It’s funny to me when people comment on other people’s shapes, like they’re establishing something that’s never been discovered by human thought before.…except the rest of humanity with functioning sight. Aside from maybe the girl wearing jeans two sizes too small and a t-shirt that won’t stay down because her jeans are squeezing the last bit of toothpaste out of her, no one is more aware of her shape than the person staring back at us in the mirror. We females as a whole are so aware of how we morph that it, often, borders illogical. I couldn’t count the amount of times I’ve told my mother or one of my friends that no one is looking that close and then commence in the same detailed pick-apart of my own self. As females, it’s just how we do. And it doesn’t make it right.
I was born 8 pounds 6 ounces and had rolls like a bakery. From that point forward I pretty much only grew vertically and no other direction. I started getting boobs in 4th grade. Stopped getting boobs in 4th grade. I weighed 57 pounds for virtually years on end despite my continuously stretching height, and have literally been caught in a stiff Minnesota wind and blown a few feet sideways. People lie and take off pounds on their drivers license, I lie and add 20. I’m skinny. Been skinny. Always gonna be skinny. Thanks or no thanks to genetics, I have virtually zero percent body fat and a ridiculous metabolism. By no intention, I like to eat healthy food just because I love how it tastes. My poor-man’s meal in college was just a can of beets with a ton of butter and a look of disgust by my roommate. (Don’t get me wrong, I could also put away a 1300-calorie Hardees Thickburger.) On top of that, I have a disease that likes to eat protein more than a South Dakota beef farmer. Pretty hard to fill in skin without muscle or fat. So when people tell me I’m skinny, I think, “Congratulations, you have the gift of sight.”
In virtually all scenarios in my life I can tell you exactly what I was wearing. It’s how I distinguish one event from the next, it’s how I trigger memory and it’s how I define periods of my life. My scapula (shoulder blades for the less technical) have always winged out from lack of muscle strength. I remember wearing a loudly floral, knit jumper (loved that thing) one summer while walking through the Pipestone Monument with my brother and a couple other kids. Because the back was lower, one of them made a comment about my blades, only to be met by my 5-year-old brother’s rebuke (in years that I was generally a butt to him). One thing about siblings, we can send each other through the ringer, but others better not mess.
In elementary school, one of my good friends admiringly told me I was so cool because I was like a stegosaurus. Epitome of what every girl wants to hear. He would often touch my shoulder blades and collapse to his death from puncture wounds. It was funny. And weird. The desire to be a dinosaur runs stronger in boys. I found the idea of being a prehistoric lizard who cuts people with their back spikes less aspiring.
One particularly defining moment for me came when I was standing in line for the diving board at the pool one summer. A kid behind me says, “You’re really skinny.” Exactly in the way I stated before, as if this was completely brand new information. As natural as a knee jerk to the groin would have been, I turned and instantly retorted, “I LIKE my body,” with hardcore sass. The only thing missing was a snap in the air and a pop of the hip (which I believe had yet to be introduced into pop culture.) I climbed the steps and jumped off into the water feeling like I had just burned a bra or refused to shave my armpits. I was 9.
Thing is, I did believe it. I did like my body. But every time I waited in the diving board line I didn’t feel like educating the rest of the pool rats on body image. So from that point forward if my suit didn’t cover my blades, mom would sew a spandex bow from one strap to the other. And so that was how it became. The idea of having to explain slowly made me cover up over the years as I got skinnier and skinnier. When I hit junior high I had picked my insecurity, which I believe they hand out at the door in 7th grade along with your class schedule and deodorant samples.
The last time I wore short shorts was in 1996. They were black Zana-dis and only worn twice the day they were thrown into the abyss that is Goodwill. Call me crazy, but I’ve often wondered if they ever made it out of the vat of dejected clothing only to be worn again. I didn’t say call me not crazy. The last time I wore a lone t-shirt was probably junior high. I’ve now spent the greater half of my life creating the illusion that I am not as skinny as I really am. I probably shouldn’t quit my day job to become an illusionist. I am the lunatic wearing jeans and a trendy blazer to a 95-degree baseball game. Delusionist.
It has gotten less easy to convince myself that what I have is okay. It’s a constantly changing form. When I get used to how my body is, more muscle leaves. Not only my shape changes, but also my ability. I like to think if it would just stay the same, I wouldn’t feel like pulling my hair out some days. With a body that could be a live diagram of bones and insertions for an anatomy class, I truly believe it’d be easier and more acceptable to be overweight. These are just truths. We all have our truths.
Ultimate truth: At the end of the day I don’t want any other person’s body but my own. I don’t want any other person’s life and I don’t want any other person’s insecurities, because, man, chicks have some diluted messes going on up in those brains! I know how to handle my own stuff and I don’t think any one else could. We are built exactly for what we got. That’s the thing we forget amidst it all, we have everything we need to be everything we need to be. Just as we are. God knows I have to tell myself that thousands of times a day. Ladies, we would save ourselves a whole hell of a lot of time if we would just believe it already.
I guess my point of this less funny blog is to hammer away at the illusion that we aren’t okay as is. Because if we weren’t, we wouldn’t be this way. It’s good to seek a better version of yourself. It’s not good to seek a simulated version of someone else. After all, that’s what we’re doing most of the time when we wish we have what we don’t. Or what I’m most guilty of, wishing I had what I had (just as unproductive).
In December, I will hit 28. When I was a little girl I would sit in my room and imagine how I would look when I was older and what kind of woman I would be. I would watch other grown brunettes and pick and choose things I admired. Long hair, great clothes, pretty shoes, accomplished, charm, class, confidence. But out of everything, I knew I wanted to believe in who I was most of all. As I near my golden years, while I don’t particularly know where I’m going or exactly what I should be doing lately, two things are for certain: I’ve got a closet full of fabulous clothes and I have always and undoubtedly believed in who I am. So there you go, little T. Hope I’ve done you at least part proud so far.
You can read more from Tana Zwart on her blog.