Without deep reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people .

8 Jun

I stand in front of myself.

The mirror is no friend. It never has been. A scrawny child turned too tall and broad teenager turned adult with more bumps than roads, I’ve spent a lifetime staring away from myself. No matter how healthy I have been, how in shape, how active, I scorn my reflection. It has never been good enough.

Too tall.

Too broad.

Too fat.

Too curvy.

Too unattractive.

Too nervy.

Always something.

***

I have never been a little girl.

Around other women I feel awkward and oversized, my height, the sheer heft of my shoulders, the calves that never fit into those sleek black boots, the boobs which double as bird feeders and get in the way when I talk with my hands. I watch other women, they of tiny hands, thin bones, in some cases, the blessings of genetics, and I feel envy, as well as shame. Womanhood, is it not in delicacy? Is it not in the lovely flutters of fine boned hands, soft and pointed? Have they not the trappings of will, or at the very least, a slot in a lottery I lost out on, my own blood full of the tall, the thick hipped, those who will survive famine. Hearty stock. Peasants maybe.

My unease with women may stretch back to the fact that I always feel like a giant among the munchkins, and I am the problem. Rooms full of svelte and tanned, bellies that lie flat, arms that rarely jiggle. Pants that stay put.

When the world, or at least the one presented to you, is a consumptive tea party of flounce and vanity, of slimness and restraint, how does a girl look around her if it’s her ass that doesn’t fit in the party chair?

***

I haven’t worn a swimsuit in public for years, not openly without something over it. Does it matter if crazy gained me weight? If medications did? If stress, lack of time, the natural progression of my body? I haven’t worn one without covering since I was 14 or so, when, relatively skinny, someone still called me “lard-ass”.

Of course, I’ve also heard this in varying combinations while walking down the street minding my own business, flung from a car window like so much trash. Sure, sticks and stones. But the 10th time. Then 50th. How long until you believe it, random words from adolescent idiots? How long before the world reinforces that regardless of your actual strength and health, it’s how someone else sees your ass in those pants that matters as you walk home late at night.

If you’re lucky, someone only throws something once.

***

I am pleasantly surprised at the ease push ups start to come, at the smooth feel of my body as it relies on itself. I smile as muscle replaces slack in places. I make conscious decisions to eat better, to eat less.

I am however, still fat. Judging by the biological members of my family alive, I will always be fat. But does my fat dictate my health? Can the people who drive everywhere, who rarely take the stairs, but who perhaps don’t eat, or who are lucky to be blessed genetically, are they more healthy? The fat women doing biathalons-are they unhealthy? I will always be a size above, unlikely to ever slip under an 18. (I haven’t been a 14 since the summer I spent high without eating, having maybe 200 calories a day while I cycled everywhere. I still had a stomach, even then.)

But how does that determine judgement? If I recoil from a skinny woman, who to me, is far too slim, I see judgement cast at me. Yet recoil from me, and people will join you. I’m fat. I’m not welcome at the tea party. I’m disgusting and unhealthy.

I am, essentially, invisible, and yet, visibly judged. Even though you may know nothing about me, and how I live. I am your perfect whipping boy for your own vanity.

***

I love to run. I always have. And yet, I’ve never been able to without my lungs seizing up, and rendering me breathless, culminating once in passing out during a basketball game, legions of 13 year old girls newly trained in CPR wondering if they would get to try it out on the fat girl.

(Ironically, just writing about this makes my chest seize up in anxiety.)

I try to run. I try to run away from the body I have, because it is, quite simply, not the body the world condones, and is one it barely tolerates, no matter how fit it might be, no matter how healthy each doctor deems it against their own judgement. But I cannot run. And I am faced with raising two daughters in a world which makes weight and either or proposition, which it may not necessarily be.

I can’t run my way out of my body. But I can’t seem to run my way out of expectation or judgement either.

***

30 years in, 33 this year somehow, I can stand in front of a mirror, and face myself. I am imperfect. I am lumpy in places I’ve been lumpy since 14. But I am also strong.

I’m tired of letting you keep me from myself.  And it stops now.

