I had the idea to wear a belt, already had it in my mind: that nice caramel-colored one, made of tooled leather, with the huge silver buckle… But for the point of flaunting it, I had to tuck my shirt in my pants.
My loose shirt vaguely defined my arms and my breasts, but now, it was hugging my belly. My belly was round. My navel spot was identifiable by a less stretched spot of fabric. I lifted up my shirt. I saw slightly rounder lumps of skin above my hips, slightly compressed by skinny jeans.
I don’t know why I cracked up. Was it that a week ago, a precious friend told me: « Oh, did you gain a little weight? », not as a poke, but just as the fact of an attentive eye? Maybe it was that two days before, I skipped the group of runners’ meeting with a little guilt. Suddendly, I also remembered I didn’t cook much on the last days, mainly skipping the preparation of vegetables sidekicks.
Could I say I wasn’t that afraid of this little bump, like the first stray of grey hair, but by sudden fears of future?
Like other women, I read between the lines, I heard the bitching, and assimilated the ultimate message : fatness is the worst thing ever. Fatness is the fast-forward and ultimate lane for loneliness, laziness, ugliness, madness (!). Did I miss my exit and embarked on the highway? In the end, would I crash?
I never worked to get the body I have. I am the one to hear “Boy, you EAT!
But where do you put it?
How can you stay slim?
Do you exercise a lot?
Do you eat like this everyday?
How old are you to burn all that food? At my age, I have to assume what I eat.
We wonder how you get rid of all those calories…Oh well, just jokin’!
I’ve been asked, last Christmas, that « Oh, did you lose weight? », with a following, made-to-compliment-me and whispered « Again? ». I said « I don’t know. I don’t want to know.” “Why??? I’m just complimenting you.” I explained :
“I don’t want to get those comments. If I value the “good” comments on thinness, then I will be destroyed by the “bad” comments on fatness. I could get fat anytime. I don’t want to start giving attention anytime on how what people think of my body, because I don’t never want to be sad because of my size.”
And I got inform “You could NEVER get fat! You know how to eat properly, you’re not sprawled on a couch all day, you can’t be fat!” Then I said : “I could develop a mental illness and have to take medication that would make me gain weight. I could develop physical pain that would impact my ability to do sport. I could experience hormonal changes and see my body reacting differently to my usual food and exercise routine.”
Honestly, I don’t know if I gained weight, because I sold my scale a year ago. I was very happy when someone bought it (felt like selling away the Jumanji game board). I was fed up of monitoring the pointer on the “right” line, to get a feeling of heavy failure (if the line was a little on the right), vague disappointment (if the pointer was on the usual line) or slight miscomprehension on what happened (if the line was a little on the left).
We’re enticed to benchmark body weight like financial results of a publicly traded company.
Quaterly financial reports have to be higher than last ones. Not matter the means, not matter how much the the afterwards ruins, how large the surrounding damage, shareholders have to be satisfied. Balance is never a desired state – it’s, in the most granted perspective, a concealed failure of performance.
Losing weight is stamped as goodness. In the first months of important sickness, one’s always congratulated. The destructiveness of societal pressures for thinness applies not only to fat women. Fat women feel guilt being fat. Skinny women worry about becoming fat. It’s shouldn’t be thin women against fat women. Dieting is patriarchy against women.
March 2013 : an execrable workday. At 16h30, I enter a drugstore, buy a chips bag, regular-sized (aren’t single-sized packages a big “fuck you” to budget planning and landfill problems?). I opened it in the street, shove my hand inside, and crunch crunch, the frying and the delicious salt piquant made me smile. A fleeting and shallow pleasure, but to underscore my pleasure to be out of my unbearable cubicle, was there any need for more? An offending noise, a detonating gesture, a bothersome size –
and yet, no regard, no movement, nothing told me “You shouldn’t do it.”
A dramatic gesture. Not even FEMEN. Only eating chips in public. And I relished my liberty of doing so. The vulgar (!) pleasure to express: « I had a lousy day and you see me here and now , released, enjoying my evening without a boss. » A pleasant freedom, but that I knew unfair. I know very well that my thinness guaranteed my right, my charm giving me a pass to detonate. It may even have been encouraged: finally, a beautiful slim girl who doesn’t care about what she eats and who enjoys life! Machos could be happy: « So you see! Here’s one cute girl that doesn’t annoy the whole world with dietary restrictions! Do not piss me off saying that what I expect from a nice girl is impossible. » (A flawless face without long shopping at Sephora, long and beautiful hair without hair in the sink, a flexible and toned body resulting from extra sport sessions without any change to the household routine.)
Plunged in that new context of privilege, I get to understand the attitude of many men facing feminism. Why would they challenge what have been the normality for them? Why would they act to decrease the easiness they benefit in life?
I guess – if they would accept to see behind the scenes of their privilege. I’m not enjoying my privilege, because when people let me pass before them in a bus with a huge smile, I can’t think “How nice” but “My fat friend had a broken ankle recently and have been ignored when she asked for help to enter the bus.” When drivers stop over-gracefully to let me pass on my bike, I remember that fat girls get insulted at times when they use active means of transport.
I refuse to build a training schedule to lose five or ten (I don’t know) pounds. Even more when the project is motivated by the motto “better to do it now, before it gets worse ». How could I accept my fat friends as they are, congratulate them on their fat-acceptance decision or encourage body diversity if I consider it no good for me? Good for their extra 150 pounds, but no good for my 5 or 10?
I don’t want to put on constraining clothes and pinch my extra handles in front the mirror, inflate my tummy, bend to see the folds. I don’t want to reinforce any conviction of having behaved badly, to prove I’m a failure.
I want and I do ask myself : is my body vitalised and strong? Am I sleeping well? Am I digesting well? Am I able to walk stairs without pain?
Yes, yes, yes, yes.
But it’s always here. It’s nourished by the images of the Daily Mail, by the headlines of Cosmopolitan, by eavesdropped conversations on cream, butter and ice cream at the grocery.
It was there again, waiting for me in a dressing room. I was in bra and trying random pants for a fashion shooting. The neon lights gave me a view of a baggy pair of pants, and my flaccid white-ish skin, my rounded hips, my rounded belly.
I was eating salty crackers few seconds ago. I didn’t do yoga this week. I accepted a pastry from a colleague in the morning, although I already had breakfast earlier.
I was enjoying crap and I shouldn’t have.
I scrutinize my life and easily find my faults. I eat way more at the restaurant than before. I drink more alcohol – at cegep time, I was never buying beer, neither wine! I sit all day long, instead of moving around to work.
My life changed. Or, I changed my life.
I have more friends than ever – I drink more because I’m more invited to parties, I have tremendous fun and complicity with those friends and I drink with them never by boredom, but excitement. I have a fulfilling intellectual job (in front a computer) instead of mind-numbling hostess contracts and a routine of household chores or errands to postpone duties of job research. I go more to the restaurant because I have more money, because I have a good job and because I manage my budget well.
I removed the pants. I looked at myself in undies and studied the balance of my hips and my breasts. I remembered that my boyfriend told me how much my body (and my mind!) attracted him. I remembered that my friends appreciate my fashion taste and my habit of dress-up for meetings with them, no matter the trendiness of the clothes I chose. I remembered that my group of runners always welcome me with a smile when I join the weekly meeting.
I felt inadequate because of an odd garment with a random cut that I haven’t even chose myself.
I’m the only one to convince myself that I don’t have the right body.
I still sometimes believe that thinness is the flavor of happiness.
Sometimes, I eat MSG by spoon.
Credits – Photography and stylism : Jolanta Byliniak. May 2012