the girl in the mirror

Last year for Coming Out Day I wrote a piece about various things I kept relatively quiet that I decided to come out about last year. While Coming Out Day in the US was yesterday, the 12th is the day in the UK, so I wanted to do something similar this year.

This year, I'm coming out about my body image struggles.

I used to battle with bulimia/anorexia. Triggered in part by medication for depression that made me gain a ridiculous amount of weight, being shut away in hospitals and residential living programs that didn't feed us healthy balanced meals and rarely let us exercise, and already coming from overweight genes, I was pretty much going to be a fat girl. And god, I hated it. I was surrounded by girls who had gorgeous bodies and felt horrible about my body. When I discovered that some of the girls threw up their food, I gave it a go too. I was so desperate to be pretty.

In a world where I had very little control, my body was one of the only things I had mastery over. Whether I was not eating or I was purging, I couldn't take my medication on an empty stomach, so those had to go too. Not that I cared- I blamed the pills for adding the pounds on, and figured I'd rather be slender and crazy than fat and sane. I didn't have any models for attractive curves, and figured the boyfriends I had were attracted to my sexual forwardness, not my body. I wanted to change that- for people to find my body as attractive as my mind.

I was poor for a while there, eating food from pantries. Sometimes there would be bugs crawling in the wheat products. It was so unappealing that it wasn't hard to avoid eating at all. I worked in a mall, so would sometimes get through the day on one pretzel from the stand where a friend of mine worked. I walked to and from work, an hour long walk each way, often getting home at midnight. I would start to gag when I bent over because my body was so used to the routine. My energy came from caffeine and the occasional proper meal. And yet I still wasn't slender like I wanted to be.

I look at ads for weight loss pills and liposuction or tummy stapling and wonder "what if?" Would I be happier? Logically, I know probably not. But the heart sometimes yearns for the body I feel like I have and the body I actually have to be the same. In that way I feel a lot of compassion for the trans people I've known, that frustration when their bodies don't conform to the fashions they want or when they look at themselves and see someone totally different looking back. There's this anger at your body, a disassociation that happens- why does the girl in the mirror not look like the girl I am in my mind? I used to cut my breasts, belly and thighs, punishing my flesh for existing.

There are days still where I eat one meal a day, if that. Today, for example, I ate mac and cheese and a cupcake. I could probably go without eating again.

For a long time I was incredibly slutty in order to help myself feel attractive. I didn't think I could afford to be picky, after all. I put up with some awful men who would treat me poorly because I felt so convinced that as a fat girl I didn't get to be picky. It took me going to a party in SF where there was an award for "slut of the year" before I realized that wasn't something I wanted for myself, not anymore. I began to forge my self-esteem with a lot of difficulty.

My whole life it has been a fight to dress myself with any sense of style. When I want to buy clothes I have a choice between poorly made but kind of trendy or well made and out of style... and both choices are highly expensive. It's been almost impossible to find sexy lingerie that fits me, because companies feel fat girls don't need to feel attractive. Even now, with a lot more confidence, sometimes I go shopping and I come home and cry because it's just so depressing how hard it is to find clothes that fit my body.

I walk with a lot of sass, but I'm still subject to the same insecurities and shame about my body as everyone else. As much as I talk a lot about fat pride and fat being fit, I'm still scared that people overlook me, that I'm not as pretty as other girls. Being a fat girl certainly affects my work- I definitely can't have my prices as high or get as many clients as other girls. In the US, I deal with a lot more disrespect from people about my weight, from "clients" calling to make fun of me being a fat sex worker to well-meaning women in the street touching my stomach without asking, wondering out loud when I'm "due". I feel like my body is always on display, a prime target for ridicule and hatred. I mean, hell, even my grandma used to say things like "you'd be so pretty if you only lost 20 pounds". I rolled my eyes when she said it... but I also wondered. Would I?

And who'll defend a fattie? I mean, I'm only fat cause I don't exercise enough, right? Never mind that I've been to gyms where I have been whispered about for my body, or exercise classes where the instructor has singled me out and humiliated me in front of the class. I stopped doing that kind of exercise because it took so many emotional spoons just to be there. Now I do other things like dancing or walking, where it's less likely I'll have to put up with bullshit.

And of course when I'm in bed with a lover, I worry. I worry that they don't like my cellulite, my belly, my stretch marks. I look at them and wonder what they could possibly see in me. I hate that it's hard for me to kneel for lengths of time, that I'm not as flexible. It's really hard to fight back against all the media messages and fat jokes people toss around and see myself as beautiful. When a lover says to me that I'm beautiful, I blush hotly, unsure what to say, afraid if I say anything I'll burst into tears because it means so much to hear it. It's exhausting to fight body fascism, both within and without.

So that's what I'm coming out about this year. I am insecure about my body. I try to hide it, but it's there, all the time. Fake it til you make it, no?

Maybe one day I'll believe I'm beautiful

Be the first to comment

Post a comment