what if you’re just average?

This is another piece from Bethany. The woman can’t seem to stop writing fantastic stuff. She called this her “rant.” Ranting is sometimes the best:

Fat can be powerful.

If wielded just so, fat can send a message.  Plus size women have access to and permission to use a whole set of powerful words in reference to themselves.  There are specialty stores.  There are magazines.  There are groups of people fighting for and celebrating the thicker, curvier woman.

And of course we all know how powerful skinny can be.  Skinny dominates our media.  Skinny is the key to eternal happiness.  Skinny women are admired and applauded, envied for their perceived self discipline and focus.  Studies have been conducted that indicate that a large percentage of women would trade actual years of life in exchange for guaranteed thinness.

So, we have skinny and fat.  We have big, bold, powerful fat and strong, determined, wanton skinny.  We have Queen Latifah in one corner and Kate Moss in the opposing.  Both look stunning, of course.

So where does that leave me?

No one ever talks about being average.  I don’t know of any Average Advocacy groups.  Being a size eight?  Who cares?  Blah, boring, whatever.  What is there to say about a size eight?  The only thing that I can think of is that it falls neatly between six and ten.


Even the word “average” sounds plain.  When I hear the word “average”, I hear a lot of other words behind it:  unremarkable, without distinction, standard, ordinary.  It makes me think of the color beige, a big bowl of naked oatmeal, a glass of tap water.  I’m neither fat or skinny, curvaceous or waiflike.  Too big for Wet Seal and too small for Lane Bryant.  I guess that puts me at JC Penney’s.


It bothers me (a lot more than it should) that I don’t have a group to identify with.  My group is lost, all mixed in with a crowd of more noticeable, memorable women. I wonder if other women feel this way?  Does anyone else feel like they simply serve as a backdrop for all the body image drama and raving beauties and rivaling body parts?

In our society today, we’re supposed to stand out.  As women, our specific burden is to stand out physically.  We each have a duty to find the qualities and features about ourselves that “pop” and do everything we can to highlight and exaggerate those things.  Well, what about those of us who just don’t have features like that?  What then?  The only logical conclusion is that we go broke and crazy trying to obtain them.  Sounds like fun.

This is a new feeling for me.  I was once one of those voluptuous women.  And I was once one of the thin ones.  I know what it feels like on each side of the fence.  As a larger woman, I was encouraged to flaunt what I had and be proud of it.  I had cleavage to display and boundaries to push.  As a skinny person, I was envied and my advice was hungrily sought after.  People assumed that I didn’t eat and lived at the gym and I sort of relished those misconceptions.

Now, I’m just regular.  I don’t have a body that anyone would envy or that commands attention.  I just have a body.  In our modern world of “good” bodies and “bad” bodies, mine lacks any definition.


You know what I think, after having said all of this?  I think that we need to stop talking about our bodies.  It has to stop being such a central theme of conversation.  We all know how powerful our words can be, yet we continue to use them in a way that places the female form on display.  Even when we’re talking about being confident and fighting back against unattainable beauty standards, we’re doing it in a way that perpetuates comparison.  Comparison is exactly what we need to avoid.

Sure, there can be a positive outcome in putting two completely different bodies next to each other and finding the beauty in each, but there is also a negative message there:  that our bodies are only more, equally or less beautiful.  Not just beautiful.  Big women are beautiful in spite of the thin ideal.  Black women are beautiful in spite of the white ideal.  What if the ideals didn’t exist?  What if there was no point to prove?  How would we define our beauty if not against that of another woman?  Does beauty need to be a battle cry?


*  *  *

Unroast:  Today, I love that I look perfectly fine despite having only spent 20 minutes getting ready for work.  Minimal makeup, hair pulled back and a little deodorant.  Nothing wrong with that!


Anyone else have a body image rant? I’m always here: kate@eatthedamncake.com


Kate on August 14th 2012 in guest post, Uncategorized

16 Responses to “what if you’re just average?”

  1. Eve responded on 14 Aug 2012 at 11:42 am #

    This. This is exactly how I have been feeling without knowing how to put it into words, and here I stumble across my thoughts all laid out perfectly. I always feel as if I need to define myself as either skinny or fat. That there is no in-between; that there is only one or the other. Thank you for sharing this–it made me feel okay about not being either, and just allowing myself to be average.

