Bachelorettes, bathing suits, etc.

Hi! Remember me? A long time ago, I used to blog here.

So, last time I wrote, I was off to my first destination bachelorette party. The destination, it can now be told (OK, it was already told repeatedly on Twitter last weekend), was Vegas. The bride, one of my oldest and dearest, works for a big, giant corporation that owns several casino resorts. Said big, giant corporation is not in the habit of comping its employees, on accounta they’ve got a bazillion employees and that would get spendy, but the bride and some of her local friends were able to call in a few favors and get us some ridiculous free shit, including rooms, a cabana by the pool for Saturday afternoon, and numerous free bottles of booze — including some at two different clubs of the sort I didn’t even frequent when I was 21, which is really the only time you’d want to.

So we all had a total blast, duh. But it was one of those total blast events I spent so fucking much time stressing about beforehand, it’s kind of a wonder I did manage to enjoy it. First of all, I didn’t realize there would be quite so much free shit, and with a book tour coming up, I was worried about spending too much money on comparatively frivolous travel. But that was really the only practical, reasonable stress. All the rest of it — and it was a lot – was self-image shit.

Not just body image shit — though gearing up to wear a bathing suit in public can still throw me for a bit of a loop. (As I said in comments on the bathing suit shopping post, it’s not even really fat shame anymore, just general prudishness; I’m simply not comfortable with anyone but Al and my doctor seeing that much of my naked flesh. And really, I’m not that comfortable with my doctor seeing it.) No, I was just all-around obsessed with how I’d present myself — i.e., making the fatal mistake, not for the first time, of assuming that anyone else really gives a rat’s ass how I present myself. Especially when I’m standing next to a woman wearing 4-inch heels, a white feather boa, and rhinestones spelling out “bride” across her shoulder. 

The problem was this: I didn’t know most of the other women who would be there. And even though I knew the bride would never be friends with assholes, I just couldn’t tamp down the following fears:

  1. They’d all be girlier, cuter, better dressed, more at home in bathing suits and fancy clubs, etc., than I am. (Actually true, overall — it just didn’t ultimately matter a bit.)
  2. There was a strong likelihood of running into diet talk, given that it was a group of 10 women. (Also true, but it was minimal.)
  3. Some of them might look at me like I had 3 heads, all of which were about to be diagnosed separately with diabetes and heart disease, when I told them what I write about. (Not true!)

Now, about 85% of this stress manifested as me going, “WHAT THE FUCK AM I GOING TO WEAR NO REALLY WHAT THE FUCK?” — I wasn’t having panic attacks or anything. But it was a good lesson in how much the stability of my self-image can depend on context. Still. After two years of blogging and writing half a book purporting to share the secrets of my awesome self-image.

Don’t get me wrong — I DO have an awesome self-image, both generally speaking and especially compared to what it used to be.  Overall, I’m plenty confident and often enough arrogant. It’s just, there’s still that “what it used to be” part lurking underneath, and certain situations can bring it shooting up to the surface. I can stand on a stage and read to an audience, write opinionated blog posts, get loud and stupid with my friends, wear skintight yoga pants in a class full of hardbodies, moderate the fuck out of comments, and talk easily to reporters, all without worrying too much about what anyone thinks. But put me in a group that’s mostly people I don’t know and ask me to socialize OR ask me to spend an entire afternoon wearing a bathing suit in public, and I am suddenly self-conscious as all hell. Ask me to do both at once, and I’m suddenly a useless pile of WHAT THE FUCK AM I GOING TO WEAR NO REALLY WHAT THE FUCK OMG OMG OMG THIS MIGHT ACTUALLY KILL ME.

But here’s the difference between me now and me when my self-image was like 90% suck: I went anyway. I didn’t talk myself out of it because I was so afraid the potential for being judged negatively outweighed the potential for fun. When I asked myself “What’s the worst that could happen?” the answer was, “Some of [bride’s] friends don’t like me.” Bride would continue to like me anyway, as would another one of our oldest and dearest who would also be in attendance. It seemed highly implausible that all 7 of the other women would find me repulsive, so it was unlikely that I’d get stuck with no one at all to talk to, or that a bunch of grown-ass women, including two of my oldest friends, would gang up on me like a pack of hostile 7th-graders. At the absolute worst, I’d get a polite brush-off from a couple of people I would only have to see one more time in my life. WAIT, THAT’S ALL I’VE BEEN FUCKING FREAKING OUT ABOUT?

So I went. I went, and I had a blast. What’s more, my very favorite part of the weekend was the part that involved wearing a bathing suit in public. (As it turned out, the day was cooler than expected, so I ended up wearing sweats over my suit most of the time I wasn’t in the pool or hot tub — so much for all the anxiety about finding a sufficiently adorable suit and cover-up combo.) I lovelovelove to be in the water, and I have now learned that I REALLY love to sit in a private cabana and have people come and refill my drink while I’m not in the water. (This is a bittersweet bit of new knowledge, since the likelihood of my ever having access to a free cabana again is about equal to the likelihood that I’ll ever have enough disposable income to just pay for one, i.e., nil.) And of course, I loved all of the bride’s friends I got to talk to for longer than 5 minutes, and I’m sure I would equally love the ones I didn’t. Most of my fears did not come true, and those that did turned out to be irrelevant anyway. (Oh noes! 90 seconds of throwaway diet talk!)  

