"Any woman who chooses to behave like a full human being should be warned that the armies of the status quo will treat her as something of a dirty joke. That's their natural and first weapon." ~ Gloria Steinem

Thursday, April 15, 2010

I'm not fat, Part II

[This is a follow-up to this post.]

Remember when I said I was a "wise 17-year-old" and thus able to push out negative thoughts about being *gasp* FAT when I had 1% above average body fat?

Upon further reflection, I wasn't just naturally wise in this instance. I was strong, and moderately capable of fending off negative thoughts about my body, but see, I had help.

I've never suffered an eating disorder or had extremely damaging body issues; I've had my short forays into self-hatred and moderate food deprivation, but they always began as accidental and I was able to pull myself out before things got too intense. And I credit this, partially, with the beginning -- how I began my life -- the person who responded to me the first time I uttered the words "I'm fat." -- my mom.

I can't quite remember how it started, but I was crying in the bathroom of my parents' master bedroom; my mom sat on the floor and quietly waited for me to spit it out [My mother long ago realized that I would only share information after sometimes hours of failed attempts, tears, and patient waiting on her part.]. When I finally said it, her immediate reaction was, I imagine, the kind of reaction that every little or not-so-little girl [I may have been 7 or 8?] needs when she starts understanding the cultural pressure she's under to fit into a very narrow box of ideal beauty.

She told me I was beautiful. God had given me a beautiful body, and he'd made it especially for me, and he admired and loved both it and me -- as did she.

Later on, when I was around 15, perhaps, I ended up in the doctor's office with her, trying to figure out what the half-sentence he'd just spit out meant, but she hadn't let him finish, so I was at a loss. I asked her later and she told me that he was going to tell me I needed to lose weight, but I didn't, and no doctor was going to tell her kids to go on a diet when they didn't even need one.

My mom never seemed to care what the world told her about her kids; indeed, we all spent the better part of our childhood on the small end of the size charts, a fact that prompted many doctors to instruct my mother to switch from breastfeeding to formula, an instruction she happily ignored. [isn't that silly? birth = your kid is too small. puberty = your kid is too big.] She was simply unconcerned with size charts, BMIs, and, essentially, doctors.

To this day, she will not allow me to say I was fat in high school. Before I stopped saying it, I'd meant it as a joke, mostly, but I was still using it in a self-disparaging manner, and she wouldn't allow it. I wasn't fat, I'd never been fat, I've always been beautiful in her eyes. And I really wasn't fat; I was 5'3", 145, 38D. I certainly don't look fat in photos -- my face is just a little rounder, mostly. You can argue over whether or not she should have just said "Who cares if you're fat? You're delightful at any weight" but the fact that I was not, in any way, fat, made her choose her particular approach, and it did well.

These days, when it comes up, I say I was a little chubby in high school, or simply that I'm about 20 pounds lighter than I was at 18 [I'm also an inch taller, so it often appears to be more than 20lbs.]. I didn't do it on purpose, nor am I maintaining it on purpose; who the hell knows why I was a well below-average infant, then a slightly below-average child, then a slightly above-average teenager, and now have become pretty much average? Since I've never dieted in my life or had any chronic illness that might alter my height and weight, I can only assume that this is the path my body wanted to take. She's pretty damn happy where she is right now, and she only changes if and when she wants to. And we're ok with that. We're happy together.

And I'm pretty much blaming my mom for all of this. She did her goddamned best to inspire a healthy self-image, and there is no question in my mind that her behavior early in my life is primarily how I was able to counteract the negative effects of living in this ridiculous world. I'm not perfect; nobody is. But I'm a lot closer to 100% loving my body, with very little effort on my part, than I would be had my mom not been the awesome mother she was.

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