Thursday, April 12, 2012

"Are you going to have a baby?"

Dress - Target
Flats - Dots 
This is not an easy post for me to make, so everyone hold onto their butts.

Last weekend, I went to a Chinese restaurant with my boyfriend to get dinner. We were greeted by a small Asian girl who couldn't have been any older than 9 years old. She had long, black hair tied back into a pony tail and light pink pastel glasses on her tiny little face. For a kid, she was dressed pretty impressively -- lots of various brown and pastel layers: tights; a skirt; two shirts, a short sleeve over a long sleeve; a sweater; boots. She smiled at us and took us to a table and asked for our drink orders. We responded with water (almost always taking the cheapest option when we go out to eat, duh). She stared at me for a second, and I awkwardly smiled at her (you're supposed to smile at kids, right? I'm admittedly terribly awkward with kids) and she continued to stare at me, looking me up and down. She cocked her head to the side and quickly and excitedly asked: "Are you going to have a baby?"

I froze for a second, taken aback. I was pretty sure I felt my heart drop into my stomach. I managed to (even more awkwardly) smile at her again and quickly say "erm, no. Just fat." She quickly shook her head and said "No, you're not. You're not fat. You're skinny!" I think I awkwardly laughed and replied with "oh, um, no. I'm fat. It's cool. It's just how I am and it's okay. Okay?" She took a tentative step towards me, getting quite close to my face, and looked me in eyes. "You're beautiful." She then quickly left the table.

I'm pretty sure at this point tears were beginning to well up in my eyes, whether I wanted them to or not. I looked down at the table. I wasn't angry, I wasn't mad, but I was undoubtedly ashamed and embarrassed. I've come a long way in being happy with my body, but all it took was an innocent question to spiral me right back into my mindset circa age 14. I can remember angrily grabbing at my stomach then and imagining cutting away my fat with a knife. I can remember going up to my mom and telling her that I hated how I looked and how I was afraid I looked pregnant. I can remember her sadly looking at me and telling me that if I just keep exercising my hour a day and keep doing my 50 sit ups a day my body would hopefully change. I remember my frustration with being a perfectly "normal" weight and working for miles and miles every day on the treadmill and looking in the mirror and still seeing a stomach that extended past my breasts. I remember the disgust I had for myself and I remember the hatred I had for my body. I'm okay with the fact that I'm fat and I'm okay with my body now after years and years of learning how to move past the hate, but this experience brought me back real quick. I quickly glanced over at my boyfriend, undoubtedly embarrassed, and he tried to manage a smile. That just made me want to cry even more. I felt disgusting and dirty and ashamed. I felt the hate for my body coming back after years of learning how to move past it. I felt a tear roll down my cheek.

I didn't want to cry and I wasn't even really sure why I was crying -- was I really that hurt by an innocent question from a little girl about my body? Was being mistaken for a pregnant woman something to really be so ashamed of? Was it because this young girl had tried to reassure me that I was skinny and beautiful -- because fat and beautiful were obviously mutually exclusive categories in her mind? I was quiet during dinner -- I didn't want to eat, I didn't want to be wearing one of my favorite dresses anymore because I suddenly wasn't comfortable with the way I looked in it, and I didn't want to really even be alive at that moment. I wished I could just fade away.

I think anyone who's ever been fat knows what it's like to be constantly on guard about your body and I think anyone who's ever been fat knows what it's like to suddenly be confronted with your size. It can hurt and it can cut deep. But, I think with time and acceptance and truly dissecting why certain words cause hurt, we can all grow from these experiences and realize that they are not something to be hurt by.

As always. thanks for reading!
-Michelle

4 comments:

  1. This is the first post of yours that I have read, but it was almost as if I wrote it myself. I had a similar situation happen to me recently. I work in a nursery, and one day a little boy said to me, "Do you have a baby in your belly?" I laughed and said no, just a big belly and pretended everything was fine, but here it is weeks later and it still bothers me. There are a lot of Mom's in the nursery that are pregnant, and he is only 3, so he doesn't really know what he's saying, but it really affected me and made me think, do other people think I'm pregnant too? I know its silly, and I will get over it, but I like you want to cry sometimes. I usually have good self esteem, but lately I am doubting how I look in everything.

    ReplyDelete
  2. No matter how many times this happens, it still hurts just as much. My worst experiences have been on busses/trains when people awkwardly offer you a seat because they think you're pregnant and then explain themselves because you're looking at them like they're an alien. Having to say, "no, just fat" sets me into the same sort of spiralling path of shattered self-esteem too.
    Why can't people just not say anything? Or in the bus case, just say... oh, just wanted to offer you a seat. Anything but the pregnant thing!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I feel your pain. Even after years of self-acceptance the best I can do where my (apple) shape is concerned is to live in armed neutrality with it. This happens to me all the time. The first time it happened it took me a while to cotton on. I was tired and at first I thought that was why this woman was trying to get me to sit down. She kept saying things like "Go on, these seats are meant for people like you"! I wanted to die of mortification. These days if anyone offers to give me a seat I just take it. It's a lot less traumatic than having to tell them I'm just fat. Mind you, at my age I suppose I should be flattered that they think I'm pregnant.

    ReplyDelete
  4. When trying on dresses at Macy's I was asked the same question, I answered, "Yep, working on a baby keg." Once the sales girl caught on, she turned bright pink in embarrassment. I don't try on dresses anymore. :\

    ReplyDelete