  2. Sarah responded on 14 Aug 2012 at 12:08 pm #

    I’m finally past the teenage rollercoaster years of ‘am I too fat?/am I too thin?/oh no!’, and I no longer care what other people think about my body. If I’m going to eat healthy and exercise to get fit, I’m going to do it because I want to. Same as the occasional (over-)indulgence.

  3. katilda responded on 14 Aug 2012 at 12:29 pm #

    This…THIS: “Even when we’re talking about being confident and fighting back against unattainable beauty standards, we’re doing it in a way that perpetuates comparison.” YES. YES. YES. you completely put into words what i think about this! when i hear girls say “I love my body” i am proud of them, but when they go on to say “who needs to be a size 2! real women have curves! skinny girls look anorexic” i start shaking my head and thinking, “no, you haven’t accomplished anything….” Putting others down to build yourself up is no accomplishment in self esteem at all! We need to like ourselves independent of comparison to any other body type. Amen and amen!

  4. Melanie responded on 14 Aug 2012 at 1:03 pm #

    I try to avoid weight-based observations when talking about other people, but it is inevitable. All I really know is that when I was a size 5, or a size 7, and now a size 18, I would never describe myself as average. I think average is a state of mind, as is fat, thin, and the like.

    And I agree 100% with Katilda. I know so many plus size girls who are skinny haters, and vice versa. I think the key is in taking away that negative language as it relates to any size. Just because someone isn’t your size, doesn’t make your size better or worse. It just makes it different, and difference should be celebrated.

  5. Katrina Blanchalle responded on 14 Aug 2012 at 2:13 pm #

    I really love the “backdrop” observation. I’ve been underweight, overweight, and average weight for my height (according to medical stats), but I suppose my appearance (weight-wise) is never anything other than average. I find myself holding back from my friends’ conversations involving diet/exercise, weight-related health issues, weight and society, etc, because I feel unqualified to voice an opinion!

  6. Nazira responded on 14 Aug 2012 at 2:16 pm #

    I LOVE THIS!!!! I too am average at as size 8/10 and think that all womens bodies should be seen as beautiful. I have been both waifish and curvaceous and like myself best as i am, healthy!

  7. Bridget responded on 14 Aug 2012 at 2:54 pm #

    I hear what you’re saying, and I’m not sure what the answer is. I don’t know if the beauty/comparison thing is ingrained culturally, genetically, or what.

    But unfortunately, even amidst all our protests it still seems like we’re pointedly talking around the pink elephant in the room. Otherwise why would we need to boldly proclaim we’re beautiful and that we accept ourselves just the way we are? (Not that I’m saying we shouldn’t do this). Even “average” necessarily implies a spectrum of comparison.

    We’ll know we’ve arrived on this issue when it’s no longer a topic of discussion because no one is even thinking about it.

  8. Gina responded on 14 Aug 2012 at 3:21 pm #

    This is such an appropriate post for..my life. I have serious ISSUES with being average, not only in weight but in anything. I’m learning that living life as underweight, undernourished, overly rigid and overly perfectionistic is not really living life at all. I used to be the person who didn’t do something if I wasn’t THE BEST at it, but now I’m learning that it takes a lot of umph and gusto to do something and be average at it.

    Here’s to looking average, being average and (learning to) love it.

  9. Bethany responded on 14 Aug 2012 at 3:30 pm #

    That’s exactly the point. We’ve made it so that every word means more than it should. And when we use words to describe ourselves, we are almost always indirectly describing other women.

  10. Lindsey responded on 14 Aug 2012 at 4:56 pm #

    I was just thinking along these lines today, but I came at it from such a different perspective. Having been generally average for my entire lifetime, I focused on my flaws and the ways in which I was not enough for the better part of three decades. I’m not sure what flipped the switch for me, but one day about two years ago, I went to the gym, and I started running. And I just… kept running. And I started lifting lots of weights. And I started taking every class I could get into – Pilates, BodyPump, spin, whatever. I got hooked on exercise.

    And you know what’s funny about this story? I’m still “average.” I have lost a little weight but I’m still an average size. The strange part is that I would never describe myself as “average” anymore. I’m “strong.” I’m “fit.” I’m “healthy.”

