02 June 2014

Being Big

In one week, I will be twenty-nine. While I am looking forward to my thirties, I have been feeling reflective about entering the last year of my twenties. Part of that process has involved trying to feel better about myself and my body.

I had wanted to write a list of twenty-nine little confessions about myself in time for my birthday, and I still might eventually do that, but for the past several months, I've been more interested in trying to articulate how I feel about my physical self.

I developed early, so I've had a love-hate relationship with my curves ever since I was nine years old and saw blood in my panties for the first time. I was not taught to celebrate my womanhood. I was taught to experience it as a nuisance, a necessary evil. To use more "academic" language, I had developed internalized misogyny. I hated my body, particularly my legs and ankles. I judged other women's bodies for being too thin or too fat. I performed my gender as a tom boy, preferring boys' toys like action figures to girls' toys like Barbies, even though I owned and played with both. I even had a male imaginary friend. I felt more inclined to respect patriarchal figures in my life, for good or ill. It was something that was conditioned, of course, not "innate." But I felt as though there was something wrong with my gender. I did not want to explore the trappings of femaleness. I did not want to be womanly.

In fourth grade, however, I felt slightly differently, at least for one evening. It was the night I dressed as Marilyn Monroe for Halloween. I was tall and "Amazonian," according to my grandma, wearing a size 12, with C-cup breasts. I looked too mature for Trick or Treating, and young high school boys were looking at me. I was grateful that my sister and I were accompanied by our dad. I felt strange, but I liked the modest heels I was wearing. I liked learning how to carry myself, stand taller. I liked being pretty.

Junior high was the worst; I judged my looks harshest then. I did not like being taller than my friends. I did not like being big. Changing for gym class was the worst. I was wearing undergarments meant for someone twice my age. I did not want my peers to see my woman's bra, my Just My Size panties. I felt like a freak.

Running around the gym was embarrassing, because my breasts bounced. I hated to sweat. I was made fun of for being a fat girl. I wanted to be invisible. Even now, I exercise alone, out of fear. I don't want to be seen and laughed at for my size.

In high school, I chose to wear mostly black. I did not wear dresses, and I very rarely wore shorts. I tried to focus my attention on my face. I thought that I could allow myself to think my face was pretty, even if the rest of my body was not. I wore mascara and purple lipstick, to emphasize features I liked about myself.

I started to see more variety in body type and gender expression when I went to college. And just like other privileged white girls, it was also my first encounter of feminism, then intersectional feminism. I started to read bell hooks and Patricia Hill Collins and Donna Haraway. I started to use a full-length mirror to look at my whole body instead of just my face. I started to talk more with other people about their bodies. I started to add more colors to my wardrobe. I started to see myself.

And even though my feelings about my body were not necessarily contingent upon my dating experiences, dating a man who saw me as beautiful helped me in my journey, and I am still grateful for that.

Now that I am nearly a year away from my thirties, I am able to say that I have come a long way. I am a pretty woman, surrounded by other pretty people. I am attracted to a variety of body shapes and sizes and know that many people, regardless of gender, struggle with their bodies. I am active. I am tall, but not as tall as some of my friends. My feet are flat, and my ankles are wide. I am big.

Today, I went shopping for swimming suits, which is usually an uncomfortable experience for me. I did not end up buying this one-piece suit because the top portion was too small, but I took a selfie in it, for future reference. This was a size 20 Tall, but a size 22 would've fit the top half better. They were out of 22s. This is my body today. There are times when I feel sad that I did not embrace my "smaller" self, and I am still trying to lose a little weight, not for vanity but to feel more comfortable. But for now, this is me, and I look pretty.

June 2, 2014

Today, I'm no longer interested in shaming myself or others. I'm not interested in calling a thinner woman a "skinny bitch," because she's probably got issues of her own, and it isn't fair for me to add judgement to that struggle. I am no longer interested in judging women bigger than myself, because I know what it's like to be judged for being big. I am also not going to judge men for their bodies. In fact, the men I've dated have had their own experiences judging themselves for their shapes and weight. I also acknowledge that weight does not determine health. My cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, etc, are excellent, according to my doctor. I have digestive issues and back problems, but according to my doctor, they are not related to my weight, and aside from said issues, I am healthy.

So, in summary, I've come a long way toward accepting myself. I still have a long way to go. I still have bad days, when I feel like a whale. But those days are fewer. While I am still not the most feminine, I have come to embrace and celebrate my femininity and have to decided to perform my gender as such. I am a much happier woman at nearly-29 than I was five, ten years ago, but I still have a lot of progress to make. I look forward to what the future has in store for me, my big, pretty self.

I am not beautiful despite being fat; I am fat as well as beautiful.