I remember the exact moment I began to wage a war on my body, one that would last almost 30 years. I was around 8, and I was jumping off the pool deck into the water at my parent’s house, with my brothers and sister. Drinking in summer’s delights in the way that only small children truly can. I was wearing a rainbow bathing suit, with black “paint splatters” over it, with a giant circular cutout at the belly, a tiny little ruffly skirt underneath it. I LOVED that bathing suit. My mom was sitting there, and turned me to her. She patted my stomach and said, “You better be careful. You’re getting thick in the belly.” She really didn’t mean anything by it-she was raised in a family of incredibly vain Italian women, who constantly commented on appearance. Nonetheless, it stung. It was the first time I recall ever feeling like something about me was defective.
On top of that, I developed breasts at a really young age. I was wearing a bra in the third grade, and I remember wearing a white shirt to school one day, and this boy, Brian, teased me about the fact that he could see my bra through my shirt. I still will not wear white shirts, at 35. My chest became a part of “me” by high school, in that it was a way people identified me: “big tits”,I think, was the phrase I heard uttered most. I tilted my spine inward in an attempt to shrink them, shrink myself. Looking back at photos of myself when I was 16 or 17, it was evident that I had a body that belonged to an adult-it was a common topic of conversation, particularly among the boys I counted amongst my friends. I knew I was supposed to just laugh along, accept it as some sort of compliment. It never felt like one-it felt like a liability. I know now that it was a liability.
As women, our bodies are ALWAYS liabilities. You’re too fat, too thin, too busty (and likely a slut), too flat, too tall, too hairy, too masculine. Our bodies are public domain for comment, for possession, for violation. Leers, comments, touches, judgments. I remember squatting down at my locker in high school when I was a junior, and my then-boyfriend came up behind me, yanking the waistband of my jeans up, propelling me forward into my locker. “Pull up your pants. I can see your underwear-you look like a slut.” It seems enraging to me now, almost laughable if not so sad, but at the time, I believed him. I thought I did something wrong. Again, shame.
Into adulthood, I became less active and more heavy. For the past 15 years, I have swung so widely, weight wise: there is almost a 90 lb. difference between my lightest and heaviest. Reproductive and endocrine disorders have continuously conspired to make this even more difficult. The problem is, I have always felt huge, a massive distortion from what is acceptable. No matter what size I am. Thick in the middle, as my mom said. I feel invisible and overexposed, at the same time. I lay in bed at night, running my hands over the soft flesh of my abdomen, avoiding the extra fat on my thighs and arms with my eyes, disgusted by it. As a freshman in college, I noticed a series of tiny, silver stretch marks running along the part of my arm where it meets my chest, and I felt utter horror. Meanwhile, this discovery happened in the midst of an idle moment of a volleyball game, one where my strong, capable body was performing well. But all I really saw, were those marks. Marks that shamed me. The shame I have always felt from my body has felt as normal as a body part-it’s a part of me.
But, I’m tired of feeling bad about my body. My body has carried me through so much in life-a successful athletic career as a teenager, sustained me during times of deep sadness and stress that I thought would overtake me, and perhaps the most incredible of all-it sustained a pregnancy that doctors said would never happen, and delivered the most beautiful boy into my life. Those breasts I hated so much? They provided my child’s nourishment for 15 months, helping him grow strong, into the beautiful little boy he is now. It carried me through the crushing blow of my mother’s death while simultaneously bringing that little boy into the world. While everything around me felt like it was crumbling into dust, I felt so much confidence in my what my body is capable of.
And over these past few years, I’ve become less and less interested in quantifying my worth by my pants size, my weight, my belief in an unrealistic ideal. I am kind and funny and accomplished in my work, smart and driven and eternally optimistic about the future and the goodness of people. Who the fuck cares if my pants aren’t a size 6? I’m tired of chasing one-dimensional concepts of what I think will make me content. I am enough, just as I am. Beautifully crafted at my core.
It’s hard for me to expose these things about myself, but I want other people to stop hating their bodies, too. And in order to do that, we need to stop feeling so isolated and shut out by it. The garbage we are fed by the culture and the patriarchy about what about bodies should be, and the bogus value assigned to it, are never going to stop, unless we force it. So, for anyone who has ever thought, “Things will be better once I lose weight, I will be better when I lose weight”…I’m with you. I AM you. And I promise you, you are enough.