All this should surprise exactly no one, least of all me. But when you’re an anxiety-prone person who’s still overcoming decades of self-hatred — even if you’ve written half a book about how not to hate yourself so damn much — it’s still so easy to get wrapped up in the fear of not being charming enough and smart enough and funny enough and bikini-ready enough to survive an unfamiliar social situation. Not so many years ago, I probably would have decided to skip the whole thing, purely because I knew I was likely to be the fattest person there by a considerable margin (which I was). I would have convinced myself that all of them — including the two I’ve been friends with for plus or minus 20 years — would be humiliated to be seen with me, disgusted by having to look at me in a bathing suit, and thus either terribly awkward (my friends) or downright cruel (all the rest). And the thing is, none of that would have been true then, either. But I never would have found out the fears were bullshit. I never would have found out that flitting between a cabana and an enormous pool all afternoon is pretty much my idea of heaven (though again, it might have been better if I never did find that out). Not to mention, I would have missed a celebration in honor of one of my oldest and dearest — all because of my own fucking insecurity.

I still get alternately angry and weepy when I think about how much I used to hold myself back, how much I chose to miss out on, because I was so worried that people would think I was too fat/ugly/dull/irritating/etc. — mostly fat and ugly — to deserve to take part in whatever fun activity was on the table. It wasn’t even that I didn’t think I deserved it, necessarily — but that I believed everyone else would be looking at me and thinking, “Who the hell does she think she is?” (I mean, wearing a bathing suit at a pool! Can you imagine THE NERVE?)

The first mistake, of course, was believing that everyone — or anyone, really — would be looking at me at all, much less long enough to form a strong opinion about my body and/or character. It is kind of amazing how closely related insecurity is to egotism. But the other mistake was believing that the risk of being judged was always greater than the potential fun of putting myself out there. I mean, how could I possibly enjoy swimming, or lying by the pool, or drinking fruity drinks, or dancing,  if there might be someone nearby thinking, “Damn, she needs to put those thighs away.” Oh, wait — I would still be swimming, lying by the pool, drinking fruity drinks, dancing. These are INTRINSICALLY ENJOYABLE ACTIVITIES in my book. It would take a lot more than a dirty look from a stranger to make those things not fun

Of course, sometimes you get a lot more than a dirty look. (And people fatter than me get a lot more a lot more often.) But as Lesley said in a brilliant post (which happens to be reprinted in the book) a while back:

Given the choice between restricting my movements and being assured of never being catcalled again, versus going out shamelessly and risking (or demanding!) attention – I will gladly take the latter. I like being visible. Even when I become a bull’s-eye upon which the insecurities and savagery of others are exorcised. Even when I lose time processing and remembering the emotional risks I take just by being myself, time I would have otherwise spent relaxing in the sunshine. When I first began my self-acceptance process, I decided first off that I never wanted to feel afraid of what those people – those who would mercilessly catcall me from a moving car, for example – might think or say about my body again. I never wanted to avoid life out of fear. And I’m still there, still fighting to be fearless.

So I say fuck those people. I’ll be on that beach tomorrow, and this weekend, and for months to come, and if they don’t like it, good, I’m glad to displease them.

And as my lovely co-author said just today:

I would rather be seen than be invisible. I would rather exist as a vocal and visual body than as a silent and hiding one, occupied mostly with minimizing myself.

Right on. I may never be completely rid of all those old fears, but these days, I feel strong enough to fight them, instead of rolling over and letting them win. That’s the big difference between having a mostly positive self-image and a mostly crap one. And I can tell you this much with absolute confidence: The next time someone invites me to spend an afternoon in a free cabana by a ridiculously gorgeous pool (oh please, let there be a next time), I will immediately say yes. 

57 thoughts on “Bachelorettes, bathing suits, etc.

  1. I HEAR YOU RE: CABANAS.

    I have gottent o sit with friends at various cabanas here in Orlando at the hotels – seriously, come to Florida in the dead of Chicago winter and I can make a cabana happen, though I don’t think I can foot the booze bill, too. *grin* I mean, that really WOULD be heaven, yes?

  2. seriously, come to Florida in the dead of Chicago winter and I can make a cabana happen, though I don’t think I can foot the booze bill, too.

    YOU’RE ON.

  3. Wow, I’ve just reconnected with some oooooold friends through Facebook and two of us were discussing this very thing. How we’re both very comfortable – in our bigger than average bodies – in our current lives, but neither of us can bear the thought of going to a reunion or even going out much in our home town for fear of running into people who knew us when we were not heavy. We were just talking about how irrational we KNOW this to be, and yet it is. We’re up for a reunion next year, and I think perhaps we will be able to talk each other into going. I hope so, particularly after reading this post. Now off to link a copy of it to her…

  4. Kate, hey, this may sound strange, but it really helped how I think of my inlaws’ opinion of me (a matter which weighs on me way, WAY more than it should.) Because my inlaws really, I think, don’t like me, think I look/dress/act weird, and look down on everything I’m about, but would never admit it, even to themselves, because they are Good Religious People Who Don’t Pass Judgment On The Obviously Inferior.

    Or maybe I’m wrong and insecure and think too little of them.

    Either way, whatever, we make nice for short intervals and I don’t stop doing what I enjoy, and possibly they are eaten up inside with disapproval and worry about their son’s spouse but, eh, not my responsibility. (She said, with bravado that was mostly put-on.)

