Tuesday, July 08, 2008

They Learn It, Too

I'm a fat girl. Pretty much always have been. I don't spend as much time consciously thinking about it as I once did. The way I am usually affected these days is much more assiduous. I have accepted, for example, that I am sort of invisible. I've seen people that I know from high school and college, people that I've met in other places for more than a moment, and while I remember them, they look right past me. They remember Kim. They remember Mrs. O. But it is if they've never seen me before, and in a very real sense, I suppose they haven't. (continued under the fold)

This is only one example, of course. Suffice it to say, I have grown accustomed to not being seen. Except, when I suddenly become hypervisible. In a restaurant or any place where I might eat. In a grocery store where people not-so-subtly look at the contents of my basket. On buses and vans where I am judged to "take up too much of the seat."

While I might not talk much about my weight, the one thing that I do complain about at length is my stomach. It's not only that I have a fat tummy; I have a somewhat large lipoma on the right side that pushes out a little bit against my clothing so it is sometimes visible. When I'm unclothed, I look at it and think that it distorts my stomach. My doctor told me it was harmless a few years ago, so I didn't worry about it. A couple of years later, he was surprised I still had it. I repeated what he told me. He then said, "I didn't mean for you to walk around with it forever."

My mom tells me every once in a while to have it, and the one under my arm (that I've had for over half my life), removed. When I was in grad school, trying to write, I wondered when I'd have time to take a few weeks to recover. Plus, I don't like going to the doctor's office.

So, I just routinely complain and move on. I notice that I try consciously not to complain in front of the girls in my circle of family and friends. They are aged from six to 17 and the complaints they make are enough to make you cry. In their words, they are too fat, their butts are too flat or too big, their hair is nappy, they are "black" (meaning dark-skinned), and so on. So, while I try to encourage all the children academically, I will admit I especially try to get the girls not to think about themselves in terms of "what's wrong."

But I had this moment a few nights ago when my nephew came to me and said,"Guess what the Kid did when we went swimming today?" "What?" I asked, expecting that he got in a section that was too deep or held someone under water or breached some other example of pool etiquette.

Turns out he went swimming with his shirt on. So I called him in to ask why. And he mumbled to me that he didn't like his stomach because it sticks out a little bit.

Nine-years-old and he doesn't like his stomach. And I know he learned it, in part, from me.

8 comments:

Mommy to Ander and Wife to Box said...

One day (after I had my first kid, so no cute little tummy here), I got comfortable with my body. I was working out regularly, and though I wasn't losing weight, I suddenly got comfortable. I was NEVER confortable when I weighed 113 in high school, with big boobs. I used to almost cry when people said I wore my clothes too sexy. I didn't. My boobs were just bigger than teenage clothes. :(

Ironically, I weighed right at 180 (and 5 foot 3 inches, so I was obese) when I first started to feel secure with my body. Now, I'm 7 months pregnant and, even with the watermelon in my tummy, I feel self-assured and sexy. As soon as this baby comes, it's back to working out for me. It will NEVER make me "skinny," but it makes me powerful.

Oh, and people don't recognize me because I've gained so much weight. :/

Kimberly said...

Oh Elle. That's gotta be tough. But, as with the girls in your life, I'm sure he'll come to understand how beautiful he is regardless of how big he may THINK his belly is (that boy is skin and bones). My 5yr old has been known to say he doesn't want to eat too much so he doesn't get fat. Not sure where he gets that though because I'm not one to say that out loud. There aren't many females that surround me - just two boys and a husband who can eat whatever he wants. But maybe he notices that I don't usually eat dinner in my effort to lose my baby weight (13 months after having said baby).

It's funny how, as Mommy to Ander points out, we can all have our body issues no matter what our actual size is and how they can consume us. My butt has always been huge. I was called "Booty" in high school, which I know was meant as a complement from the boys, but I didn't enjoy the attention. Nor did I like in college that guys I didn't know felt they had the right to grab it. And now, I've still got the butt, but gravity has taken hold, and I've got the extra weight.

The hubby and I visited a friend this weekend who has a pool and I BEGGED him to wear a swim suit so he could swim with the boys. He has a skin condition and didn't want to aggravate it, and I said "but I have a huge ass and a ton of cellulite that I'm not interested in showing off." He commented that I've got two kids and look "grown woman fine" (awww) and wondered why I cared what anyone else thinks if he doesn't have a problem, but I pointed out that even when I was skinny - I hated wearing a bathing suit. Now it's even worse. Not that I need to be perfect, I just.... I've always felt self conscious about it. **shrugs**

Mommy to Anders....I admire the fact that you've become comfortable. I hope I will on day.

k8 said...

It isn't just weight issues (although I have those too). I remember that when my brother was younger he would wear a t-shirt while swimming because he was embarrassed about having chest hair before any of the other kids. Star athlete, liked by just about everyone, and still wouldn't go in the pool without a shirt on.

I was obsessed with my lips for a long time. It was the eighties and thin lips were in for the white girls like myself. My lips are just fine and perfectly normal but one girl in PE called me fish lips almost every day. Clearly this has stayed with me.

elle said...

One day I got comfortable with my body

I'm so ready to be able to say that.

Kim, I'm not surprised your 5-yr-old says things like that. Once when Belle was around four and spending the night, she made a comment about my fat thighs.

k8, I think I know a little of what you feel. I started developing breasts in fourth grade and Vanessa Risinger (yes, I'm naming that little bully) started calling me tissue girl because she said I stuffed my bra. That stayed with me too. And when my dad heard that my son swam with a shirt on, he thought it was because my son was embarrassed that he didn't have chest hair.

Maura said...

Found this entry from Shakesville and will keep coming back. This is so honestly written and i empathize completely. I'm facing having a kidlet and wonder what is ingrained in me that will be passed on.

you are beautiful

Susan said...

It's sad when kids do this -- and the causes are all around them. It's hard to get comfortable with your body when you're surrounded by photoshopped perfection.

Here is what I accidentally did to my child. I gave my 5 year old Garfield to read, remembering I thought it was funny when I was little. Next thing I know, he's talking about dieting and being fat. Needless to say, those books went right back onto the shelf. I hauled out Calvin & Hobbes instead. At least the behavior he emulates from C&H is creative and interesting, even if it sometimes drives me crazy.

Renee said...

...the things we unconsciously pass on to our kids. The good thing is that he told you and now you can fight it and build his self esteem. It would be much worse if he felt that way about his body and kept it to himself so don't be to hard on yourself.

msladydeborah said...

Elle,

I read your post and the comments. I had to smile because I am now 54 years old. And the changes my body has gone through over the past decade have been a source of mixed emotions for me.

Physically, I am well and that is a major blessing. I see lines that were not there years ago. I had to loose weight to enter this phase of my life as a healthy adult.

I usually urge all sistahs to make sure that they take care of their health. We tend not to do so. And no matter what size you are physically~if you are not healthy it doesn't matter.

I work in early childhood education. The attitudes about body image start very early in life. I am always surprised when a young child taunts another about weight. Or they start repeating phrases like, "I don't want to eat too much." while turning down the nourishment that they honestly need. Or they taunt another child for eating more than they do.

Those are attitudes which adults project out to their children. Without thinking about the impact that those attitudes will have on their child in later years.

As long as you are healthy and happy~that is what honestly matters.

Women my age are daunted by the idea that we are no longer beautiful because we are mature. In a youth driven society, growing older is not easy. There are too many women who are being driven to extremes to fit in. But those images are fake! And we all have to fight against giving into them.

Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...