I have never been a tiny girl. Ever. I’m just not built that way. I happen to be a girl who’s built to have larger arms, thighs and backside. I am built like my mother. Except if you knew my mother you would hear her brag about her incredibly thin waist and how tiny she was during her teen years. What you wouldn’t hear, but is also very true, is that my mom was starved into being an “acceptable” size.
Her childhood was similar to mine. She had an older sister who was basically a twig. I’m not knocking twigs, I’m just saying it’s hard growing up with a very non twig body structure and being made to conform to it.
My mother also thought that I had a weight problem and tried to starve me into the perfection of thinness so that I more resembled my sister and everything that was socially acceptable. It did not go nearly as well as it had with her or nearly as well as she had hoped. Mainly because I was the girl in Little Miss Sunshine. She was oblivious to the fact that anything was “wrong” with her, so didn’t really understand, nor listen when people were telling her she wasn’t “right”.
Once my paternal grandfather said to me, “Did you lose weight? ‘Cause man you was FAT!” It’s a story we all laugh about, including myself. Only thing is, the reason I didn’t mind is because I didn’t know what my grandfather was talking about when I was five. I thought it was an odd comment and then was kind of funny in an “Oh, grandpa!” kind of way.
I didn’t understand why my parents suddenly started policing me about food. I also didn’t understand why my mom signed me up for a fat camp. It was a local, daily thing hosted by the hospital… in the basement, next to the morgue. I hated that experience for several reasons. I didn’t understand why I was there in the first place (and really I shouldn’t have been). Also, I followed the program to the letter, didn’t cheat on the diet or the exercise nor did I lie on the worksheets like the other kids. I’m not assuming. They would all talk about it before class. There were weigh-ins every week and every week I failed. I hadn’t lost any weight, though I had upped my exercise and downed my food intake. I even failed the class and I remember the instructor and my mom being extremely disappointed. I felt like a failure, and I was still confused as to why I should even be feeling like one in the first place.
See the other kids were supposed to be thinner than they were. They actually had excess weight on them, so even if they were half-assing the program, they had something to lose, as it were. I was this stocky muscle-bound kid whom everyone saw as morbidly obese and well, you don’t really lose muscle by diet and exercise.
I did gain a little bit of weight, when I was about ten. It was because I finally (and stupidly) started listening to what everyone was saying about me. I started to believe their poisonous words that something was wrong with me; that I wasn’t good enough.
The summer between sixth and seventh grades, however, saw nothing but me hiding out in my parents room, where I could fanangle the telly to get MTV, eating nothing but junk food all the time. No swimming like in past years, no outside play. I rarely saw the sun. Yet, I was thinner and taller by the time school clothes shopping began in August than I was in May when sixth grade let out.
I understand puberty and growth spurts, but they’re not that magical, y’all. If I’d been as obese as what people thought, I couldn’t have magically gotten that much thinner by doing the exact opposite of every preceding summer. See, every other summer there was a ton of outdoor play and so much swimming. So much. I adore swimming. You couldn’t pull me out of the water.
I didn’t really gain weight until I was twenty. I had been fighting myself throughout my teenage years. “You’re not good enough. Wait, yes, I am…” but then something happened to me and I completely gave in. I just accepted everything that had been said about me; accepted that I had no self-worth and started eating to drown the pain and I don’t know… prove them all right?
Don’t get me wrong, though I wasn’t actually overweight during my teen years, most people saw me this way and I struggled to not see myself this way. I’ve thought a lot about this over the past few years. If I weren’t a white girl, with other white people assuming that I had to have the exact same style of thin white girl body, this never would have been an issue. Imagine my little girl self in those above photos any darker shade and would you think I was fat? Or would you just assume it was my heritage and DNA that gave me that body shape?
Obviously white girls do not come in one shape or fashion, but you’d be fooled as far as society is concerned. No woman is exactly the same, but allowances are made because people assume one thing for certain groups, though there are so many different types of ways to be within every group.
So, I struggled a lot with my body image over the years. I’ve always been obese where society is concerned, and at one point I really was obese. In fact I wouldn’t go so far as to say obese now, but I am certainly overweight. I am a fat girl. It’s true. Do I mind? Not really. Not now, not anymore.
I probably would still feel like I was disgusting or wrong, except for the dream that I had. I was at my maternal grandmothers house, in the front living room and the Christmas tree was up. My younger self was crying. She was upset because I hated her; I hated us. It really hurt me. I went over to her and held her. I told her that I was sorry. That I’ve always loved her; that I do love us and I will never abandon her again.
That dream really struck a chord in me. There were so many things wrong. I did hate myself, my younger self in particular. I felt like it was all her fault, because she’s where it had all started. But, it wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t our fault. Not initially. I take responsibility for listening to others and finally giving in and giving up, but while my younger self may have been a bit rough around the edges, or not so clean, or very loud, she wasn’t fat. She was who she was supposed to be and she was pretty cool. And I should love her, even for being rough, dirty, and loud, as well as being “fat”.
