8/30/2011

A Weighty Series, part 2

Yesterday I began a series on weight and body image. I started with a public figure, Demi Lovato. You can be sure to read yesterday's first post and get caught up if you missed it!


I know trashing on women, particularly famous ones, for not being "perfect" is common in our society, but it doesn't stop my heart from breaking. What Demi is singing about in Skyscraper every woman I know has faced. The nitting and the picking wears us down, and while we are our own worst critics, there are cruel people who will gladly add to our misery. I remember growing up, feeling like the fattest person on the planet thus making me worthless as a human since I wasn't a "beautiful" female, and my family didn't help, nor did the girls at school.

Just the other day, when making tuna for wraps, I recalled a tuna incident from my childhood where, while at my grandparents' house visiting, we had tuna sandwiches for lunch and I asked to make my own for seconds. Well into my 20s I was reminded of just how piggy it was of me that I used as much tuna on one sandwich that was seconds as my grandparents used together in one sandwich each for their entire meal. I spent much of my life thinking, "Yeah, because I was a fat little gluttonous girl." It hit me as I prepared my (very healthy) wrap the other day, though--what 8 year old kid wouldn't go overboard making their own sandwich? Isn't that sort of what kids do, and isn't that why they need adults to help them understand appropriate amounts? Yet I grew up in shame, thinking myself the rare exception, still deep down just the horrendously fat girl who put too much tuna on a sandwich.

Me at my grandparents house, around the age of the
"tuna sandwich" incident--adult me doesn't find her
to be quite that fat. In fact, seeing her be rather
normal looking always surprises me.
 Then there was Holly Yates (not her real name) who was jealous of me getting the singing lead in an elementary school production who said, literally, that such a fat girl didn't deserve the spotlight.

The boy I had a crush on who said my personality was great and I was pretty and he'd totally "date" me (we were 9!) if only I weren't so fat. Then he dated my very thin best friend who already, at such a tender age, had to prove to me that she could "get the guy" because she was pretty and I couldn't because I was fat.

The sweet 4-year-old I bonded with on a service trip to Seattle, me aged 18, who, while I was holding her on my lap, held my face in her hands and said, "If only you would lose weight, you would be perfect."


Me around the age of the "Holly Yates" incident

Me around the age of the "crush on boy" incident

Me, center, at the age of the "you'd be perfect if" incident

I say these things not to elicit sympathy, and there are others that I couldn't post in this public forum because of how they reflect on others. I say these things because they are unique in that they happened to me, but they are my experiences that are tragically similar to what so many other women experience. Every woman has had someone tell her what is wrong with her appearance, and while for a vast majority of us it's with regards to being overweight, there are other issues equally painful. To be "skinny" is not necessarily easier because bony knees or visible ribs haunt some women every bit as much as perceived chunk and rolls. 

One very vivid memory is of myself at age 13. I was SO excited because I worked hard all summer to save money and for the first time in my life was able to buy new school clothes instead of getting hand me downs from the local food bank. After a trip to Wal-Mart I came home to try on my new underwear...and hilarity ensued. I thought that underwear were to be purchased in the same size as your jeans. My size 7/8 self came out sporting underwear (over my regular pants, mind you!) meant for women who weigh upwards of 320 pounds. Oops!

While that's comical, I weighed about 120 pounds and felt like literally the fattest 12 year old on earth. It was one of many factors that led me to ache for the courage to kill myself for the next 3 years of my life. Now, like so many women before me, I look at that picture, before I started really gaining the weight that eventually topped off at 376 pounds some 15 years later, and wish I could weigh that much now. Not even that much--120 pounds on my 5'7",muscular, truly a bit larger boned frame would be garish. I hope hope hope that one day I'll be 160, but that, my dear friends, is a post better served later in the series. I'll end with a picture of my "fatter than anything" 12 year old self, and smile because of how much I've grown emotionally and in Christ since she was around.

I was best at throwing, but I ran the
800 m in middle school. I always came
in last but refused to quit! I'm grateful
to attribute that memory to the sweet
girl in this picture.

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