by Acasia Olson
“If you see 20 pounds on the floor, you should pick it up,” he says in jest.
We all laugh a little, though I cringe inside.
“That’s all you’re eating? You should eat more?” she tells me, after looking at my food.
“You sound like my mom,” I reply.
“You need some more junk in your trunk as they say,” he comments.
“You need to back away from that fine line of violation since you have no right or reason to comment on my body, my weight, or as some folks attempt to argue, lack thereof,” I want to say.
I have been tall and slim all my life.
I didn’t have an issue with my body image until adolescence, when I noticed a lot of my friends and peers filling out and all I could show for it were two plums for breasts and a rump no fuller than a stack of 3 pancakes. I would wonder when my time would come and why my clothes always seemed to fit me the way a plastic bag fits an ear of corn. The insecurity fluctuated. I wanted to be a fashion model at a young age, and thanked the Creator for a body that the fashion industry appreciated. Yet, while my body type was praised on the catwalk and in the magazines, I couldn’t help but wonder if my figure made me unattractive to the guys I liked growing up.
Weight weight…don’t tell me.
“If I had larger breast, thicker thighs, hips and a derriere maybe he would look at me,” I thought. But then I would think about the stress and frustration of having boys touch my butt or boobs and think, “I don’t want all of that, I just want to fill a bra cup at some point in my young life.”
I received reassurance from family members who told me that my body was natural and that I wasn’t the only one in my family that served as president of the ‘itty bitty titty committee’. My maternal grandmother remained slim and trim after delivering three children and two of my aunts on both sides of my family were thin. But (weight weight…don’t tell me) then I would look at my shorter younger sister, who has an ‘envious’ figure and would wonder how I ended up being a “stick house” and not a “brick house” like her or my mom. My body type was celebrated by the majority of society, where women went on diets and sadly starved themselves to get to my size. I observed this to be true among white women and girls who were typically featured in ads, 20/20 reports and Lifetime movies about anorexia. I later learned that women of color also struggled with anorexia, bulimia, diet pill addictions and ODing at the gym. At 5’9 most women admitted to me that they would “kill” for my tall athletic build and ability to eat anything I want while maintaining my weight (which I choose not to disclose), but (weight weight…don’t tell me) in some settings I wasn’t thick enough to make the ‘cut.’ Among my black and brown peers, I was a phenotypic misfit and lacked the assets that the community seemed to praise. Even though I loved India.Arie’s song “Video” and I connected with most of the lyrics…the line about not being “Plain built like a supermodel” made me cringe once again, for I was built like that supermodel she talked about and not like a coke bottle. I eventually went to college, where I met other black women who came in a variety of shapes and sizes, some of whom could feel my pain. And once again, I regained another ounce of self-confidence and reaffirmed that my black (body) is beautiful.
If I were overweight or obese, I believe that most of my colleagues and family would refrain from making weight jokes or comments on my weight directly to me ( I said most, not all). They wouldn’t look at me and say, “Oh Acasia! Girl you look like you gained weight. Are you obese?!” That’s not acceptable. So why do people think it’s fine to tell a thin person that they need to “eat” or that we don’t have enough “junk in the trunk” or that we’re “skin and bones”? I often question the motives behind said silly comments. I’m pretty sure most people are well aware of their weight, body type and size, whether large or small. People forget that the thin and heavier populations wake up and go to sleep in the same body and we see ourselves every day before the rest of the world does. The reminders and announcements are unnecessary. People also assume that we’re looking for social commentary and opinions on our bodies. While everyone is entitled to their opinions and shouldn’t have their observations censored, I would like to think that those of us who fall outside the ‘average’ BMI range don’t need to be reminded that we are ‘outliers’ in the weight department. I’ve tried to gain weight, in a healthy fashion, and though I can eat a lot of food without gaining so much as a pound I will not allow myself to become guilty about my weight. This is the way I am. In no way am I trying to overshadow or belittle the reality of heavier men and women who struggle with the discomfort and widespread social stigmas associated with weight discrimination.
I just need people to think before they speak.