EMBRACING THE CURVY LIFESTYLE
“You know you’re adopted, right?”
Despite my squinty-eyed smile, hyena-like laugh, bird-adjacent family nose, and lack of any musical or rhythmic talent I share with my family, my sister made me believe this statement for a good portion of my childhood.
I can go through the features that separated me from my family: voluminous curly hair, dark green eyes, my face looked more like a cherub’s than a human’s. But the biggest feature (no pun intended) that stood out was my curves. I seemed to be the only girl in my family who hit puberty in fifth grade and didn’t stop there.
Growing up for me was hard. I was by no means the first girl in my class to hit puberty, but I was also not one of those who hit puberty and only had a new toiletry kit to show for it. My body pretty quickly transformed into one that could be either 16 or 25 years old. Ironically, my baby face carries that possibility with me still today. But I wasn’t the only victim of the shame that so often comes with curves, or the lack thereof. I have had friends in all shapes and sizes.
We all can get into a habit of laying on each other’s beds and griping about this waistline or that lack of a butt. It seems like a bonding activity. My curves were never something I was proud of growing up. In fact, I still have to fight the urge to wear a Men’s XL shirt outside my house to cover up my body. I never really wore clothes that complimented me, but rather those that hid me. I still see the repercussions of hiding myself in my life today, almost 12 years after puberty. The implications of hiding are subtle: no tight clothes, few short dresses , forehead bangs, bad posture, etc. But they are still very much present in my life.
I don’t want to go into detail about how my body looks compared to others’ and what I pick apart in the mirror because, really, those differences have made both life and body positivity really hard for me. It’s hard to look so similar to your family and friends in everything until you turn sideways. Now, I’m not saying I’m “large” in any way, but, to be quite honest, swimsuit season is a pretty hard time for me.
I doubt I’m the only one who feels this way. People often look to those around them to make sure that they fit in. Have you ever been to an exercise class in which you had no idea what you were doing? You began to copy that girl in the front with the perfect ponytail and those Lululemon leggings really quickly, didn’t you?
As humans, we claim we want individuality all the time, and some of us really do, but when it comes to something that we carry with us as often as we carry our bodies around, we want to see a plethora of similar makes and sizes just so we know we fit into society’s “right.”
Now, this isn’t to say that “society is to blame.” I’m really not qualified to write a political piece or something for which I need a soapbox, but be careful in what your distinction is between conformity and individuality. It’s okay to not look like the Lululemon in the front of your gym class. It’s okay to turn sideways and have a little more “umph” than your friends. It’s okay to not be okay with those things yet, too.
I think sometimes the real shame comes from feeling ashamed of our bodies. Why do we do this? Why do we so often put down our own bodies and feel almost comforted by that action? I think it’s overcompensation. In a world that is so obsessed with the “perfect body” which really no one can achieve; no one wants to be the one person who loves their body, just in case someone is hiding around the corner to dash their dreams.
So where do we go from here? I think, to avoid too much cheese, we love ourselves enough to have grace when we don’t and celebrate when we do. Small steps in acceptance really help the big leaps towards love.