22 Responses to “Without deep reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people .”

  1. Bon June 8, 2010 at 7:00 pm #

    this is no rant. more a manifesto.

    you are right about how fat gets judged. i think it is the thing our culture fears most, to be honest. certainly, we respond as if it were. and if we do not respond to others that way, we respond to ourselves, to lumps and bumps that make us merely human.

    i don’t believe we ever live beyond judgement – we are public creatures. but if the energy – let alone money and time investment – that our culture puts into micro-judgement of our bodies and those of other people, hell…we could save the planet AND feed the world. but we have colonized minds.

    i have it easy. the tiny bones you speak of. but always a belly, even long before the babies. and for a decade of my life, it was all i saw in the mirror. that and the lopsided breasts. not the great rack. now, i figure i look great for a sedentary 38…because at 38, i am no longer being judged against supermodels (if i ever was, but in my own mind i was) but against real people. finally. yet i also realize, rather suddenly, that i am NOT strong. that i should get up, get moving.

    later, after i finish writing. ;)

  2. sweetsalty kate June 8, 2010 at 7:07 pm #

    ‘the smooth feel of my body as it relies on itself…’

    I love this. And seconding Bon’s declaration of this being a manifesto. This was graceful, as you always are. xo

  3. Hannah June 8, 2010 at 7:12 pm #

    Hey, you know how I feel about the fat. I was thin once. I have pictures. I was anorexic and bulimic, and I wouldn’t eat meat in any form but I also didn’t bother making sure my diet was balanced, but damn, was I thin. I never thought I was. I was always trying to loose belly, thighs, hips. I was miserable.

    And I never had calves that fit into those sexy boots, either.

    Now I am fat. Too fat. And I’m working on changing it, one small step at a time. I know that I feel better. Strangely, I don’t care if I look better. Last week I took the kids swimming twice and leaped in with my jiggly H-cup boobs sloshing around in my hideous green bathing suit and I felt… free.

    I’ve never before felt not a slave to my size, whether too big or too small. I am tentative in this. I don’t examine it too closely because it’s fragile, this truce with my body, and I don’t want to mess it up. I don’t know where this will all end. I have decided that I care more about being healthy than being skinny. It’s been a long journey to get to that point, and I’m hoping it sticks.

  4. afteriris June 8, 2010 at 7:16 pm #

    So THIS is how you say this stuff without using the words ‘fuck off’. I get it now.

    What a wonderful piece of writing.

  5. Liz June 8, 2010 at 7:18 pm #

    Thordora-

    I totally hear what you are saying but I guess I’ve read one too many self-help books so my inner guru rises up and wants to give you encouragement/advice!!

    First of all, skinny-wispy gals DON’T have a monopoly on sexiness…it really comes in all shapes and sizes. I don’t think thin/skinny equates beauty AT ALL….it’s healthy that you want. Who in the world fits some skinny stereotype anyway except very young women who have never had babies!! My life is like night and day when I am working out versus not doing anything. The incredible post-endorphin rush and purging of stress/anxiety during a workout makes me FEEL strong and sexy. I could care less what the mirror tells me at those times- I feel incredible. The mirror can be a slave-driving bitch. Don’t go for the effects in the mirror- tell it to piss off as that’s the last thing you need to stress over. Workout and eat really well for how it will make YOU FEEL. It’s an incredible feeling to push, push, push through the pain and discomfort of your 2nd, 3rd, 4th (whatever is your limit and/or choice of exercise) mile run and feel that strength within you. It will help you to care less about what those idiots yell at you on the street because you will feel more powerful and centered from within. When I first started running regularly, I used to wonder how other people who don’t exercise make it through life without that advantage-felt sorry because they were missing out on such a huge plus/benefit/advantage in life. It’s painful, it’s hard, it’s sometimes the last thing you want to do….but working out regularly, meeting those goals REGULARLY, pushing/purging that pain/discomfort reaps FANTASTIC BENEFITS. Plus, if you forget the mirror and just do it regularly for awhile, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how your body will change over time. It will be THE FEELING, though, you get that precedes the physical changes that is just as delicious to experience. You will start to appreciate your body more and more for its strength and power- not just its appearance. Those endorphins are priceless too.

