Thursday, February 7, 2013

Skinny fat

It’s been made quite clear to me that I’m not allowed to complain. I’m sure you’ll agree that I have no reason to feel the way I do, and I shouldn’t be writing this post. I don’t expect to receive any sympathy cards in the mail.

I know that I’m lucky when it comes to my weight. Neither the number on the scale nor the number on my pants have ever been a real problem for me. I’ve tried to lose a few pounds on occasion, but only because I wanted to and not because I really needed to.

For those reasons, I’m not allowed to feel the way I do about my body. I’m not allowed to see the fat rolls or the muffin top. Because no one else can see them under my clothes, I’m supposed to deny their existence as well. Friends will lament about their post-baby bellies or the tightness of their pants, and I will start to commiserate. The friend will then roll her eyes and say something like, “Oh, shut up. Like you have anything to worry about.” They mean it in the nicest way possible, of course. As nice as anyone can mean “shut up.”

That’s the awesome thing about clothes. They’re sort of magical. They hide my belly rolls and thigh dimples. I go to great lengths to camouflage my flaws, to create an illusion with my clothes and by constantly holding my stomach in. Sucking it in 24/7 has become second nature. If asked to “let it out,” I’m not sure I could physically do it. So I guess I can’t blame people for believing what they see. I suppose I should be happy that my ruse has worked so well all these years.  

But the truth is, I’ve never been comfortable in my body, not even in high school. I’ve always been thin, but a soft thin. “Skinny fat,” if you will. My belly has never been toned, my rear has always been squishy, my thick thighs have always jiggled, even in my youth. I wear a bikini on the beach, but my movements are always strategic. As long as I’m standing up or lying down, I can keep up the façade, and I can switch between the two positions in a blink of an eye. But as soon as I need to sit upright, I throw on a shirt or towel to cover my stomach. If I need to walk across the sand, I put on shorts or a long cover-up so no one sees how much my lower half jiggles as I move.

Today, with my post-baby body and its stretched out skin, I make even more of an effort to create this illusion. Because I’m small, I feel like people expect me to look a certain way under my clothes. So when they see me in a bathing suit, it’s sort of disappointing, like when a teenage boy discovers the girl he’s feeling up is wearing a padded bra.

I know I should be amazed by what my body can do now that I’ve given birth. I’ve read many posts by women who have come to love their bodies and its softness brought on by motherhood. They look at the miracles their bodies can produce, and they see nothing but beauty in the mirror. I know I should feel that way, too, but I don’t. Maybe someday I will, but this is not that post.

Pregnancy has stretched my body in ways I never thought possible, making our already strained relationship even more difficult. And I’m tired of feeling guilty for not being happy about that. It sucks, and I’m done pretending it doesn’t suck.  

So when other women vent about their bodies, I want so badly to exclaim, “Me too! I know how you feel! You’re not alone!” But I know I have to tread those waters carefully. By commiserating, I’m not in any way fishing for compliments. I just want the same validation and camaraderie everyone else is seeking.

Remember that the next time you complain about your body. There are plenty of women who are bigger than you are, women who would give anything to look the way you do, and they wish you would stop complaining. Does that make your feelings less valid? Of course not.

I know the moral of this story should be that we should all love the skin we’re in. But the reality is that we don’t, not all the time. So in those moments (or days or years) when we don’t love our bodies, we should be able to support each other, not further diminish each other by devaluing what another is feeling. Because whether we’re skinny, fat or skinny fat, we’ve all been there.