Friday, May 11, 2012

the skinny on skinny, or MOASB #2--by Jessica

Hold in your mind the image of that girl in high school. You know the one I'm talking about; that skinny bitch who had it all. She had the hair, the clothes and the body; parts of her that you wished had been yours. She could never understand what you went through every day. Her life seemed perfect and since then in the back of your mind you are always trying to become some version of her. Is the grass really greener on the other side? Is it? Really? Honestly think about the part of you that envies and hates her. Would you want to be the focus of that animosity? Do you really want to be that woman we all love to hate? Probably not.

Curvy and full figured women have endured all types of esteem assault, especially in the last 30 years. They are rarely represented in the media in a positive light. And if they are, they are not on the cover staged in a passionate lip-lock with some muscled hunk. They are the quirky side-kick with the great personality. I get it. Being forced into a stereotype isn't exactly fun. The compulsion to rail against the idea of what our society exalts as the ideal body type is totally normal. 
I can tell you as one of those “skinny bitches” women love to hate on, that my life has never been perfect. For most of my life I have been sickly and very thin. Not lovely willowy womanly thin, but bony, scarecrow, gawky thin. I was the ugly duckling that didn't go through puberty until the ripe age of 17, when most of the ladies in my peer group had been having their periods since 7th grade. I was so thin that my Mother's friends would pull her aside to ask her if I was anorexic or bulimic. I was and never have been either and in fact longed for nothing else than to look and feel normal. I wanted breasts and hips and to look like a woman instead of a twelve year old when all of the other girls were getting approached by boys to attend high school dances. Instead I was somewhat of a loner and constantly made trips to the bathroom fighting off sudden nausea or the feeling I might faint.

When I finally did develop breasts they came in suddenly and quite forcefully. I still weighed 95 pounds my senior year of high school and now had perfect size C breasts to go with that. (They continued to enlarge to the point of hilarity..especially when I was pregnant with my daughter Adelle.) I was never the most popular kid to begin with, in fact, I was a drama nerd in high school with an overachieving complex. I had a few really close friends but was never invited to the parties and sleepovers of the popular girls clique. I honestly never minded this. A small part of me felt a little left out, but I am an introvert to the core and too many social engagements make me overwhelmed. 

When I finally did develop my figure I got some of that coveted attention; but not the way I expected to. I cannot tell you how many times women gave me dirty looks or said disparaging things they thought I couldn't hear. My second year of college I was fired by a female boss who called me “Big-Tits McGee” behind my back and canned me after her husband flirted with me at a work event. Countless women I got to know in college, later told me they thought I was a “full-fledged biotch” before they got to know me because I'm quiet and have a great body. They assumed my reserved nature was the look of condescending snobbery at its finest. Yes, I got more attention from men, but rather than feeling like the heroine of a romantic movie I felt sexually objectified by men who never looked past my shoulders.  I even started to feel guilty about the way I looked!  It certainly didn't attract the kind of male attention women everywhere are really looking for. On the contrary, it made every man suspect. Did he really want a date with me or was he looking for the next notch on his conquest list?

I have been ill constantly throughout my life. My family is full of healthy and athletic people and I have long been the family joke. The weak one. The wimp. It was only a year ago that I was finally diagnosed with Crohn's disease. It is a digestive tract disorder that disrupts the absorption of nutrients to the body as well as autoimmune disfunction I which my body goes through flare-ups of aggressive and dangerous symptoms. Like with all autoimmune diseases your body has trouble distinguishing between healthy and damaged parts of the body. In my case, my disease affects my ileum, a part of my middle intestines. 

This last Winter (2011), when my symptoms had never been worse I was hospitalized for a week after having a potassium related seizure in the Emergency Room. I had been starving for 4 months and had lost over 30 pounds. When I was admitted to the hospital I weighed 75 pounds at 5 feet 4 inches. I had been going to doctors for months and they kept dismissing me as a hypochondriac. (Apparently stomach problems are one of the biggest complaints in many patients and usually are mild cases of heartburn or the stomach flu.) I don't remember much after my seizure except regaining consciousness briefly while they were forcing a tube down my through to pump out all the bile. (That was the most pain I have ever experienced in my life and four months ago I just experienced childbirth.) After one tortuous week of tests, the results came back. Crohn's disease. I cannot tell you how excited I was. After a life of illness and dealing with skeptic doctors, family members and friends, I had a name for what was wrong with me and because of that, a way to fix it! 
Since then, I have been healthy. I know now that I have never been healthy before. I feel so good. It is unbelievable to me that I lived my whole life before this feeling as if I had the stomach flu every day of my life and now I am symptom free! I have also gained healthy weight! I weigh 115 now. It still isn't a whole lot but it is the size my body is meant to be. I have energy and exercise every day and no longer battle with the desire to be more. I am happy, not because I am thin, but because my relationship with my body has changed for the better. 

The heart of the matter is, why must we struggle to look one way or another? Shouldn’t we all be striving for healthy bodies? The media has us hating each other for what we think the other has. Demonizing one another just tears us apart and spreads unhappiness like a disease. However, why does this anger automatically turn into criticism of the other body type? Shouldn’t we as women be bonding and standing together to insist that a larger group of women be represented? No matter who you are looking at, you are looking at a person with his or her own body image issues. The idea that perfection actually exists is a complete fallacy.

Whether our physical forms come in a size 2 or a size 12, a cherished and cared for body is what women should be craving. Tearing each other down to make ourselves feel more beautiful does disservice to all women. I know we have all done it. Let's change! Let us change our attitude toward ourselves and others. It’s time to celebrate our differences. Let us discover that there is no one “perfect” image of beauty. Instead, may we enjoy life as healthy confident women.

1 comment:

  1. So beautiful! Wow! I am so happy for you. I am on the opposite end of the spectrum, but since I found fitness in running, I have never had a better body image. The body is capable of so much and I feel so lucky to have a healthy one. I am so glad you feel healthy!