What The Thin Girl Thinks
I’m that quintessential thin girl. 5’3. Size 2. 125 pounds. People guess I weigh anywhere from 100 – 115 and are surprised when I inform them they are incorrect. It’s genetic. My twin was smaller than I am. My sister Rachel had size 3.5 ring fingers. We’re practically hobbits.
I never realized that everyone was jealous of me until I was 17. I had taken to bragging a little about how small I was. Because I felt tiny, and petite, and pretty. And like a badass ninja that could fit into spaces between walls. It was after one such comment that my friend turned to me and said, “You should stop talking about how small you are. You’re making other people feel bad.”
My friend was a size 9 and I thought she looked gorgeous, down to her love handles that I was quite frankly a little jealous of, as someone with little curves (other than my ass, which I am ridiculously proud of as my only physical feature with some mass).
I instantly shut up and consciously tried to never mention my size again in front of anyone. I never wanted anyone to feel bad.
There were dozens of shopping trips with friends after that, hundreds of moments of undressing in front of other girls, so many times that people said “Wow Laurie, you’re so tiny!” or “what kind of workout are YOU doing?” or “you’d look good in anything”, said with a sigh of longing or a gleaming look of jealousy. I felt horrible even though I tried to never draw attention to myself.
It’s weird for me because I have only rarely and briefly felt shame at my own body, unless I’m around other people. While I was married, I never felt good enough. My ex husband wanted to watch porn more than he wanted me, so I felt less than. He’d cheated on me while we were dating, and I knew one of the girls he’d cheated on me with. She went to the same church. This girl and I went on a retreat together at one point and I found her bra in the bathroom, noting the size as a C. I instantly felt like my boobs were too small, ringing in at 32Bs. Like somehow if I was bustier, if I had more curves, my husband would want sex with me and would stop paying attention to his porn. After that, there were days where I couldn’t get that “C” out of my head.
And at the same time, my small-ness was reinforced. Near the end of our marriage, I took up running and lost a little weight. My ex husband noticed and commented on how hot my flat stomach looked. I heard “Not good enough.”
It took me about a year to recover from all that after I got divorced. I started truly loving my body again and it’s rarely been a problem since.
Except when it’s a problem for other people.
I LOVE my body. I think my body is hot shit. I think I’m stunning and gorgeous and I celebrate myself. But I feel absolutely no freedom to do so around others. It makes them uncomfortable, because I fit the cultural standard of beauty, and they do not.
Instead I mostly celebrate in private.
The flip side is, too, when I actually WANT to gain weight, people don’t get it. I lost 8-10 lbs last year due to the most severe depression I’ve experienced. People thought I looked great.
In the beginning, no one else got it. I mentioned wanting to gain weight and heard over and over, “I wish I had that problem.” I wish to heaven that they knew what the real problem WAS. They’d never wish that problem on themselves if they had. If they only knew how desperately I actually wanted to gain weight. At one point, I was stuffing myself with ice cream, chocolate milk, and sugar on a weekly basis and still gaining nothing. People never believed how much I was actually eating. I was trying to put on pounds and could not. I never mentioned that it was depression, so when others heard that I wanted to actually GAIN weight and couldn’t, they were jealous.
I wanted to disappear.
I went to a friend’s house for a clothing swap and for the first while, wanted to crawl up into the spaces behind the walls and pretend I wasn’t there. Someone would pick up a shirt I brought and exclaim, “Oh, I could NEVER fit into this.” I wanted to run away. It was with effort that I pushed past my anxiety and actually had a good time.
I talked about it in my yoga teacher training, and they sympathized. But I didn’t feel truly understood until our graduation weekend, where I was standing in Warrior I trying to adjust it for my body. My back leg hurt a lot in Warrior I and I was trying to understand why.
“You’re not placing your hips wide enough apart,” my teacher informed me. One of the other students looked at me and said, “That’s not really a surprise considering what you’ve told us. You think you don’t have hips, but actually you do.”
Something clicked in my head. My yoga teacher had said for a long time to keep your feet hip width distance apart, unless you looked like a 90lb boy from Bombay. I honestly thought I looked that skinny, so I always kept my feet close together, as if I wanted my body to disappear. When my fellow student said what she did, I got it. “Oh. I DO have hips, actually!” I SHOULD keep my hips wider than a 90lb boy from Bombay.
Believe it or not, this was actually a revelation.
I started walking differently, even, after that. I started keeping my feet hips width distance apart, everywhere. I started giving them room.
And magically (or not so magically) I started gaining weight.
But I’m still small. I ache to celebrate myself publicly. I try from time to time. I wear clothing that others couldn’t so easily get away with. Partially because I know I probably won’t get away with it forever. But even when I do, I feel the burden of everyone’s secret hatred. I’m not in the “in” club where I can bitch about how society hates my curves. I’m the one everyone directs their self-hatred towards, and it’s uncomfortable.
I didn’t try to get this body. It’s just the one I have.
Why can’t we just be whatever and for once, let that be okay? I love your curves. I love my small thin body. Why can’t they both be just okay? Why can’t we stop this stupid competition and just be? No one wins. Even with my societally sanctioned body, I don’t win – I’m not acceptable, either. As long as we’re placing the onus on bodies, none of us ever will.
Maybe it’s time to focus on something more enduring.
When I feel the force of self-hatred, I want to disappear. Why is it that the world wants me to disappear? Do you feel it too?
Is the perfectionism that blossoms from this self hatred really about the body… or is it really about how little we accept ourselves?
I know that for me, the less I accept myself, the more I feel the weight of the external hatred and the desire to disappear. When I’m in a place of fuller self-acceptance, not just of my body but also of my soul, the hatred directed at me doesn’t matter so much and I’m able to hold my place because I know I’m valuable.
We’ve been saying here at Sisterwives for the last few weeks now – it’s all about self acceptance. I wonder if you hear it from me, a skinny girl, you’ll finally believe it’s true for all of us.
That’s why I’m going to share this picture here. Loud and proud. Fabulous me, without apologizing for how great I look. Without self-deprecating, without making myself disappear within it, without apologizing for how society makes it seem like I’m better than you because I’m smaller. None of the commentary. Just me.