Yesterday, after reading a post by Sayward and a conversation between Joanna and Kristin on twitter I felt compelled to write about my life and my relationship to food and body image. I grabbed a small notebook and a small black pen and began scribbling what quickly came to mind. Here it is:
I’ve always been short, tiny sometimes, small. At 4’11” um, barely because I recently was reminded I’ve been lying for decades because I’m actually 4’10″ish. Somewhere along the way I rounded up and believed it.
So, lies. The lies we tell ourselves: beauty standards, mothers, fathers, siblings, extended family members, everyone has opinions with struggles and stories of their own.
My friends and I made deals about how little we would eat in order to reach the goal of “skinny”. This was in the fifth grade. We’d coach one another on what we could and could not eat. I remember never having the willpower to follow through, eating ice cream or my mom’s chocolate chip cookies (picking out the walnuts because I hated the walnuts and even though my mom knew this she baked them that way because my stepfather liked them. His needs came first, I learned that because my two brothers didn’t live with us. My mom catered to him, not her own children.) So cookies, candy, ice cream, cheese, too much of everything. We were supposed to only eat yogurt for lunch or something? The details are foggy but it was very restricting and harmful.
I hated the way I looked. I thought I was fat and quite ugly. Like, particularly unattractive. I caught my reflection in a three way mirror while school shopping for sixth grade, I was alone for a moment while my friend and her mom were in a large Nordstrom dressing room together and it hit me when I saw myself. I was so so ugly. Hideous. I swallowed whatever pride I had at age 11 and thought, well I’ll do the best I can but I’m starting with a very low standard. My whole body, mind, and heart hurt with such pain, such disappointment with the definitive label: not pretty. Odd and short and red haired.
I latched tightly to fashion. I had an eye for putting clothes together. I could mask myself- distract people! It was a great idea. I also turned to music, reading and trying to be a good friend. But, the damage I had already done to myself would show up in my words, my gossiping, and more. My pain would effect others. It would take me awhile to see this and do better.
So fashion and personal style, it was one of the only things in my life my mom ever gave me praise for, was a hit. People said I was cute! Creative! Yay! So expressive! Acknowledgment! I was seen! And not ugly when dressed cute! I road that for a long time. Looking back, I almost dressed clownish. Painted clothes, bright colors, hats, ridiculous and distracting. I lost myself without even knowing it: Rainbow Brite Armor. What even was my personal style, interests, abilities, like and dislikes? Who knew. By the time I was 16 with my first job, as a literal clown and face painter at a local amusement park, I had fulfilled my destiny. Hilarious.
My ego was that pretend inflated game that I used to cope with life. I felt invisible for so long, my heart was attracted to dark and unavailable people because I believed so strongly that everyone leaves you eventually anyways. I listened to Tori Amos and the Cure and my boyfriend was the darkest and saddest vampire you’d ever seen. I wouldn’t have sex with him, he cheated on me, broken hearts, knives, threats of suicide (him, not me, that wouldn’t come until my early 20’s).
When I was a small child I took ballet, tap, jazz and later rhythmic gymnastics. It was in the gymnastics class that I started to shine (for myself). I realized I was strong, I wanted to live playing on the rings, which I was quickly told are not for girls. This was also the class where my coach would inappropriately touch all of us little girls under the guise of “spotting”. Cupping our breasts, bums, and vaginas when he knew the few parents who came to watch wouldn’t see. Brazen and destructive sick fuck. I was pulled from the studio by my mom when I told her where coach had placed his hands on me and asked innocently, is that weird? She was horrified. That was the end of dance classes.
Sports were few and far between for me after that, a little volleyball (but, hello- tiny girl). The thing is I was good at the stuff I wasn’t “supposed” to be, weightlifting, pull-ups, push-ups, these were “boy” activities so I wasn’t encouraged, more like discouraged of course. I hated running and all of PE, high school was spent getting notes to get out of class at all costs. I joined theater where I could dance, take up space and be loud because it was celebrated. I built sets for the productions and starred in my senior musical while engaged to my 24 year old boyfriend at 17 years old. I mean, who the fuck let the latter happen? (p.s. I didn’t sleep with him either.)
I don’t know how to wrap this up. I’ve lived a lot of life since then, but yesterday this is where I stopped to go take a shower. Maybe I’ll scribble some more soon and see what comes out. I mean, there’s this one time I punched through a window because a boy locked me in a shed…