"You don't really have the figure for a bikini, you're a little too chubby around the middle."
A family friend said this to me when I was 11. ELEVEN. I was young and cute and puberty had only barely brushed my surface and I just wanted something fun for the 6th grade pool party. She didn't mean any harm. But to this day I have NEVER worn a bikini, ever... because, you see, I just don't have the figure for it.
It's funny how these little random comments, said off-the-cuff and with no malicious intent, can stick with you for so long. At eleven years old, without realizing what was happening, the foundation for my self-image was laid down. Every time I look in the mirror, there's a part of me that murmurs some version of that one, devastating line.
I have let that moment color every other experience having to do with how I look. When I'm around thin people, I make jokes about how big I am because I am convinced that they are thinking it, too, so why not just say something and get it all out in the open? It's a habit that drives my husband crazy. He always gets this look on his face, the closest to angry he ever really comes with me, and says some version of, "Sweetheart, PLEASE don't do that. There's nothing wrong with the way you look!".
In those moments, the "sweetheart" is a euphemism.
I don't mean to say that Ithink I look like some sort of genetic mistake or anything. All in all, I feel very comfortable saying that I'm a generally pleasant-looking kind of girl. Give me an extra hour to primp and spritz, I'll upgrade that to pretty, in an average sort of way. Nice hair, good eyes, bright smile, long legs. It's the stuff in between all those that bugs me.
I'm not thin. Never have been, probably never will be. I'm just not a size 2 (or 4, or 6) kind of girl. Heck, the 8's are even groaning in protest these days. Let's just call it a 10 and be done with it.
There's all kinds of words to describe me. Voluptuous. Curvy. Full-figured. My brother told me after I got dressed up for a party, when I was 15, that I looked like I had an enormous watermelon strapped to my chest. (Thanks for that one, by the way, Val. Another one of those comments that stick with you for life.)
I have a friend who told me once that that way I feel around "all those thin, beautiful people" is the way she feels around me. This totally floored me, I had absolutely no response at all. I think I tried to make a lame joke and quickly change the subject. How could that be possible? What the HELL was she talking about?
It's very hard for me to have any kind of objectivity on this matter and, of course, this is an area where objectivity is key. How do you objectively look at yourself? I can accept, with reservations, that what I see in the mirror may not be what everyone else sees, but how do you change the view from your own eyes?
I want to be philosophical about it all. I want to, and often do, say that I think I look great, that I'm happy with myself the way I am, that I'm a healthy and active mother of two, that my husband thinks I'm "smokin' hot" and that's all that matters. But behind all that socially evolved language lies the totally insecure and raw truth. I wish I looked different, I'm embarrassed by my flaws and I'm sure that everyone who sees me instantly judges me as a lazy fat girl.
Insecurity is so unattractive. It's way worse than any muffin-top or spare tire. I suppose that I have to try and choose which remarks I'll let stick from now on. Learning to let the other things slide off is going to have to be my next big challenge. I have a feeling it's going to take me a lot longer to accomplish than it should.
It's probably time to go try on another two-piece swimsuit. It's been 19 years, after all.
NEXT summer. Small steps, right?