This is a guest post. When I read it, it sort of hit me over the head. Thank you, Bethany.
Recently, I was sitting by the pool with my best friend’s six year old daughter, who happens to be significantly overweight for her age. There are several medical and genetic explanations for this, but I wasn’t thinking about any of those things when she looked at me and said, quite simply, “I’m not pretty because I have a fat belly.”
In that moment, we were the same. The twenty six year old woman and the six year old girl were exactly the same, living with an all encompassing inadequacy.
This should never be the case. I should be both wiser and more jaded. She should be oblivious and happier. At this point in my life, I should be full of sassy body positive quotes and affirmations. And at this point in her life, she shouldn’t even need them.
It would have been the perfect moment to impart some wisdom, but I was so startled that I froze. Not just startled, but sad. I’ve suffered through a lot of body image issues and drama, but even I got to have those precious early years of being completely unaware. Of wandering around in my underwear without it even occurring to me that I was mostly naked and people might see me. Of doing whatever wonderful, random thing that popped into my head without wondering if I was pretty enough to do it or if I would look pretty doing it. Everyone deserves those years.
The words she said rang so painfully familiar to me. It’s the exact same thought I’ve had running over and over in my head, with some slight variations, for years: If only I had super sculpted arms, I would be hot. If it weren’t for these stretch marks, I’d be hot. If I didn’t have saddlebags, I’d be happy with my body.
If a woman has one noticeably fat area of her body, she is fat and nothing else. However, on the flip side, we have to have all of the required parts and measurements to be pretty. Ugly/fat cancels out pretty/thin. It doesn’t matter if you have beautiful lips or really like your curly hair and your ass is as hard as rock…you’ve still got those cankles, haven’t you? Pretty doesn’t have cankles. Pretty doesn’t have cellulite or flab. Most of the time, pretty doesn’t even have freckles or tattoos. There is no room in pretty for us, the ones who are supposed to be it. Pretty is too exclusive.
I think I managed to say something reassuring and helpful to my friend’s daughter. I hope so. Inside, I was scrambling to recover from my shock. Her total certainty shook me. She wasn’t fishing for compliments or contemplating a new diet or preening in the mirror, the way older girls and women might. She was just a little kid, sitting by the pool, making a statement, sharing a fact with me.
“I am not pretty because I have a fat belly.”
Since that conversation, I’ve been actively working on undoing some of this damage I’ve done to my self esteem. I’m working on changing the way I speak to and about myself, changing (not lowering, changing) my expectations and embracing who I am and what I just look like. I’m slowly edging what I think I should look like or what I want to look like off the table and making more room for reality. I had my first mini breakthrough the other day. I thought, to myself and out of nowhere, “Having fat arms doesn’t mean I’m not hot. It means I have fat arms.” Sounds kind of dumb, right? But it was a gem, a real moment for me.
And maybe one day, the reality will be that pretty can in fact have a fat belly.
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What do you say, in this sort of situation? I’m curious to hear people’s thoughts.
Bethany’s Bio: I’m a happily single, full time working mom from Tennessee. I have one awesome eight year old boy, a cat named Chubbles, and I’m planning on going back to school to become a speech therapist very soon! I love to write, cook, eat mayonnaise from the jar and I get really emotionally involved in Super Mario Bros.
Unroast: Today I like my hair. Because I didn’t get up early to iron and straighten and fry and curl and fuss with it and it just is what it is, you know? It’s frizzy and nonsensical, curly in some places and pin straight in others. And I’m cool with that.