Open Letter from a Former Skinny Girl

I know you didn’t mean to call me gross when you grabbed your non-existent gut and exclaimed how disgusting you were, but you, a current skinny girl, were standing right next to me, a former one.

If I had to objectively assess myself I would say I am medium build and somewhat athletic, since I am hitting the gym, seeing a personal trainer, and finally putting some tone back on my body. So, this letter is not from someone who is morbidly obese or might be considered overweight by others, but according to what my scale says, and according to what my personal trainer has been paid to tell me, I’m technically overweight.

I have struggled with my body image for years, even when I was a size 0 and could stuff my face with cookies and chicken nuggets for dinner on a regular basis if I had wanted. Now, reaching my mid-thirties and coming to terms with my altered metabolism, even while eating regimented salads, burgers with no bun, quinoa, zucchini pasta, and lean chicken, I can’t seem to win. I probably workout approximately four to five times a week and have hardly seen results. I don’t buy bread anymore, I choose salmon over pasta, and make spinach and kale smoothies nearly every morning.

Most people do not mean to hurt the feelings of others when talking about their own bodies, but it happens. I am not writing to call someone out on bullying; I am writing because I used to be her: the skinny girl with maybe two ounces of fat on her body, who complained about her looks to garner the attention of those around her.

People who are unhappy with their bodies don’t go around lifting their shirts up to show their flesh. We are the ones in the corner quietly shaming ourselves for being pieces of garbage and thinking about how we should not have indulged in that slice of pizza, placing unrealistic and undoubtedly harsh expectations on ourselves.

I don’t want to be taunted by my guy friends, asking where my six-pack is (which is rock-solid and hiding under a small layer, by the way), and I don’t want to be the invisible female in the room, because the tinier, more fit one is standing a couple of feet away.

I realize that someone commenting on my body when I didn’t ask them to is not my fault, and I no longer have this strong desire to caper around men, begging for attention. I just don’t. Some of it might be because I have some extra weight I don’t feel comfortable with, but mostly, it’s because I realize who I used to be, and I don’t like that person.

I used to be that girl who saw something in a magazine and knew if I bought it, it would almost always look the same way on me.

I was that girl who felt uncomfortable when I was around people who legitimately complained about their weight, because I knew I was a poser only seeking attention. Trust me, I had body issues even when I was 105 lbs, but my weight problem has changed from a mental one to an actual physical one.

When I was in my twenties, my fiancé at the time referred to me as a “miniature supermodel”, because I was only 5’2” instead of 5’9”, yet perfectly proportioned. He also happened to control what I wore fairly often. I couldn’t wear short shorts, and I wasn’t allowed to show off my legs in tiny dresses.

Within a year or two of when we broke up, I began to put on weight. There’s a part of me that still feels animosity that I couldn’t “show it off” when I had the chance. The only thing I get to show off these days is my cleavage, because one of the benefits of gaining weight is that I grew two cup sizes.

I have this interesting perspective about my weight gain, because I haven’t had this issue my whole life. Until I turned 30, I was nearly too thin, by no fault of my own; it was just my genetics. I see the girls around me who are like this, and may stay like this, and think about how I was so insensitive to others’ feelings with the way I acted around men and the way I talked about my own body.

For that, I openly apologize.

It’s not fun to be on the other side.

And I know, even as I write this, there is someone else out there possibly reading who is struggling a lot harder than me. I can’t change the way our bodies look, but I can give you the silent nod and the verbal reassurance that even if you aren’t content with your appearance, there are so many people out there who think you are drop-dead gorgeous. And, naturally, you should think so, too, but as is clearly evident by this letter, we can’t always control our emotions or negative thoughts.

I don’t think I’ll ever be a size 0 again, and my choice to work on my weight is solely mine, not to be judged by how anyone else treats their body, but even if I do lose some weight, what I will never lose is the humility I gained in understanding what a huge impact a few innocent words have on those around us.

Sincerely,

A girl continually learning compassion

I Won’t Grow Up!

Several months back, I listened to a podcast about creature comforts. You know, the tattered, well-loved scraps of cloth or worn, matted fur of a stuffed animal we’ve adored since our childhood.

I have a few: a white crocheted blanket with pastel-colored trim, a stuffed golden retriever named Mutsy, and a glow pet in the form of a unicorn. The first two I’ve had practically my entire life. There have been a handful of others that have run in and out of circulation over the years, but these are the three items I curl into, wrap myself up in, and nuzzle as I drift off to sleep each night.

I also happen to be 34 years old.

The woman narrating the first segment of the podcast on NPR’s Hidden Brain episode, “Creature Comforts”, battles criticism from her mother about wanting her blankey with her each night, although she is a 40-year-old married woman with a kid.

I had never really thought about it, since I’m not yet forty or married, nor do I have children, but if I’m not willing to part with my creature comforts now, will I ever be? Is it so wrong if I don’t?

As a child, it is societally the norm to have a blankey or favorite stuffed animal that goes everywhere with us. As a teenager, we might get crap from our friends about it, but often, our room still holds pieces of nostalgia from our youth. In college, it might even be considered mildly adorable if your favorite childhood comfort accompanies you to a new environment.

As an adult, well, my past boyfriends have made comments.

My ex fiancé never forced me to leave bedtime for just the two of us, but I would sometimes wake up to the sound and silhouette of my stuffed dog whizzing past my head because he ended up in J’s territory.

Another one of my boyfriends, albeit extremely fond of my adorable nature, would roll his eyes as he tucked me in with my entourage of sleep aids and read me bedtime stories to help me fall asleep.

My current boyfriend has not made any comments thus far, but I do wonder what he really thinks about sharing the bed with me and my motley array of plush and yarn.

The woman narrating the NPR podcast discloses that she happens to be lucky, since her husband finds it endearing that she still sleeps with her blankey. How when she’s not around, he actually will snuggle it because it reminds him of her.

Is there something wrong with holding onto our old blankeys? Why must we wean ourselves off of something that makes some of us so incredibly happy and comforted when we go to bed?

The world is a scary place, and, in my opinion, with the current events and state of affairs with our new presidency, is becoming more frightening and fragile by the minute.

When I am curled under my comforter with the glow of my night-light moon, waxing or waning in the corner (yes, I have a Moon In My Room, advertised for children… I also have Mars), I feel ageless and safe. I am eternally the child that is afraid of things and is assuaged when the pressures of the world don’t exist for a few hours in the dark with my favorite stuffed dog resting under my cheek.

I might also be the only adult, who at a Yankee Gift Swap, was excited to get the gag gift: a glow in the dark, plush unicorn. I actually squealed.

These facts do not make me less of an adult. I am a well-adjusted, secure, and independent woman who happens to love blankets and stuffed animals.

We may change shape and gain responsibilities as we get older, but we still need to feel loved and nurtured. Those things never subside. I can even argue that with the surmounting level of responsibility as an adult and dose of reality comes an even greater need to surround ourselves with things that bring us relief and comfort.

Will my future children someday ask me why I sleep with a stuffed animal just like they do? Sure, maybe. And I’ll tell them because hugging things rocks and it’s never wrong to want to love something.