A couple of weeks ago, two stories flashed through my Facebook feed. The first time they sped through and I moving through the paces of life missed them. The second, third, fourth, times they caught my attention. Stories on plus size models usually do that for me. The first about the FIRST SPORTS ILLUSTRATED SWIMSUIT MODEL automatically had my eyes rolling far back into my head. She's a size 12. Plus sized. When the second story, hit my feed, I almost didn't open the link to the story. From the thumbnail, this plus size model didn't look plus sized. But always on the look for some distraction, I hit the link and loo and behold here was a model who had my body. They are both beautiful woman. And I guess technically if you're a double digit you're a plus sized human.
I already feel like a monster. My body takes up too much space. I sometimes find myself curling my arms around myself, pushing myself into corners to ease the worry I imagine on people's faces when they see me enter a small store or restaurant. I carry wounds from the past, sometimes not so distance, of being mooed at by adults in Walmart or from cars. Jr. High taunts of "lard ass," "pig," feel like they hang like labels on my body. A life time of looking in the mirror and never seeing a body worthy of love, praise or acceptance.
Is it any wonder, I think, looking at a model who in my mind is safely in the slim category, that even when I hit a size 12, I see a fat woman in the mirror? That I still walk the world feeling ungainly, lumbering, obstructive? Even at a weight I find acceptale, I have been told by doctors that I am too big to be healthy. A size 12 for the rest of the world is fat. Period.
And what does that make me now? At a size 18, I am clearly in the monster category. I am a giant among women. Shameful and disgusting. Or so I am told. I am regulated to special stores who only in the last ten years began to carry clothes that were sexy and lovely. They cost three times as much as Target but at least it's a whole store and not a tiny corner hidden from the "normal" clothes. Models my size are mocked on line with a cruelty that leaves me breathless. When I dress up, I sometimes still have to push aside that I don't deserve to look attractive because my body is a monster. Monsters are not supposed to be pretty or sexy.
I do not write this to garner sympathy or to hear about thin bodies being mocked. I am not unaware that all women's bodies are policed. I write this because the reality is that when slender women are held up as plus sized, we not only continue to push a very rigid notion of acceptability but we make other women's bodies monstrous. I am 42 years old, and I have dieted my whole life. I have starved my body, purged it, exercised it to exhaustion doing things I hated. I have hated this body, mocked it, sliced it open in disgust. I misused it. I tried to pretend it didn't exist. It was never a good enough body. It was never thin enough. Never pretty enough.
As I walked through life trying to make myself invisible, I could never imagine myself as anything but highly visible. Last year a woman published photos of herself with people reacting to her weight. Many many who commented said she imagined the reactions, that she was just seeing things that weren't there. There were other stories. But what many missed was that this was this woman's story, and as a fellow fat woman I knew the story well. I knew the looks and snickers of young college girls when I shopped. I knew the jokes about weight coming from men who were often bigger than I. I knew the pain of having women flirt with your husband in front of you, not that you weren't invisible but that you were so insignificant that you didn't matter. Eventually these moments add up and become the narrative even when the words are not being spoken.
And I woke up a few months ago, done. Done with the constant self hatred that I carried on my shoulders like a yoke. Done with the paranoia of worrying what others were thinking when I eat or shop. Done with worrying if people were mocking me. Mostly I was done with the years and years of self abuse. I started to buy lovely clothes. And I dressed the way I wanted to dress not the way that society deemed OK for a monster. I started to wonder if maybe I was sexy and beautiful in this monster's body. And eventually I started to think that perhaps I was not a monster.