I often wonder how I would feel about myself if I had grown up in with the current age of body positivity activists.
I grew up in the age of struggling to find anything that would fit my fleshy, overweight, teenaged body. Somehow I did, usually ill-fitting jeans (blah) and sweaters. When it came to formal dresses–it was misery. I went to only one formal dance in high school and it was a struggle to find anything that could zip up and cover my broad back. Not a great experience for a teenage girl’s confidence.
My mom and I laugh often when we’re out shopping now and we see all the stores targeted specifically to plus-size girls and women. “Why couldn’t they have had those when you were a teenager?” she says and we reminisce about the not so good ol’ days when nothing fit well.
Of course, at the ages of 14/15/16, I would have been mortified at the label “plus size.” I likely would have refused to shop there, distraught over the fact that not only was I not blonde and blue-eyed, (already the source of much teeth-gnashing), but I also wasn’t thin. Could the stack against me in my rural high school be higher?
(As I’ve written before, I’m grateful for my high school experience now because it made me come to terms with the fact that I didn’t fit in, I wasn’t going to be the popular one, and so I pursued other things and became comfortable with being alone–a quality I’m forever thankful to have. Also, it spurred me to get the fuck out of that place.)
But today is a bit different. Today there is a whole online community devoted to helping woman feel proud of their bodies, regardless the shape. There are beautiful, full figured woman wearing gorgeous clothing, and demonstrating great style. There are self-described “fat runners” who tackle remarkable distances while defying the conventional image of a “runner.”
Yet I don’t think I will ever completely overcome my idea of what I “should” look like, which is about 40 lbs less than what I do. I’m able to live happily with my body in its current form–it’s stronger thanks to my running habit, but not thinner, probably thanks to my love of chocolate. I don’t dwell on the weight as much; I still see my body as miraculous because it is (I am) healthy and functioning properly (knock on wood). What more can I ask for than that? The shape will continue to change as I continue to take better care of it (half the chocolate, maybe?).
All this was brought to mind thanks to a podcast a good friend alerted me to. Lena Dunham hosts it and it’s called “Women of the Hour.” The first episode I listened to was about body image and it is glorious. Particularly Aidy Bryant and her unabashed pride in who she is and how she looks (the title of this post is from her interview).
Even at 40, and feeling content and happy with who I am and where I am, I’m still surprised at how I can fall into the self-deprecating habits of my youth, and I’m still surprised by my own surprise when women give a big middle finger to the establishment regarding what they deem attractive.
And I love it.