I left my apartment this morning dressed for yoga in bike shorts and a substantial sports bra. I also wore a thin beige vest for the sole purpose of covering up my midriff. I didn’t want anyone to see it. This morning I found myself asking why my potentially bare mid-section mattered when, for a split second, the edges of the vest parted ways as a gardener approached. Thinking he might see the barest splash of visible abdominal skin I hurriedly placed my yoga bag in front of my torso.
All of that reactionary movement to cover the barest piece of bare skin. In contrast, I see “thin” women walking in my neighborhood all the time in exercise outfits that show a portion of midriff, so what makes me react to mine? You see, I know the answer. I’m not shy. I’m not a prude. I’m not showing too much skin in my yoga outfits. I’ve been conditioned to feel, to believe that this fat, this obese body needs to be and ought to be covered up.
Where did I learn this? Does that matter? Yes. I learned it and am still learning it every time I go to the mall as see stores that offer clothes in a size zero or double zero or extra extra small. At some point it seems clothing manufacturers will be designing women into non-existence.
When I go looking for clothes, I look for the plus size section or the women’s section, and it’s almost always in a smaller section of the store. Dillard’s in Scottsdale’s Fashion Plaza has one of the largest and more fashionable plus size sections that I’ve seen. Most stores and the designers send a clear message with their product placement: plus size women don’t deserve to be front and center, yet we are in the majority, just not the seemingly accepted attractive majority.
Most models, actresses, television personalities have small frames. The majority of beauty contests covet thinness. Everywhere anyone goes, tininess prevails. A skinny woman can be on the beach and be admired, but a larger one will often the victim of verbal abuse and be called “a whale”. I’ve seen this and been a victim of it more than I care to admit.
I still clearly remember my first job interview at the age of 16. I see in my mind’s eye the woman’s face as I approached her. I could see the dread as she saw my size. She didn’t see me. She saw fat. She judged me based on that. I could tell by her body language. She didn’t convey her fat prejudice with words, but her eyes told the story. They told it well.
Sometimes I’m amazed that I thrive as a social creature. Fat prejudice and Fat shaming are so predominantly accepted and glorified by so many that I find I have a distinct amount of respect for people with larger bodies who work so conscientiously to defy social “norms”.
I’d like to think in some small way that I’m working toward that too. This body that houses this soul has just as much right to inhabit this earth as any other body. I don’t always believe that though and this morning’s reaction taught me that. This brain has bought into the subliminal and not so subliminal messages that the only attractive bodies are the thin ones and that the only way larger bodies can be attractive is if they are in the process of being molded into thinner bodies.
That frame of mind does not lend itself to healthy living though because it removes me from the present and keeps me in the past or the future. And that’s no way to live. It’s time to stop body shaming myself. It’s time to stop thinking the world will end if someone sees a slice of my midriff while I’m on my way to yoga class. Because the world won’t end, and it’s entirely possible a whole new piece of my world will open up.
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