    It really hit home for me a few months ago when an acquaintance invited me and my friend to join a social kickball team. My friend asked if we could invite our other close friend, and our acquaintance responded “I don’t know, is she any good?” My friend responded, “Well, she’s not an athlete like Lindsey and me.” I hadn’t thought to call myself as an athlete before, but I liked the sound and feel of it. And I realized that this is what fitness has done for my life – it’s taken away that stamp of unremarkability.

    I think everyone has something that makes them more than “average,” but recognizing that remarkable quality requires more work than just taking note of the way a person looks or the size jeans she fits. It requires looking deeper into WHO we are, instead of WHAT we are. I think that’s a practice we all ought to strive for.

  11. Janet T responded on 14 Aug 2012 at 4:57 pm #

    Bethany- nice rant! I too have run the gamut from thin to fat, and am just trying to find peace with my body at this point and not do it harm. I would have hoped that we would have evolved to a point where your IQ matters more than your BMI- but it might be worse now than ever before.

    I liked: “Skinny is the key to eternal happiness”

    My mother in law felt that way but never attained it, until she was on her death bed. I couldn’t believe how tiny she was, and thought ”wow, she would have loved being this thin” ( how sad is that?) the cost of it all was that she was almost dead. We would have preferred her at her heaviest weight and living- we just could never quite get this through to her.
    Ever since groups on the web called Kate Upton “fat”, I have decided this is a battle never to be won. I will just try to do my part and not judge, thick, thin or normal.

  12. Mary responded on 14 Aug 2012 at 6:18 pm #

    What about this? Who says we all need to be ‘beautiful’? This is the underlying root of the problem, I think. As mentioned earlier, we hear so many people (read: women) say “Who cares about being a size 2 – all women are beautiful!”

    Doesn’t that just put the focus back on the measurable? Why do we, as a society, strive for beauty? Whether it’s a comparative measurement or an all-encompasing declaration – why do we need to be defined by an adjective? Why can’t we just BE?

    (And fantastic writing, as ALWAYS Bethany!)

    For me – my gripes aren’t even about perception – my own or other people’s. For me it’s about comfort. The more weight I gain, the more *uncomfortable* I am. Not emotionally either – I’m talking about those elastic creases that itch then hurt! :) I’m talking about being winded coming up the stairs. I’m talking about not being able to reach my shoes to tie them. THIS is what the focus should really be about!

    When I was ‘average’ – I could run up a flight of stairs and not even notice. Now I can’t. This is exponentially more problematic than my self-image. Bethany is right – we need less focus on weight and image comparison and more focus on what is right for us as individuals and what is healthy.

    So on that note – you ‘average’ ladies….*I* envy you your size 8! :D

  13. San D responded on 16 Aug 2012 at 11:08 am #

    I just spent a 2 day retreat with my sister in NYC. She of ‘hard worked’ beauty, and me of ‘lazy’ average. Our obvious differences are never discussed, we have other things to giggle and talk about. One of the stories she told me though is worth repeating. Her adorable grandson of 4 is constantly being given things by strangers with the caveat of “you are so cute, here I have an extra ball to give you” kinda of thing. He looked at his grandmother and said “Nana, do ugly kids ever get anything”?

  14. Tanner responded on 21 Aug 2012 at 4:34 pm #

    “Does beauty need to be a battle cry?”

    Wow. That’s powerful. It does seem to be a battle cry of sorts. It’s like whatever you have must be worn loudly or else you’re not really being your full self. Are we still not ourselves if we don’t comb our hair or wear our highest pumps? Food for thought. Great piece, Bethany.

  15. Paula responded on 24 Aug 2012 at 12:28 am #

    My daughter…..i love you….i am so very very proud of you! Your words have moved me for years and I have hoped you would share them with others.my heart is bursting with pure joy! Thank you for sharing your gift!

  16. Eat the Damn Cake » What is she thinking?! Does she know what she looks like in that? responded on 29 Oct 2012 at 11:33 am #

    [...] me. I’ve also published a piece of hers about a little girl who thought she was too fat, and one about being average-sized. She sometimes writes things that make me think, “Why the hell haven’t I written about [...]