I am not obese, nor do I consider myself as such – let’s just get that out there.
At most stores I am a Large. Pants size: 12. Bra size: 38D. Height: 5’9”. I don’t own a scale. The last time I officially weighed myself was probably at my last doctor’s appointment. I think I was roughly 185 pounds.
If you don’t know me – that should give you an accurate-enough profile.
My closest friends are all smaller than me, both in stature and in weight. Standing next to them in pictures, I look like a giant. A photo of me and my friends looks like art from around the time when painters didn’t quite know how to draw babies yet – so they just looked like smaller humans next to much bigger humans. Like this:
Now consider this picture of my friends and I in Winchester in 2013:
If you couldn’t guess, I’m the one on the far right. I’m the Mother Mary of this photo, standing next to eight Baby Jesus-es.
Here are some of the things my friends might not realize about me:
I try to overcompensate in photographs. I like to make absurd faces when everyone else is smiling. I feel most confident posing for the “silly” group pictures, rather than the “nice” ones. Having to smile “normally” for a photo is one of my least favorite things in the world. Because I know that when I see how that photo turns out, all I am going to see is how much larger I am than everyone else. I need my personality to appear bigger than I do.
Summer is the time of year I feel most uncomfortable in my own skin. I would love summer if I could wear pants and sweaters and multiple layers. Wearing shorts is a nightmare. They constantly ride up because there isn’t a gap in-between my thighs. When I am sitting down and crossing my legs, you can see the beautiful celluloid I have around my hips. When I wear a swimsuit, all I can think about is my stomach pooch and the stretch marks I have on my inner thighs and upper arms.
I can’t shop at a lot of the stores that you get to shop at. Even though Forever 21 makes very cheaply-made clothing, I can’t deny that I love their stuff. But at Forever 21 I am considered plus-sized – at least an XL if not a 2X. A large would maybe fit my waist – but forget about the bust and the hips. It took years for the Forever 21 by my house to even get a plus-sized section. When it did – it was the tiniest plus-sized section ever (like, thanks for the crumb, Forever 21). It took up MAYBE an eighth of the entire store and it had completely different clothing from the rest of the store – and it wasn’t as cute. (At Old Navy, I am a Medium, so you can guess where I do most of my shopping.)
I want to go shopping with you, but I most likely won’t try anything on. All my real shopping happens when I am alone, because I have to go to different stores than you do. My high school graduation dress was bought in the women’t section because nothing in the juniors was big enough for my boobs. There are styles that I like that I will see in the stores we go to together, but I know that if I pick them up to try them on, I’m going to go through the same crisis that I have gone through time and time again in the fitting room – that this style was not made for me or my body. I have to go out on my own in search of styles that I don’t like as well, but at least don’t make me look ridiculous.
I hate that I can’t share clothes with you. I was at a gathering at my friend’s house, which is on a lake. I thought we were all just going to hang out. Little did I know that everyone else brought their swimsuits and were planning on jumping in. My friend (bless her) offered to go look for a suit for me so I could join in, but I had to tell her, “I don’t think you’ll have anything that will fit me.” I sat on the shore and watched everyone else swim. I’ve been at sleepovers and forgotten pajama shorts, so I had to sleep in my jeans because they didn’t have anything that would fit. It’s always embarrassing and I always spend the night thinking to myself, “Everything would be better if you were just a little smaller.”
I know that being called too skinny sucks, but I get frustrated when you think that it is the same as fat-shaming. I should premise this by saying that body-shaming of any kind is sick and frustrates me to no end. No body is a “normal” body. However, fat-shaming is different because the world is catered to smaller people. It’s not just the fashion industry. Airplane seats are by no means one size fits all. Illegally trying to fit four friends in the backseat of a car has always been embarrassing because I take up too much room for us all to sit comfortably.
I think about my weight at least once every day. When I am at all in the presence of other people, I am most likely very aware of my body and am thinking about how it looks to those around me. I may be having a conversation with you, but also in the back of my mind, I am thinking about my stomach spilling over the waistband of my jeans. I am tightening my abs and sucking in my throat so it won’t look like I have a double chin. I often find myself thinking that if I don’t lose weight, I will never have true self-confidence.
My body image is something I will probably struggle with all my life. And I am not alone.
I am an in-betweener. I am not fat. I am not skinny. But every day I have to deal with the shit that the fashion industry is always dishing out – that you can only be petite or plus-sized – there is nothing else. And that’s just not true.
Comparison is the root of all evil. I see my friends being the object of crushes, going on dates, being comfortable in a crowd, and I can’t help but think that their size is a huge part of what makes this so. I am not small and dainty and traditionally feminine. I can’t help but think that if a man were to see me standing next to a friend of mine, his eyes would go to her. I am the pal, the chubby eccentric, the supporting role and my body makes it so. This skewed view of the world defies all of my basic logic, but I keep mistaking it for truth.
I wish I could be one of those women who is proud of her size. When a friend calls me beautiful, I wish I could see past the horrible voice in my head saying they think I am beautiful, in spite of my weight. I wish I wasn’t so aware of how tight clothes feel or what my arm/chin/stomach will look like in every picture I take. I wish I could look at a photo of me and remember the good time I was having, rather than wishing I would have angled myself better or worn something more flattering.
The body I wish for is not the body I have, and I fear the two will never come together. I fear that I will always let it come in-between me and my goals.
I love my friends, but I envy them, too. It is easier to believe that weight does not equal worth when one does not have extra weight to worry about.
I carry more pounds than my friends – these pounds are a part of who I am. But there is a bigger picture to take in.
I am lucky to have the friends that I do. I am lucky to have gone on adventures with them. I am lucky to have shared countless laughs with them. And I am lucky that when they see a picture of us together, they don’t see my size – just the love behind our smiles and the memory of being happy in the same place at the same time.
I long for the same state of mind.