Thursday, August 11, 2011

Size Does NOT Matter, Unless You're Talking About Your Brains

I've always wanted to talk about this. I've always wanted to bring comfort to those who might feel the same way. Because if you're one of the 'the ones' it starts very early. Sometimes it changes along the way, sometimes not. Sometimes it's a lifetime battle. And sometimes, it's just the way we're meant to be.

From birth til about seven years old, I looked like every other little girl. From eight years old til about fourteen I was the typical young girl, an inner-tube around the tummy.  From fifteen years old until after the birth of my first child, I was finally, like every teenage girl I ever wanted to be. And then, it came back. And left again. And then I had another child, and it came back...again.  And it hasn't left since.

Unless you're the little girl with chubby cheeks and a chubby body, you have no idea what it takes to overcome the feeling of being the odd girl out. I learned at an early age to use my humor to console myself and to fit in. Most times it worked. But little boys never like the chubby cheeked girls with the chubby bodies. Not even the funny chubby cheeked girls with the chubby bodies. Not the kind of boys little girls want to like them.

I was always invited to the slumber parties and swimming parties. Again, because I was the funny girl. But I never wanted to change into my PJ's and I NEVER wanted to put on a swimsuit. Swimsuits for chubby girls look exactly like what they are...swimsuits for chubby girls.The ones that show little skin and have skirts. Skirts meant to flatter the tummy area and the thick thighs.

The summer after the 6th grade, we all went to 4H summer camp for a week. I can remember vividly an African American girl named Alvita Latimer who would not shower in front of us. She did not shower all week. She was the only African American girl amongst us. She piled on perfume all week. But no shower. And as much as everyone made fun of her, I knew how she felt. For very different reasons. I was supposed to take swimming lessons at that camp. But because so many people, girls AND boys went to summer camp that year, I skipped half of my lessons that week. Because those lessons required I put on a swimsuit in front of all those boys. The mean boys who would laugh and make fun of girls who looked like me.

Junior High came and went, and finally, I grew into my body, and lost quite a bit of it. I was finally able to wear one of those hot, two piece bathing suits and feel good about myself. But it's a strange thing, this life as a chub girl. You always seem to feel the same on the inside, no matter what is gone or has changed on the outside. It's very hard to overcome that feeling of awkwardness and not fitting in. To be born with the type of confidence it takes to overcome those feelings of being less than, is rare.

It is still very hard for me to overcome the need to hide or stay off to the side. And for me to have such a gregarious personality otherwise, it creates quite a struggle within my own self at times. This is such a harsh society we live in. Girls and women are judged far too often by appearance, and accepted or not, by the same. There are some awfully brilliant and beautiful women and girls walking around in bodies that will never see a size 8, much less a size 2.

If I had a daughter I would make sure she knew from the time she could understand, that she could be whatever she wanted to be, no matter what. No matter her size, the color of her hair, the shape of her face, or length of her legs.  That there would never be any limitations that she couldn't bust wide open.

I'm 48 years old and back to wearing bathing suits with skirts, when you can get me to wear one at all. And I'm uncomfortable in unfamiliar surroundings again, and I have to force myself to forget what I look like, and remember what I'm worth. It's a struggle for me all over again. But I do it. I force myself everyday, to meet new people and speak first. To greet strangers with confidence. And to know, I have what it takes to matter as much as anyone else. Size blankity blank or not.  And if you're reading this today, and you are me, you can too. I know you can. Because you're worth it, just like me.  

copyright © 2011 Michelle Mount Mims

1 comment:

  1. I have been chubby since 6th grade, but it never mattered until 8th grade when I went to "that other school" where I was suddenly the biggest and the poorest. I thought I was fat in high school while I weighed 145 pounds. Do you know how much I would LOVE to be 145 now?? I was funny and fit in and made friends, although they never saw me in a swimsuit, either. Now my daughter experiences the same thing. She is beautiful and funny and smart but today's media has taught kids that being size 8 or bigger is too big. It's a damn shame.