I will shape myself: why the “thin woman” inside me doesn’t long to escape.
When I initially sat down to write this, I had a grand idea in my head: to describe my past and the way it had shaped my body. The way that poverty and abuse had lead to a “coveted hourglass” figure — large chest, wide hips, tiny waist, flat belly.
How my parents always had enough money for pop and for pot but never for groceries. How I spent my teen years running away from an emotionally abusive mother by biking and hiking for hours on an empty stomach. How my rapist mocked me for gaining a belly, how my mother mocked my sister’s arms, how my body was supposedly healthier when my hair was falling out from lack of eating…
I wanted to talk about my weight gain as recovery from abuse — as a reclamation of my shape from poverty. About how I had, at last, become the architect of my own temple — the shaper of my own form.
I wanted to write something beautiful and inspiring about how, at last, my body was my own. How at last, I had liberated it from the ways it had been shaped in the past. How every roll and every stretch mark from my breasts to my belly to my thunderous thighs were really, truly mine.
I wanted to write about how much it angers me to be pressured to return to what is, for me, the shape of poverty, stress, abuse and neglect. I wanted to write about how happy I am with my shape now (even if sometimes, I long to return to the old one because even if it wasn’t MINE, at least it didn’t make me a target for abuse).
It was going to be grand, it was going to be glorious and full of beautiful, poetic prose and metaphor. I would tell you about stealing pops from my mother and relating to shitty “broke college kid” memes all the while painting a picture of a teenage girl with a “healthy” body shaped by starvation.
And then I realized: even if I wrote that, it wouldn’t change any minds. It wouldn’t touch any hearts except the ones who were already opened. The only people who would look at the story of an abused and neglected “hot chick” who became a loved and cared for “fatty” as a victory would be fellow fat activists.
My story would mean nothing to anyone but those who already fucking agreed with me. I realized that no matter how wonderfully crafted and heart-wrenching my words were, they wouldn’t make a difference. People would still look at this story and see a failure: see a girl who went from the “perfect” body to being fat.
I realized that as much as I want to say my body is no longer shaped by its years of abuse and starvation — it is. Every crack of my joints, every ache, every dislocation accents what it has been through. The scars on my wrists and thighs a story of harmful coping mechanisms, flashbacks and parental neglect. The pain from my broken ankle (which never healed correctly because I was never taken to the hospital), the emotional and mental scars. I am still shaped by poverty. I am still shaped by my parents’ abuse.
But I also realized this:
It’s still mine. Yes, it is shaped by things beyond my control. It has been shaped by my past, shaped by my abuse. The hands of other sculptors worked on this statue — often to ill effect. To defect. But it is still mine. Every roll, every stretch mark — from my breasts, to my belly to my thunderous thighs is MINE.
I look at my shape and somewhere in there yes, there is a thin woman. Somewhere in me, there is still that frightened, stressed out, anxious, neglected teenager who spent her days learning to ignore hunger pangs. But she’s not waiting to get out. She isn’t desperately fighting against the fat that encases her.
Because this fat? This body, the body that I live in now? This body is mine. This body is OURS. This body — yes shaped by its past, is also shaped by its present. It is shaped by love, it is shaped by support, it is shaped by caring. It is shaped by an escape from an abusive mother and the defeat of its rapist. It is shaped by finally having enough food in the cabinets that I don’t HAVE to ignore my hunger pangs anymore.
Because this is a body reclaimed by me, for me. This story won’t change any minds, it won’t make someone who thinks of weight gain as a failure suddenly see it for what it is in me: a victory.
But that doesn’t matter because I’m not writing this for them. I’m writing it for me and I am writing it for anyone else like the thin girl that lives inside of me: the abused and the starved who are thin because of stress and neglect. Whose bodies are the shape of scarcity.
You have the right to decide your shape. You have the right to be the architect of your own fucking temple. You have the right to reclaim yourself and to look however the fuck you want to look. Weight gain is not a fucking failure, it is not a loss. It is your body learning to thrive again after so long being denied. Let it be. Don’t punish it for rejoicing with restriction and draconic workout regimes.
I don’t know, I don’t know how to finish this. I just know that I refuse to give anyone else the chisel ever again.
(note: I’m well aware I am not the biggest fat gal ever — I still have a LOT of privilege but despite that, have still faced the wonderful “you’re gonna die” abuse and denial of medical care. Fat Acceptance and Activism has been a huge help to me and is incredibly important to me. Larger bodies than mine should be centered, but I also want to talk about my own stories and my own history.)