    Also, neat! You replied to my swimwear-and-exposed-thighs query/rant on the other thread. I’m so honored! :) Sorry I didn’t catch that before. I love that the conversation I had with myself is so similar to the conversation you’ve had with yourself. I went ahead and ordered the Ohanna swimsuit and you know what, it’s kind of frumpy, but who the hell cares? If the statement I make to snotty observers is, “Screw your idea of what a beach is for, I just want to get in the water!” that’s okay with me.

  5. I’m not even sure I understand what a cabana is. I get an image of one of those striped tents in which Victorian swimmers would change from their corsets and bustles into their swimming corsets and bustles.

    I do, however, understand very much this anxiety about WHAT SHOULD I WEAR PPL ARE LOOKING EEEEEE. I’m going through it a little now, as the Mister and I are going to London at the end of May and I’m sure that all of the United Kingdom is going to be all eyes on the Fatty from the USA and what she is wearing.

    So, once again, a very timely post, Kate, and thank you!

  6. I had those same fears when DH and I started staying at motels with pools when we go visit my son and his wife. Then I thought “To hell with it, I like to swim, I have a suit, I’m going to use it. If they (people in the pool area/lobby/wherever) don’t want to see my fat ass and discolored legs, then they don’t have to look, now do they?” And I put my swimsuit on, walk down the hall, through the lobby, and into the pool area. I go from hot tub to pool and back again several times in the couple of hours we spend in the pool area. I’ve never had anyone say anything to me directly about how I look, and if they’ve said anything to their friends, I haven’t heard it. I figure that I don’t know those people and will probably never see them again, so who gives a shit what they think. They can either get over it, deal with it, or leave. I’m going to continue enjoying myself in public, doing the things I like to do, and not worry about how anyone else feels about it. Their problem, not mine.

  7. Holy shit Ohanna has the black shorts I have been looking for to replace the cute for loungin’ but generally overwhelming for water aerobics skirted bottom half of my two-piece. Thanks to you, too, A-Sarah!

  8. Yay, welcome back.! I’m so happy you went and had a good time. For many of the same self-doubting reasons you mentioned, I spent yesterday and today purchasing a flight for myself to Amsterdam with frequent flier miles, immediately becoming panic-stricken at the thought of plus-sized me travelling alone in Europe, and then twice re-deposited the miles back into my account. Now you have me thinking that maybe I really should go (it was a celebratory trip for completing my master’s degree)…. Hmm….

  9. Thanks very much for this, Kate.

    I’m a longtime reader (though infrequent commenter), and I really thought I’d gotten my head around the fact that diets don’t work and I’m okay the way I am. But then six weeks ago my neighbor asked me to join Weight Watchers and I did it. I signed up, laid out some hard-earned cash, went to the stupid meetings, counted the f-ing points, and eventually came to my senses again and quit.

    I’m left shaking my head over the whole thing, wondering how in the world I let myself get sucked back in. I know a lot of it has to do with body image. I was anticipating warmer weather and putting on shorts and yes, a bathing suit, and I freaked out. Obviously I’m not as well-adjusted as I’d thought I was.

    Anyway, it helps me to know that even someone like you deals with occasional bouts of insecurity. Thanks again.

  10. PendulousBreasts, if it helps at all, I came to France with the idea that there would be a judge-y aura every time I walked down the street, and I haven’t found that at all. Of course, I am not plus-sized, but the point is that a lot of times the stereotypes we Americans have about Europe aren’t right at all. And hey, even if they are, who cares? You’ll never see any of those Dutch people again! You don’t have to worry about what they think of you!

    Not that being judged is the only worry when traveling alone…but if that is your only worry, I think you should go for it and have a fabulous time. Just my personal opinion. :)

  11. I’m in Orlando too, and I am POSITIVE there must be someone we can scam off of for a cabana. If nothing else, I have access to a luxury beach condo, which is right next door to a bar. :)

    *lures Kate and Rotund with margaritas on the beach*

  12. It’s cool that you posted about bathing suits today. I’m getting ready for a trip and have been putting off bathing suit shopping because it’s always so demeaning, right? But, a few weeks ago I read your post on getting in (mental) shape for bathing suit season. And earlier today, I had the best bathing suit shopping experience ever! I didn’t let myself talk down to my body. If something didn’t look good, it was the damn suit’s problem, not mine! It was great! and I found three suits that look great on me.

    I did have a freak out moment however, when I was trying on this one line of suits. They had bra size suits with mega-boob sizes, cool! But, when I tried the top on, the shirt part was super, super skinny, and I couldn’t even get the bottoms on. Hmmm,,, mega-boob and super skinny? Ahhhh – suits for the implant crowd! Well, they need nice fitting suits too.

  13. I’m not even sure I understand what a cabana is. I get an image of one of those striped tents in which Victorian swimmers would change from their corsets and bustles into their swimming corsets and bustles.

    OTM, that’s actually pretty much it, only on crack. This isn’t where we stayed, but you get the idea from that pic — a little tent/hut with a couch (and fridge and stuff) inside, with a little private patio outside. (Our patio had 2 chaise longues and a dining table, plus a little half wall that abutted some landscaping. That’s where we spent all our time.) We were really close to another cabana and shared a patio with it, but it still felt WORLDS more private than being out in the main area of 80 bazillion chaises, cheek-by-jowl with strangers, with no shade and nowhere to stash your stuff.

