As a woman of a certain size I feel a great deal of responsibility to the world. This basically means that I try not to end up on peopleofwalmart.com, which is both a horrible and fascinating site. I remember no time in my life where I was thin. I was a 9 lb. baby. I was a chunky cheeked toddler. In fourth grade I remember thinking that my head was abnormally large when compared to those around me. In middle school I became focused on the amount of space between my belly and the stationary desk. In high school I got pregnant and my prom dress was an electric blue tent with beading across one lactating breast. What I probably had was a plus size case of body dysmorphia. Now at 37, I am a 22-24 and live by the strict rule of only looking at myself in the mirror if I have pants and at least a bra on. Please understand that I like myself very much. I think I am smart, funny, occasionally insightful, kind of sexy, if not a little lumpy. But as a plus sized person there is a responsibility to myself and others that starts with not wearing off brand Keds.
Let me paint the picture for you. You’re standing in Wal-Mart idly thumbing through the racks of White Stag and Faded Glory shirts when your eyes meet up with the woman across the aisle. She is dressed in the official uniform of “hot fat mess” at Wal-Mart. A woman with greasy hair parted down the middle, a pair of leggings so tight that you could pick her vulva out of a police lineup, a Tweety bird shirt that leaves an inch of white belly exposed, and lace-less off brand Keds. I know that this seems like a mean description, but I promise you she is real and you have seen her too. There is a stereotype about plus sized women, but I think it is worse for women in the south. We could now call it the Honey Boo Boo effect. Fat southern women spend their time walking around town in pajama bottoms, drinking Diet Mountain Dew, and gnawing on a chicken leg. But I am here today to preach to you what fat southern women really do. We wake up early and get dressed for work. We get our kids up and to school. We laugh with our friends. We worry about our families. Very rarely if ever are we involved in redneck games. As a plus sized person I work hard to look like I mildly have my shit together. I wear pants and shoes to run my errands; no matter how much my polka dot pajama pants with the busted elastic waist are calling my name.
I often wonder where my body dysmorphia comes from. Is it internal or from an external source? I know that my mother always worried about her body. Talking about her bumps and body slumps with Kara and I while we were teenagers. I played with Barbie as a little girl, but in no way did I ever think that I should have the same stature as the 12 inch doll. Did I learn my body images from TV? I do know that as a child my Barbie doll became pregnant, and she needed a doctor to deliver the baby. So, I cut off another Barbie’s hair and dressed her in Ken’s clothes stuffed with toilet paper to fill in the gaps. Essentially, I created the first “butch Barbie,” but I know that this was in response to having never seen (at that time, because God had not yet given us Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman) a female doctor on TV or in my real life. I may never know where my body issues came from but I know that I spend every day fighting them; pushing them to the darkest rooms of my psyche while they fight back and sharpen their teeth on my self-esteem. If I lost 100 pounds I know that I would always check my double chin before allowing a photo to be posted. I know that I will always worry about the way my stomach laps over on itself from the C-sections I have had. The only way I know to combat the self-doubt I feel is to rally against the stereotypes. I cannot let myself be the lady in the Tweety bird shirt. I will not dress in a way that hides who I am. These are the mantras of a fat lady. These are my Vedas.