I was trying to think if there was anything I felt strongly enough about today to write a post about and got to thinking about slurs or taunts or just awkwardly embarrassing moments that have happened to me throughout my life. Some because I was/am fat. Some because of silly mis-steps made. Some just by the wondrous combination of tiny errors in judgment and people looking the wrong way at the wrong time.
In the holiday spirit of sharing I thought I might purge my mind of these horrible events as a sort of self-help catharsis exercise. (See ma, I’m even flexing and working out my BRAIN muscle too!) These aren’t meant to make anyone cringe, though if you’ve ever done or felt something similar then you might get that same feeling you might if say, you were watching a not-so-funny sitcom and they’re at that awkward point in the episode where you’re supposed to be laughing but you’ve actually BEEN in the situation and it wasn’t funny then and watching it happen to someone else still isn’t funny and just brings back all those awful feelings from when YOU were in that same situation.
*post wiggles like in Wayne’s world as we delve into remembrances* Doodeley-doo Doodeley-doo Doodeley-doo…..
We’ll start with the memory that spurred me into writing today:
- High School. Daily band practice. Feeling awful anyways from a bout of the monthly fun-time. Sitting in the row of trumpets next to the same boy I had all year. Exchanging hellos and basic greetings. I feel something funny inside my pant leg and just wiggle it a little and then that feeling is gone, yay! A bit later while we were paused between songs the guy next to me points at some odd cloth on the ground near my feet and asks, “What’s that?” It is a pair of my underwear. With a slightly used menstrual pad still attached. On the floor. Of the band room. At my feet. And publicly noticed. As my skin tried to defy the laws of physics and find a new shade of red to add to the visible light spectrum I scootched the offending article, that must have been stuck inside the leg of the pants and fallen out when I wiggled earlier, under my foot hurriedly saying, “oh nothing, just a sock or something I think”. And then I tried not to die from sheer horrific embarrassment. And I went home and I cried.
See? I start off with a bang here. I’m not messing around with trying to get a bit of mental catharsis with releasing these remembrances to the ether of the Internet here!
What’s next. Ah yes.
- Going further back. We find a young April (April R at that time actually, not April D). It is summer. At a family BBQ pig roast. It is hot. I’m wearing a snug t-shirt and shorts and my 12 year old belly isn’t completely hidden from public view. An older nasty/snarky cousin walks by and he sneers and makes piggy noises at me in front of everyone, chuckling nastily while others watch in amusement at his antics. I wished I could have been the actual spitted pig instead of that young pasty white girl with the audacity to dress for the season in a cute outfit that made me comfortable. After all, fatties are never to be seen, they’re to be mocked and threatened into thinness. Even if thin you’re never thin enough to escape the possible piggy noises, that fear of mockery should be reinforced at every opportunity. My self-esteem and smile vanish as quick as the summer sun behind a storm cloud, ruining the day and my thoughts for a year as that public event will play in my mind over and over, motivating diet after diet and killing any self-esteem that might try to build in any way. After all I MUST be gross and disgusting if I’m not completely gifted with washboard abs and golden tawny skin. And I cried.
So there are a couple events that have marked the way my life has gone. One was a simple matter of not remembering to shake out pants if I plan to wear them again the next day. The other was a “simple” matter of adding one part generally nasty family member to one part already body-shamed young girl to one part shaming-guilt for a lifetime and mixing to a fine blend of internalized body-hatred.
But since anyone who reads here regularly will know that I’m usually up-beat and not eager to end on a negative note, here are a couple of more recent strongly impact-having moments in my life that have started to alter that road of body shame and feminine cycle embarrassment towards more acceptance of who I am.
- Back about a year now. I see a journal post on Deviant Art from a budding young woman with more self awareness and a stronger fighting spirit than I ever thought to possess at her young age. It references a post by a woman Kate Harding called “The Fantasy of Being Thin”. I read about loving your body for what it is and not accepting limits or waiting to do what you wanted because you didn’t deserve it until you were smaller. And I cried. And I wondered where those sorts of thoughts had been all my life.
- I danced at a nursing home and watched the smiles for my large body belly dancing. I enjoyed the accolades at my accomplishment when I posted videos from the show. And the confidence I have slowly gained after years of self hatred enabled me to NOT cry when people wrote the text equivalent of piggy noises in between the accolades.
There are lots of moments in life that shape who we are. Large defining moments as well as small repetitive moments day in and day out that mold our attitudes, beliefs and outlook on life. As horrifying as some of the moments in my life have been I like to point to more of what is happening now and see how just a bit of positive encouragement can lead to amazing turn arounds in life. And while those cringing feelings brought on by remembering those old hurts certainly don’t bring fluffy bunnies to mind, they help remind me of the road I’ve travelled and how far I’ve come.
So it doesn’t “hurt” to bring those memories back sometimes and see how I’ve grown, how far I have come and still have to go in my life. I’ve always been a “silver lining” type of person, even in the darkest doldrums of self-hatred I always found that hope to cling to that something better was right around the corner. Well now I know that the “something better” is likely something that I myself have done or will do or will help to do with my growing confidence, self-awareness, generous helpful nature; those traits that used to be pushed to the back burner in lieu of concentrating on my body’s appearance (pasty white, female and fat). And that feels good.