When the Space We Take Up Becomes the Space Between Us

As I was driving to my therapy session today (because, yes, I need it, and you might too, after reading this) I was kind of bleh and without direction and kind of wishing I could cancel because I didn’t really feel like I had anything to talk about today. Life’s pretty darn good lately! But knowing that the *point* of therapy is self-maintenance and the keeping of things being good, I went, a little early even, and browsed my Facebook feed in the waiting room.

An otherwise innocuous post share from a friend (male, not that it should matter) about this woman’s experience as a plus size woman with a body positive attitude apparently unleashed a world of thoughts about body-shaming. And how, as a “big girl” and a woman who cares about her health and appearance, yet never had any hopes of ever fitting the cultural ideal, how that is crushing sometimes. But not always for the reasons you might expect.

The thing that might seem weird to some is: I am just fine with my weight. (GASP!)

Its *other people* who don’t seem to be fine with it.

I don’t remember when it started. Before I was a preteen, definitely.

Hearing my mom and grandma talk over coffee when they thought I was sleeping: its a shame she’s heavy, someone said, with big sighs all around.

My disappointment at not being able to shop at the 5-7-9 store at the mall (for only clothes in that size range): “Can’t you even wear a nine?” said my “friend” as a teenager.

My dad calling me The Walrus repeatedly as I struggled to learn to waterski and had trouble pulling myself back into the boat over and over.

The high school boyfriend who dumped me and then when pressed, his friend told me it was because I was too fat (did you not see me when you asked me out?).

The college coworker who told me “you’d be a knockout if you were about 20 pounds lighter” and expected me to take it as a compliment.

My ex-husband’s grandmother who took me aside and requested “Don’t you gain anymore weight now, y’hear?” as if it were a kindness to remind me that my self worth depended on my dress size. And then I could tell you about how *that* didn’t get me, I didn’t cry then, but after we left the gathering and my drunk aunt in law called and told me that Grandma had announced what she’d said to me to the entire family…then I cried. I shut myself in the bathroom and cried all night.

I could tell you hundreds more of these *personal* things that I’ve experienced, and you know what? I’d bet most everyone else can too, about something. But this weight hate pervades more than just our psyches: its as if sometimes I really feel I’m being judged and deemed unworthy to physically take up as much space as my body dares as a woman.

When I walk down the sidewalk and *I* always get knocked into, as if I, driving the “bigger vehicle” must always be the first to yield space to the more socially acceptable pedestrian. As if I should be automatically expected to walk behind my companion.

When I go to a website or a store to shop and I reach blindly for the back of the rack, just hoping they’ll have something that will do, or noticing that although they advertise an extended size range, my size and many above are always out of stock.

When I pay good money for an airline ticket and must actually force myself into a seat, and wonder at what point an extra couple of inches in that seatbelt strap would have forced the airline to go bankrupt. And worry about my health and safety while I’m flying because I’m trying so hard not to move or be an inconvenience to my seatmates or traveling companion.

When I do find an article of clothing to fit my curves, yet it flows past my wrists or stops above my navel as if the person designing it didn’t seem to realize that just because I’m larger *around* I’m not necessarily taller or with longer appendages than my more socially accepted cohorts.

When I’ve tried everything short of diet pills and development of an eating disorder to fix it, and still got body-shamed even at my lowest attained weight. I saved my favorite dress from when I was that size. I felt so good in it. And I felt so bad when I could no longer fit into it. And what gives: all the slaving away and hours at the gym and eating what seemed like nothing but spinach, all to fit into a dress?

I finally threw it out last year.

Why *I* hurt when I accept myself but feel that the space I consume both physically and with my personality offends others…that’s something more for *me* to work on.

But the space we drive between us with these subtle and not so subtle messages doesn’t need to be there, either in our commercialism or our relationships. And shaming’s not just for the overweight! There are plenty of campaigns out there about “real women” that shame women for NOT being overweight. I was a real woman at that lowest weight, and I’ll be a real woman if I gain more! If you identify with being a woman, you’re a REAL WOMAN. A real human. Real.

As a person who chooses now only to surround myself with those who do accept and support me, (or challenge me when they don’t instead of mock me): less and less does this affect my daily life. But when greater society smacks you in the face (or belly, or hips) over and over again, it sure does wear you down. And I’m tired of also hearing “you’re not THAT big”, which almost makes it worse, like some elephant in the room or like I live in some no-man’s-land between “normal” women’s clothes that don’t fit and “plus” clothes that don’t fit either. I can’t win! But I am damn glad I learned to sew!

My weight affects *my* health. That’s pretty much it. If it offends your business, I’ll be glad to take my money elsewhere. If it offends your eyes, I suggest you head in the other direction and quit expecting ME to get out of the way.

7 thoughts on “When the Space We Take Up Becomes the Space Between Us

  1. Couldn’t qgree more. I probably feel my worst when buying scrubs. I know nurees are supposed to represent health but can’t I still be an awesme nurse at my size? Kinda gets me down.

    • Yes, you can be an awesome nurse at any size. How many overweight physicians have you seen? Or even athletes. Plenty. Nursing school puts a lot of pressure on you to be the perfect model example of health, but true connections and change are formed when we can share our own humanity and struggles with our patients and share ideas and frustrations. Or tips and recipes. šŸ™‚ Buying scrubs are the worst, but at least now they’re making a lot more flattering scrubs than they used to, and ones with wicking fabrics and flexible knits rather than flat, straight-cut cotton.

  2. Gorgeously written, Lovely. Thanks for sharing this. I have been shamed by my dad in middle school for being “too white” and not tan like my friends (“you look like a corpse”), told people wouldn’t be my friends because they were blonde and I was a brunette (WTF?), A supervisor who told me “you’d be beautiful if you just had blue eyes. You should get those colored contacts.” But I totally agree with you that the acceptableness of commenting on weight, especially, is out of control and wrong. You have always, always been a gorgeous person (physically and spiritually) and this post just is one more example. Don’t go changin’

    • Laura, I remember you telling me that about what your dad would say to you and…yeah. that hurts. You have an ethereal beauty about you, you are both striking and classically beautiful at the same time, not the cookie cutter suburban cheerleader type that seems to flow through the high school years effortlessly. Its hard as a teen to be able to celebrate our differences but I look forward to being able to embrace them as we move into our fourth decade. šŸ™‚ thank you for your kind words.

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