It always seems to be late at night as i stuff my face with Oreos (though i am down to my last four), that I seem to have all my greatest epiphanies. Wincing at the sweetness of the cream in the middle (because let’s face it, double stuffed are way too stuffed) and realizing maybe everything will be alright after all. Won’t it?
I will just be completely honest right here and right now that i was born with (or perhaps i simply developed) the standard, run of the mill, self image issues that plague human beings. I’ve been through the “I’m fat”‘s (though that i am not (nor am i stick thin)), the “I’m dumb”‘s (despite the fact that I excelled in high school and have always been rather good at school), and of course we can’t forget the “no one likes me”‘s (forgetting that I have a handful of good friends and people actually are someones). You name it, I probably said it (in one of my late night counseling sessions in my mothers room in which she laid, eyes closed, half asleep, as i cried about how much I hated myself and everything around me). Because that was just it.
I hated myself.
I can tell you where it started, the tiniest little kickstart to get the ball rolling (5th grade). I was wearing khaki capris (because capris were so in) and an orange Bobby Jack shirt (Bobby Jack wasn’t in anymore but i found the shirt on the clearance rack at Mervyn’s and needed to be just like my friends (….who weren’t wearing Bobby Jack anymore (Hello? That was so 4th grade))), and my teacher was taking pictures of us sitting on her colorful bench to post on our Happy Mother’s Day posters we were making. It was my turn (i was embarrassed of the gap between my front teeth that my older cousin had so shamelessly pointed out to me a couple weeks before (“What’s a gap?” I asked. And he pointed at the space between my two front teeth that made me whistle when i tried to shush people (which was my job in 2nd grade as table leader). So that was a gap, huh.)), so I was shy about my smile, doing a silly looking close-mouthed smirk (that I regret doing until this day) as i sat on the bench and that was it. I looked down at my legs and felt my heart give a little squeeze in my chest. Were those my legs? Were they…touching? (This was circa 2006 and the idolization of the famous ‘thigh gap’ had not yet come into play, but seeing my thighs touch when i sat must’ve meant something.) And there was the trigger.
I moved into the year of baggy jeans and loose fitting t-shirts in the sixth grade. I was awkwardly ugly (like most kids making the transition from elementary to middle school, so i had an excuse) with gapped teeth and wire framed glasses and hair up to my butt that i had no idea what to do with (so i wore it in a long braid or ponytail down my back) and despite it all i was confident. So confident that I eventually wore tighter fitting jeans again (my prepubescent body fit into a size 0 and hey! size 0) and cut bangs and believed that i was pretty. But isn’t all you need?
I can tell you where it was charged back to life, the self loathe, the spike that sent me hurdling into what seemed to me a black hole. It was 7th grade, only a year later from the rise again. I had chopped my hair so short I could barely scrape it up into a ponytail and cut bangs that swept across my face. Despite the glasses i still wore and the teeth, i was still wearing small jeans (though they did seem to fit a tad snugger) and I had a pink flip phone that made me that much cooler (even though now, looking back, I will refer to seventh grade as the Zero Year, as in the year i had basically zero friends). In fact, it wasn’t until Easter of 2008 that life tripped me up again. We were having the standard Easter get-together with my dad’s side of the family and we were the first to arrive (because my dad had a habit of making us at least three hours early to everything) and we entered my aunt and uncle’s house and said our hello’s, my mom and aunt taking themselves to the living room to chat and my dad and uncle outside to start up the barbecue pit. My sister went to play with my baby cousin (because my sister loves babies) and my brother followed my dad suit. I was left to wander. And so i did. Into the living room. Walking head on into what I’d like to call the bombing of Laura’s Self Esteem or the End of Laura’s Self Esteem As We Knew It.
“So Jaime has put on some weight hasn’t he?” My aunt was asking my mom and together the women laughed, because the weight gain of their husbands has always been the funniest thing ever.
“Yeah just a little bit. He thinks I don’t know he stays up eating chips and watching tv,” my mom answered, giving away my dad’s guilty secret.
“Laura too, no?” My aunt was smiling and nodding. And my ears (that I’ll admit are constantly turned to eavesdropping mode) were perked at the sound of my name. “She’s put on some weight too hasn’t she?”
I wish I could tell you that my mom defended me in some way, that she said i was only filling out into a more womanly body (I was 13 and it was about time puberty was starting to hit), or that I was just wearing a big shirt. But there was no telling that my waistband hadn’t gotten a little snugger, and my cheeks hadn’t gotten slightly puffier, and my legs. Oh, my legs. And also, I’d walked away. My heart was drumming so loudly in my ears, embarrassed at what I’d just heard. And the words were replaying again and again in my head as my shame deepened.
And that was what started the fall, the deep fall into the abyss of self hatred.
As the years went, I learned to hate everything.
My voice? Too deep for a girl.
My skin? Too many pimples to count.
My teeth? Gapped.
My legs? They touched, isn’t that a problem?
My love handles hung over the tops of my jeans.
My toes were shaped weird.
My fingers were short and fat.
My mouth was too small.
My grades were not good enough.
My theater acting was not good enough.
My hair was self explanatory in it’s constant frizzy mess.
I was taller than all the boys.
No boys liked me.
My friends were prettier than me.
I hated me.
And worst of all, I hated that I hated me.
I know I have previously said that I am not one of body peace, and that I still suffer from self image issues, but today may or may not have been the day (or maybe I’m just really emotional and feeling really intellectual today, damn, I don’t know).
I’ve been running three to four miles everyday for roughly a month and a half now. I hate running with a passion, but i do it anyway, because it’s cheaper than a gym membership and gives me the go ahead to eat as many cookies as i desire (which is countless). And at the beginning, yes, I was doing it for the same reason I’ve done everything else (the crash dieting, calorie counting, the throwing up, the cleanses, the insane amount of exercise at insane times of day and the starving). to get thin. To be pretty. Because that’s all i needed right? Then I would be happy. Because wasn’t that the key to happiness? But somewhere along this (extremely short) month and a half I stopped doing it to be thin. Exercising made me feel good in my brain and that was the only reason I pushed on through mile two, three and four (with my right shoe untied). In fact, I was over trying to get skinny.
It was something I didn’t realize until today as I talked (okay it was through text) to a friend about hating running (we shared the same feelings for the activity).
You should run hard until you can’t and then walk, and then run again, you’ll burn more calories that way. he said.
I’m not doing it for the calories. I said.
I’m over trying to be skinny. I said.
(Yes, I double text shamelessly)
And I didn’t actually believe it until I said it out loud (okayyy, it was through text!), but it was so true. I was over it. I hide fruit snacks under my pillow and Oreos in my desk drawer. I eat ice cream every other day and so clearly (as I’ve said) shove cookies into my mouth constantly. And it’s going to sound completely terrible but EATING ICE CREAM MAKES ME HAPPY. BRIEFLY, BUT HAPPY. And isn’t that perfectly okay?
This isn’t about whether being skinny is pretty or what is pretty or who is pretty. It’s a selfish blurb announcing that I may just be okay with myself, and that maybe this is the end of a really bad era. Maybe I like how my face gets a double chin every time i make a weird face. Or maybe I enjoy the three rolls I get when I sit down. Maybe I was smarter than I thought. Or maybe, just maybe, I’m fine being who I am right here and right now. My awkward-question asking, cookie eating, candy hoarding, manly laughing self.
Maybe change is good, but maybe I don’t need to change. Because maybe I’m over the change.
So now, nine years later, I’m okay.
I am okay.
And to think it was four Double Stuffed Oreos that got me here in the first place (would have been more but four was all i had left).