Feminism / Society & Culture

The In-Between Girl: I’m Not Fat But I’m Not Skinny (And Everyone Wants Me To Pick A Side)

The Butt everyone wants to talk about.
The ass everyone wants to talk about.

When it comes to my body, I’m the in-between girl. The only immediate analogy I can draw is one I read in a piece on biracial identity: the feeling that though you might look one way, you’re flying the flag for something else, or that, sorry, we don’t have a place for you here or here. 

I feel that way about my body–that I’m being met with the world’s urges to represent Something. I’m being petitioned to Stand Up For Women With This Body Type. I’m supposed to be the girl with a message–only when I stand up at the mic, nothing comes out.
 
It isn’t anyone’s fault. We’ve grown up in a culture that, despite its ability to analyze and even condemn its own behaviors, seems to have been divinely designed to perpetuate its own obsessions.I’m buying chocolate and magenta lipstick at Duane Reade. At the register, I see the cheap celeb rags. And they tell me I should have Jennifer Aniston arms.Pink’s stomach. But wait: Pre-pregnancy Kim Kardashian is the Symbol Of Femininity–except, did you see her cellulite? And then there’s Jennifer Lawrence, who’s “considered fat in Hollywood.”
 
Then there’s Christina Hendricks. You can have 40 inch hips if you have G tits. Then you’re just a sex bomb. [Please pick up on joking tone here, folks]. But if you look like Adele, you’re just that person with “weight struggles.” While I am sure these are pressing publishing matters, it’s given me whiplash and it’s disgusting. Truly.

The question really shouldn’t be: “What is a real woman?” or “Why aren’t there more diverse body types represented?” We know why. The world is a vapid, dark place that scours ours emotional psyches in an effort to make money and fame. It probably won’t change overnight, but we can change our responses to it.
My personal answer is to abandon the “boxes” I’ve been put into. I’m no ambassador. Size 2 is totally real. So is size 22. So is 8 and 12. So are big tits and small tits. Really.
 
It’s like being approached by ten sororities on-campus. One of them wants you because you’re smart, and the other wants you because you’re beautiful and the others want you because your popular, or Catholic or because you have money. Which totally creepy, narcissistic tribe to you join? And, if you don’t, do you just exist on the outskirts like a shapeless entity, refusing the label, like some weird loser?
Me, in Brazil, being told by people that I was "perfect" for not being "too thin." Yikes.

Me, in Brazil, being told by people that I was “perfect” for not being “too thin.” Yikes.

 
I know that my body size (and by size I mean size–not healthfulness) simultaneously comes with and lacks certain privileges, depending on which person I’m near at any given time. In one day I’m Stretch Armstrong, a vessel for comments and ideas.

Here’s your writer: Good posture. 5’7. Recently, I’ve been sitting at 150-155 pounds. I have C-Cups, an ass most people gawk at and a 36-29-39 figure. If I worked really, really, really, really hard and avoided carbs (with a decent workout regime) I’d be sitting at 145 and hungry as hell. I think 140 would kill me. My pretty little cheekbones would peep out, my naturally toned tummy would be Baller and I’d drop from an 8 to a 6.
But right now, technically, according to the charts, I’m verging on obese. I don’t care, except that I feel I am carrying an extra ten pounds. It makes me feel tired because it isn’t where my body wants to be naturally. I love eating, what can I say?Friends who are bigger than me have said things like:“Oh my god, you’re not allowed to say you have cellulite.”
“Oh my god, you’re kidding right? You can eat all the bread you want.” (No, I can’t).
“You’re the perfect size–not gross skinny but not too big.”
“Don’t you hate all those stick-thin bitches?”
“At least you actually have an ass, unlike most skinny people.”
“She’s way too skinny to play a sex symbol.”
“At least you can find clothes for your size.” (It’s not as easy as you think at the middle ground). 

Sometimes I sense a tone of judgement, like when I agree with them about body size obsession. My brain says, you’re not allowed to talk about how much you hate sizeism. 

False, darlings.

I think women of all sizes need to react against society shit-talking our fellow sisters. I also think I wish I didn’t feel so scared to speak up for women–as if I’m throwing them a bone from the perceived “other side.” Which side? Ah!

But the “other side” is the side that garners reactions from thinner friends:

“You looked great when you gained 20 pounds,” (I’ve never gained 20 pounds).
“You’re not fat, but you’re like a pinup girl.”
“You’re butt is so fucking big!”
“You’re like a real woman.”
“You dress so well for your size.”
“You carry your weight so nicely.” 

I’m not carrying my weight. I’m existing.

[Selfie] How can anyone's bikini body offend anyone? Especially in hot pink?

[Selfie] How can anyone’s bikini body offend anyone? Especially in hot pink?

