In 9th grade, I had my first boyfriend, who dumped me after a month and wouldn’t tell me why. For the next year-and-change he kept having me around as a friend-with-heavy-flirtation, but wouldn’t make a move to go any further even though I just longed for it. And he totally knew. Right before my 16th birthday, he came right out and said, “You know, if you lost, like, 15 lbs, you’d be one of the hottest girls in school.”
And that was it. I lost those 15 lbs immediately. Friends got scared, but I assured them that I was a healthy size 6/7, which was okay for my 5’4″ stature. They didn’t relent.
But he still didn’t want me. And I was devastated.
And from that day on, I got set on That Number and the wholehearted, unwavering belief that if I could just get down to That Perfect Weight, I would be lovable and desirable.
This came on the heels of my jr. high years when I grew crazywomanly curves in my 7th grade year (36C boobs and size 9/10 jeans on my otherwise size 7/8 figure. Blickety-BAM!) to the terror of my male peers, who immediately began taunting me for being “fat”. So, this was pretty much the nail in the coffin as far as my body image went.
When I moved from my original high school to an arts-and-sciences-magnet school my junior year, I was immediately befriended by this group of Babes who weren’t just regular “pretty teenage girls”, but who were, in fact, the kind of gals that elicited gasps and dropped-jaws and boners, etc. from anyone they were in contact with (which they immediately soothed with our ridiculously crude, lighthearted, carefree and bizarre humor.) Most of them were naturally teeny tiny, taking after their mothers and grandmothers who were also naturally size 2-4s. One of my girlfriends could eat her weight in soul food but still never gained a pound on her tiny size 0-2 figure. They were all happy, healthy girls, but just tiny. And, while I loved them too much to hate them, I just felt like this behemoth around them at my natural 11/12 size. In fact, you can ask my good friend Sheina; I wouldn’t even look in the mirror around that time. (She gave me one and encouraged me to use it frequently. I still have it.) I honestly thought of myself as some amorphous being, floating around being jolly and entertaining for friends. While I was at “the Academy”, I kept wondering why the hell all these total Babes were hanging out with me; I would thank them for spending time with me or calling me (seriously, ask Sheina) and I kept trying to figure out why they were wasting time being my friend. I always assumed I was the weird, fat [fill in this space with derogatory slams] gal they kept around to make themselves look better. I would take care of them and treat them to copious gifts because I seriously thought that one day they would realize I didn’t belong and would shoo me out of the way. They never did, (of course) and only recently did I have the stunning realization that I actually belonged with them. When people saw us as a group, they saw me as a Babe, too.
But that didn’t happen until just this year, 14 years later. In the time since I was 16, I have loathed my body. Daily. I have lost the same 20-30 lbs no less than 10 times. I have make myself sick on the Atkins Diet; I have gone to the gym for 3 hours a day to do cardio on 600 calories a day; I have lived for days on nothing but cucumber water and fruit juice… All to try to get back to That Number.
And in the times that I wasn’t at That Number, I made myself invisible. I wore loose-fitting, black garments that covered everything. I did nothing with my hair. I drank a bunch whenever I went out in public. Once, when I was significantly heavier than normal, I talked myself out of going to meet Jared Leto when his band was playing in town because I didn’t want to be just another “sweaty, fat, fangirl.”
Going into my senior year of college, my body was a wreck. I’d just gotten out of my second stay at a mental hospital after a year of binge drinking and wreaking general chaos on myself and worrying about my weight was the last thing on my mind. I started coming out of my shell, finally happy at being single and trying things that I liked. I performed with a belly dance troupe. I won a kayak race. I won some awards for my writing and photography. I started writing and taking photos for my university’s student magazine.
It was there that my husband spotted me, and, like I’ve mentioned before, I RAN. He kept pursuing me, though, and made attempts to get us together three different times over the course of the semester before I finally took the plunge on my birthday in 2007.
I was 45 lbs heavier than The Number. He didn’t care.
And then I got pregnant and got to be 80 lbs. above The Number. He couldn’t keep his hands off me. He wanted to take intimate, artistic pictures of me and be close and adventurous with my body all the time.
