Yes, it’s true. I am.
While in the company of my besties (whom I’ve been friends with half my life) nothing sends shivers of anxiety up my spine faster than hearing the two words… “group picture!” Oh and they LOVE taking pictures of themselves. Who can blame them really? If I were that good-looking all the time, I’d probably upload every lovin’ minute of my day too. Here’s me blowing my nose…here’s me doing laundry… oh, and here’s me typing, “here’s me!”
I give you, Exhibit A: This is one of 3243256426 pictures taken on my friend’s wedding day last year wherein each of my best friends was either the bride, or a bridesmaid.
If you think I’m standing in the back row by sheer coincidence, you are sadly mistaken my friend. If you saw all 3243256426 pictures, you would see that unless explicitly instructed by a photographer, I am trying HARD to hide every square-inch of my body that isn’t my head. Pretty much the only thing I was thinking all day was that dressed like twinsies next to these girls, I might as well be holding a sign above my head that says, “hey look at me, I’m the obligatory fat friend!” Us big girls are hyper-sensitive of shit like that. Just like alcoholics know exactly where the booze is at a party, we know where all the cameras are located and at which moment one is about to be used on us. It’s an extra-sensory skill developed after one too many pictures sent you into the depths of a dark depression. Other skills are impromptu camouflage and running to the back row faster than a fat kid to an ice cream truck. I do those pretty well. Exhibit B:
That is because I have spent the better part of my life feeling shame over my shape. I am 33 years old and it has taken me this long to be able to talk about it without feeling embarrassed. In fact, just a year ago I couldn’t have even written this. So why the sudden change of heart and mind?
My change of heart is because of these two:
Over the last 10 years my husband has never ONCE said a disparaging word about my body even at its postpartum worst. Although I may never understand his enthusiasm, he loves my body and takes every opportunity to tell me so. Sadly, it has only taken me 10 years to believe him.
And my daughter. Oh my daughter. Every night when she’s done with her bath she runs around the house in oblivious, naked freedom. She’s downright giddy at her nudity and even dances in front of open windows smashing her cute, toddler tushy up against the glass. How I envy her… more importantly, how I love her. If I can spare her the meaningless years of self-loathing I have put myself through over the bulge in my butt, the curve of my hips and the girth of my thighs, it would bring me endless amounts of joy. I want her to grow up not just believing, but KNOWING that her inner beauty is far more valuable than a single digit number on the tag of her jeans. She deserves that and I know that I can’t give it to her unless I have it myself.
In my formative years I didn’t have the physique to garner much attention from the boys; especially when my core group of friends are as beautiful as they are AND could shop in the pre-teen section. I’ve been wearing double digits since the day after I started my period in the eighth grade. I have fluctuated in my life due to pregnancies, obsessive dieting and/or working out, but basically, my body sits comfortably and reliably into a size 12. Some of my friends are wearing a size zero… did you hear me? I said ZERO… at 33 years old… ZER-O. The biggest of them MIGHT (on a bloated day) wear a size 10.
My calling card, the thing that set me apart, was being “the smart one.” As you can imagine I had to wait several, painful, formative years before that characteristic moved its way up the desirability scale. Back then, I would have traded 30 college credits for one night as the prettiest, thinnest girl in the room. I spent years feeling like that and I don’t want my daughter to spend one second feeling that her worth is tied to something as superficial and fleeting, which ultimately, has nothing to do with who she really is. THAT is why I’ve had a change of heart, because she IS my heart.
As for my change of mind? Well, it is just that. I. Changed. My. Mind. I’ve made a conscious and concerted effort (because it takes a lot of BOTH) to stop looking in the mirror and subconsciously rattling off 15 different insults. I’ve stopped mentally holding myself up to an impossible standard and beating myself up every time I fell short of meeting it (which was always). I have stopped denying, degrading, disrespecting and devaluing my worth in my own fool head based off a meaningless number that has ZERO, ZER-O relation to my true value as a human being. So as for my change of mind, it was just that, a change of mind.
Recently, I have come across encouraging articles and images promoting a healthy body image for women. Major companies have launched extensive and well-funded campaigns to help change the public discourse and I want to be a part of that effort. I want to use my discourse to help change the world my daughter grows up in. I sense that the tides are turning for us women and I’m thrilled at that prospect. I feel that society is starting to understand that fat doesn’t equal worthless which is an equation I have believed my whole life. It’s a faulty math problem that ends with me.
Yes, I am the Melissa McCarthy of my friends and I am FINALLY learning to be okay with that. Because she is one funny-ass woman and I would TOTALLY be her best friend if she’d let me.
Come, help me change hearts and minds too.
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” ~Gandhi