“You’re so skinny, Mary!”
I haven’t heard that in a while. As I type, an article titled “Thinner People Eat This Many Meals A Day” is open in my browser. For the first three years of college, I was skinny. Skinny enough that my twin sister admits that people would ask her if I had an eating disorder.
When people exalted my slenderness, I laughed it off, but inside, I knew they were right. I was thin. And I was one of the lucky ones. Without too much effort, my weight barely tiptoed over 110 pounds.
I never had to worry about what my arms looked like in sleeveless tops and committed the cardinal sin of fashion by wearing leggings as pants on a regular basis.
However, in the summer of 2014, something changed—maybe it was the emotions of my childhood dog dying, the imminent reality of senior year of college, or perhaps that my metabolism just gave up on me. Between May and December 2014 I gained somewhere between twenty-five to thirty pounds.
(Disclosure—I would probably not be considered overweight by most, and am still considered “small” by many—including a lovely middle age woman in the underwear section of my local Target.)
I can no longer fit into my size zero boyfriend style jeans that I loved so much my sophomore year of college. There are times that I feel like shit about my body, as if my whole identity and self worth rests on that pair of size two dark wash skinny jeans that are shoved somewhere in the bottom of a box in the basement.
My friends and acquaintances said this as if it was a compliment, as opposed to stating the obvious. However, I do not believe my friends meant any harm in this statement. Their words were simply a reflection of the culture in which we exist—skinny is good, anything else is bad.
Weight is tricky to talk about. It is personal yet visible, and strangers judge other strangers on something as trivial as the composition of another’s body. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average weight for an American woman over the age of twenty is 166.2 pounds and the average height is about 5 feet 3 inches, yet the images of womanhood perpetuated by popular media are of women who tower close to 6 feet tall, weigh less than 125 pounds, but still manage to have curves in all the “right” places.
“You’re so skinny, Mary!”
I don’t want to be judged on my physical characteristics. I don’t want people to tell me I am too thin or too big. Why am I worrying about what my arms look like in photographs? Why am I not good enough for myself at whatever weight I happen to be?
I am not defined by my weight. No one should be. The society we live in is toxic. It is one that tells girls and women that we are not good enough. That we never will be worth something, unless we fit into a certain size. I have no doubt that I, and many others, have internalized much of this self-hatred.
I think we can do better. I think I can do better.
I’m learning. I’m learning that vegetarians should eat more than bread and that fruits and vegetables are my friends. That the goal of exercise does not necessarily have to be weight loss.
I’m learning that I still can bare my arms if I want to. That there are jeans out there in sizes bigger than a size two and make my butt look fantastic, and if I feel like rocking a pair of leggings, I will.