I went to an all-girls school, then I went to a university dominated by the ‘gentler’ sex. I now teach at an all-girls school, chilling in our almost all-girl staff room.
I tell you, that’s a lot of girl-ness.
And it’s funny that I have so many new and blossoming insights into being a girl, with no daughter to pass it on to, but that’s okay. I’m not even sure I get it enough to be so high handed as to ‘pass it on’. So instead, I’m just going to go on ahead and collect my thoughts and put them in a sparkly bundle here for me and you and any other girl who needs it.
It’s just that lately, when I listen to my students, and I listen to my coworkers, it makes me sad how much we seem to hate ourselves. Do we really warrant such self-war?
If I had to call myself a size, I’d call me “pillowy”. I like pillows. Who doesn’t have a favourite pillow?
If my waistbands could talk, however, they’d probably cut out all that flower and fluff, and just go straight for the F bomb:
Certainly the number in the back of my clothes hasn’t been under double digits since college.
And for many years, driving the numbers down like a stock market hacker was my single purpose in life, no matter the harm done to my body. But right now, what with life and sickness and babies and all else that has come my magical way, there is really nothing for it but to take a deep breath and say it again: I’m fat.
And just that admission could send shock waves into the websphere.
One one side, we would have those who are immediately worked into a righteous froth, overwrought with conviction that fat must be burned. And by ‘burned’ they mean KILL IT WITH FIRE!!!!
In keeping with the Underground Hatred Movement, most “~cisms” and phobias no longer run screaming through the streets in white sheets with torches ablaze; they now restrict themselves to throwing much more decorus shade, with the silent sneer, and the shifty eyes, and worse…much worse: dressing themselves up in swaths of concern and euphemism, like a pile of poop in a party dress.
Now it’s less, “You repulse us” and more, “I will snob and shame you BECAUSE. Health.”
And then they grin a smug, untouchable grin that I imagine looks a lot like this:
That doesn’t really help anyone. Because it’s true: being overweight walks hand in hand with about 50 squillion physical complications. You SHOULD lose the weight, if you can. You SHOULD change your eating and your lifestyle to accommodate a healthier life. Does it mean starve your way into size 0 jeans? No.
An important thing to note as well is that there are people who, for all the diet and exercise, just aren’t meant to be teeny-tiny, and our eyeballs shouldn’t be the only measure of things. Because my new favourite thing-I-learned-online is the clinical diagnosis TOFI: Thin On The Outside, Fat On The Inside, which is the diagnosis applied to people who are naturally slender, but have many of the health issues and fat deposits generally affiliated with the obese. I mean who thinks up these things?
But I digress. We can’t talk about fairly fit “fat” people without talking about Taylor Townsend.
Now one of the top ranked tennis players, little Miss Taylor was dropped by the US Tennis Association (USTA) despite her strong game, because of her weight. They pulled funding and sponsorship and dropped her from the game roster so that she couldn’t even make it into the wild card draw in the tournaments, and told her to go lose weight before trying again. She, determined to keep her momentum going, went rogue. She dropped her coaches and signed on with another, who coached her through to jaw-dropping results that saw her frolicking up the ranks like a lamb on a sweet, spring morning.
The USTA insists that dropping her until she lost the weight was entirely for her health, and that she just needed to stop being fat, and all would be forgiven. PS, this is Taylor:
No wonder there is a movement on the other side of the scale that rallies those of… “premium poundage” to RISE UP AND RULE! They tell us DON’T SAY “FAT”, say “PHAT!” or “FLUFFY!” or “CURVY!” They say, “Have some pie, extra whip, and let the whole world BURN.” They say that the people who try to fat-shame you are intimidated by voluptuousness and by their own foiled desire for ballooning boobs and aspirations of callipygy. Uh, no.
Now I understand- embrace even- the idea of doing more than tolerating your current state, but going further to celebrate it. But does that have to mean that I hold on to the idea and title of fatness like a 10 pound bag of marshmallows just before a s’mores cookout? Uh, no.
I think either extreme can inflict such a world of damage.
One side of this *ahem* weighty issue can inflict such a deep and abiding sense of shame that it cripples us, threading self sabotage wires throughout all our weight loss efforts, winding its way towards some inevitable detonator that sets us right back to square one. A better way than shame must exist for motivating the necessary lifestyle adjustments. And a better way does. Several, actually.
The other extreme mistakes empowerment for enabling. You can be comfortable with your body, confident and self-embracing of all its lumps, bumps and curves WITHOUT having to concede wholesale defeat to the kingdom of obesity, sinking into its fleshy folds without so much as a cry for help. That’s no good either.
There is so much hate aimed against us women. The media has done a bang up job planting the seeds of self-hate and letting US feed and nurture them until they’ve blossomed into the verdant jungle that it has become. Now we can find camps of women of all ages and sizes and fitness levels huddled around body image bonfires, tossing in reasons why their body is the worst, stoking the flames of self-hatred. And THAT’S the norm! HOW have we let that BECOME the norm?
Here at my school, there is a fitness club among some of the female staff members.
When I first heard about the fitness club I thought YES! I can go running, work up a sweat then come back and mark a set of papers, done and done. And I still plan to.
But having made the decision to join, I began paying closer attention to who they were and what they were saying. And what I’ve been hearing has broken my heart. Even the slim, toned ones among them deflect compliments like ninjas, almost as if they’re afraid that to accept that they’re in good physical condition makes them traitors to womankind.
Well, excuse me for refusing to pick any of these crippling concepts.
I think it is possible to embrace ” fat”, and when you’re ready, to let it push you to improve; to use it as a concrete starting place to push off from; to have a marker to see how far you’ve come.
Shame will not be my motivator.
Pride will be.
I’m proud of everything I’ve overcome. I’m proud of the body I used to have. It’s not a ghost, it’s a goal (or at the very least, a great memory).
I refuse to shame my slim sisters into thinking they have to pretend they’re less fabulous than they are.
Their beauty does not diminish mine, and neither does my size.
We are more than our waistbands.
We are worth more than our weight.
I’m thinking of a number between me and myself.
One day I’m going to get there.
But today, today I am still lovely.
Today I am still happy.
Today I am still important.
And not one drop of that will change with my weight.
Celebrate yourself: as is, where is.
And if you need a boost, well gosh darn it you go have that cookie. For courage.
And just for today, I don’t even care if it’s diet or full fat.
Courage is courage and it doesn’t count your carbs.
Now, go be awesome, you majestic beast, you!