Body Beautiful

I’d say I had a relatively standard high school experience. I was a decent student who was pretty friendly with just about everyone. I was super nice and well-liked. But I was fat. To be fair, I still am, but I’m well out of that awkward phase where you could look at me and see the deep self loathing I had for my body. My body is a constant work in progress, and there are still things I would like to change about it, but I have learned to love myself exactly where I am at, at every step of the process. I don’t hide myself anymore. I don’t shy away from the camera and I may have been known to indulge in a selfie or two on those days where my hair is bangin’ or my eyeliner came out just right. I’ve learned to just say “thank you” when someone tells me that they think I’m beautiful, rather than arguing with them and convincing myself that whatever physical attribute they see isn’t actually there. I wear what I want and what makes me feel good about myself, and I make absolutely no apologies to anyone for being comfortable in my own skin. But make no mistake — it took a LOT of work and a LOT of therapy to get to there, so I cling to that confidence like I did to my mom’s leg on my first day of school (that’s pretty tight.)

I think social media has helped in certain aspects to spread the message of body positivity and self-love, but sadly, it’s also a breeding ground for trolls and creeps. Still, like many people my age, I frequent social media sites and find that they can be a great tool for connecting with people.

A few weeks ago I got a friend request from a guy I went to high school with. We weren’t close in school by any means, but he was always nice to me and we would carry on casual conversations from time to time. He’s what the cool kids nowadays would refer to as “hot as f***.” He always has been. I’ve maybe seen him twice in the twelve years since high school, so we haven’t exactly kept in touch, but I drive by his mom’s house from time to time and generally think to myself “I wonder how he’s doing. He was always good people.”

So, when I saw his profile picture smiling back at me from my computer screen with a message saying “Hot Guy from High School (HGFHS) has sent you a friend request” I was pleasantly surprised. I accepted, and then did what any respectable girl would do — I stalked his profile. I found that he, like me, had also become a parent, that he just bought a boat, that he’s still nice to look at, and that he seems to still be a pretty sweet guy (I concluded the latter based on a sweet Mother’s Day Post on his wall that he had dedicated to his mom.)

Over the course of the next few days I “liked” a few of his photos here and there, and carried on with life as usual. Then, a few weeks ago I woke up to a message from him, time stamped 3:23 a.m. It read “Hey Jena. How are you?” I was definitely a little surprised that he thought to reach out to me, especially at such an hour, but still, I thought it was sweet. I wrote back “Hey HGFHS! I’m doing pretty well. How about you? Is that your little boy in your photo? He’s adorable!” A few hours later he wrote back that it was, in fact, his son, and that he just wanted to say hi and see how I was doing. We made small talk for a little while, and again, I went on my way.

A few days later, it was the same thing — a late night/early morning message — this time just saying “Sup Jena?” So, once again, I replied later that a.m. when I woke up, and we chatted for a few about work and our kids. And I thought to myself “I’m so glad he didn’t grow up to have a ridiculously inflated ego just because he could be an underwear model…” I didn’t really anticipate having too much more to talk about, but a few days ago I was up pretty late getting some work done, and I got another message from him saying hi and asking what I was up to. We chatted for a few minutes about things before he very abruptly changed the subject.

“Is it weird if I ask you for a picture? Don’t wanna be too forward…”

Let’s just pause here for a second so I can explain a few things: 1. I do just fine for myself in the “potential partners” department. Once I started seeing beauty in myself, I found that a lot more men were attracted to me as well, so I try not to be shocked when I find out that someone is attracted to me. 2. I am no stranger to requests for pictures of my breasts — I have huge boobs and that tends to be a draw for lots of men, so I know what “can I ask you for a picture?” means. 3. I don’t ever consider anyone “out of my league.” It’s a rule that I made for myself that helps me remember that there is no one ideal body type. People have different preferences and just because my body type isn’t appealing to everyone doesn’t mean that it is undesirable or inherently bad.

Still, I found myself asking “Is he really asking me for the thing I think he’s asking me for? Could someone with a body like that really want to see a picture of someone with a body like mine?”

I was so intrigued by this possibility that I felt this insatiable need for clarification. So, I asked him “What kind of picture are you talking about?” His reply was “You know what I mean…I bet you’ve got a great rack. Please??? Don’t be shy, or embarrassed…”

Or embarrassed?

Or embarrassed…

OR EMBARRASSED.

And there it was…this guy that I thought had been so sweet and kind, and dare I say complimentary, was low-key fat shaming me. He just insinuated that I had something to be embarrassed about. He assumed that because I look the way I do, I must recognize my flaws and feel shame or embarrassment over them. And you know what made me the most upset? I allowed that comment to pull me right back in to my old patterns of thinking. I started to feel that old, familiar ache of self doubt that makes you want to crawl out of your body, or maybe just implode into it. I was mad at myself for the way my body looks and I longed, even if just for an instant, to look like one of those girls that HGFHS has dated — the ones who can prance around in string bikinis with no underwire because their boobs are small and perky, who can shop in any clothing store with ease because they are straight-sized, who can sit and comfortably rest their chin on their knees. And those women ARE BEAUTIFUL. You’ll never hear me put down another woman’s body, because we are all strong and fierce, with bodies that are uniquely beautiful. The problem is that in that moment, that body type became the standard by which I judged myself and my body. I had allowed one word, spoken by someone who, whether knowingly or not, had tried to play off of what he assumed my insecurities would be, in order to get what he wanted. Maybe he thought I would feel honored that someone like him found something about my body attractive. Maybe he thought I would feel obligated to honor his request because he thinks I know that he can do better than me. Or maybe he really is clueless and thought he was being sweet by reassuring me that even though my body isn’t necessarily what the rest of the world deems “desirable” he still found something attractive about it.

Whatever the case may be, I have decided that I will take this time to remind myself of the things I love about my body — I do have a “great rack!” I have nice hair, and I love my lips. More importantly, this body has brought two of the most amazing, smart, funny, kind, loving, sassy, wonderful, resilient, kick-ass kids into the world. It held my father while he passed from this life to the next. It gives amazing hugs. It is good for cuddling, and making love, and all manner of adventure. It is an ever-changing work in progress, but it has served me well thus far. It is beautiful in its own right, and there is nothing embarrassing about it.

I sincerely hope that you take a moment to love your body today — no exceptions, no caveats. Use it for good. Smile at a stranger, hug your grandmother, kiss your kids, make love to your partner. And when you do, take a second to appreciate how absurdly beautiful you are.