Sixth grade was the worst year of my life. My family had moved from Brooklyn to Queens and I was entering the last year in elementary school. My teacher Mrs. Salt was sour. I sat next to a boy that delighted in making my life miserable. I walked by P.S. 189 the other day and the memories flooded in, and I knew it would be relatable. The last picked in gym class, the attempt to make friends was agony when
everyone already had their besties; I was the outsider.
In my sixth-grade graduation picture I am standing beside Mrs. old Salt and sour, wearing a
flowing white dress most likely from Lane Bryant, and cat-eye glasses unbecoming for an
overweight pre-teen. It was the year that implanted the negative body image and sense of
worthlessness in my head. I must admit the recording of fat thoughts had started prior to sixth-
grade, but from that point forward it was ingrained.
It has taken me more than 45 years to pick loose those destructive thoughts, and I’m still hacking away.
In June, I went on a cruise to Bermuda with an increased sense of ease with my bathing-suited
self. I had a moment of illumination; my negative thoughts aimed at other women were in fact
self-inflicting wounds. I began the practice of turning from those thoughts; to let them float
away. As I continue to let these thoughts shrug away, I find increased acceptance of my curves.
If I am harsh and hateful towards others then it reflects on my sense of self.
It is still a struggle since I have gone up a size or more… likely a size and a half. As I look around I
see other women that show a rounded belly beneath their dress and it is feminine. Shapely is
positive and does not equate to the “F” word which I regard with contempt. I cannot get on
board with “fat” body love which seems to imply the derogatory, even if those using it as a
brand are not. When I see a person that is significantly overweight, and not the physicians’
description of obese which is ridiculous, I see “Pain”. I have known it in the deepest sense.
Several years ago, I went to an Overeaters Anonymous meeting. I had gone before but had
never been “successful.” In that meeting, I felt such intense feelings of grief and sadness that I
could not stop crying almost from the moment I entered the room. I could not go back and I’m
not sure what compelled me to go. I know the shame, pain and guilt too well to believe in fat
acceptance which is NOT acceptance of self in body or mind. It is not the peace of setting aside,
flourish and grace; a glow that transcends rather than to be self-degrading.
Wrapping up this somewhat scattered essay to a conclusion; effuse graciousness towards
others, and it will surround you as well. Embrace the round, soft and feminine curves.
Banner image via Andrea Parrish – Geyer