Trigger warning: body images issues, mention of eating disorders
For Christmas I bought my husband a sewing form to help with making costumes for cosplay. Unfortunately I couldn’t find an adjustable male form, so it took some crafting to customize it to match his size (if you’re curious, you can check out the photos of the procedure on my Facebook page.)
When he went to stuff the addition, he commented, “Wow, I had no idea I was so much bigger than a male model.”
That floored me.
Because I can’t remember ever *not* knowing how much bigger I was than the average model.
And not just knowing it, but agonizing over attaining that ‘ideal’ – an ideal so impossibly thin that even when my anorexia was bad enough the doctor had to threaten me with hospitalization, I still hadn’t reached it.
I figured I was broken. What else could I think when every female in every movie -even cartoons- fit that model ideal and I didn’t? (Okay, there a few who didn’t, but they tended to be the bad guy, like Ursula from The Little Mermaid.)
And because in my mind, looking like a model or an actress was the only way to find love. From Rom-Coms to Disney fairy tales, the message was clear, only the most beautiful (aka thinnest) girls got the happily-ever-after.
(Never mind that I came from a family of happily-married women who were much further away from having model-like bodies than I was.)
But that didn’t stop me from believing if I could just be thinner, I’d be popular. Loved. Happy.
Every unrequited crush became further proof of my inadequacy. Because how could any guy love a girl without a thigh gap?
And yet, dating made the anxiety worse. I’d learned how to dress to flatter my body, but what would he say when he saw the stretch marks on my thighs? The surgery scars on my stomach? Would he dump me when he realized I didn’t have the flawless body of a model or movie star?
No matter how much I exercised, no matter how much I starved myself, my body was never good enough. Never thin enough. Never looked like a model’s.
Until, eventually, after my twins were born, I began to see through the lies society had ingrained in me: after all, despite the weight I’d gained, the world didn’t end. My husband still loved me. I still had friends, and family.
I began to see through the illusion of ‘perfection’ in media. To spot the photoshopping. To stop swallowing the lies.
And when the doctor told me, after I’d lost most of that weight, but my clothes still weren’t fitting right, that my stomach was never going to go back to its old shape, I realized it was time to accept the body I had.
And now, years later, when my concussion prevents me from doing anything even remotely resembling exercise, and every medication I try seems to affect my weight one way or the other, I’m not only glad I’ve accepted myself as I am, but I’m sad for all the time and energy and health I wasted on striving for an impossible (at least for me) ideal.
I still have days when I hate how I look. But now, instead of fixing it by skipping meals or exercising to excess, I fix it by rifling through my wardrobe until I find something to wear that makes me feel good.
And I fix it by trying to include characters of various sizes and shapes in my books. Because the world of fiction should represent the world around us.
And maybe, if more body types are seen as normal and healthy, my daughter will grow up with the same unawareness of her body size as her father.