    It’s funny, I’d glanced at the cabanas on various hotel websites before, but never really thought about getting one because A) Before this, I’d only been to Vegas in cold (i.e., 45-50 degree) weather, B) They’re fucking expensive (around $200 for the cheapest ones, generally), and C) I didn’t think they’d feel that private anyway, given how close you usually are to both other cabanas and the sea of chaises. But being wrong about C was what made it so cool. We really did feel quite removed from most of the hundreds of other people there, and even (mostly) our immediate neighbors, so it was like having a pool party in a friend’s backyard — except the pool was mindblowingly huge. And there was wait staff. And also, I have no friends with backyard pools.

  14. Pendulous – you HAVE to go if it’s a trip you really wanted to do and promised yourself as a reward! Doing a masters is no mean feat and should be celebrated! You’ll have an amazing time! I’m ‘European’ (whatever that means!) and I’m not a meanie and have plenty of non-meanie friends… plus I think Dutch people generally have a great reputation for being laid back and accepting, etc. You should absolutely book that flight! Also, kudos for managing to collect that many airmiles – I never have enough for anything!

  15. @PendulousBreasts You should go! You will not regret it! I was worried about the same thing before I went on a holiday to the UK, what with all the anti-fat horror stories we hear from there. If anyone was thinking anything horrible about me, they certainly never said anything to me about my appearance, and I went all kinds of places from super-posh high streets to dodgy pubs. And I’m a short size 22-26. You will be fine. GO! ENJOY! :D

  16. The cost of cabanas goes down really fast when you split it with a bunch of people. There’s a group of us that meets in Vegas periodically, and we always plan to spend one day at the pool. Comes out to $20-30 per person, which is TOTALLY worth it for the privacy, the folks refilling your drinks, and the very nice guy coming by with a spritzer to mist the air periodically…

  17. I went to a beautiful spa for Thanksgiving with my hubby and another couple and they had a heated indoor salt water wave pool. Can you say OMG? I put on my bathing suit and my rack of doom was on full display and my jiggly thighs, too. It was a challenge for me to walk across the pool area and get in that water but dayum! it felt good and I had fun and no one even noticed me. So much of my image is just in my head and I deny myself the luxury of an experience when I don’t have the courage to just drop the towel and get in that pool.

    Glad you had fun in Vegas.

  18. Thanks for the encouragement Jenny and La Di Da, you both have inspired me to go. Now let me just get that ticket again : )

  19. Brava.
    Ditto Carla re: ”it helps me to know that even someone like you deals with occasional bouts of insecurity.” I hope that doesn’t sound like misery-loves-company.

    I still smile when I think about “FAFAM” (Fully Ascended FA Master). If you aren’t a FAFAM, then is anybody? Would we want to “downgrade” its definition from “no longer has the old thoughts” to “wins out over the old thoughts,” or keep that as something to aspire to?

  20. Ugh. I am having one of those years. Those “everyone thinks I’m disgusting” years. I have gained more weight recently, starting to almost size out of Lane Bryant (in a 26/28 usually now), and limiting what I do, where I go, what I wear, how I… you know this list. I have an honors convocation thing coming up next Saturday, and between hating shit like that, worrying about sitting on the folding chairs, squished between small, young undergrads, not knowing what to wear, and walking across the stage TWICE to get my honors, I’m in a right state!

    When does this book of yours come out again? I know that Amazon is going to surprise me soon with a shipment… can’t wait! I obviously need some sanity in concrete form.

  21. put me in a group that’s mostly people I don’t know and ask me to socialize OR ask me to spend an entire afternoon wearing a bathing suit in public, and I am suddenly self-conscious as all hell

    Uh, yeah. Last year I was invited to be a fellow at what boils down to camp for adults, and found I’d be spending most of my time there with about 15 other “young professionals.” It was *ahem* suggested that I was chosen because of my location (flyover state!); they normally only get applications from the coasts.
    Because of this single comment, I spent the four weeks prior to the event *completely obsessing* over…my notebook.
    See, in the materials they sent out, they reminded us all to bring a notebook. And I was certain that these (thin, beautiful, Manhattanite) young professionals would all have 100% recycled, hand-made notebooks, probably purchased during one of their many trips backpacking through Asia.
    Of course, once I got there, it was an amazing experience and I never noticed their notebooks, nor they mine. But hello, Insecurity! Meeting new people in that context opened up all kinds of emotions I thought I was totally over.

  22. I had such a reaction to this post that I had to step away and come back to read it again. I admitted on that other post that I absolutely have not been able to wear a swimsuit. Passing up on wonderful things like taking my girls to the pool or going on a trip to Florida with my best girlfriends because just trying on the swimsuit left me wrecked. You put my thoughts into words here. It’s not that I have a problem with being fat or looking fat. I am quite aware that I look fat whether I’m fully covered or in a swimsuit but yet I just can’t bring myself to do it. Well, I have now been invited to go to Florida with the same girls and I’m facing the same obstacle. I’m excited but I fear I will talk myself out of it because of the swimsuit issue. I have even been trying to mentally prepare myself for this by looking at swimsuits and imagining myself in one and strutting my fat self around confidently without a care in the world, trying to overcome this fear. I’m not there, yet. But this post was timely and I will be back to read it again and again, especially as the trip inches closer. Whatever I do, I absolutely can’t jump back on the diet rollercoaster to try to make my body “acceptable” for a swimsuit. So I need this post for my sanity.

