you big softy

Bear snuggled against me, wrapping his arms around me. “I love how soft you are,” he said.

This is one of two compliments I get from him on a daily basis. The other is, “I love how warm you are.”

I know they are serious compliments because of the tone.

I used to make fun of him. “So, basically, you love the fact that I’m not dead?” I’d say, when he talked about my warmth. “That makes me feel so special. I’m so unique!”

When he said, “You’re so soft…” I’d feel uncomfortable for a hint of a second. “Softer now than I used to be,” I’d say, wondering if maybe he was thinking that too. I’d make a poorly structured joke about my thighs.

It has not been easy for me to be soft. To get soft, and to admit how soft I already was.


I remember, in college, this guy I was dating kept saying, “You definitely work out,” in this admiring way, looking my body up and down.

“Nope!” I said, proud.


“No, come ON. You definitely do.”

“No, I swear! I just look like this!”

“That is so crazy…Who just has a body like this? It’s so hard!”

Me. I do. I did. And I felt relieved. Because I didn’t want to work out, and apparently, I didn’t need to, because the point of working out was to create for yourself a body that looked the way mine already did.

“You have runner legs,” guys told me, even though I never ran. Even though my friend who ran every day was always complaining about her legs, about how fat they were, how her thick, pronounced muscles made her legs ugly.

“There is, like, no fat on your body!” my friends sighed.

It felt like the world was celebrating me for being hard, lean, and accidentally fit-looking. (Sometimes I think people don’t actually know what “fit” looks like—it’s all different, but we seem to only have one image, which often doesn’t even correspond with fitness).

My body felt cutting edge.

And then I started to get soft.



And I was nervous. Because softness isn’t good. It’s weakness. It’s vulnerability. It’s crying in class. It’s having no will power. It’s wimping out. It’s giving up. It’s admitting that you’re actually not as cool as you’ve been pretending to be.

I used to fight not to cry. Crying was the worst thing. I would hate myself for getting upset. I’d hate myself for being so sensitive. For reading too much into other people’s cues. For ascribing too much calculation to their random moods and casual rudeness. I wanted so badly not to care. Or at least, to care less.

In grad school, I felt like such a girl all the time. I didn’t want to have to keep mentioning people, when everyone else was talking about ideas, but I kept thinking of how the ideas would affect people, and then I was embarrassed. I was embarrassed because I felt strongly first, instead of thinking strongly. Because I spoke too soon, before I’d reasoned it out. Instead of thinking things out—laying them out in neat, logical strips, side by side, until the line of them made a theory. Instead, I reacted. I got invested. I was moved by my research. I sat in a LGBTQ church where I was collecting ethnographic data for my thesis, listening to the choir sing in full, throaty voice, and I clutched my notebook in both hands and cried from the beauty of it.  I was soft.


A soft girl in a world where girls could finally be hard. Where girls were finally rewarded for hardness.

I wanted to be one of those girls.

Like the other woman in my grad school program, who had read twice as much as all of the men. Who always knew  three answers past the basic answers. Who could already speak three languages and would continue to pick another one up every single summer. Every. Single. Summer. A girl for whom dense theoretical jargon seemed as self-explanatory as the instructions on the back of a shampoo bottle. Who would read the text in the original German, for fun. Who was writing her dissertation on an abstract concept that I kept reminding myself to look up, because I kept forgetting what it was.


My mind felt soft.  Page numbers and rules and major philosophers’ major theories slid out the bottom.  I made friends with the people I was interviewing for my thesis. I wanted to learn the music the choir sang. I was awed by the pastor, a tough, wiry gay woman with a high, reedy voice who spoke with such fervor, never with notes, that it seemed like she woke up each morning with fire in her eyes. I began to believe that inquisitiveness about the world—the kind of curiosity that had brought me to grad school in the first place—was better left to my brilliant, hard-minded classmates. That I should go write a song somewhere and give it a rest. That I wasn’t going to change anyone’s mind about anything important. That maybe I didn’t have anything important to say.