    Also, read Mark Sisson’s book “The Primal Blueprint” which is about the paleolithic diet (high protein, high fat, low carbs). This also has helped me tremendously to most importantly FEEL and then eventually look better (amazing results with skin tone, hair, energy, etc due to vitamin deficiencies I didn’t know I had).

    I know how you feel. I used to loathe my body. But over the years, working out has helped me form a new relationship with it….and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how it has shaped up with consistent and dedicated working out.

    Just some friendly encouragement to give it a shot! The benefits are fantastic!

    • thordora June 8, 2010 at 7:21 pm #

      Trust me, that’s what I’m doing. I want health, not skinny.

      And teh paleo diet intrigues me, but since I don’t eat most meat and can’t eat eggs, yeah. HARD to pull off.

    • Jennifer June 9, 2010 at 12:14 pm #

      I agree with Liz, I’m doing the PB way of eating, and it’s quite the eye opening experience.

      • Thordora June 9, 2010 at 1:34 pm #

        I just figure there’s only so much chicken a girl can eat….:p

  6. flutter June 8, 2010 at 7:47 pm #

    you know what you are? too lovely. now it’s time to feel that way about yourself

  7. sarah June 9, 2010 at 11:20 am #

    i know. i know. i am forty pounds overweight. those forty pounds permeate everything.

    men, who used to look at me one way, now look at me another. they do not hide their disgust. or indifference.

    i hear you, as if you were shrieking this in my ear.

  8. kelly June 9, 2010 at 11:35 am #

    I love this.

    I am just starting to love my body at age 35. My body, which is a size 10, and considered over-weight by most media standards.

    I second Bon and Kate. Beautiful.

  9. Sarah June 9, 2010 at 12:30 pm #

    This is beautifully eloquent, and yes, you can be fat and healthy. Look up the phrase “Health at Every Size”, and gobble gooble become one of us.

  10. Kat1766 June 9, 2010 at 12:58 pm #

    I’m fat. Genetics say I will be without an every day struggle and limiting what I eat well beyond what the selfsatisfied gurus claim is neccessary. My body processes food efficiently and uses less to survive – a handy evolutionary trait in times of want. One that labels me lazy and undisciplined in our current time of plenty. I add to it a disorder that makes every exercise painful. Not the kind that you push through and get an endorphin rush though. The kind that has countless timesanded me with bursitis in multple joints and ocassionally in a splint. I don’t like any of this and am far from ready to join your manifesto. I’m still struggling to find that combo that gives me the feeling others describe.

    I’m furious though. My oldest daughter is petite and skinny. She eats like crap and no one says boo! Because she’s skinny. My middle daughter is the first to choose salad, drink water and refuse sugary treats. She’s not skinny. She’s stocky in build and round. She gets all the sideways comments about limiting sugar and snacks. About getting more exercise. No one wants to hear that she does all the trite advice while her sister is a sedentary sugar addict.

    So many who preach against obesity don’t want to hear that it’s not cut and dried or that their miracle weightloss plan won’t work for everyone as it did them.

  11. Misty June 9, 2010 at 1:22 pm #

    There are lots of unhealthy skinny people out there too. A scale doesn’t determine your health or strength.

    Weight and/or strength have not been issues for me, but believe me when I say I haven’t been in public in a swimsuit in years either. I have horrid skin. Your butt may not fit in at the tea party but, though my butt will, my skin won’t. We all have our insecurities. Makes me wonder who’s left at this party we want in on. I’m so tired of being self conscious.

  12. magpie June 11, 2010 at 10:39 am #

    Manifesto indeed.

    I too am trying to run out of my body. And, when you and I hang out, you won’t be a giant next to a munchkin. No way.

  13. Suebob June 14, 2010 at 1:00 am #

    Rock on, sister.

    I’m reading “Women, Food and God.” It is the best book about body issues and size and diet that I have ever read. It more about mindfulness and acceptance than it is about food…exactly what I need to think about right now, because the hating my body thing wasn’t working for me, either.