  23. Hmmm,,, mega-boob and super skinny? Ahhhh – suits for the implant crowd!

    No… some people are naturally that way. I was, many years ago, before I started gaining weight. Everyone has different shapes and I don’t think there’s any need to imply that some body shapes are so unnatural they can only be achieved with surgery.

    I worry too much about what people think of me too. Not just because of the fat thing (although that doesn’t help) but in general. Low self esteem, I think.

  24. hey, bride here. and though I’ve read every one of Kate’s posts since day one and could not be prouder of my bff since high school, I’m way more of a lurker than a commenter so I think this is my first comment ever. so just chiming in to confirm for you all that kate looked fabulous and it never would have occurred to a single one of us that she’d stressed in the least. and and also to say that this post helped me tons too, because I was filled with my own anxiety leading up to this big crazy weekend of having all my friends come visit me in Vegas ’cause really, what the hell DOES one wear to that kind of party? am I supposed to fit in like a champ because I live here, even though I’ve been to most of those places we went exactly never? or sport some extra special super recipe of fabulousness + over-it detachment? also have to thank kate for her as always bang-on perspective because as the wedding comes up I am fighting off all sorts of my own panic about having so many people LOOK AT ME, which does not fit in with my wallflower ways at all and yet is pretty much the whole point. so thanks for reminding me to get over myself and embrace the dress up because its a blast and I’ve never had so good an excuse.

    but mostly, thanks for coming Kate! if you make it back to vegas before I blow this joint we are SO getting another cabana.

    and sorry for the diet talk. that was totally me.

  25. Wow, this post is really timely for me. My psychologist has told me that I need to Go Out and Meet New People because I am spending too much time at home sitting around feeling lonely, useless and ugly and the way to get over my anxiety over meeting someone new (but…they might not like me!!) is to just do it.

    Thanks for the reminder :)

  26. I am so, so glad for this post. I’m just on the edge of making a bunch of new friends (joined a meetup group but haven’t been to a meetup yet) who I KNOW are going to be awesome, but I keep freaking out thinking they won’t think I’m awesome enough, or I won’t fit in because they have more money than me or because there won’t be anyone exactly my age (despite the group containing people ranging from childhood to middle-age), or I’m not sparkly enough or whatever. I do this to myself in basically any new situation; I’ve pretty much stopped basing it on weight but I still do it with pretty much every other possible trait. Which is a nightmare, since ANY PERSONALITY TRAIT ON EARTH can be disliked by another person, so trying to always be liked is a perfect recipe for self-hate.

    Anyway, thanks for the reminder that fun things are fun and that no one can make me not swim without my consent. Unless they pee in the pool.

  27. But put me in a group that’s mostly people I don’t know and ask me to socialize OR ask me to spend an entire afternoon wearing a bathing suit in public, and I am suddenly self-conscious as all hell. Ask me to do both at once, and I’m suddenly a useless pile of WHAT THE FUCK AM I GOING TO WEAR NO REALLY WHAT THE FUCK OMG OMG OMG THIS MIGHT ACTUALLY KILL ME.

    Hi there. I think we came from the same womb.

  28. Said Kate: “The first mistake, of course, was believing that everyone — or anyone, really — would be looking at me at all, much less long enough to form a strong opinion about my body and/or character. It is kind of amazing how closely related insecurity is to egotism.”

    This, I think, is completely, totally spot-on. Much as I hate to quote Dr. Shinyhead McTexas (as someone elsewhere is wont to call Dr. Phil), sometimes he says things that are pretty damn good. “You wouldn’t worry so much about what other people think of you if you only knew how seldom they do.”

    Everybody’s wrapped up in their own little navel-gazing self. While it’s tempting and easy to believe that we must be all sorts of obvious ickiness, what with the catcalling and the fat-shaming we all get, most of the time when we’re out and about, nobody interacts with us much at all. Really, percentage-wise, the vast majority of the time, nobody says anything *positive* to us, let alone anything negative. And if anybody is wasting their time and energy judging and being malicious, well, fuck ‘em. Who cares what they think, *especially* if they’re total strangers? Really, WHY waste energy on something you can’t control?

    And y’know what I know for a fact? See those pretty people over there, chatting it up with each other, looking all suave and sophisticated and immaculately dressed, behaving as if they haven’t a care in the world? Those people who seem like they have it made, and their lives must be all roses and lollipops and free massages and oral sex?

    Yeah, they ALL have problems and insecurities and complexes and anxieties and shyness and times when they’re certain, just dead convinced, that they’re not good enough, smart enough, or attractive enough to stand up to others’ scrutiny. It’s true. Because that’s how humanoids think. We all live with insecurity, but some of us hide it better than others.

    Some of us speak sternly to ourselves and tamp that shit down because it’s unproductive and pointless and detrimental to our mental health. Or at least we try really damn hard to do that, and we bloody well fake it until we make it, because the rewards for pulling up our socks and ignoring the insidious little voices in our heads are far greater than sitting on the sidelines.

    Do not think for one minute that there’s anyone out there who never has those feelings, because anyone who says they’re 100% confident 100% of the time is a liar.

