This is embarrassing
Yesterday my three year old son called me fat and it made me cry. Okay readers. Full confession, I’m a bit nervous and embarrassed to write this post however as one of my dear friends said to Le Boss Fox, “Commit, or get out!”. So here goes. I’m committed to telling you the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me Gods. (Jewish God, Allah, Jesus, Buddha, Tom Cruise, Oprah, River Phoenix).
ANYWAY I’m digressing. Yesterday my delicious, delectable, charming three year old boy got into bed behind me, put his little feet on my bare back and started chanting: “You have a big fat bum. A big, fat, bum. A BIG, FAT, BUM!”. Then he giggled and chanted it some more and then…I am ashamed to say this…I cried.
As he was saying it I froze. I knew I should shush him and laugh it off. He’s only three! The wise course of action is obviously to wait until he’s old enough to understand body image, respect for women and fat shaming and have those discussions with him, but I just froze. All the hatred of my disgusting, fat body, the self -loathing and shame, the abject, horrible shame I’ve struggled with my whole life flooded me and I cried.
I flashed back to being the girl in the dancing class whose body wasn’t thin enough. Who got teased about being fat by other girls, and told by dancing teachers to lose weight (it was the 80’s). I flashed back to being the only teenager in my friendship group who didn’t have a flat stomach. The fucking energy I wasted yearning for a flat stomach! I flashed back to being at a party in Europe with my dear husband who I’d only just met. A tall, thin, blond and very drunk Italian woman hissed at me: “What are you wearing? You’re too fat for that dress. You don’t belong here.” Yeah, that fucking happened, in front of everyone. It was mortifying.
It’s never been good enough
Here’s the kicker- I’m not overly fat but I’m also not thin. And if I look back, when I felt all that pain and shame, I was a lot thinner than I am now. But who and what decides this ridiculous measure anyway? All I know is that all my life, I’ve never been thin enough. NEVER. I don’t like looking at pictures of my wedding because in my head I wasn’t thin enough. Even when I had a brief period of actual thinness in my 20’s I still felt fat, because the object reality has never corresponded with what’s in my head. I’ve always felt that if I could just lose a bit more weight then I’d be happy and everything would be perfect.
Now I am someone who is conscious of this subject, in a political, feminist, intellectual way. I know that time and energy spent obsessing over my body and wishing it was different is time I could use in many productive ways. There are vested interests at work actively hoping I stay stuck in that self-loathing mentality. To quote Naomi Wolf, “When you see the way a woman’s curves swell at the hips and again at the thighs, you could claim that that is an abnormal deformity…Or you could tell the truth: 75% of women are shaped like that, and soft, rounded hips and thighs and bellies were perceived as desirable and sensual without question until women got the vote.” I know this shit!
There is a whole movement of women out there who promote (amongst other interesting and brilliant stuff) positive self image, loving your body, ending fat-shaming. Lena Dunham, Lindy West, Catherine Deveny, Constance Hall – all doing important and essential work. I’m into them! I love what they’re saying! Furthermore, they’re right, so I’ve been trying to practise genuine self love.
I will love myself if it’s the last thing I do
I’ve been trying to love myself and enjoy the things I want to eat; swimming and walking to school with the kids because it’s fun, not because I want to lose weight. I’ve been trying to love myself and wear what I want without hating the way I look. Seriously, I’ve made real progress towards loving myself in all the right ways. And I thought I’d finally started to turn the corner to what I know is the right way, towards genuine love of my beautiful, miraculous body.
At least, I thought I’d made progress till my three-year-old called me fat and it made me cry. But you know what? That moment passed. And then I fucking went downstairs and ate pasta and pizza and drank wine with my family because it’s delicious and because there’s nothing wrong with me or the way I look. It was great.
I love you, fat body
I thank my child-bearing hips for my two beautiful children, and my breasts for feeding them and my poochy tummy for letting them grow. Thank you to my strong legs for carrying me and my plump arms for letting me cuddle the people I love. Thanks soft, round stomach for letting me eat delicious food and drink the nectar of the Gods. My husband thanks my bum just for being there, but that’s another story. It’s the only body I’ve got and goddamn it I’m going to love the shit out of it! The End.