Sunday, February 26, 2012

On Being a Skinny Bitch

 I stood in the change room at Reitmans, struggling with the pair of shorts in my hand. Please let these fit, I begged.  I've been to every store in town and tried on every pair of shorts I can find, and not ONE pair has fit so far.  It's hard enough to get time without the kid in tow, but to have to look this hard for clothes is frustrating and depressing.

As soon as I step into the shorts I know before I pull them over my thighs.  Even buttoned, they practically fall off.   I let them hit the floor, and then kick them toward the door.  Why does it have to be so hard to find anything to fit?  I'm too tall for petites, too short for regular, too curvy for children's sizes.  Even when we went to Australia and tried to buy wetsuits, the store had to phone all over Cairns, and then special order in the smallest sized wetsuit that the company made. It was SO embarrassing. Can't I just wear something normal for once?

Pulling on my jeans and heading out to the cashier, I spot a salesclerk nearby and stop.  A woman brandishing a pair of pants looks obviously upset.

"I hate this! Why am I a 14? I don't want to be a 14.  I thought I was a 12.  I CAN'T BE A 14!"

"Um, can I help you?" There is no mistaking that the clerk is looking for a way out, and before I think   about it, my question blurts from my lips. I just want a pair of shorts that fit, after all.

"Do you make shorts any smaller than a 3? I've tried on every pair in the store and these are HUGE." I hold out the shorts, and then realize what I have just done.   The ranting shopper's eyes widen, then narrow, before she turns on her heel, throws the pants on the floor, and stalks out of the store.


I cried in the car the whole way home. Sadly, that wasn't the first time I'd been called that phrase.

When I was 21 and out with my high school boyfriend and best friend for dinner and a movie, my friend disclosed that she was positive that I must be anorexic when I left the table to use the bathroom.  After all, why couldn't I finish my food?  Why was I so thin?  She couldn't eat just soup and salad for a month at college, so how could I possibly like it?

Fortunately, my boyfriend (bless him) laughed at her.  He had seen me eat, and it was obvious that I love food far too much to stop eating it.

As a child, I didn't ever think about body image.  My body was just my body-healthy and strong, but there was never any discussion around being thin or calories.  I learned how to listen to my body's signals with hunger, as well as where food came from and how to cook it.  I never felt self conscious or that I had to be a certain way.  I didn't know much about fashion, or media, and spent a lot of my teenage years hanging out with friends in a small town, oblivious to what was going on in the world.

Until I became an adult and moved to the city where suddenly, I was abnormal.

When I was 30, a co-worker literally would dissect my lunches every single day and ask what I ate for breakfast.  She thought I must be on some special diet and wanted my secret.  I was a little confused-there was no secret, and it truly became really embarrassing.

I joined a gym once and asked the trainer about an area that I didn't like and how to tone it.  She laughed at me, didn't answer, and didn't talk to me again.

A former friend told me she couldn't wait for me to get pregnant so that she could watch me "Get really, really, fat" and not be able to curl up in a chair like I usually did.

I was told once by a sales clerk while shopping and unable to find clothes to fit, that I was far too small and should visit the local buffet restaurant.

Someone told me once that people don't think thin chefs or "foodies" are credible.

It's hard to explain how awkward it is when all your co-workers go on a weight loss kick and you have to try to explain that you don't want to participate because you can't lose weight, because that would be unhealthy.  Because inevitably someone will take a swipe at you.  Also, you then hide any treats in your lunches to avoid the death glares from people who are annoyed that you are eating cookies and they are on a diet.

As the years have gone by, my body has re-adjusted.  Weight has settled into places where it wasn't before, I actually have a little cellulite, I've put on about five pounds, and while I don't look  like quite as abnormally skinny as I once did, comments still come occasionally. I am better able to handle them now, but some days, I find that there is an unexpected side effect.

A girl who once was okay with her body, is now so self conscious that I have vowed I'll never wear a bikini, or a shirt that tucks in, and I find it hard sometimes not to be disgusted by my imperfections. If I  try to talk about them, I'm shushed or told that "you couldn't possibly have a flabby stomach."  Yes, yes I do. Shall I whip it out and show you? Perhaps not as flabby as some, but flabby to ME.  I talk about wanting to be in better shape, and am  told  "Oh, but you look great, you should be happy!" What do I say to that?  Okay, I'm happy you think I look great, but I barely ever exercise and being sedentary can't be good for my heart or lungs, and I want to be healthy not skinny, right?  Also, the mental health benefits have been so huge I can't put a price tag on it. Will it make me skinnier?  Who knows?  Probably.  I won't lie and say that I don't look at that flabby stomach and hope that it will get smaller, or that I'm not doing exercises to tone it up.

I always think I'm bigger than I am.  When I shop, I grab bigger sizes. I always believe I weigh much more than I actually do and them am shocked by what the scale says. Fortunately I go by what my doctor says is healthy, not by Twitter or anyone else.  The strangest thing about this whole body changing with age thing is that I now feel closer to normal because I CAN wear some of the normal sizes at Reitmans. Weird, huh? 

My point is, I suppose, that no matter what size we are, we all hurt when people judge our bodies.  By saying cruel things to each other and about those around us, we send messages to our daughters that it's never okay to be different at either end of the spectrum.   People are more conscious about not saying cruel things to the overweight woman, but the skinny one is often fair game.

The truth is, we all have hearts that can be hurt.

No matter what the size of our ass is.

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