  29. Kateharding thank you again & again. I am not a fattie, but I still have all the same issues and your attitude is a great help to me. I stop by to read a couple of times a week, and no matter what the specific topic is, your and your co-bloggers’ posts always address improving our sense of self-worth, and the comments from your readers are poignant, hilarious, and supportive.

  30. And I was certain that these (thin, beautiful, Manhattanite) young professionals would all have 100% recycled, hand-made notebooks, probably purchased during one of their many trips backpacking through Asia.

    THIS IS TOTALLY SOMETHING I WOULD DO! Am doing! About my college reunion! I love you philosopherkrista!

  31. No… some people are naturally that way. I was, many years ago, before I started gaining weight. Everyone has different shapes and I don’t think there’s any need to imply that some body shapes are so unnatural they can only be achieved with surgery.

    Thank you for catching that, Becky. There are many women out there with small band sizes and large cup sizes (and probably a lot more who should be wearing that combo, given how many women wear the wrong size bra). Let’s stay away from the body-bashing, Babs.

  32. Kate, your trip sounds ridiculously awesome. I want a vacation with a cabana now!!

    But, when I tried the top on, the shirt part was super, super skinny, and I couldn’t even get the bottoms on. Hmmm,,, mega-boob and super skinny? Ahhhh – suits for the implant crowd! Well, they need nice fitting suits too.

    Not everyone with a small torso and large rack has implants, you know!

  33. I too was most struck by “It is kind of amazing how closely related insecurity is to egotism.” The same is true for shyness, and I say that as one who’s both come a long way on that score and has a long way still to go: as Anne Lamott says, it’s about considering yourself “the piece of shit around which the world revolves.” Which, if we could keep it in mind (ha, ha) would be most salutary. We are not pieces of shit ,and neither do we merit all that much attention most of the time. Except from the occasional psychotic troll, but, once again, that’s not about us. The psychotic trolls are just as happy to attempt to destroy the next woman who dares to speak as they are to take a run at Kate and company. Maybe more so, since Kate and company have declined to be destroyed, an act on which we can all be proud to model our own responses.

    Regarding Dr. Shinyhead, even a blind pig finds a truffle sometimes.

  34. Oh, wait — I would still be swimming, lying by the pool, drinking fruity drinks, dancing. These are INTRINSICALLY ENJOYABLE ACTIVITIES in my book. It would take a lot more than a dirty look from a stranger to make those things not fun.

    Thank you for this. I think it will help me a lot to keep in mind.

    PendulousBreasts, I agree with everyone–you should definitely go! My husband had a conference in Paris several years ago, and I had the chance to go with him. At that time I was at my highest weight (wearing a size 22/24) and had some nervousness about all the Parisians laughing openly about the Obese American, especially since I was going to be on my own the majority of the time while my husband was in sessions. This totally didn’t happen, and I had an amazing time–I did walking tours out of the Lonely Planet guidebook, and found people to be most pleasant and polite. One guy on the street approached me and spoke to me in French, apparently not realizing I was American, when I had figured that being fat was like wearing a huge “I AM AN AMERICAN” sign. On the minus side, I definitely couldn’t have found any clothes that fit me had I needed to buy any, but I couldn’t afford it anyway, so no big deal.

    Anyway, definitely go and have a great time! This is my only experience in Europe (well, at least since I was a teenager and then I was in a large traveling band so I didn’t come in contact with local people very much) but at least based on that, I bet you will be pleasantly surprised.

  35. Kate, this post was great to read.
    In particular, how you summed it up:
    I may never be completely rid of all those old fears, but these days, I feel strong enough to fight them, instead of rolling over and letting them win. That’s the big difference between having a mostly positive self-image and a mostly crap one.
    I still worry before but find a way to tell that part of me to shut it, much of the time.
    The other thing that helps me is noticing other fat women just going about their daily lives, being beautiful and interesting and trying to convince their 4-year-olds that clothing isn’t always optional, etc. And learning that not-fat women are also interesting and fun to be around and not always judgemental. This site helps me to not assume that when I meet someone who isn’t fat, they aren’t necessarily judging me, and we might mutually admire each other in a “I wanna be your friend” kind of way.

  36. The first mistake, of course, was believing that everyone — or anyone, really — would be looking at me at all, much less long enough to form a strong opinion about my body and/or character. It is kind of amazing how closely related insecurity is to egotism. But the other mistake was believing that the risk of being judged was always greater than the potential fun of putting myself out there. I mean, how could I possibly enjoy swimming, or lying by the pool, or drinking fruity drinks, or dancing, if there might be someone nearby thinking, “Damn, she needs to put those thighs away.” Oh, wait — I would still be swimming, lying by the pool, drinking fruity drinks, dancing. These are INTRINSICALLY ENJOYABLE ACTIVITIES in my book. It would take a lot more than a dirty look from a stranger to make those things not fun.

    Wow, this really struck me, at once because of the fact that it’s so glaringly obvious I hate that I never thought of it before and also because it’s clued me in to how even though I may have taken a few very crucial steps in the right direction, I still have a long way to go before I’ve really accepted myself.

