Because Being Not-Skinny Doesn’t Suck
Yesterday, on the bus, I was window-seated in a high-waisted skirt and my Billie Holiday crop top that I cut from an old sleeping shirt, an eclipse of almost-tan skin exposed and gifted to the world, from me, on a day I felt powerful. I felt brave, for me, for transcending fourteen years of body hate for this inch-wide space of freedom & permission to be. To be like a thin girl.
After twenty minutes on the bus, I noticed a murmur of ache in my low back and my body, suddenly anxious, had become forgetful in our long-perfected art of breathing. I paused the stream of inner-narration and took inventory of my nerves and their weak places.
I realized I had been sucking in my flamboyant gut all day and, it seemed, reasonably so, that my body was tired of it. The truth is, I’ve been sucking in my stomach for fourteen years just to appear millimeters thinner. It had become, I realized, no longer a conscious decision for me but instead a reaction in symbiosis between my body and my anxiety, like squinting when the sun is in your eyes. Except the sun had been in my eyes for over half my life.
My head said, “this is ridiculous. Let yourself be. As much as you’ve allowed yourself to be when you were starving.”
In my life, it’s always been easier being alive when I was thin. Partially because of a rental storage unit of baggage, where I keep mostly memories of my mother and of mirrors, but also because of things like this — sucking it in. It has continuously sent a subconscious and unintentional message to myself that my body is not good enough when it is simply still. When it is just a body being a body. My body wasn’t allowed to make the thirty minute commute to therapy without attempting to be millimeters thinner.
And who is that for? Obviously not for me! The confidence derived from moments where my beauty has been affirmed when I am sucking in, or plastered with concealer, or shaved or spandexed-in has never felt real. (it’s why, I think, I feel most happy and allowed to be human in the woods, sweaty and with dirt on my hands) Because those affirmations, however fleetingly pleasant, affirm a harmful thought:
that I am not beautiful without these things.
And, excuse me, but — F U C K . T H A T .
I think, like many women/humans with body-centric negativity, our stomachs are a Grand Central Station of anxiety, the Achilles’ heel of our self-esteem. If I continue sucking this stomach in, I will never get to rest fully in this miracle body.
So, I tried. To un-suck. It was — really — hard. My body would relax for seconds before my stomach muscles, such devoted learners, twitched and pulled the whole shebang rib-close. Again and again I tried and again and again my body’s muscle memory, anxiety, and heirloom-ed body hate overpowered my efforts and forbid more than a few moments of relief, from myself.
It is hard as fuck to unlearn what you don’t even remember learning. Something as obvious as closing your eyes to sleep. When I am awake, I suck it in.
Sitting there, I felt anxious - nervous - shame - a little disgust. How could I be doing this? In public? Showcasing the curve of my gut when the whole world says that it is supposed to be flat as bone. I let my gut go round and (it felt) as if the whole bus snapped to attention — like when you fart or say “fuck” just as a loud scene in a crowded movie theater goes silent. People were plugged into their iPods, into their own thoughts, lives, conversations, they didn’t know or care that I was at the forefront of my own pride parade in the blue seat next to the window flirting with a panic attack.
I didn’t get off the bus a changed woman, a bonafide deserter of my own body-hate, but I did land on the sidewalk with a self-awareness that can now be my advocate against myself when my conscious and subconscious habits attempt to brainwash me into thinking I am anything but fucking awesome.
Today I walked to work, down a street with peering window reflections and I let my gut relax. Be round. Full. Momentous. Quake. At one moment, I saw myself in a storefront where I have before looked and felt disappointed / shameful / disgusting and I felt
I felt free.
And it felt real.
The girl inside me who starved and hurt and hated deserves rest. She deserves to feel allowed. She deserves my permission. I am done with empire-waisted dresses for the sake of camouflaging my fat. I am done with wearing leggings that suck it all in. I am done with avoiding horizontal stripes. I am done with devoting any energy at all to finding Spanx. I’m done with the word “flattering” because entirely FUCK the idea that anything can be unflattering.
I AM DONE WITH ANYTHING THAT IS NOT SAYING YES TO MY BODY. I am done saying “no” to my body, in words or in actions.
My body is a body. Bodies are beautiful. Anything else I have ever learned was bunk.