It has taken me forever to write this. I’m not sure why, but I find that I used to enjoy engaging in conversations concerning my weight or body image when I was younger. Always trying to prove to people that people who look like me should be loved and appreciated. Before a recent body image attack, I was moving away from these conversations, with the assumption that there is no longer a need for them and that society was finally coming to terms with ‘ otherness’.
I have always been aware of my size.
Aware of the fact that there are certain things I couldn’t wear, or made to believe that there are certain things I couldn’t wear.
Aware of the fact that I couldn’t just have a crush on some men because I wasn’t a first preference.
Aware of the fact that I had to eat in a certain way in public because I would get judged on it based on my weight.
Aware of the fact that I had to compensate with my personality to grab any form of attention.
Aware of the fact that I couldn’t play in a certain way because my belly would fall out of my tights. Aware of the fact that I constantly had to be in tights or my thigh rubs would hurt.
Aware of the fact that I had to be brilliant in school because you couldn’t be fat and lazy.
Aware of the fact that society was more tolerant of a human being who did not exercise their mind, than of a human who did not exercise their body. So someone can call me fat, but I can’t call someone stupid.
I have worked through each and every one of my body insecurities. I have survived bullying, I have survived being called names and until about a month ago I thought my thick skin was impenetrable.
I was wrong.
About 6 weeks ago I was on holiday with some of my best friends in Vietnam. The Instagram pics (See @Nthati) were a true reflection of the experience, however they failed to display the insecurities that played in my head on a daily basis while I was away.
The average Vietnamese woman is 53,4kg and 1, 54 tall, so they are quite small. Throughout my stay I was a hit in the country, many wanting to take photos of me. At first it felt great, then strange and in our last few days of travel it became annoying.
In our last city, Hanoi we went shopping, or at least my smaller friends did. In 80% of the shops I was asked not to fit the clothes because they were too small for me. I couldn’t try on any shoes because they did not have my size. Shop after shop after shop, the response was the same: ‘too small for you, no?”
About 6 hours later I was back in the hotel room, by myself in tears.
I asked myself many questions, was it because I was big and black? Was it because they genuinely had no big sizes? Why did they not have any big sizes?
That experience pierced through the thick skin I was once proud of, and 6 weeks later I am still licking my wounds.
And now more than ever, I am aware that having a positive body image is constant work. Constant layering of the thick skin, constant negotiating, constant battles, constant fighting off insecurities and we should keep speaking about it, because the kind of society I want to raise my kids in, isn’t one that teaches them to lose weight because they are fat, but one that doesn’t place so much value on how they look.
Am I asking for too much?