    Why? Because I realized that while those things I’ve missed out on are intrinsically fun and that it should take more than a dirty look to ruin a night for me, I admit, it would have (possible it might still, I’m too scared to try now). Oh, I’ve been in situations before where I’ve pretended shit like that didn’t bother me and went on to still have a fun night. But I hate admitting that after those nights (or days) that really are so few and far between to begin with, I’d spend days, weeks, months even, using it as more ammunition to beat myself up with. Which is also why I’m still guilty of not going places or doing things or trying to make friends because I’m still afraid I’m not smart/cool/fun/funny/pretty/cute enough for anybody to want to bother giving me any kind of attention unless it is to criticize. And I say that with full knowledge of how narcissistic it sounds too. *sigh*

    Thanks for yet another inspiring post. It’s good to know that even if I’m not moving as quickly as I’d like toward self-acceptance that it is evidently something that can be achieved. And it’s heartening to know that everyone is subject to insecurities here and there. Not in a “misery loves company” sort of way but in a “we’re all human and there’s nothing wrong with you if you happen to doubt yourself every once in a while because it’s – uh human” sort of way.

  37. Thank you thank you for writing this! Lately I have been struggling, not with weight, but with acne. I have basically been sitting around my apartment feeling sorry for myself. But you’re right — things I like to do such as eating out, or shopping, or even just going outside for a walk — are intrinsically enjoyable. And even if people stare or make rude comments, that doesn’t take away from the fact that those activities are still things I like to do.

    You may still be struggling with the whole body image thing (who isn’t?), but you are helping so many women by sharing your thoughts. Can’t wait to keep reading your blog. :)

  38. it’s true!
    *sigh*
    no, it *really is* true that most people really don’t care one way or the other about how you look or how big your thighs are, or how many baby-flavored donuts you ate for breakfast, or any of it. even most of the people who reflexively spout ‘diet wisdom’ like ‘eat less and exercise’ or ‘you can’t get fat eating brown rice’ (i was one of them) do not care. and don’t hate. they just don’t think about it because they have the luxury of not having to. (usually.) this might be reflexive optimism on my part, but i do think it’s true that people aren’t mean-spirited in general and are open to logic. maybe i can think this because i don’t attend GOP rallies.

    but the few people who really *are* haters? and who feel free to spew their hate far and wide? those thoughts, that hate, is really damaging. and that is why the hating bullshit needs to stop yesterday.

    thank you for writing, kate. whenever you can – ’cause you are made out of awesome.

  39. For the nice people who were concerned about my mental state before: following much reassurance from the very awesome girlfriends I am as happy as/happier than ever with my body, most of the time. I still have moments when I put on old clothes and they’re too tight, but I’m giving it a little while to see if the weight comes off again (since I didn’t change my food or exercise and I still don’t get why so much went on so fast); but if it doesn’t, I’m just going to chuck them and get on with my life.

    I wish I could say I could have gotten to the same FA place without the gfs, but I…needed their approval? because, as folks were mentioning above, they knew me/were attracted to me before I gained the weight. So I needed to know they still were after, because they’d seen the change so they had the option of preferring before? It is very strange. It is opening up whole new areas of antifatcrazy I didn’t know I had.

    It also it kind of freeing though, because…I got fat. Or at least, fatter than I ever thought I would (though obvs I may get fatter in my life). And the world did not end and I am still the same person I always was and people are still attracted to me and I still (mostly) look good in clothes. This is ver good.

    I also had a revelation — along the lines of yours, Kate, about how it doesn’t matter if some random fucker is glaring at your thighs because WHATEVER. I was with one of the gfs and we were merrily naked and she was having a thing about the part of her body she doesn’t like that I for serious adore and was going to put on clothes because she wasn’t comfortable, and I had a sudden thought about how stupid it was — how really stupid — that she was in this bed with this person who justs loves her, and thinks her body’s perfect just as it is, and she can’t relax because she doesn’t like that I can see this bit of her she doesn’t like.

    But the only reason she doesn’t like it is because she thinks it makes her unattractive, except I’m sitting there and I AM ATTRACTED TO HER REGARDLESS, and whoever the random hypotthetical people are who might judge her on it — they CAN’T SEE HER, but they’re still in her head. And I am the exact same abouts bits of me, and it’s all so Foucaultian I can barely get my head round it. Why can’t there just be the two (or three) of us in the bed, without all that bullshit in our heads with us?

    Which is a nightmare, since ANY PERSONALITY TRAIT ON EARTH can be disliked by another person, so trying to always be liked is a perfect recipe for self-hate.

    What an excellent point. I had never thought of that before!

    Maybe more so, since Kate and company have declined to be destroyed, an act on which we can all be proud to model our own responses.

    I love this! I’m going to walk through life waving my hand dismissively and announcing, “I decline to be destroyed” at anyone who’s fucking me off.

    (Which, speaking of? Some random asshole started grabbing at my back as we passed him on the street last night — on the way home from a SIMPLY GLORIOUS night out — and was all leeringly “How’s it going, girls?” and my immediate response was, “Please don’t touch me.” It made me happy that it was out of my mouth before I even had time to consider it.

    Why do straight guys think they have the right to touch women they don’t even know? The last time I was in a straight club this guy started dancing with me and I obviously wasn’t interested so he GRABBED MY CHEEKS and tried to force them upwards all “Smile, why don’t you?” So now I don’t go to straight clubs, and I’m pretty sure after my reaction that guy doesn’t touch strange women anymore. /righteous outrage)

    I am rambly today.

  40. I loved this entry and would love to see more of this from FA voices. As a fat woman who’s proud of who I am and a woman who diets, I have issues with both the FA and the gotta be slim camps. I loved the honesty in this and how it avoided the frequently self-righteous tone (though I’ll say I’ve never heard that from you) of many FA voices who try to sound so beyond any negative self-image stuff.