It’s been a few years since my body has gotten soft. It keeps getting softer.


It’s only been a short time since it began to occur to me that my vulnerability might be OK. That maybe it’s even a good thing.

That maybe the things that my mind holds onto are just as important as the things it releases. Not all of them, of course. For example, it is probably time to let go of all the lyrics to every Smashmouth song.

I am soft. I am gentle, fundamentally, but not passive. I have some fire in my eyes, I think. I can pillow my head on my plush arm, and it’s really convenient to always have a pillow. I exercise sometimes, now, and I think of my heart, not my legs. I don’t exercise and I think of my heart, not my legs. I look down at my legs and am surprised to find that they are no longer lean. The boy from college would not have the same compliments to give me. He would have to figure something else out.

Bear already has. “I love how soft you are,” he whispers, half asleep.

(yay, softness!)

“Me too,” I say, mostly to myself.

Now that I’ve gotten soft, I wonder where it’ll take me. Somewhere more comfortable, I think.

Maybe I’ll even read some theory again, someday, with a softer eye.

As it turns out, I have something to say.

*  *  *

Unroast: Today I love my hip to waist ratio. I hear that’s an important one. I think I nailed it.

P.S. My computer has been eating emails (I think maybe I somehow accidentally deleted a whole bunch of stuff with an accidental hand gesture to my phone, while rummaging in my purse for something). Someone sent me a cake pic and it has totally vanished. If that was you, please resend! If you wrote to me recently and I haven’t responded, that’s what’s going on. I’m trying not to freak out about this. But it’s pretty upsetting.

P.P.S. Update: I found the cake pic! It had been mysteriously deleted. But here it is, in all it’s glory!!

Oh my god, strawberries! Yes!

Also, the totally contacted me about these cake pics. One day you’re all gonna be famous! And maybe me too! :p


Kate on May 24th 2012 in beauty, body, exercise, life, weight, work

32 Responses to “you big softy”

  1. Melanie responded on 24 May 2012 at 12:14 pm #

    Okay, I have a new favorite cake picture. That enthusiasm is so amazing. I love her.

    I am soft. I just started a profile on a dating site and a guy totally won me over quoting that part of Pulp Fiction where she talks about what is pleasing to the eye, is generally not what is pleasing to the touch. Come touch my belly mister! Haha.

    I am pretty solid too though. I have a belly, large arms, and ripply thighs but I work out a ton so I’m freakishly strong. I love it.

  2. Kate responded on 24 May 2012 at 12:15 pm #

    Best line: Come touch my belly mister!


  3. Kate responded on 24 May 2012 at 12:19 pm #

    Also, I want to be freakishly strong! Maybe I should lift weights?

  4. Pam responded on 24 May 2012 at 12:23 pm #

    I never considered myself to be a blog reader, but yours has definitely opened my eyes (and wasitline ughh the cake craving is now unbearable!). You are so relatable. Thanks for writing such amazing blogs!

  5. Life [Comma] Etc responded on 24 May 2012 at 12:30 pm #

    Sometimes your blog posts are hard to read because it’s like unearthing a big wet rock and you know some emotional slugs are about to get their guck all over you. I hope you understand that this is a compliment ;-) !

  6. D responded on 24 May 2012 at 12:33 pm #

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who still knows waaay too much Smash Mouth!

    I’ve had similar, but less well-worded thoughts about my own mind. I think differently from other people. As much as I wish I could speak in dense jargon, I know its just not whats going to happen. But it doesn’t mean that I’m “less than” in any way. I have to remind myself of this a lot; especially since I work with a whole bunch of engineers.

