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.
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.