  41. Hi Kate

    This was really great to read, and I’m SHOCKED that you felt that insecure, and it’s funny, but it was a relief to meet you too since you are mythical as THE BRIDE’s brilliant PUBLISHED , celebrity, friend so I thought maybe you’d think I was an idiot with my unemployed and mushy mom-brain ( I was a little nervous reading this post because it sort of feels like spying, and I was worried I’d see myself in it as an idiot somehow). But it is stressful to be thrown in with a bunch of people you’ve never met before and whatever ones’ insecurities are will tend to bubble up I guess.

    I am also really glad to have read this because I need to remind myself that the CABANA was REAL, because I was starting to wonder if i’d made that all up….that was my favorite part of the weekend too, by the way!

  42. My sister got married last weekend, and I was having all of the same insecurities you described, except for a slight difference: I am not at all sure that my sister likes me (I was not asked to be maid of honor even though she was mine.) Years ago, at a family therapy session, some of the blame for her eating disorder was laid at my feet, and our relationship never recovered, despite my parents’ assurances that her nearly starving herself to death was not my fault.

    She celebrated her “recovery” (if you call continuing to restrict and train for marathons recovery) by joining a sorority in college and generally only associate with image-conscious, cliquish girls who also happen to be very religious and very conservative. So you can only imagine what the rest of that bridal party looked and talked like. The only girl fatter than me (and I’m not fat) was the one who gave birth four weeks ago. The entire lead-up to the ceremony with the bridal luncheon, lingerie shower, rehearsal, blah blah blah was a battle between myself and my self hatred.

    Truthfully, I was probably concentrating on my looks so much because I was trying not to think too much about my broken relationship with my sister and my fear that things will never be better. There were also my very private reservations about her reasons for getting married (quote from the luncheon: “I guess I shouldn’t just go off my birth control without telling him just so I can get pregnant and stop working at Deloitte, huh?” Bridesmaid: “I know someone who did that!” I couldn’t talk about any of this with anyone, so I turned it all on myself. I was an emotional wreck at the ceremony–not just a few glistening tears. We’re talking complete emotional breakdown in front of 200 people.

    Without alcohol (for the record, I normally have about 5 drinks per year), this might not have a happy ending. I managed to keep a constant buzz going at the reception and have a total blast, dancing and acting silly with all of those girls without giving a shit about how stupid I looked. I also managed to write my sister a letter telling her what I admired about her and wishing her the best in her marriage.

    Thank God it’s over.

  43. and I still (mostly) look good in clothes.

    Correction: you still totally look good in clothes; they just might not be the exact same clothes as when you were a different size.

    Caitlin, I am very happy and relieved that you’re doing better. Your girlfriends are lucky to have you!

  44. I’m SHOCKED that you felt that insecure, and it’s funny, but it was a relief to meet you too since you are mythical as THE BRIDE’s brilliant PUBLISHED , celebrity, friend so I thought maybe you’d think I was an idiot with my unemployed and mushy mom-brain

    OMG, Becky, best laugh I’ve had all week! And I can’t wait to see you at the wedding.

  45. I was so surprised when I read this, you have such a strong voice and confident online presence! I love that you wrote this piece, because I think self-doubt lingers even when we work so hard on it, and needlessly stops us from taking risks or even doing things we love (like sitting by a pool!)

    “It is kind of amazing how closely related insecurity is to egotism.”
    that is as clear of a way of putting it as years of therapy nicey-nice talk! We all think that EVERYBODY is looking at our zits, our wrinkles, our thighs, our scars, our chipped nail polish, our last year’s fashions. But really, in all honesty, everybody is so busily obsessed with listening to their own inner fears that they are not really paying attention to our own imaginary flaws. We ALL have situational stage-fright, but so many of us think we are the only ones who do. Thanks for admitting it!

    Old corny saying but still works: Feel the fear & do it anyway (does anyone know where this came from?)

  46. To MsChilePepper: right on. One of the best lessons I learned is that when people only talk shit on other people, they have huge issues with themselves. Self hate at its worst. Best application of this lesson – my mother.

  47. Kate, I can’t thank you enough for this post. I just sent an email to a friend of mine about missing her bachelorette party 10 years ago because they were going out to some clubs and I would be the largest girl there (by a wide [pun intended] margin) and I felt fat and ugly and bailed on the whole thing. I’ve regretted it ever since. So, as part of my own recovery, I told her so. I don’t want to miss out on having fun with people I love because I’m worried they’ll be ashamed to be seen with me. Uh, if they were ashamed of me, they wouldn’t ask me to do stuff. Duh!

    Cabanas are the shit. Last year, some girlfriends and I took a trip to Arizona — the sole purpose of which was to sit by a pool and drink; we rented a cabana for a day and it was by far the best money we spent on the trip. I had a lot of body stress about the trip, but went anyway. And I realized that #1) I was over 25 and therefore invisible to the Spring Break-y crowd, no matter what size I was, and #2) everyone is always so worried about how THEY look in a bathing suit that they don’t have time to worry about me. It was liberating.

  48. Man, I love this blog, and I love its commentors, too. I’m trying to figure out how to introduce it to a couple of dear people in my life, because I think they could really use some Shapely Prose-style reading.

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