  7. Gaby responded on 24 May 2012 at 1:48 pm #

    I love the cake pic! I don’t know if you got my comment on the giveaway among all the other hundreds, but I gave you permission to use my facebook profile sundae pic :)
    Now to the post. I think all women are meant to have soft parts. This post made me think of my mom so I had to comment. My fondest memories and some of my first memories are of laying my head on my mom’s stomach, whether in bed, or in her lap, or watching tv. It was just so soft. I loved pressing my ear up against it and just sinking in (and laughing at the gurgles lol)
    I think there is something so beautifully feminine about being soft. And I also don’t think it has anything to do with not being strong, I think feminine softness is part of what makes women so strong we are nurturers, comfort givers. It also doesn’t even mean fat or overweight, I think it can be unrelated. My mom complains about her stomach now that she’s older and I remind her of how much I do love that softness, but it’s not even that she’s overweight, she’s complaining of finally being average, though when I think about it now, these memories I have must have been when she was barely tipping 100 lbs.
    So much of what Bear’s compliment means is probably that he feels comforted by you, yes physically you are soft and he gets to cuddle up into your softness, but let’s be honest, he wouldn’t feel so comfortable with any soft body! :p I also love that you know to accept this as a compliment because it really really is! If it’s anything like the softness I associate with my mom, there is nothing else in the world like it.

  8. Sheryl responded on 24 May 2012 at 3:20 pm #

    “A soft girl in a world where girls could finally be hard. Where girls were finally rewarded for hardness.

    I wanted to be one of those girls.”

    I relate to this so, so much. I respond to things with a pretty even mix of the logical/analytic and emotional minds, but all most people see is the soft side. That I’m easily affected emotionally by events. That I take things personally, and that I get offended on other peoples’ behalf and that my responses can be very emotional. And I’ve fought pretty hard against that perception, because the people who comment on it tend to frame emotions as a weakness.

    Which makes me mad. I want to be able to feel the world and my experiences and not be embarrassed by that. I want people to be able to value the emotional responses of others, and accept that emotions are valid.

  9. ladykatya responded on 24 May 2012 at 4:30 pm #

    My kids call my soft parts “mama’s jigglies”. I both hate and love when they call my attention to my tummmy and my flabby arms.

    I’m working on tightening the jigglies, but I’m wondering if they’ll have wonderful memories of them like Gaby does! She’s given me a whole different perspective!

  10. Sooz responded on 24 May 2012 at 5:16 pm #

    This post came at the perfect time. I had a horrible day. I cried at work for an hour. AN HOUR. Talk about soft. My body is also soft. I wish my husband loved that about me like Bear does about you. But he doesn’t. So I am on a journey to love my body…softness and all. :)

  11. Kate responded on 24 May 2012 at 6:51 pm #

    @Life (comma) etc.
    I am taking it as a compliment, and I’m pretty pleased with the compliment that it is :-)

  12. Kate responded on 24 May 2012 at 6:52 pm #

    Thank you for reminding me!! I saw that the other day and then completely forgot. Of course. Because I can’t remember things for more than five seconds.

  13. Kate responded on 24 May 2012 at 6:53 pm #

    It breaks my heart a little that your husband is not more appreciative of your body. I wish I could somehow change this.

  14. bethany actually responded on 24 May 2012 at 7:17 pm #


    “Sometimes I think people don’t actually know what “fit” looks like—it’s all different, but we seem to only have one image, which often doesn’t even correspond with fitness”


    Also, this:

    “For example, it is probably time to let go of all the lyrics to every Smashmouth song.”

    made me LOL. For realz. :-)

  15. Kate responded on 24 May 2012 at 7:25 pm #

    @bethany actually
    Thank you for laughing! I felt like this post wasn’t funny enough, so that made me feel a lot better.

  16. Katie responded on 24 May 2012 at 8:07 pm #

    Weeeeee golly I love everything you write. You know what is weird is I immediately thought you meant “soft” like “silky” or “lotioned” or “not scaly” or “not dry.” My bf and I compliment each other on this softness all the damn time (and then of course quote Silence of the Lambs, hehe, if you know the reference). He is like rock hard buff muscle man but covered with this soft creamy skin, GAH so good. I think it’s a comment on being welcoming…so soft, so welcoming.

  17. Hannah responded on 24 May 2012 at 8:21 pm #

    @Melanie, Your comment made my evening :)
    The enthusiasm was well-deserved, since that was two layers of cake with whipped cream and strawberries in the middle and also on top with whipped cream all around. I mean, how could you NOT be excited?

