The offending fat photo.
Today on Facebook, a friend posted a picture of our group from this weekend. We went to a Kentucky Derby-themed brunch, and as such, we dressed up. Big hats. Bow ties. Lots of pastels. We looked GOOD (even better than we usually do; I think we're a pretty attractive crowd).
And yet, when I saw a picture I was tagged in, my first reaction was "DELETE DELETE DELETE!" I was kind of slumped forward, and looking at the photo, all I could see was round belly, chubby thigh and wobbly arm. I was horrified.
I tried to untag myself but Facebook changes faster than I can adapt, so in haste I commented on the picture. Something like, "FRIEND why would you ever tag me in this it's the grossest I've ever looked take it down omg omg omg." He immediately untagged me and told me he meant no offense. He's a good dude.
After my little online freak-out, I was still worked up, so I tried to do a self-evaluation (you learn this in some touchy-feely workshops/at therapy/from people who have good sense). I asked myself: What am I feeling, what caused it/why do I feel this way, and what can I do about it?
What I was feeling: Fat. Ashamed. Unattractive. Shocked.
What caused it: Being confronted by an image of myself that I found unflattering. I looked larger than I felt in that picture. The week before I had worn the same blouse and felt the prettiest I had in a long time. This picture negated that, despite the fact that I was the same size both weekends.
What could I do about it: Assess the facts.
It's no secret that I am a round-ish lady. I take up the space that I take up. I'm also one of those wacky large folks who preaches fat acceptance. I'm a devoted follower of Lesley Kinzel, Marianne Kirby and Kate Harding. I believe in Healthy at Every Size. I send people to My Body Gallery and The Body is Not an Apology all the time so they can see other awesome, beautiful, capable bodies. I was part of the Real Girl Belly Project. And I've done the whole examine-in-the-mirror-while-nude thing, and even my weird body quirks (the sweat-curl I get at my left temple, for instance) are pretty cute to me. My standard response to anyone who’s fat-shamed me is “No one’s ever complained when I was naked!” Fact.
Same blouse, same hat, hot stuff.
I had a discussion once with Katonya Mosley, a badass storyteller from about being able to "pass" as a regular-sized lady, and indeed, the average American woman is a size 14 and so am I. That doesn't unround me. And normally, I feel really good about myself and my bod. It's the only one I have, so I try to treat it well.
That said, I'm not always happy with my own body. I'm pretty sure it can do better. I work out. I swim and I lift weights and I do yoga. I try to cook homemade meals with real proteins and veggies. I also bake and eat delicious breads because that is part of self-love too.
What ISN'T self-love? Cruel words toward oneself. "Gross?" "Horrifying?" Not this body! This body is the one that's going to tackle shoulder stand in yoga this summer, and this body swims a mile every Saturday. Nothing gross about that, except maybe the stank after yoga.
Plus, I would never in a million years call someone else's body gross or horrifying. I can't imagine being so mean. It shouldn't be OK to be hurtful to myself. I think a lot of people (read: women, fat folks, writers, anyone with a soul) are harder on themselves than they would ever be to someone else -- or than they'd allow someone else to be to them.
My "UNTAG" panic attack was silliness. I thought I could hide what I look like in the offending picture. But here's the dirty secret: THAT IS SOMETIMES WHAT I LOOK LIKE. And anyone who would see the picture already knows me, and knows what I look like. In fact, some of them are in the picture with me and they look super-good. And I’m pretty sure they think I look super-good at least some of the time, too.
So I’m trying to reconcile the way I look with the way I feel. They are not always the same. But this body does good stuff and has taken me great places. And no one has ever complained when I was naked. Not even me.