Props to you, Melissa McCarthy, for being bold.
Good message, Whitney Way Thore, as you stand tall.
“Love your curves!”
Celebrities and media outlets everywhere are jumping on the bandwagon to combat body-shaming. And good for them. It’s great to have support for people who are feeling attacked for the way they look – for every little imperfection they display.
So, pardon me when I say: “please, shut up!”
I don’t love my curves. I will never love my curves. And, lucky me, now I not only feel inadequate for my physical appearance but I feel like a failure because I do not accept the body in which I live. This is not the body I want, not one I ever wanted. Stop telling me to love it. I don’t. I won’t. This is not me.
I’m not trying to shut down the body-positive campaigns. I just wish we weren’t inundated with the damning messages. I wish the message was different somehow. I understand that many of our societal expectations are imposed by random patriarchal constructs. I know that these campaigns are working to breakdown these constructs. But I am hoping we can find a better way to achieve this.
I spent more than half of my life buying clothes in the children’s department. Yes, even as an adult I could purchase many things in the girl’s section of the store. I ate whatever I wanted and stayed slim. In high school I was often accused of suffering from anorexia. Yes – accused, as if it that disease is a choice, as if someone actually struggling with it will be helped by taunting and degrading comments. I was called too thin and ugly. I was told I should gain weight. I was followed into bathrooms by teachers and classmates to see if I was forcing myself to throw up. I was the topic of rumor about weight. I was watched when I ate. I was told that clothes would look better on me if I weren’t so skinny. I was constantly reminded that I did not fit the mold of what others thought I should look like. I was inadequate. A failure at being a girl.
I was very thin as a teen. It was not by choice. My hip bones and collar bones stuck out and left bumps in my clothes that I hated. Sleeping over at friends houses left bruises on my hips, knees and elbows because there was not enough padding against the floor. I often wore layers to cover up the imperfections I saw when I looked at myself. I was put on special diets through middle school and high school in order to gain weight. These diets included high-fat shakes and carefully measured quantities of food – large quantities. It seemed I was always supposed to be eating. It still leaves a knot in my stomach today to remember coming home from school and seeing the many containers of food in the refrigerator – the food I was required to eat by the end of the day. It seemed to never end. For a long time my mother stood over me begging me to finish the food when I was just crying to be done. I was full. I was tired. I was unhappy. I didn’t love how I looked.
Eventually my activities decreased, my metabolism slowed, and the habits created by those special diets to eat large amounts of rich food caught up with me. I was no longer thin. I could no longer eat whatever I wanted without consequence. For many years my weight and shape fluctuated greatly. But I was never thin again. Not on the outside, anyway. I would somehow forget how I looked. I was still the same skinny little girl in my head. Then I would walk by a mirror and be shocked at the image reflected back at me. Surely that couldn’t be me!? I learned to avoid mirrors. I struggled to go shopping for properly fitting clothes. I would resign myself to choosing the size I thought would fit, though it was larger than I wanted to be wearing. Then I would try things on and see that they fit – this horrible, huge size (or, so I believed them to be) actually fit me. I cried in more dressing rooms than I care to remember. I wear layers to cover up the imperfections I see when I look at myself. I avoid pictures as much as possible, since I don’t want more reminders of who I am not. I have been called plump, large, heavy-set, and fat. I have heard the “you have a pretty face” backhanded compliment. I’ve heard that clothes would look nicer on me if I weren’t so big. I am constantly reminded that I do not fit the mold of what others think I should look like. I am inadequate. A failure at being a woman. I do not love how I look.
Now that I’ve lived on both sides of the body-shaming spectrum, now that I have been shamed at every size I confidently believe I have the right to say “stop telling me to love my curves.” When you show me pictures of women outside the mold flaunting their shapes, I am reminded that I am not comfortable doing the same. When you tell me to eat the cake because life is short, I am embarrassed that I focus too much on my physical appearance. Your campaign does not inspire me to be happy as I am, to love myself. Your campaign reminds me that I hate my body, or that I hate myself for hating my body. We are constantly overrun with messages to ‘fix your body’ followed by a message to ‘love your body as you are.’ We are told that we have infinite potential to improve and also that we are ‘f**kin’ perfect’ just as we are. It’s all too much. Stop telling me what I should feel, what I should do, who I should be!
The message should be to encourage each other in our individual journeys. It’s all about change – whether we seek to change our outward self or the inward self. Or maybe it’s to continue being and feeling exactly as you are. Please, don’t add to the pressure I already put on myself. I don’t need another judge in my life. Stop making more demands on me. What I need is a friend to sit next to me quietly and hold my hand while I struggle. Don’t tell me I’m beautiful. Don’t tell me I could be better. Let me find my own way. Just sit with me. Just be.
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