As a 16-year-old girl, I loved myself. I loved my curves and all my “imperfections”. People looked at me and I believed they saw the magic that was me.
Then, I met my first-ever boyfriend. He told me that I was fat. He guffawed at my attempts to look “pretty”. He told me that my nose was ugly. He told me that my teeth were crooked. He told me that he couldn’t introduce me to his friends until I lost some weight. I believed him. Even when he kissed me, he never forgot to remind me how insignificant I was. He didn’t forget to remind me of the work I needed to put in so that I could be a better, more “presentable” version of myself.
My parents told me that I was “too fat”. They wanted me to lose weight before it got “too late”. Family friends who visited home told me that I was cute BUT that I needed to lose some weight.
Valentine’s Day was a pain. After all, my big and ungainly frame did nothing to inspire romantic feelings in anyone.
I hated myself. I hid myself. I wanted to hide from the world. However, I couldn’t hide from the judgemental eyes that stared back at me when I looked in the mirror. Nothing was ever enough. How could I escape from the voices within that told me I would never be enough? How could I stop myself from looking at food and seeing calories? How could I love myself like I once did? How could I go back to a time before puberty hit me? How could I go back to being “pleasantly plump”? The answer seemed to lie in losing the “extra flab”. I started starving myself and exercising to the brink of exhaustion. I lost some weight and I was happy. If happiness is an irate, distraught state, then I guess that I was happy!
Buying clothes was a whole other horror story. I went to malls and nothing ever fit. I found clothes that looked like gunny bags on me. My clothes were always black. I read that horizontal stripes made one look fat. Hence, my clothes always had vertical stripes. I starved and starved myself, and yet the clothes stretched at the seams when I tried them on. I spent many hours in trial rooms filled with an intense sense of self-loathing. Something as simple as shopping for clothes would push me down a black hole of despair. The clothes I loved would have to be put away. I promised myself that I would lose some more weight and come back to buy them. That day is yet to come.
I spent many hours of my teenage life obsessing over plastic surgery. I spent, oh-so-many countless hours imagining going under the knife. I read all the available literature on the pros and cons of “corrective” surgeries. I looked at myself in the mirror and pinched my nose to make it look more aquiline. I pulled back the rolls of fat so as to visualise a flat tummy. I imagined myself in sexual positions after I would have had all these surgeries. I calculated the amount of time it would take me to earn enough money to go through all the surgeries.
I am now a 45-year-old woman. I wake up to the thought of exercising. I do not exercise to get healthy. I exercise in order to feel worthy. I exercise in order to imagine a thinner, prettier me. I walk the down the road and imagine that people are sniggering at me. I mean, how can they not? I look at myself every single day and I hate myself. I have to watch what I eat. I have to watch what I wear. I have to suck in my tummy. I have to accept that I will never be that what popular culture wants me to be. I will never be the woman adored by one and all in books and movies. I see myself with and without clothes. I see a fat and ugly woman. I feel like a clump of misshapen clay. People tell me that my eyes have lost their lustre. People tell me that my eyes have sunken into deep black craters. People tell me that my bones stick out. People tell me that my hair is brittle. People tell me that I should eat. My therapist asks me what I feel when I eat. He asks me to analyse my feelings logically. After all, how can one pastry make me gain weight? He tries to appeal to my logical side. He asks me how long it would take to actually gain weight. I scoff at all of them. What do they know? I know they can’t see it, but I know I’m fat. I have to dim the lights before I see myself. I have to dim the lights before I shed my clothes to make love. Why, you ask? Isn’t it but obvious that I’m too ugly to be seen while it’s still bright? Isn’t it obvious that my lover’s face will be distorted with disgust when he sees me nude? Imagine his dismay when he holds me and all he feels is the pasty rolls of fat. Imagine him holding my waist and laughing at the expanse of it. Imagine him trying to make love to me and being unable to get past my tummy. I cannot let anyone see the stretch marks, the cellulite, the saggy breasts. I cannot reveal my hideous body. I feel anxiety well up inside me even as I visualise this eventuality. I read about ten ways for a fat person to have meaningful sex. I learn that throwing a cloth over the bedside lamp will help hide my flaws.
Someone tells me I may have body dysmorphia with anxiety. I correct them. I am just fat and ugly. I know all about fat-shaming and body-positivity. I know in my rational mind that I have been brainwashed by years and years of family, friends and the media equating ‘fat’ with ‘ugly’, and that all of this has led to my losing the love I had for myself and the magic that was me. But, I still keep a cloth by the bedside lamp.
Cover Image: Pixabay