It helped me to start seeing myself differently. I did see myself as fat, because I was in that moment and time and what was the point in pretending that I wasn’t; so I was learning to be cool with it. I went back over my life to see how I’d gotten to this point. I evaluated, examined, forgave and let go. There were actually a lot of things in my past regarding this issue that I hadn’t wanted to deal with or look at, until then. I forced myself to look, but I did not wallow in self-pity and it did actually help me immensely.
There are still things that I can not change, and I’ve come to terms with that. The fact that I have a cousin who looks exactly like me in the body, but everyone thinks she’s beautiful and they don’t see her as fat. I was a little hurt at first, because how come out of twin body structures I had to be “the fat one”; “the terrible one”, while she is “just SOOOO beautiful.”? Is it because there is seventeen years difference and people change? Or perhaps the fact that her mother was adopted and she is, in fact, not a white girl, so no one is holding her to the same standards of typical white girl looks?
I’m actually really glad she’s not having to go through what I went through. She gets guys wanting to date her, her mother isn’t trying to make her thin, people aren’t making fun of her. Honestly, I really would feel very sad for her if her life were like mine. But, while I had a tiny problem with the double standards in our family, I let it slide. What really hurt was my own mother saying all of these wonderful things about my cousin, yet when it came to me at those ages, my mother had no nice words for me. But then, for whatever reasons, my mother can’t or won’t see what she did in her past, so I realized the only logical thing to do was to forgive her and just let it go. So, I did. It doesn’t hurt anymore if my mother brings up my cousin. So, huzzah, right!
I also have people today thinking I’m crazy for the words that I say. “Claiming” that I wasn’t a fat kid mainly. But I’ve gotten to a point where I don’t care. I know that I’m not denying anything or trying to make things out better than they were. I know that even if I lost any and all excess weight and ended at a healthy weight for me, the BMI calculator would still say that I was obese. I know that if I were to reach the optimal size for my height I would look like a skeleton. I know that I can never look like my sister. I know what feels good on my body… and that’s about all that really matters.
The dream was just the first step in the process of regaining me. I scoured the internet for everything. I read blogs about women who had undergone bypass surgery in order to lose weight. I read their words about how they’d never been told or even thought to consider all the excess skin after losing weight from the procedure. Or how they thought they’d instantly be happy with the weight gone… but all the issues were still there.
I ended up viewing an illustration relating to breasts. It showed varying illustrated breasts from a frontal and side position. How there’s more than one type of breast. And then the illustration showed you that all those varying wonky breasts all look the same in a bra. It was a moment of illumination. It broke something in me; this body image barrier that I hadn’t even realized that I had.
I had been ashamed since I was thirteen, thinking that I was the only girl on the planet to not have Minoan women breasts. But seeing that infographic illustration and realizing that breasts are all different and there is no such thing as the perfect breasts, well, it was very freeing.
It was also a bittersweet moment to realize that I wasn’t the only thirteen year old girl on the planet who had basically been told by society that my body just wasn’t cutting it; I wasn’t the only girl out there who felt left out of this group that didn’t even exist. We’ve all been walking around seeing women in bra’s and thinking everyone has these “perfect” Minoan breasts… except us, and it’s simply not true. I mean, that is a type of breast that women have, but it is not the majority, nor the only breast structure out there.
That one thing is what really opened my eyes and paved the way for my better body image and how I am able to spot the pit-falls of marketing campaigns now; and not be sucked back down into it all, in this vicious cycle. We’re all different. And it’s all OK and lovely.
I have even been complimented on my spectacular body image in the face of a sea of women who have a terrible one. Or perhaps because I’m so societally imperfect in every way, and I still have great body image? This just makes me sad. Not for myself, because I have gotten to the point where I don’t really care either way if someone likes something physically about me or not. No, sad for those fellow women. Sad because they STILL can not see that they’re just fine, just the way that they are. It makes me sad that so many women out there have no idea how to love themselves again. Wrinkles, or fat rolls, or freckles, or grey hair, or wonky boobs and all.
I am sad that they were led to believe that they weren’t worthy of something to begin with. I don’t begrudge them their struggles, or feel that they should simply snap out of it. It was a long and difficult road for me to let all of those shackles go. Everyone’s road is different. They’ll come out of it in their own time… or they won’t. I wouldn’t dare hurry them. But I write these things, because if I hadn’t stumbled upon things like this when I was ready, I would still have terrible body image. No, I come back to these topics, because if you are at a place in your life journey and need to read these things, then they are here. I want you to know that humans aren’t made to be perfect. There really is no such thing as perfect. But we’re all just perfectly lovely as is.
And then things happen, like all of those, what I call beauty contests. The ridiculous body trends of the moment. They are not ridiculous in and of themselves, but how they start a competition and self loathing among women. Let me explain.
OK, so there’s the one about perky breasts, the one with prominent clavicles, the bikini bridge, the one with the belly button touching, the thigh gap, the thighbrow, and finally the one with the triangle-legged model.
The reason, initially, that these aren’t ridiculous, is that women do have these things. There are women who have prominent bones, or perky breasts, or thigh gap. There are even women thin enough to wrap their arms around their waists and can touch their belly buttons, easy peasy. And there are women who can’t. Is that OK? Absolutely!