When I had our child, I lost a bunch of weight and he was no more or less affectionate of me then, but was happy that I was feeling great.
As my lifestyle has had ebbs and flows in the 6 years since, I have just naturally gained and lost the same 25-ish lbs a couple times. I have been at my smallest since I was in middle school (no dieting, no starving. Just eating healthily and chasing a toddler) and I have gained a some while working in an office and struggling with depression/anxiety again. He doesn’t care. He wants me just as fervently and unconditionally, all the time.
In the last year, I have puffed up a good deal more than I normally would, and I am back at the 45 lbs above The Number that I was when he met. He’s expressed concern that I’m being unhealthy, but he sees that I’m doing yoga and cramming vegetables en masse, so he’s not terrified. And neither am I.
It’s weird. It is the first time I have been very much overweight and just been happy. And not given one single fuck about what anybody else has to say about it, including him from time to time.
RuPaul talks about “The Power of Fuck You” and how, when you learn how to apply this to everyone who wants to tear you down out of their own insecurities, your life will be free. Turns out, I was the one I needed to say “Fuck you” to the most of anyone… and then all those dudes who were probably still fantasizing about me at night anyway.
After I thought of this Phat Miley idea, I went ahead and put on another 10-15 lbs, just to safely be able to categorize myself as “plus size” and I wouldn’t be in that weird too-big-for-straight-sizes-but-too-small-for-plus-sizes category. If I’m going to preach about eating whatever you want and being happy with what you have, I thought having a body that was socially “acceptable” wouldn’t really emphasize my point.
And, in singing about loving your body and eating whatever the hell you want, I’m also targeting those people who are of the idea that shaming others on their food choices is somehow going to make them change. An acquaintance of mine barked on Facebook that every time she saw someone drinking a Coca-Cola, she wanted to smack it out of their hands and inform them of how many toxic evils they were putting into their bodies. That’s going to have the same effect as telling a prostitute she’s a slutbag who is going to Hell and then wondering why she doesn’t want anything to do with church. Same goes for everyone who is doing the going-back-to-eating-natural thing, actually – myself included. There’s this thing in our society that we have to deny that we enjoy eating crap from time to time. If I want a Sonic Blast with Reese’s Cups, I have to hide my head in shame and never ever admit to it around friends as we’re all sharing cigarettes and drinking hard liquor. WTF!? I’ll choose whatever damned poison I want to and, frankly, if I want a McDonald’s Premium Chicken Sandwich (real chicken! Vegetables! Real bread!) I shouldn’t have to apologize about it to anybody. I know that I’m having it once every 6 months, but I don’t need to issue a disclaimer to everyone I know, so they don’t have to worry about my health.
So here’s my body in my skimpy-as-crap “Phat Miley” costume from the video shoot last weekend. I am 195 lbs with size 16 thighs on my size 12 frame if you really must know and you know what? My shape is EXACTLY like all those figurines of Goddesses the ancients used to make to celebrate fertility and the beauty of women. I do yoga almost daily and can get into some pretty kickass poses. I work in my yard (I love to mow grass; it’s very zen) and I go to the community garden to work with my neighbors to harvest fresh, organic produce for ourselves and those who need to visit the local food pantry. I walk and bike to the grocery store when I can. I like smoothies for breakfast and chocolate ice cream or frozen Greek yogurt for lunch. I bleed Cheerwine in the summer and I cram my face full of fancy food and drink at every wedding or schwank party I go to. Every 3 months or so, I go to the Sonic in the next town over and get a gigantic Sprite with sugary cherry syrup in it. I drink it by myself in the sunshine. I guzzle coconut water in the summer months and Turkish coffee with agave nectar year-round. I eat peach and/or strawberry ice cream every week in the summer. I live for Gingerbread cookies in December.
I like to eat. My body is magnificent. And none of what I said in that last paragraph is any of anyone’s damned business.
And if you’re not down with that, then you’re excused. Like Noxie says in “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything…”: Your approval is neither desired nor required.
Or, in basic vernacular: Fuck you.
The first time I stepped out of my dressing room in full character.