Category Archives: Body Image

Allure

Before the play I watched her sit, posed, on a rock,
one knee bent up, near her chin. She was covered just so
modestly with what can only be called a frock,
one bright red shoe dangling from a pedicured toe.
Let me say more about her fabulous dress
which I got to observe going down the hill after
the play. Sheer and sleeveless, white, a mess
of summer flowers painted on the skirt.
Everything looked expensive and just exactly right.
I haven’t mentioned yet how old she was.
Seventy-something I’m guessing, which is why
it wasn’t a surprise to see her favoring her knees
as we made our way to the parking lot and why
I can’t get the way I saw her first out of my mind.

______

 

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These are my red shoes. Not hers. Still.

 

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I saw her before and after seeing The Unexpected Man at the Touchstone @ American Players Theatre (which is wonderful and which you should go see and which I will write about more if I can think of anything to say other than “perfect”) so of course I couldn’t possibly say anything to this woman about any of this.

The End of the World Will Be So Pretty

“I can feel St. Elmo’s fire burning in me”

some 80s band

Fallout will make the sunsets stunning
someone told me and I believe it,
just like pollution from St. Louis once
turned the sky above the American Bottoms pink
to contrast nicely with the deep dark green
of the Cahokia Mounds.

Those mound-dwellers had it all
but they don’t have what we have,
so much potential as wasted as
the best chocolate-chip cookie in the world
chewed four times and spit out
by someone with different body issues
than I have, having never wasted a cookie,
never not once in my whole life,
unless you count as waste that whole
eating more calories than you burn thing,
in which case I waste food all the time,
but I don’t count that way and I wish you wouldn’t.
 
If only self-loathing could contour
my shape! If only rumination paid off
in dollars and not cortisol!
If only the strange map of cracking
in the front left panel of my Ford
could show me the way to solvency.

Are all the mustards invasive?
The splash of yellow I see in fields now,
and Dame’s Rockets everywhere—
it’s hard to hate them
with their bright mauvey pink bouncing
in the breeze that is somehow not
strong enough to discourage mosquitoes.

Reconciliation comes before repair,
at least I think it does, and so I try
to love what’s here and who I am
and the massive disasters around me
and trust I will know what to fix when
it’s time to fix and until such time
as fixing is all I care about, I will just let
the fact that I am a large woman make me feel the same way
a bad song from the 80s can make me
happy, just happy, just really happy.

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Remarkable

 

Something remarkable happened today—
I looked in the mirror and I liked how I looked.
(I was wearing a swimming suit, by the way.)

There’s something you should know—how very much I weigh,
and the fact that my back is fused and strange and crooked.
Something remarkable happened today

in the locker room mirror. I thought, “Hey–
nice hip.” (The right one sticks out and I had it stuck.)
I was wearing my bright blue one-piece, by the way,

the one that inspired a very fit man last month to say
“New suit, looks good.” I mostly just said thanks,
which means another remarkable thing happened that day.

I didn’t make excuses. I didn’t say
I’m sorry I’m not leaner. I didn’t choke
for wearing a swimming suit. By the way,

I thought my entire body looked okay.
For me to think that—it’s like lightning struck.
Something remarkable happened today.
I was wearing a swimming suit, by the way.

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Something I (Seriously) Don’t Have Any More Time For

Worrying about whether or not people are making fun of me behind my back and I just don’t hear them.

“Pictures of People Who Mock Me” is provocative. It’s a much-read article from Salon.com, a daring idea for a series of photos, and it stuck in my imagination, so I would say it met at least some of the author’s/photographer’s goals. It bothered me, though, in two ways I’m not sure she intended.

My first GENIUS and BRILLIANT and INCREDIBLY WISE response was to think, “OH MY GOD. People probably make fun of me for being fat and I just don’t notice because I am a.)oblivious and b.)not just fat but also hard of hearing.”

That surely wasn’t the intent. That first response didn’t last very long. I just don’t have time to wonder, at least not for very long, if anyone’s response to me has anything to do with how much I weigh.

It occurs to me, of course. Today in the pool, I got there early enough to snag the lane I wanted. Another woman got there just a little later. Typically, people waiting on a lane sit on a bench by the pool. She sat on the side, straddling a lane marker, kicking her legs gently. She wasn’t right next to me, but close by. It occurred to me she might be trying to get those of us in the pool to hurry it up. It occurred to me she might look at me and think she deserved the lane more than me because she was in better shape. It then occurred to me that maybe she just wanted to make sure she was first in line because she really, really wanted to get her laps in. Whatever she was doing probably had absolutely nothing to do with my size, my fitness level, with me at all.

But I swam one more lap than I had planned just to make sure I wasn’t ceding my place in the pool out of insecurity on my part. (And on the off chance she was trying to be intimidating.)

Second, I’m doing lots and lots of difficult, ongoing, hard work in my own head about shame. Did I mention it’s difficult? Everything Brene Brown ever wrote helps me. The people who did indeed mock Haley Morris-Cafeiro were wrong to do it. Mean to do it. If they saw themselves as shaming her in order to motivate her, they were mean and wrong and totally not up on the research that shows shame is not a good motivator for change (cf: everything Brene Brown ever wrote).

But since shame makes everything worse, not better, it made me uncomfortable to watch the photographer shame the shamers.

And then also, I had a whole train of thought about weight and body image and how we stake our place on the planet:

Engine of this train thought: it’s all about attitude. If you believe you’re beautiful and if you’re confident, you pull yourself past anyone who is making fun of you IF they bother to make fun of the Big-Ass Engine Who Could.

Coal car for the Big-Ass Engine Who Could: it’s all about energy. If you’re busy and you got places to go and things to do, people will have a hard time catching up to you to make faces behind your back. And you really don’t have time to spend on people who can’t be bothered to criticize you to your face. Probably don’t have time for people who CAN be bothered to make fun of you to your face.

Freight Car for the Big-Ass Engine Who Could: people who walk around mocking others have a bigger problem that whomever they are mocking. We all have issues. Baggage. Freight. Mocking others is one really ineffective way to deal with our own stuff.

Caboose: Beyonce.

Queen Latifah. Adele. I mean, seriously. It’s not about the pounds.

I know fat-shaming is real. I know it’s a problem. I also know someone who wants to shame has only one part of the equation. If I refuse to be shamed, all the fat-shaming in the world will fall flat. (Not that I’m resilient enough to resist all of it, in all the world. But don’t try to get me out the pool before I’m ready.)

I’m larger than I’d like to be. I’m working on it. I’m not sure reading/looking at “Pictures of People Who Mock Me” helped me, but it’s not her job to help me. It’s mine, and I’m doing it, and in regard to this article, I’ve done it.

And now I’m done.

Besides. Why would I spend any more moments at all on any of the above when I could be hanging out with our new kitten?

Vanessa Quivertail

Vanessa Quivertail