mind for a while. Surprisingly, it’s not weddingweddingwedding or even IrelandIrelandIreland in here – yet. I’m sure I’ll get there. Probably soon.
So, I’ve been reading “The Body Sacred” by Dianne Sylvan. By page 4, I was nodding enthusiastically. Page 8 had me crying, and by page 12, I was wondering how I can meet this extraordinary woman and be her friend.
It’s a good book. I highly recommend it. I’m still only on page 50, because it’s the kind of book I have to read in chunks because I get too full of epiphanies and need to take breaks.
The biggest epiphany I’ve had so far (all 50 pages of so far) is: I’m not limited by my body size.
I have (had?) this attitude of limitation brought on by being fat. I feel like there are things I shouldn’t wear, things I shouldn’t do, things I shouldn’t think or want, because they’re for thin people. I’m not a thin person, therefore I can’t have or do or want those things.
My stripy socks are a great example. There was a time, not very many weeks ago, when I felt ashamed or embarrassed to wear my socks in public. I was afraid that people would look at me and think (or even say) look at that stupid fat girl in those striped (mean people wouldn’t say “stripy”, they’d say “striped”) socks. Doesn’t she know stripes are for thin people?!
Stripes are for thin people. Stripy socks are for thin people – they’re supposed to go over my knees, but none of them do because my legs are too big. The one pair that does actually go above my knees won’t stay up because of my large thighs; they just roll down. My stripy arm-warmers are the same – they only go up to my elbows instead of mid-upper-arm because my arms are bigger around. I really shouldn’t even wear them, right?
Crazy-colored hair is for thin people. When fat people color their hair blue (just to pull a color out of nowhere), it’s just for attention. Look at the fat girl with blue hair, how sad.
High boots are for thin people. I had such an incredibly hard time finding boots that would fit my calves, and I spent many evenings in my bed, crying and feeling horribly fat when they wouldn’t zip up. I nearly gave up, but my bright yellow ones are vinyl enough to stretch over my huge calves. But when I wear them, I feel like people are judging me – knee-high boots are for thin people, and I’m not one.
Flirting is for thin people.
Being attractive is for thin people. Look at media. Everyone is either attractive and thin or fat and evil or stupid. If you’re not thin, well, there you go. Evil or stupid.
Traveling is for thin people. Plane seats are really uncomfortable if you’re heavy – and some airlines charge fat flyers more, up to and including making some of us buy second seats. And the trouble I had finding boots? Tripled for finding a coat, so I guess I’d best not go anywhere too cold. I guess they assume fat people don’t get cold; we’re so well-insulated, we’ll be fine.
Theatres are for thin people. When we saw “Wicked!”, we had to smoosh ourselves into our seats, and my hips ached through the second half of the play. Pace encountered the same thing at a ride at Sea World, so I guess roller coasters are for thin people, too.
Tattoos are for thin people. Piercings are for thin people.
Basically, life is for thin people.
And really, how could I learn any different? Media bombards us with images of supermodels and stars, all of whom are thin – and if they deign to gain a few pounds, they’re the brunt of dozens of tabloid scandals. Most stores don’t carry clothing or even jewelry (like rings) for above average sizes. Target and Walmart used to have nice plus-sized sections, but they’ve both whittled it down to a rack or two at the back of the clothing department – and you have to walk through all the clothes you can’t fit into just to get to the meager pickings of the ones you can. And Old Navy only sells bigger sizes online – giving me the impression that fat people aren’t welcome in their brick-and-mortar stores.
The very terminology used in stores is telling: woman can shop in either “Juniors” (thin and trendy, nothing over a size 10), “Womans” (thin and less trendy, usually for the older crowd, nothing over a size 16 – if they’re generous), and, if the store is particularly generous, there might be a few, hard-to-find, larger sizes somewhere. Occasionally – and this is rare – there’s an actual section of the store for larger sizes. This often falls under “Plus”, and is usually secreted away at the back of stores, and always has about a quarter of the selection of the other departments, if that. And often, “plus-sized” clothes cost more than regular clothes. The fat tax, I guess.
Being a fat teenager is heartbreaking. Finding clothes that are cute, trendy, and fit well is either going to cost a fortune or be fairly impossible – and if you have non-mainstream taste (like me), you’re screwed.
I digress. Ah, my mind is a weird and wandering place these days.
“The Body Sacred” introduces a novel and paradigm-shattering concept: I’m okay the way I am, regardless of how that is.
Wait. Hold the phone. Stop the presses. What? It’s okay to be fat? It’s okay to take a break from the countless hours of calorie-counting? It’s okay to eat that cupcake and not exercise myself senseless to make up for it? It’s okay to be fat – and being fat doesn’t make me a loser? It doesn’t make me automatically ugly? I don’t have to feel shame when my thin friends talk about being on diets and losing weight?
It’s okay to be what I am, regardless of how that is.
I’ve exercised til I wept. I’ve counted calories til I made myself neurotic. I’ve starved myself. I’ve snapped and binged and felt ill and been full of self-hate. I’ve judged myself harsher than anyone around me – and I’ve been around some pretty damn harsh judges. I’ve had people tell me, “You’d be so pretty if you lost weight.” I grew up hearing apologetic tsk-tsks because I took after my father’s overweight family instead of my mother’s tiny skinny family. I’ve avoided my reflection in the mirror for over a month. I’ve worn the same pair of pants til they could walk on their own because they were all I had that didn’t make me want to stab myself. I’ve sat in the kitchen, wondering if I could cut off my fat stomach without killing myself.
I’ve spent my life wishing I could be thin. And I’ve spent a damn lot of time and energy trying to be thin.
But you know what? It’s true. It is okay – in fact, it’s wonderful and great and glorious – to be what I am, whatever I am.
I am fat. I weigh in at 235lbs. I don’t hate myself when I look in the mirror anymore, nor do I struggle to get thin. I exercise for fun and because I like being healthy, and I unapologetically eat ice cream whenever I want. I travel. I go to the theatre. I wear stripy socks, I have tattoos, I have piercings, I occasionally have blue hair. I have a pair of obnoxiously yellow knee-high boots that are just a little too snug, but still utterly awesome.
I’m not over it. I’m not at a place where I can dance without feeling self-conscious. I still get teary when I struggle to zip my boots up over my calves.
But the seed has been planted and has started to grow. It’s okay to be what I am, regardless of how that is.