Later in the Love Yourself series, we’re going to discuss the plus-sized end of the weight spectrum. Today, I’m proud to share Kate’s story, which covers the complex issue of struggling to put on enough weight while being told that certain parts of her body were too big. Kate’s story is one of bullying,confusion, and ultimately redemption.
Kate is a dear, dear friend of mine. She’s the kind of friend I call and random times with random questions and she always assures me that I/my children are completely normal. (No, that doesn’t make her a liar. It makes her nice.) I can’t begin to count the number of times we’ve talked each other down from one cliff or another. She’s a Parent Educator with a MS in Family and Child Studies. Kate lives in Texas with her rescued pup, Penny, where she dances, tells stories, knits, paints, and loves on kids and families. You can read all about Kate and Penny’s adventures here.
Don’t forget to love yourself today! -MS
I Move Through Every Inch of Me
I grew up with a nontraditional body image issue. I was always fairly severely underweight (due, in part, to being on Ritalin from the age of six, and an undiagnosed acid reflux issue), never got enough sleep, and wasn’t physically active. I was pale, skinny, and had large, dark circles under my eyes.
My slender frame didn’t save me from ridicule. Kids are pretty awful. “She’s so skinny, I bet she even smells like spaghetti” was whispered behind my back at age ten, and in high school, a girl told me a boy had said “She looks like a man trapped in a woman’s body.” “You’re flat, Kate, like Meryl Streep” my well-meaning best friend in fifth grade said.
And yet, I knew gaining weight would be bad. Very bad. I watched female relatives (who I thought slender) go on diets when they went over a certain weight. Even my classmates were taking slim fast in their lunch.
The year I turned twelve, I started out weighing 66lbs, and ended weighing 86. I finally registered on the percentile. Hopefully people stopped thinking I was anorexic or being starved.
But then I hit an interesting dilemma. I was fourteen and at a pool party for my dance team. The director (who was already pulling girls aside and telling them they couldn’t dance until they lost weight) was telling us “Every girl either has a stomach problem or a butt problem.”
I glanced down at my flat stomach, knowing I was as small as I could possibly be. Sarcastically, I said, “I guess I have a butt problem, then!”
She looked at me, looked down at my hips, and gave me a knowing look I translated to “Uh, DUH!”
I was so startled. I knew my waist was really small, and I knew there was nowhere “in” to go as far as my hips were concerned. And hadn’t my relatives always protested when I wanted to sit on their lap because I had a “bony butt?”
But then this knowing woman had just affirmed that something on my body was too…big?
It continued. Measuring us for our crushed velvet unitards (I KNOW), she winked at me and told me she’d “give me 30” on my bust measurement, measured my waist (almost 24), and said “but what I’m really worried about is your hips.”
At the end of the season, she separated us into groups, the circles and the lines. The circles had to run a whole lot, and the lines had to tone. I was in the lines. But then she began workout stations and looked pointedly at me when she said “This one will help trim your hips.”
I began to think maybe she was right. Even after I realized how manipulative and awful she was and left the team, going to a strength and stretch class with my mom, I told the instructor I wanted to “trim up these,” pinching the tiny amounts of fat accumulated in between my hips and waist. Any time the question of figure came up, I told people I was a flashlight, which was straight until it hit the lens, then out sharply and straight down. I turned around in the mirror, constantly checking. What did a good butt look like?
College came around. I continued the narrative. “I look like a teenager” “I have a…big? butt, possibly” “I don’t have a figure” “I look like a prepubescent girl.” A popular thing for girls to say was that we were made to look exactly such a way that would be most pleasing to our future husbands (a concept I find absolutely disgusting now). My (often silent) humorous reply was “oh no, I’m going to marry a pedophile!” I remember one wonderful moment when, after hearing me joking about my sub-par body, my friend Summer stopped me on the stairs in our dorm and said “KATE! You have a FIGURE.”
Wait, what? Is that what that was? I have…a figure. Hips, not a huge butt, but a graceful curve coming from a narrow waist, which rested beneath broad shoulders…almost an hourglass.
Surely no normal man would be attracted to this flat, altogether unattractive, loud, opinionated girl, preordained since before the beginning of time or not.
And I was proved right over and over again. No normal man seemed at all interested in what I offered. Which furthered the thought – I’m not exactly pretty. I’m not the kind of person someone would find attractive. I’m not going to have a Some-Enchanted-Evening across-a-crowded-room moment. I’m not the kind of girl boys fall in love with. If someone wants me, it will probably be in spite of my appearance.
I didn’t end up dating anyone at all until I was 26. And that was a huge mistake we won’t go into here. I did learn, however, that being wanted didn’t make me feel beautiful. It made my body feel like it was not mine. It was hollow, used.
Writing this post, I had time to think when I felt most beautiful. I may never consider myself a knockout, but God do I feel beautiful when I’m dancing. When I’m making something. When I’m playing with children or holding babies.
I think body acceptance has more to do with its use than with its appearance.
When I move through every inch of me, I am every bit as sensual as the most seductive woman on the planet (no matter what anyone else thinks). When I run around with those littles, I am grace and motherhood without being a mother. When I peer down to double check a pattern, or lift up the safety goggles to examine my most recent project, I am a powerful, strong, capable woman. I hope that is the beauty that radiates from me, regardless of my appearance.
Oh, and those “too-big hips”? They look kick-ass in a pencil skirt.