My first post here was about a radical bodily change I was undergoing (drastic weight loss due to an undiagnosed medical condition) and how it made me think about myself, my body, and my visibility as a woman. I shrank, quickly and unintentionally, and the experience reaffirmed my commitment to FA, because people praised me so lavishly for something that was both not under my control and actually a symptom of, well, misery. I was constantly reminded of the strange world of thin privilege: my clothes no longer fit, which was dispiriting and embarrassing — but when I walked into a store I could just buy a skirt, right off the rack, just like that! (That first skirt, I’m telling you, I am still amazed over two years later.) My body felt different in certain ways (chairs felt different; I got cold more easily) but not in others (my rack still got in the way of everything; I still had the same proportions, only narrower). I had crossed the line of cultural acceptability (as I had before in my life, but without the perspective of feminist theory and FA); I was through the looking-glass, almost literally.
Now I’m back on the other side. For the last year, a change in medications has both improved the state of my rebellious organs and caused weight gain as a standard side effect. I’m back around where I started, in the inbetweenie range, with an “overweight” BMI and a cartoony-sounding bra size. And you know what? I’m happy about it. Because I feel so much better than I did when I was thinner. Any negative thoughts I start to have about my fatter body — and we all have them, because we’re trained to — are outweighed by the positive thoughts I have about, say, being able to eat cheese again without dire consequences.
This is not to say that there haven’t been things that were difficult about gaining a bunch of weight. I want to make it very clear that here I am speaking from a position where, “overweight” or not, I still retain a lot of thin privilege: doctors still listen to me (so far), people don’t demonize me to my face or on the news, I can still shop in some straight stores (to give just a few examples). Interestingly, the only person who’s commented on my fatter body so far (as contrasted to the people constantly commenting on my thinner body) is a good friend who knows why I was losing so much weight before — and her comment was that she was glad to see me looking healthier. (Okay, to be fair, Mr Machine has also commented that my rack has gotten, uh, more substantial.) The point I’m trying to reach, here, is that between my still-not-that-fat privilege and my gradual shedding of weight-obsessed or non-feminist friends over the last few years, people haven’t given me shit for gaining weight. (I’m sure my grandparents would have had some strong opinions, but dead men tell no tales, right?) I will tell you exactly what has caused me the most grief in the process of fattening up: my bras. Oh, and my boots. And my pants and belts. In other words: the clothes, the manufactured things, the objects. (But I have been patiently updating my wardrobe to keep up with my hips — and this week, I finally got some new bras (thank you Figleaves clearance!), and my world is suddenly a hundred times sunnier.)
Here’s what was not difficult or irksome about getting fatter: my body. My reflection. My shape. Losing sight of my hipbones. Noticing a fold of flesh return to my back. Watching my profile change, take up more room in the mirror. Feeling more of me moving around. I like me. I don’t mind having more of me, as long as I can afford to clothe more of me. There is no absolute value to any body size. There is no line on your mirror saying “If your hips touch this, your body is wrong.” My body’s not wrong now, and it wasn’t wrong before. It’s my body, and now that I live with respect for it, I don’t dread or thrill to its changes in size.
In that first post, way back when, I wrote this:
Right now, I’m a lot thinner than I’m used to being. Temporarily, I’m feeling a disconnect between the “real me” and the “representation of me.” But maybe I’ll stay at this weight, and I’ll realign my self-conception; maybe instead of a chubby healthy person, I’ll be a thinnish person with a medical condition. I’ll adjust. I’ll be good to myself. Maybe my health will improve again, and I’ll gain back those 20 pounds and more. I’ll adjust. I’ll be good to myself. I’ll remember that this body I live in is me and not a container or disguise or symbol for me. How will I do it? I’ll start right here.
Thanks for helping me be good to myself, Shapelings. I drink to you tonight.