When new people meet my ma, I always make her tell this one embarrassing story from her childhood and then I laugh until I cry. She was overweight for most of her young adult life and she had just bought a new swimsuit. Her mother (my grandmother) told her she looked beautiful and she and her five brothers went outside to play in the sprinklers. Of course at the exact moment my ma decided to say a ‘fuck you’ to the haters and just enjoy the sunshine, a car drove by and someone yelled out, ‘What is that thing?’
This is when I burst into tears of laughter.
It’s truly cruel what they said. My ma is now a twig and I don’t believe she has eaten a meal since 1980 or even earlier. She still calls herself fat.
When I was a little kid I was made fun of all the time for being fat. Although I wasn’t ever fat. The truth was that my step sisters were much smaller individuals who had cool clothes that I always wanted to borrow. I would squeeze my adolescent stomach rolls into them and pray for the buttoning of each item. To this day I still have dreams about clothes being in my closet that I want, but they are too small to fit into.
My teacher once asked me if I needed clothes that fit me properly. I was mortified and obviously ashamed. I had shoved myself into tiny enough clothes that my ma was being accused of neglect.
My shirts would always give me rolls like this.
Of course really my ma was being nothing but a saint. She knew I never wanted to buy the size up from my step sisters so she bought me the smaller clothes and told me I was beautiful, just like her mother had. If you saw pictures of me as a child I looked just like every other kid, but I was bullied until middle school nonetheless.
I’ve never really been ‘fat’. I think I gained the freshmen 15 at NYU but my athletic frame wore it rather well. Even then no one teased me for my weight, at least not to my face.
I am a size four, but I’ve woken up every other day for the last 10 years having a ‘fat day’. I look at myself in the mirror and feel bad about whatever I ate the night before. I grasp my thighs and squeeze them until I can see cellulite and then run in place and look in the mirror at what giggles. I then look at my ribs and hip bones and lean different ways seeing if I can make them stick out to where someone would offer me a cookie. I flex both arms and shake my head at the creepy muscles that stick out above my boobs and then grab my triceps fat and wonder what my arms would look like if they were thinner. I decide if I have real abs or just fat person abs and then usually try to create back fat rolls by leaning to one side and sigh, defeated.
Truthfully some form of this happens to all women.
I usually only wake up feeling skinny if I crashed from exhaustion the night before and haven’t eaten in over 24 hours, or if I’ve been puking from too much booze for a while. All the dehydration and lack of nutrients usually make everything look better although I feel as though my insides have rotted. Then I promise to never eat again which usually lasts only a few hours.
When I’m done with that I hold my hair up and feel that it’s flat and boring and wish it were longer. I push my face nearly against the mirror and stare at my large pores and then wish my unibrow hairs would just stop growing. I grab my nose and imagine what a nose job would look like and pout my lips to make them look bigger. Eventually I give up and look away from the mirror and wonder if everyone sees what I see.
Growing up with a ma who suffers from an eating disorder while being an extreme athlete at some point builds a complex. However, women these days don’t even need anyone in their life to build a complex for them. The world around us tells us we’re not skinny enough, pretty enough, smart enough, dumb enough, curvy enough, we don’t have big enough boobs, or make enough money, it’s defeatist, and absolutely defeating.
Despite spending probably countless hours looking in the mirror the last 10 years, beating myself up, degrading my qualities, and questioning my beauty, I love myself. In fact I love myself more than I could ever love anyone.
I’ve never encountered a man who didn’t want to have sex with me. I’ve never encountered a female who didn’t compliment something about me, or who is jealous of something I have physically. I’ve been told a countless number of wonderful things about myself, and while I believe them to be true, I still stood in front of the mirror giving myself a long hard look after eating four pieces of pizza last night. I’ve accepted that maybe I’ll always spend that time in the mirror, and that maybe I’ll always have ‘fat days’ because I bet even Victoria’s Secret models do too.
Lately society has turned from condemning women for not being good enough, to condemning them for believing they’re not good enough. We get criticized for self-criticism and shamed for not recognizing our innate, individual beauty. Thus, reminding us that we’ll still, never be good enough.
Shut the fuck up Kate Upton.
I’m sure you do Miranda.
Okay Dove. We get it. There’s still no Dove Fashion Show each year.
This is useless.
And maybe that’s the truth. Maybe we won’t ever be good enough. And maybe, just maybe if you learn to love yourself, and the weird way you stare into the magnified mirrors at your blackheads, you’ll love yourself so much, that it no longer matters what anyone else says about you. Good or Bad.