I doubt I’ll ever forget it. I was at a science museum, I was about fifteen and I probably weighed ninety pounds. I was a healthy, happy teenager having a fun day out with my family the first time I heard it. Someone whispering (loudly) from a group of students to my right. “Oh my god.” She gawked at me. “Anorexic!”
My sister and I just kept walking and later laughed about it. Wow! What do they know? I was far from anorexic. As a matter of fact, I often ate more than my friends, who were all average-size if not big for our age. I had no food issues whatsoever. The only thing I was guilty of was having my mother’s genetics and a high metabolism. Today, at age 22, I am not the bean pole I once was. I don’t wear adjustable waist pants anymore and I finally turn the airbag on in the passenger seat. However, it has recently come to my attention that many people still view me as that girl at the science museum did.
I am an underweight, flat-chested, spindly adult. I am also perfectly and completely healthy.
I don’t eat low-fat. I love cooking with butter, getting seconds of bread and I often indulge my sweet tooth. I don’t work out very often. I really need to get back to it, because I want to be stronger and protect my bones against the osteoporosis that runs in my family, but I feel unmotivated a lot of times. One of the reasons I feel unmotivated to work out is because my body changes very little when I stop working out. In other words, I couldn’t get fat if I wanted to. And because of that, you might hate me.
Trust me when I say I have plenty of other things to bemoan in my life. I don’t have to struggle with weight gain to relate to feeling down about my body or unattractive. I don’t have to constantly try to lose weight to understand the pain of striving for unmet goals. Yes, you guessed it! I’m skinny. But my life is not perfect.
You know why? Because (and this may come as a shock to our 20-something minds, but) weight and worth are not the same thing.
I am a skinny twenty-two year old woman. I have to be the happiest person in the world, right? Wrong. Being skinny doesn’t make me love my life. It just doesn’t. If I could suddenly have the body of a super model and the teeth of a toothpaste commercial and the hair of a viral Pin, I would not be happy. There is something much deeper and more spiritual to life’s joy. Just ask any beautiful, rich, famous celebrity who is overdosing on their depression meds right now.
You know what really makes me sad when people ask about my weight? It’s not that I feel judged and violated (though sometimes I do.) It’s not even that our society is obsessed with thinness (though it is and that’s awful.) It’s that some girls actually do have eating disorders. And instead of treating these words with caution and being sensitive to folks who cannot control how they view their bodies, we call skinny girls “bulimic” because we can’t stand for them to fit into a societal requirement we don’t.
My dad works in a hospital. He has literally seen girls in Central Texas die of starvation because their minds are so ill. They keep nourishment from themselves despite the urging of their doctors and their mothers whose hearts are breaking. And yes, we have the media to blame. We have photoshop and Sports Illustrated and Pinterest and billboards to blame. But it’s also a disease.
A disease I am grateful I do not have.
If I don’t call you “fat” and tell you to get on a diet, if I don’t whisper and snicker and call you “glutton,” if I don’t flaunt my body like society wants me to and tell you it’s my hard work that keeps me so “perfect,” will you not call me anorexic? Will you not call me “disgusting,” “boyish” and “sick” as I recently heard folks saying about another slim person?
There has recently been a movement to take our obsessive eyes off of being thinnerthinnerthinner all the time. It is great what words from fuller-figured celebrities can do for girls who aren’t beanpoles like I was. These sort of words prevent eating disorders, I truly believe. But, can we not swing the pendelum so far as to hate the thin? Can we stop imagining that every woman in a size 0 is a “skinny b*****” who kills herself to be thin and judges the heavy? Can we please stop singing that song about being curvy so boys will like you? It’s not helping, really. (Meghan Trainor-you are beautiful, but you would still be beautiful if your thyroid went out on you in the night. And don’t change your body for boys. You’re worth a lot more than that.)
So yes, I’m skinny. Yes, I can eat pretty much whatever I want and see little to no change in my figure. No, I don’t imagine this will last my whole life! And no, I do not have an eating disorder. Now if people would stop picking me up and swinging me around when I try to hug them, all would be right in the world.