This is difficult to write and I don’t know how to start this. I don’t really know why (wait, yes I do: fear of being judged, told I should have done things differently, that I was asking for it, or that I’m looking for attention, and so on), but it’s hard and I’m struggling. I want to get it out there because our voices need to be heard, no matter how “big” or “small” the incident is, so here I go. Bear with me.
It hit me one night that Shadow wasn’t doing well when a friend asked me how my cats were doing. I suddenly burst into tears and the realisation sunk in that my oldest cat — whom I’d had for 9 and a half years — was ill and I had to do something.
I recently bought a bikini. No big deal, right?
I’m 30 years old, and it’s the first time I’ve done this. I, like many other women, have suffered from body image issues for probably my entire life, and sometimes it’s completely debilitating. Every day, for as long as I can remember, has been a battle because every day I put something on and wonder, “does this make me look fat?” “How can I hide the least flattering parts of my body?” “What if I suck it in a little bit?”. And if something doesn’t fit me the way I hoped or if there’s a bit too much muffin top, my heart drops because I think I look fat and unattractive. And worst of all, what if people look at me funny and think as I’m walking by, thinking: “she shouldn’t be wearing that; she’s fat; what the hell is she thinking; she’s gross and disgusting and why is she in public; she should have a paper bag over her face, isn’t she embarrassed; no one needs to see that,” and so on and so forth.
When you’re a child, you don’t really have much of a say on what you get to wear. (Well, if you’re me, anyway, I don’t know about you.) Your parents dictate your clothing purchases and your day-to-day outfits, for the most part, deciding what looks good on you and what doesn’t, what’s acceptable and what isn’t — “You’re not leaving the house in that!” — that phrase sure rings a bell, doesn’t it?
I remember wearing dresses a lot as a child — there’s one I remember from when I was four, I believe (I also had a pretty sweet mullet and there’s photographic evidence but that’s neither here nor there), and later on in life it would become a picture we’d make fun of; whether it was the horrible 80’s hairstyles or the painfully stereotypical 80’s apparel, I’m not entirely sure, but we’ll go with a little bit of both. This dress though, I remember hating it, instantly. My mother loved it, obviously, because she chose it and I had no other choice but to wear it and what’s a four year old going to do, argue with her mother? (The answer is yes, obviously, and throw a fit but at the end of the day the mom always wins. Moms: 1, 4-year-olds: 0).
It was a Thursday in January, and it was raining. Not that that’s particularly unusual because, hello, I live in Vancouver, but it hadn’t rained that hard in some time and I didn’t dress properly for it. Never mind the fact that I’ve got an umbrella and rainboots — essentials for Vancouver living — but I went without them this day. Instead, I wore a dress I hadn’t worn in awhile, orange with dark blue hearts scattered across it — a dress I had worn on the first day of my job little over a year ago — nylons that I despised because the second you put them on there’s a run in them, and a pair of black pointed shoes with gold buttons. (Later in the morning I’d take the nylons off and go bare-legged because I just couldn’t deal with it anymore, but that’s a minor detail.)
I had been feeling pretty good about work that week; I’d just come back from an almost two week break over the holidays and was looking forward to a new year and having a fresh outlook at my job and it seemed to be going pretty okay. Over my first days back, I’d been tackling things I’d been meaning to get done forever because I just hadn’t really had the time to get done prior, started getting my desk in order, and closed files out of the way. Maybe these things were foreshadowing what was to come, I don’t really know, but I felt accomplished and more confident in my position than I had since I’d started just a year before.
It was a Wednesday morning in October, 2002. I remember it well because I had a night class every Wednesday that started at 6; I took advantage of having the place to myself while everyone in my family was at work and school by making myself whatever I wanted to eat, listening to music as loudly as I wanted, and so on and so forth.
This particular Wednesday was not unlike the rest. I woke up and did my usual things, like make breakfast (I think I made myself a BLT bagel that morning) and poured myself a cup of coffee from the coffee that was leftover from earlier that morning, and came back downstairs to my room where I’d watch my usual TV shows before getting on with my day. It was a routine I enjoyed and this particular Wednesday was not unlike the rest.
I learned something important about myself in the year 2013: it wasn’t easy, and it took a horrible situation to come to this realisation, but I’m sort of glad it happened anyway. In hindsight of course, because hindsight is everything and oh-so-cliché, but who doesn’t love a good cliché? (I’ll tell you that I hate them, but I secretly love them. Oops, secret’s out.)
The point is I learned who my friends are and, in the same vein, also learned that I don’t have to be friends with everyone just because they may or may not cross my so-called social group. It’s a pretty freeing feeling, coming to this realisation, but it comes at a price and that feeling eventually goes away. You risk the chance of losing people you thought were your friends but that’s sort of the point, I guess.
Before I moved to Vancouver in April, 2010, I didn’t have many friends. Through no fault of anyone but my own for several reasons: being overweight made me insecure and unhappy with myself in so many ways; the idea of putting myself out there to interact and meet people was daunting so instead I clamped up and spent most of my time at home. When I packed my life up in Kamloops and moved to Vancouver in a hurry, I wasn’t moving down to a plethora of friends to call my own, let alone knowing many people in the city as it was. There were people that I knew, but it wasn’t the same and I wasn’t particularly close with anyone at that point. I had to find ways to do that, because I didn’t move to Vancouver to be a total loner.