I’m a grownup now so the past is over… or so I thought. Through the Olympics, the angst of adolescence has found me again. Watching these daily events has sparked old memories, but I’m actually grateful. Closure is at hand.
Two opposite things are happening. Watching what bodies are capable of makes me want to shape up and be healthier. I want to stop with the potato chips, stop with the peach cobbler. And if I beef myself up, I could join my son on one of those great hikes he talks about. Spectacular photos in my inbox are helping with that.
I kinda relate to the athletics of the Olympics because I’m lean. But I kinda don’t because I was stigmatized for being so. Curves were expected on girls of a certain age and my teenage body didn’t fit that mold. Being singled out was painful, not measuring up was humiliating.
You didn’t know, Eric Bickford, that I was already feeling shame about my late blooming body. You didn’t know – until this moment – that I would remember your yelling out the window, “Hey Skinny!” as you drove by in your green Hudson. You were skinny too, but girls weren’t supposed to be. You didn’t know, Nancy Sommers, that the name you called me – Olive Oyl – would stick in my brain forever. It’s good being lean now, but it wasn’t always so.
What I experienced during those times stuck like glue — more like Super Glue — and shaking it off took most of my life because it didn’t stop there. Far into adult life people thought it necessary to point out my thinness. Even those I’d just met. “You’re so skinny. Are you sick?” , “You eat like a bird.” , “Have you lost weight?” These constant comments always stung, until punching someone’s face started to enter my mind.
My reactions have calmed down over the years because I’ve had lots of practice. Also, I get fewer comments because thin is a in now. It’s a good thing, a healthy thing, and I take them as compliments whether they sound like it or not. I’m quite sure most people don’t realize they’re being rude, but how would they tolerate the reverse? “You’re so fat! Have you gain weight recently?” Rude is rude, after all. The look of our bodies isn’t everything, and constant body talk is boring.
I know my soapbox is showing, but my experience is the same as anyone else’s who is different than the norm. Public Service Announcement: Sure we might stand out, it‘s noticeable, but that doesn’t mean you have to verbalize. Knowing when to shut up is essential. If a comment is burning in your throat, at least wait until you actually know a person to share! Friends discussing their lives is different. They like each other, they respect each other. It’s only here that their real selves can hang out.
It’s been challenging to squeeze my little rant — yes, I know it’s a rant — into 500 words, but it’s been building for decades. Those struggling with their weight might see this as the opposite problem, but I know those who grew up chubby have many stories and traumas to tell. I tried hard to make it entertaining, but failed.
Whew, I do feel better.