“You don’t get between a pregnant lady and the bathroom.” That comment was made to me a couple months ago as I was searching for a real bathroom at an outdoor wedding. It might have been slightly amusing if I was pregnant (although probably not).
But I wasn’t pregnant. And at the last wedding I attended before that someone assumed that I was pregnant as well.
Bizarrely this has never happened anywhere other than weddings. On the days that I am the most dressed up and have taken the most care of my appearance. That I tried on multiple dresses to find one that fit the mood of the occasion and actually have taken more than two minutes with my hair.
No, I’m not pregnant. Bloated maybe. Full from dinner maybe. Yes, I may have a little extra weight around my stomach that seems to stick there even when it comes off in other places.
Those Extra Pounds
According to my weight and height, I now fall into the BMI category of “overweight.” I have never considered myself overweight before. A few extra pounds to lose, maybe. But never overweight or unhealthy. Yet that one number is enough to make me question everything. Just like that one comment almost ruined the entire day for me.
Every time I have to go up a size when clothes shopping or try on a favorite piece of clothing that is just too tight I get frustrated. Beyond the belly pooch that I want to hide, the clothing thing is what bothers me the most. I have never enjoyed clothes shopping, but gaining weight has made me dread putting on clothing in the dressing room.
It’s guaranteed that even the size that I am supposed to fit into won’t button at the waist or fit over my boobs in half the stores. Women’s clothing seems to be made for those that are ideally proportional. And let’s face it, me and most of the women America aren’t. And nothing ever fits right. Something is always rubbing or sticking me in the wrong place, riding up or falling down. It makes me want to live in yoga pants and t-shirts.
High School Me
All this has the unfortunate effect of bringing me back to my teenage years when I had a similar but yet different problem. Although I may be considered average now, I was several dozen pounds lighter then. I was all points and angles, an awkward girl wishing for a woman’s body. In high school I started to wonder whether normal body parts such as hips and a butt were ever going to arrive. When I could buy a dress in my size in which I actually filled out the chest.
Although I may have been blessed by a fast metabolism, it is also meant that my body type was “boyish.” My jealousy of my friends’ curves was certainly not helped by their comments. I was referred to as skinny or half a person. My butt became known as “gluteus miminus” and jokes were made about my hardly there chest.
I didn’t have an eating disorder. People often commented that they didn’t know where all the food I ate went. I wasn’t athletic at all, preferring to read, write, or craft to more active activities. I was just naturally thin (and unfortunately curve-less).
I didn’t feel pretty. I already knew that there was a way that developing teen girls were supposed to look and I didn’t make the cut. In my mind, guys loved curves and since I didn’t have any, no guys were ever going to pay attention to me. For years I had thought that if had a boyfriend I could finally know and believe that I was beautiful. I thought that having the dedication of a boyfriend would finally validate me.
My Body and Boys
I didn’t have my first boyfriend until I was 22. I was a late bloomer when it came to dating too. By that point I was a little curvier, although still pretty thin. Getting away from my mom’s healthy cooking and having the fallback option of pizza at the dining hall meant while still having a pretty fast metabolism meant that the pounds I gained were in the right places.
And I lapped up the attention I got from my very first boyfriend. Finally, someone noticed me and liked my body, even if it still wasn’t as womanly as my friends’. Beautiful was his term of endearment for me. I finally believed that my body and myself were worthy of that love and admiration.
That is, until we broke up. Or rather, he broke up with me and left me with a broken heart. My identity of the last year had been wrapped up in him. My identity as beautiful had been wrapped up in him. I was devastated. Was I really not worthy? Had it all been just a lie?
You may have figured out that the validation that I had been looking for didn’t and wouldn’t come from a relationship or a guy. For a lot of years I had felt uncomfortable in my own skin. Uncomfortable with both my body and what I had to offer as a person.
Not having the attention of a man wasn’t the problem. Neither was how I did or didn’t look. The problem was how I felt about myself and my body. I lacked self-confidence. I constantly compared myself to the women around me, even my closest friends. I doubted the value of my unique and quirky qualities and the very things that made me special.
My external battle with the mirror was indicative of an internal struggle of being okay with who I was. Throughout my mid-twenties I went through a period of self discovery that led to me finally being able to accept and then embrace both myself and my body. And what a relief it was to finally be able to believe that I was beautiful independent of what anyone else said or did.
But even though I have embraced my body, in today’s society it is a constant battle to hold on to that. Entire industries are built on making us feel insecure enough about ourselves to buy their products. Our health is now boiled down to a couple numbers.
BMI is based on two things only: height and weight. It doesn’t take into account bone structure, form, or muscle mass. Or even whether you are a man or a woman. And yet something so arbitrary has the power to make me feel like crap about myself. So I call BS on BMI. My health and my self image will not be dependent on the number on a scale or a chart.
What are you ready to toss in favor of a more positive body image?