A Letter By Your Skinny Friend
Wow, you are so skinny! How do you even buy pants that fit you? Do you even eat? Why are you so skinny?
Those where statements I had become accustomed to growing up. Though some said them as compliments it never felt that way to me because I was so insecure with myself. So insecure that even statements that may have been compliments made me feel like something was wrong with me.
Growing up words such as anorexic, scrawny, lanky and stick figure were what I associated with my body. I associated them so deeply with who I was, that I started to believe that’s how I was. Maybe it was because I was never able to escape the whispers and stares of my classmates; or maybe it was the absurd remarks people would make. But somehow, somewhere I let all those under the breath comments and open eyed gazes define me. I believed something was wrong with me.
In eighth grade one of my friends told me that a guy in our class asked her if I was anorexic. At thirteen I wasn’t even entirely sure what that word meant, but I remember going home and googling this word, that I couldn't even quite pronounce or spell. I tapped my fingers on my desk patiently waiting for Google to tell me the answer.
Anorexic “a person suffering from anorexia or especially anorexia nervosa”. Anorexia “loss of appetite and inability to eat”. Anorexia Nervosa “is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss.”
As soon as I read all these definitions, my thirteen year old mind started believing that something was wrong with me. I thought I was sick and unhealthy, that maybe being called skinny wasn’t a great thing, but rather a problem. It was in that moment that I started losing my self-esteem and started having major body image issues.
I started wearing long sleeved shirts, pants and jackets, so I could cover up most of my body. I started worrying so much about how people saw me that even when the nice girl said I love your outfit or I wish I was skinny like you, I felt attacked. I didn’t know whether she knew what it felt like to be super skinny that boys would constantly say you are so bony. I was sure she didn’t know that girls would look at you with a funny look as you changed in the locker rooms. Maybe she didn’t know that I was so insecure with my body that it wasn’t something I thought was lucky, in fact I thought I was very unlucky.
As I started high school my insecurities with my body only increased. As girls started wearing shorts and tank tops when the sun came out, I sticked to my jeans and jackets. I didn’t feel pretty or good enough. I thought my legs and arms looked like sticks so I tried to hide them as much as possible. When I started playing basketball in high school, while all the other girls just wore their jerseys to practice and games I always wore a short sleeved shirt under my jersey so less people would make remarks about my “bony arms”.
Though I did so much to cover myself, people still noticed I was skinny and would question me of why I was so skinny and if I ate enough. I got so tired that when girls said wow you are so skinny, I just stopped responding. I would sometimes say “not sure if thats a good or bad thing”. Most girls would say its a great thing, I wish I had your body but it wasn’t until my senior year that I truly embraced myself.
My senior year after finishing my last season of basketball I decided to join the track team to keep myself busy. The day I joined track happened to be picture day. The coach handed me the uniform and asked me to change. When I opened up the bag he gave me, I realized that the uniform was a tank top and spandex. I barely wore tank tops, so how was I supposed to wear these tiny shorts that would expose all of my skinny legs? I nervously changed into my clothes and when I walked out of the bathroom I made sure not to make eye contact with anyone. I got in position, smiled for the picture and quickly changed back into my capris and short sleeved shirt. I was back in the comfort of my clothes, that kept most of me hidden.
I thought I was done with the small track outfit, when I realized this was my uniform, which meant I needed to wear it to every meet. At that moment I decided to walk away. I wasn’t going to wear some small shorts and a tank top and run around, NO WAY. I decided to finish that day of practice because I was already there and never come back.
Surprisingly, once I was done with the 4 mile run some part of me wanted to come back and do this because I loved how free I felt as I ran. It was in that moment I decided to not let my body image stop me from doing something I could possibly fall in love with. As the season went on, I got more and more comfortable in my uniform and I also started loving the sport. But most surprisingly after years of struggling with my body image I started to accept and love my body. I was okay with looking at myself in the mirror, in fact I started to love parts of my body. In fact that summer I bought my first bikini, something I never thought I could do.
As I went into my first year of college, I expanded my wardrobe into wearing things that showed off more of my body and I wore those pieces with my head held up high. I no longer cared what others thought or had to say about my body. It was my body and I loved it.
As I look back I realized it was so hard for me to deal with being too skinny because people don’t realize that body image occurs on a wide spectrum. In society, its politically incorrect to call someone overweight, but you can call someone really skinny. It’s inappropriate to ask a large person if they can find pants that fit them, but they can ask how a skinny person finds pants. I realized the media talks about those being fat and overweight but they don’t talk about those who feel too skinny or imperfect. I learned that bodies come in different sizes and shapes and it’s interesting how too skinny is a problem, but so is too fat. It is as though society has created this body image of Goldilocks, the “just right” image. However that image isn’t attainable, and “just right” varies person to person. In fact as I look at campaigns for bodies today, I see all shapes and sizes and this is true, but I believe that as a society we need to promote health and happy bodies. Not an ideal shape. We may be pushing for that idea today, but even with that push we can never completely be all-inclusive, if we don’t let people know beauty is defined by happiness and health.
So to those reading, this is a letter by your skinny friend telling you think a little bit more before you tell someone they are skinny, your intention may be pure but their experiences may not have been. Think a little bit more before you say something that may make someone feel insecure. To those reading, know that even those who are skinny have body image issues.
Your Skinny Friend