There have been times when I’ve felt singled-out in groups of women: If I’m out with women who are bigger than me I start to feel less feminine, as though I should have more on me–more woman.If I’m out with thinner friends I wonder if I should order that extra side, or why one of their thighs is literally the size of my upper arm. Why should I care?
While these experiences trigger annoyance in me, they don’t begin to touch the ways millions of people have suffered: skinny-shaming, fat-shaming, body dysmorphia, eating disorders, self-abuse, bullying, suicide.
But there is a grey zone that needs to acknowledged, and that is a place inhabited by real people with brains and hearts and memories.People treat beauty like a cosmological debate–that there must be One Beauty (in Wizard of Oz voice), one answer and anything else is an exception or a lie.The world can’t decide how best to glorify or denigrate its people. And it’s easy to blame The Others. The fashion industry. Whatever.It’s hard to blame ourselves-very true-but it gets easier when we chip away at it each day. Be aware. Stop judging others and yourself. Stop defining your life by your weight. Be thankful if you are happy.

I’m not sure anyone is privileged anymore: we tear one another down all the time. In the end, I guess I think of it like this: size didn’t go to the moon. People did. 
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17 thoughts on “The In-Between Girl: I’m Not Fat But I’m Not Skinny (And Everyone Wants Me To Pick A Side)

  1. So much more enlightened than the xojane article, which just made me want to give the author a good slap and tell her to pull herself together. From a plus-sized perspective, the entire purpose of the Body Positive movement, (when co-opted/hijacked by the mainstream as it has been increasingly of late), is to promote self-acceptance in slim-to-perfectly-average-sized women. When a plus-sized person writes about learning to love her body, she gets vilified and/or ridiculed; when she does it on a regular basis she gets death threats. Because health.

  2. Thank you for writing this! It’s so hard not to constantly compare yourself to other women and judge their (and your own) bodies. I’m currently riding with a 43-34-43 size 14, and I have yo-yo’d from there to a 38-29-38 size 6. Even at a size 6, I felt like I had a gut, plus I lost my gorgeous boobs. At the time, I still felt so self-conscious. When I look at pictures of myself at that weight, I’m like holy hell I looked amazing – how could I have still felt overweight? For me, I’ve tried to focus on exercising to be healthy instead of to lose weight. I’m trying to embrace my body and love my curves, even when I catch myself looking longingly at the flat tummies and toned arms of other women. Kudos to you for challenging the way we look at women’s bodies. It’s a hard pill to swallow that we’re all actually perfect the way we are. Embrace your bodies, ladies!

  3. Speaking from a male perspective here. I’m sorry that it’s rough for you girls. I’m empathetic. It’s a rough and superficial world out there. I am guilty of not being a little shallow in the dating world myself. Really, the single one quality everyone finds most attractive, male and female, is self confidence. Work what you got. if you’re not happy with something, then change it. But, true beauty does in fact come from within. I am pretty fed up myself with the “real women look like this” social media blitzing that’s been going on for a while. It’s sad how bitter and angry people are towards others appearances when really they are just reflecting how unhappy they are with themselves :(. Stay strong ladies!

    Also on a side note, those pictures you’ve taken of yourself are *absurdly* attractive. It’s good that you are proud of what you have (and it is fantastic).

  4. I think you mean to say cosmetic debate, not cosmological.

    Cosmology is the study of the origins and fate of the universe. Nothing to do with beauty or appearances.

    • Hi there! Thanks for reading.

      Actually, I did mean Cosmological. Not cosmetic. Because people blow it up into something much more grandiose, like cosmology–“People treat beauty like a cosmological debate–that there must be One Beauty (in Wizard of Oz voice), one answer and anything else is an exception or a lie.” I used this to demonstrate the hyperbolic nature of the preoccupation with beauty. Just as people might argue there is ONE beginning, others argue, with tenacity, that there is one beauty.

  5. Wonderful article, been looking for something like this.
    I’m 143lbs and 5’5″, medium build, muscular upper body with broad shoulders and small bust and waist. Most of the time I feel fairly confident, although my hips and thighs are probably a bit big compared to the rest of my body.
    When I was studying I was around 130lbs and my period stopped, my gums were bleeding regularly and I was feeling faint all the time (the weight loss was due to lack of money to buy food and no transport = walking miles and miles, not dieting).
    I live in Asia and when I went to the doctor after one of my fainting spells, she told me I was underweight for my body type and frame. When I told this to my classmates some of them laughed and didn’t believe me. It doesn’t help that people here have naturally tiny frames and usually lack muscle (not a bad thing to me, makes women look feminine), so I’m always considered “plus sized” here. Does it make me feel good? I have to say not… I don’t think it’s wrong to be a bigger size, especially when it’s your natural, healthy state but I guess everyone is prone to feel insecure, especially after hearing comments from other people…

  6. Pingback: ‘Do You Think I’m Fat?’: How We Talk About Weight | LUNA LUNA

  7. This was awesome! I inhabit the same space, pretty much. I’m currently sitting at 170 pounds (but I’m quite muscular) and 5’7” and most of that poundage resides in my hips, butt, and thighs- and being a white girl with a big ass is a whole other story of its own. I can realistically squeeze in anywhere between an 8 and a 14 in women’s sizes. Sometimes in tops I wear a small or medium, because I had my boobs reduced from 34Gs a few years back. But no matter how much weight I lose, I’m never below a 10 or an 8. There’s just no way. Oftentimes I find myself feeling gargantuan next to certain women, and straight up tiny next to others. I realize that yes, part of this is in my head, too- but a lot of it comes from other people too. It’s a weird-as-fuck place to be sometimes.

