I just sat here and wrote an entire post that was so bad I can’t bring myself to publish it. I’m trying to figure out what I actually want to say.
I think it’s more like this:
I was sitting at this same table three days ago, writing, as usual, and I looked down and hated my stomach passionately. I hated it for existing. For the physical weight of it. For its soft curve. The way I can’t ever completely suck it in. It was, in that moment, an alien parasite, attached to my body. Something that could never belong.
Poor stomach. It didn’t do anything wrong.
I want to go back in time and pinpoint the instant when this thing started. When I irreversibly decided that this was bad.
I remember standing in the hall with my mom, when I was seven or so, and there was a party going on in the living room and kitchen. I looked up at her and thought she was incredibly beautiful. I reached out and touched her gorgeous belly, which swelled out slightly, and I said, “You look like you’re pregnant.”
She had been pregnant with my littlest brother pretty recently, and she’d read me all these books called things like “Mommy is Having Another Brother or Sister For Me to Play With,” and “Our Family is Pregnant,” and “I Can’t Wait For Mommy to Give Birth Because Giving Birth Is Amazing,” or whatever. I was pretty sure that being pregnant was supposed to be a good thing. Plus, I just thought it looked beautiful.
My mom froze. She looked down at me sternly and said, “Kate, that’s not a compliment.” I could tell I’d hurt her feelings, but I had no idea why.
Usually, she was good at explaining things, but this time she removed my hands from her and returned to the party. I stood there, trying to figure it out.
Now I get it. But that wasn’t when I realized that having a rounded stomach was bad. I don’t know when I realized it. I think it came on slowly, over the years.
People kept telling me, “You’re so thin!” and they didn’t say anything after it. That was the whole compliment. Not even, “You’re so thin and pretty!” Thin meant pretty.
(me, at 16, not sucking my stomach in)
Recently, I overheard someone telling a twelve-year-old girl, “You’re so thin! You can be a model when you grow up!”
I bit my lip. Don’t get involved. Don’t get involved.
My friend told me a story about trying on clothes with her mom when she was very young. Her mom was bragging to a saleswoman: “Look how thin she is!”
My friend thought, “Oh, shit.” Even then, she was pretty sure her body wouldn’t stay exactly the same. She still had to do a bunch of things– like go through puberty.
When I tried on wedding dresses, the saleswoman was telling me encouragingly, “This makes your waist look SO tiny! You look so thin in this!”
And my mom, standing off to one side, was saying, “You don’t need to look thinner. You’re beautiful.” She was getting angry. It cracked me up at the time, but it retrospect, it was very sweet of her.
My belly, by existing, forces me to rethink my relationship with my body. It forces me to learn what I actually think about beauty. Before, when I was skinny, sometimes it was almost as though my body didn’t exist at all. I focused entirely on my face, since my body had already passed some enormous cultural test.
Sometimes I hated my face so much I cried. Sometimes I saw how strikingly beautiful it was.
And now my body has grown into being. It’s here, demanding attention.
I can react out of thoughtless fear- the fear of the unknown and the stigmatized– or I can pause, and try to figure out what I really think. I might really think I am beautiful.
(me at 24, covering up as much as possible)
* * *
Unroast: Today I love my tan!
P.S. There is a mosquito that lives in this apartment and is ruthlessly attacking me in my sleep every night. It is my sworn enemy, and so far it is winning every battle. It’s like a tiny fighter jet. It makes me look stupid and uncoordinated. I am covered in huge red bites. Would it be really unhealthy to sleep covered in bug-off spray?