    And soft people are the best to cuddle with. I think this is why when girls hang out, they are much more likely to be resting their heads on some other girl’s stomach of leg or back than guys are when they hang out with each other. It just feels safer….

  18. Val responded on 25 May 2012 at 12:05 am #

    I’ve said this before, but that bit of extra flesh has an extraordinary luxurious feeling to it, like plush velvet.

    There is nothing inviting about bones.

    And there’s nothing inviting about emotional hard edges either.

    We gotta be who we are, Kate. love, Val

  19. Alpana Trivedi responded on 25 May 2012 at 3:13 am #

    Hello, Kate. The funny thing is, I’ve been told that I have good “discipline” because I’m a vegetarian. Not only that I don’t drink alcohol or sodas (never liked carbonation in sodas). When I explain to people that I’ve never had meat, so I’m not depriving myself of anything, they don’t believe me. Then there’s the working out. I eat lots of bread and potatoes (I love my carbs). So people tell me that the working out doesn’t do any good if I keep eating carbs. Ummm….I’m not trying to get any “results” regarding weight.

    The point is, I’m “soft” in many things, but lots of people think I’m not because I look like I “work hard” with my body. I’m taking a college course right now and people think I’m “working hard” at that. I am, but I enjoy schoolwork better than I enjoy things in the Navy and supposedly, the Navy is “easier.”

    Hooyah to softies.

  20. Gracey responded on 25 May 2012 at 10:51 am #

    … it’s a funny thing. I never liked my own softness until I fell in love with a woman. She was soft, and curvy, and I loved it. I loved running my hands over her hips and soft, full belly. It was a big part of my own journey to body acceptance when I realised that we could wear each other’s clothes- that the weight I hated on myself was part of what I found so beautiful on her. It was never meant to be, but I’ll be grateful to her forever.

    Incidentally she was never soft as in silky and smooth. She had the worst eczema I have ever seen, yet I would trace my hands over her calves just the same. It didn’t bother me. It just seemed vulnerable, somehow perfect. Because it was her.

  21. katilda responded on 25 May 2012 at 3:25 pm #

    ok i LOVE this: “I felt strongly first, instead of thinking strongly.” …this is me. always. i do think, but always after i feel. and then i feel so much then i’m not sure if i’m thinking or feeling it or if it’s both.

  22. Laura responded on 27 May 2012 at 7:26 pm #

    I was (am) that girl that reacts based on what she feels. I was looked down on for my gut feelings, or so I thought, instead of basing my reactions on logic or something I could put words to. As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that gut feelings are just as good as logic, and stopped withholding my thoughts because I couldn’t explain them. I’m so glad for your blog!

  23. Courtney Ann responded on 28 May 2012 at 5:46 pm #

    I am learning to celebrate my softness because it is an outward representation of how I have survived this world; it is the physical manifestation of my psychological defenses and my wonderful, wise professor has said time and time again that we should respect the defenses.

    Now I want to begin to live in a way where I stop apologizing to the world for my softness. That is the daunting place I find myself.

    Thanks for your words!

  24. Celynne responded on 29 May 2012 at 2:15 pm #

    A friend of mine complimented me on my hip to waist ration while were out dancing once, probably one of the more amusing but charming comments I’ve gotten while tipsy and dancing haha. I’m glad you can enjoy being soft, I love my softness too.

  25. morgaine responded on 29 May 2012 at 11:06 pm #

    I am one of those hard-minded girls. I have always been strict, incisive, and sometimes harsh. But I have a very soft body, and I love the contrast. I feel like masculinity and femininity in balance.

  26. Jenn responded on 06 Jun 2012 at 10:16 am #

    Do you know anything about personality typing? Like Myers-Briggs or Kiersey? If not, I bet you’d really enjoy learning about it. You remind me so much of my sister-in-law. She’s an “NF,” and I think you totally are, too. :)

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