I have seen all of this on thinner women, including the not so weird models’ leg. This is what happens if you happen to be a thinner woman and you happen to make this position with your leg. Your tendons are flexed. If you are thin, one can see this. If you are not so thin, then not so much. I have been in dance classes and this is definitely something you will see in dance class.
As for the thigh gap or the bikini bridge… even though they’re saying it’s fake. There are women who actually have this. As I mentioned previous, I used to swim… a lot. I still swim, but I don’t have access to pools like I did as a kid. I couldn’t tell you how many women I saw, lounging in the sun beside the pool with their hip bones jutting out like that. Are all women going to have a bikini bridge or thigh gap? No. Is that OK? Yes, it is, damn it!
As for this thighbrow thing, I too, like everyone else before me writing about it, had no idea what it was. Turns out, I’ve always had a crease between my thigh and hip when I kneel down. You know why? It’s called fat, ladies and gentlemen. If you have a little extra fat in these places, that’s what will happen if you end up in that position. You know who was made fun of about this very thing in her childhood and teen years? Moi. So, that’s weird, huh?
Anyways, one thing that I have come to realize is that just because I don’t have bones that show or I can’t cross my legs “perfectly” or that I don’t have thigh gap, it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with me. There are girls who have this and girls that don’t. Which should be “end of discussion”, but sadly it’s not, because while there are women out there seeing this and saying, “What the hell?”, there are more women, and especially those unsure thirteen year old girls seeing this and thinking there is something wrong with them.
Then there is also the problem or women pitting themselves against other women, which just isn’t right. I understand the larger ladies having been made fun of their entire lives by “skinny bitches”, but skinny bitches are women too, y’all. This whole “real women” campaign is getting out of hand. I know that us fat girls want to be accepted as women and not the something else that society has told us that we are, but that doesn’t mean that you’re a real women and that the skinny girl is not.
Take The Sister for example. She’s always been thin. She’s a size 1. She can reach around and touch her belly button. She has bikini bridge, thigh gap and prominent clavicles. Her breasts are also “perfect”. Do I think that I’m more of a woman than her? No. That’s ridiculous. We both have breasts and a vagina; we both have tons of estrogen and get our periods, so we are both women. She just comes in one shape and I happen to come in another.
I did not always think this way either. My initial thoughts were , “Yeah, fuck skinny bitches! I’m a fat girl and we’re better!” But, I am here to admit that was wrong thinking. I’ve read from thin women. Some of them will always see themselves as better, and say terrible things about fat girls. So what? Does that mean that we should stoop to that level and become the same person? Absolutely not.
While, I happen to know my own truth, which also includes that I am so glad I do not have protruding bones because it personally freaks me out. However, that doesn’t mean that girls who are supposed to have protruding bones shouldn’t. They certainly should. But should everyone attain to that? Not if they don’t want to.
There are things I wish I could do though. Like having thigh gap would be nice, because it’s not fun to have my inner thighs rub together. But logically, I know that will never naturally happen, even if I happen to lose a lot of weight. Crossing my legs, like skinny girls can do, would also be cool. But that’s another thing my body will never be able to do whether I was thinner or not. But that’s about it that thinner, willowier body types have on me that I might want. But I’ve accepted that it’s not in the cards for me, and I’m better for it because I’m not forever wishing for impossible things and making myself sad over it.
I don’t even make myself upset over not having “perfect” breasts like I did all those years ago. Seriously. I thought they were the worst things ever. I hated them. They are what they are. Sure, I could change them, but besides not having the funds for plastic surgery, I’m not really a fan. I don’t knock it though. If that’s what women want to do, go ahead, but while I might have always struggled with hating things about my body, I never hated it enough to change it. But, that’s just me. But it is a very freeing thing to not think about my breasts anymore. They’re there. I wash them and put them in a bra and that’s about it. They’re part of me, so they are cool, but I don’t devote wasted time thinking about how they could be better.
My body image, though, never kept me from a pool. It’s unbearably hot where I live and I adore swimming. I did once try swimming with a T-Shirt on, but it was beyond stupid and I ripped it off and actually swam, after about ten miserable minutes in the pool. I also happen to know that I am a modest type of gal, whether I was thin or not, I just prefer one pieces. Or those takini’s that look like one pieces, but are, in fact, two.
I think you might see where this is going… that I’ve always thought that the beach body ready campaigns were ridiculous. I’ve only recently discovered that larger girls are wearing two pieces and bikini’s to swim in. I had no idea and I find that terrific. Personally, I don’t want a bikini. Mainly for the glaring fact that my bottoms would constantly be rolling down off of me. Perhaps if I were a lay about in the sun type of gal, I might consider it. But I’m a swimmer and I haven’t got the time to be fooling about with my suit.
But it’s nice to see women fighting back against it. I’ve not seen a lot of “we’re bigger, so we’re better” retorts. I’ve just seen all types of women, who don’t look like super models, basically saying the same thing: “Put on a bathing suit. BAM! You’re beach ready!” And I couldn’t agree more.