  14. Maggie, dammit June 15, 2010 at 7:54 am #

    I love every single one of your commenters. And you. And I just don’t care what size everybody is. And I’m so sad that so many people are writing about this right now. Yours (your manifesto, yes) is beautiful, though. I just wish we weren’t all so compelled to apologize for taking up space in the world.

  15. thordora June 15, 2010 at 4:52 pm #

    I wish we weren’t constantly having this conversation either. And I wonder if the conversation IS the problem sometimes.

    Sigh. I just don’t know.

  16. Cheeky Monkey June 15, 2010 at 5:38 pm #

    I remember when I first read this, I wanted to say something. It struck me so, inspired me. But I didn’t, for some, reason, waited, thinking I would come back to it and it would come back to me. Only, poof! it’s gone.

    Like Maggie said, there’s been too much of this talk recently. I struggle enough with being healthy, from the inside out, as a whole person, not just a body. I struggle enough with teaching my daughters to be whole, from the inside out. The rest is not my business.

    You, my dear, are lovely, exactly as you are.

  17. onegiantleapforkids.org June 18, 2010 at 7:09 am #

    Mirrors help the room appear larger, ideal for a small room in the house. They can also help to provide extra lighting in the room represents.
    Not only do you hold a big mirror. You can have several small mirrors and hang them together to create a wall feature.
    Mirrors can also add additional characters for the bedroom or living room of mirrors by adding decorative art.

  18. Ninja Dieter :) April 30, 2012 at 3:14 pm #

    I loved reading this. Thank you for writing it. Two years later it still sounds inspirational when I’m almost three months into my journey and this makes me smile. I know this girl. I may not be tall. I’m the munchkin but I’m the very LARGE munchkin. I used to envy the tall thin girls but I’ve since come to love my height. It makes men protective and then shocked when they learn there’s steel in the frame here. I finally after 20 years of trying to do it myself and steadily gaining weight and going from being a thin girl scared witless of being the heavies of my genetically predestined family to actually becoming that self fulfilled legacy to finally waking up. Realized I can’t do it myself. I would lose a lot and gain so much more back. I finally asked my doctor to refer me to a nutritionist and she did. I see them and follow the foods and outlines of what they have given me which is surprisingly so much more food then I ever ate OFF any of my diets. It’s just the right foods. Better portions and better selections. Much more vegetables and fruits. Also it’s the combinations of them and how they effect they body both for metabolism and appetite control. Everyone already knows about the water. I’ve steadily and permanently lost 43 pounds. I don’t have to tell people this time I’m losing weight. Friends and family are asking me how I’m doing it and asking for the diet because they aren’t just saying “oh your losing weight good for you” they’re saying “you look great how are you doing it” because my color looks good and my skin looks good. My sugar is down and my blood pressure is down. I want them all to have it too. I want them all healthy. I love the way they all look. I want them all to feel inside the way I’m starting to feel. It took my doctor walking into the room and telling me “you have diabetes stage 2 but we’ve caught it early so if you’re careful and take the medication with treatment we can avoid the severe things like insulin shots, limb loss, blindness”, etc. I was so mad. What did I do to myself? Who cares about what other people think about me. If I’m blind I wont see the way they look at me anyway. I just want to be healthy. Thin or not. So I set out to get the weight off the healthy way and it’s all coming off but it’s going to stay off so it’s coming off the right way. That means no fad diets. No ripping “try this new berry” out of a magazine. I went to the experts. People who know what they’re doing. Because obviously by getting to this size and unhealthy state I didn’t. Now they’re teaching me so I will learn. So I’m not even sure if so long after you wrote this you ever even look back at it. Or if you’re still on your journey but I felt the need to say thank you. I appreciate this inspiration. Even though I never will give up and I am going all the way with my journey there will be hard days. I have had a few already. I keep pushing through them. I use everything I can to help me get through. I’ll bookmark this and on a dark day when I’m feeling down and it seems hard to handle I can reread this and understand…. I’m not alone :)

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