While sitting on my heels in yoga class on Friday, I stared at my reflection on the mirrored wall. I looked at the reflection of the others in the class.
And for the first time in a long, long time, I realized I was average-sized. I did not look like a mushroom. I did not look twice as big as all of the women in class. Sure, I’m tall and big in the hips, but when you line me up with everyone else, I don’t immediately stick out as being huger than the rest.
On Saturday, I tried on a couple pairs of size 12 jeans and slipped right into them. Today, for the first time, I’m weaing 12s to work.
You would think – after looking at myself in the mirror every day and dropping two sizes since Christmas – that I would think of myself as average-sized. You would think I’d strut around and take pride in my size M sweat pants, size M T-shirts and size L work shirts.
But I don’t. Not really. I keep thinking they’ve done something with the clothing sizes. They must have made them all bigger. That’s the problem. That’s why I’ve had to purge 80% of my wardrobe in the last six months.
In my head, I’m still a fat girl.
I grew up being “the fat girl.” I grew up getting spit on and made fun of for it. Guys loved being “just friends” with me. Women loved the fact that they didn’t have to compete with me. I internalized this idea of myself, of being too big in a world that wanted small women. I’m still the height and weight of the average guy, so really, by social standards I *am* still big, just not as gargantuan as I think I am. I’m at my Alaska weight, my highschool theater weight. I’m at the weight I hit when all is right in my world and I’m not binge eating.
But imagine, just imagine the sort of strange body image you’d have of yourself if you’d spent the last 14 years yo-yoing from a size 12 to a 22. You’d have a pretty weird image of your body. When I look in the mirror, whether at a 12 or a 22, I see the same person.
Nobody else seems to, except maybe my closest friends. My body shape stays roughly the same – I just get more of it when I’m heavier, and less when I’m thinner. Still big in the hips and shoulders, small in the bust, long-legged, big in the thighs. It’s the same almost-hourglass shape (made hourglass not with large breasts, but wide shoulders). It’s all the same.
The real kicker is that the last two times I was at this weight, I was either 1) eating once or twice a day (high school theater, when I was 14/15) 2) going to the gym 5 days a week, doing a weight routine 5 mornings a week, living primarily on brown rice and eggs, and riding my bike 2-3 times a week (Alaska, when I was 19-21).
Now I eat pretty much everything all the time, lift weights 5 mornings a week, and go the gym once, maybe twice a week (and I haven’t been in ages, except for the yoga class. Trying to get back on that, for stength and stamina purposes, not weight loss).
There’s really something to the whole “eat when you’re hungry and stop dieting” thing. The yo-yoing stops.
I’d say that stress was a factor – and maybe it is – but my usual template when stressed is that I *gain* weight, because I binge eat and get depressed. But I don’t binge eat anymore.
It’s funny how long it takes you to figure out your body. I think the Christian-hate-your-corporeal-body stuff is deep-rooted in our society, and so it takes longer to understand how everything works than it would otherwise. It took me forever to realize that my sex drive spiked sharply about the time I was ovulating. It’s taken me six months to realize all of these little ailments are huge signs of prolonged stress. And eating… eating… it’s taken me so long to figure out that eating doesn’t have to be about hating yourself, or punishing yourself, or about being guilty. Eating is about fueling up for the next round of weight lifting, for the next flight of stairs. There’s pleasure in eating, in fulfilling a craving, and less pleasure in overeating than I always thought.
Strength, too, has enormous benefits. I tried so hard to be thin and waifish and beat myself up because I was so big and tall, and now I realize how much strength and power there is in being big and tall. I have a body that’s great for boxing and weight lifting. Pretty perfect for it, really. I enjoy bike riding. I intend to make the weekly yoga class routine. I spent so, so long hating this body for not being Britney-Spears-Beautiful that I ignored what it *could* do. What I can teach it to do.
I just got so tired of hating myself.
And now I’m single again, and scrutinizing myself in the mirror again, this time to try and see what other people see. I’m trying to figure out if I’m attractive, really attractive in the sense that somebody would actually want to date me. Which is absurd, of course – somebody either likes you or they don’t, and there’s no use beating yourself up about that, either. But it’s on my mind. It’s something I stir around.
I am an intimidating woman. Lots of people have said so. It makes me a little sad that potential partners get freaked out by that, but why would I want to be with somebody who got freaked out by the fact that I was taller than him, or outweighed him by 30 lbs? If that’s all it takes to freak him out, the Master’s Degree and the novel writing will send him screaming for the hills.
And that’s been my problem all along. I get so excited at the idea that there’s a smart guy who’s attracted to me that I don’t stop and think. I don’t think about how equal we are, how secure he is with who I am and what I do.
For all my strength and smarts, I can still get stuck in the idea that I should feel happy just because some guy is interested in me. It’s the siren song of the media trap: you’re a strong, smart woman. You should feel lucky to end up with any guy at all.
Because if there are no strong, smart guys who can handle me, you know what? I’ve got strong, smart, friends. And those friends could give a shit if I’m a size 12 or a 22.
I am blessed. I am lucky. Because even when I’m single, I’m not alone.
That’s the trick. That’s the key. That’s what nobody talks about.
Sex and partners are great. But I’ve got friends who’ll be with me until the end of the world.
So here I sit in my size 12 pants, waiting around for more snow to fall . I don’t feel much different than I did at a 22. Maybe stronger, because of the weight lifting, lighter, more flexible. But in the mirror, I’m just me.
I write books. I’m doing Friday yoga classes. I’m teaching myself Arabic. I want to take a French class if I’m still here in the fall. I’m applying for a writing job at a gaming company. I lift weights. I enjoy boxing. I want to run around the world and back again. I want to bungee jump in New Zealand. I want to live overseas again before I’m 30. I want to get back to boxing before I’m 30. I want to hold the world in the palm of my hand, when I’m 30.
I want. I desire.
And they are the same wants and desires, whether I’m a 12 or a 22.
I realize that. I wonder if anyone else does.