    I’ve had a lot of struggles with my body, but mostly I’ve realized it comes down to me being happy and confident and not giving a fuck about what other people think- although that’s so much easier said than done. But I’m getting better about it every day. Posts like these help me feel less alone. Well done.

  8. THANK YOU! This middle ground is where I fall also, but didn’t realize it for a really long time. I always felt like I shouldn’t like my body, even if I was mostly comfortable with it, because it was never just in one category. I could never fit into the Seventeen’s “Clothes for Your Body Type!” descriptions, because I’m a compilation of features that couldn’t be defined in their entirety as “curvy all over” or “athletic” or “hourglass.” I always felt like I would offend someone by staking a claim for a certain body type, because to my super-skinny friends, I’m curvy, and to my similarly proportioned or heavier friends, I’m average or thin. Either I have a body that needs work or have a body that is socially acceptable, and for a long time I couldn’t tell how I should feel about the messages I received.
    And then, I decided just to like my body (a long process that wasn’t that simple, but it boils down to that). Every woman is a “real” woman, despite her size, because she identifies as a woman. And if people try to squeeze me into one category of body type, it’s fine. I’ve already defined who I am for myself, and that’s all I need.

  9. This is a great piece, in a way it comes down to an inability to be empathetic to another person’s issues/existence/multifaceted nature. I have multiple times been told I’m “not allowed” to complain about my body because I happen to be a teeny tiny little person (it’s true, even my shoes look like doll shoes). And while I can eat pasta all day long without gaining weight, I also happen to have a whole ass load of stainless steel in my spine, and lots and lots of gnarly scars that people gawk at. My body is no walk in the park, although it looks that way to some. I think comments like this come from a fixation on one’s self image that is so strong that there’s an inability to see anything outside of a narrow range of options or categories. In essence, if it doesn’t apply to that person, it can’t possibly exist or be legitimate. There are fabulously wealthy people who struggle with mental illness, and so called “overweight” people who run marathons. But marketing doesn’t work this way, marketing only works if you simplify and essentialize a group of people down to one or two things. So Rich=Happy and Fat=Unhealthy, and there’s nothing in between, which is where most of us actually are.

    • Mona, that’s a perfect point–people just wave a magic wand and come up with some magic measurement for perfection. What they don’t understand is that each body comes with a lifetime inside of it. Thanks for sharing this!

  10. Oh, god, YES. We have almost the exact same stats, & it’s so refreshing to hear all of this. When I try to bring it up with friends/Facebook, I encounter many of the same things you do–“Don’t complain–at least you have 34Ds!!” or “Ugh, at least you’re under (x) weight/pants size…” I wish people would see that just as there’s no finite amount of beauty, there’s–unfortunately–no finite amount of insecurity.

    When I was in grad school, one particularly vile girl at a party said, “You’re SOOO pretty for being a bigger girl!!” It hadn’t crossed my mind before that moment that anyone there thought I was “a bigger girl,” but I’ll be damned if I didn’t go home & scrutinize every tagged photo of myself. That backhanded compliment has stung me longer than any direct insult/criticism I’ve ever received about my body/appearance.

    Most days, I love my hips/ass/thighs/tits. I look at myself in the mirror–especially in something that makes me feel sexy (usually lingerie)–& say, “YEAH, GIRL.” But then sometimes, I’ll take a second look at my stomach & think it looks too fat, & then I’m sucked into the awful cycle of comparison & self-loathing–despite all the awesome things about my body that I love & would never wish away.

    • Thank you so much for reading! I appreciate it! I hate when people try to compliment, but sneak in some sort of totally socially unacceptable insult. I guess it wouldn’t so “unacceptable” if people weren’t trained to hate themselves. I love my body but am sick of the push and pull of beauty. Something that has always stuck with me was the SAME: “You look great at that size.” I just don’t understand. I don’t understand the qualifiers to beauty.

    • I’ve been handed the “you have such a pretty face” and “you’re beautiful for a heavy girl” and every time I’ve just wanted to be like, nope. I’m just pretty. No qualifiers. Gah.

  11. Great read! We have the same measurements, and I have felt exactly like this about my body, the only difference is that I started off at 130 and was a size 27 jeans 4 years ago, and being the hoarder that I am, I’m still holding on to the clothes that no longer fit. I’m planning to give it away to a friend now to move on and just embrace the size that I am. That in-between size, that when asked how much I weigh or what my size is, the response is always the same, “no way” “you look so skinny” or “you’ve got a great, curvy figure”. Who cares? Being happy is the most important thing! :)

    xx

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