Palesa

Slender sa ma catalogue…

Growing up I’ve always been labelled many different names, but the one that I just can’t seem to shake off, is ‘slender sa ma catalogue.’ Now, I get that it’s meant as a compliment, but to me it also means that according to society, I have no right to complain about my weight, I mean, why would I, right?

Some of the biggest misconceptions about having a small figure is that you look good in everything, you don’t struggle with finding clothes in your size and well, being small is an absolute dream…

WRONG!

Now I’m not complaining about having a small figure, I love my size, but there are days when being a size 4 is not always what it seems. I’ve walked around in huge malls with hundreds of stores and more often than not, I can count the number of stores that cater for me on one hand and they don’t always have the kind of clothing I like.

What if I do have weight issues and what if I do struggle to fit into clothes? Yes, slender girls struggle to fit into clothes too sometimes. It’s tiring and not forgetting, very depressing to not be able to find clothes that fit you, regardless of your size. It’s as if to say, you don’t matter enough or you’re not good enough and the designers simply won’t waste their time with you. Funny though because we’re made to believe that a small figure means you’re perfect, so why wouldn’t they cater for me?

Being small also means that everywhere I go, I have unnecessary pressure and judgement thrown at me: “slender girls are weak” or “slender girls know how to dance,” they say, “slender girls were born to be supermodels and dare not become anything else,” I hear, but what if I don’t want to be a dancer or a supermodel for that matter? What if, I actually want to become an engineer or an architect? What if I want to become a builder or a scientist or maybe even an astronaut? What if I actually want to build my career in a field that doesn’t require me to be small or even “look pretty” for that matter?

I’ll be honest, though, not being able to fit into clothes doesn’t bother me as much as people who always feel the need to point out that I am slender. It’s as if to say, “Everyone in the room is human and I’m slender.” Why does my size matter so much to people? Is that all I’m expected to bring to the table? My size 4 figure? It gets so bad that sometimes, I am told that I am not a real African woman because a real African woman has child-bearing hips and a reverse yomhlaba.

At times I’ve even been shut down in the boardroom simply because “I look like I belong in a catalogue.” I ignore it as much as I can but there are moments at the end of every day where I wonder if I’m not as intelligent and educated as I thought, because if I were, surely people would notice that the minute I open my mouth. Then again, how can they notice that when they aren’t even willing to hear what I have to say?

My whole life I’ve always tried to avoid getting into conversations about weight because I’m simply not expected to have any weight issues, like being underweight; yes, that is an actual issue you know. Even at the gym I would get judged because apparently, gym is only for people who need to lose weight.

My whole life I have always had to prove my worth, prove that I’m not just a pretty face, prove that I can get A’s in class, do well on the sports field, hold a mentally stimulating conversation and still maintain my feminine build.

My whole life I have and still continue to wonder why we women (and even men sometimes) are always so caught up in how we look.

Whenever I’ve gained weight, I’ve always had other people pointing it out to me, same goes for when I lose the weight. Had it not been for people always mentioning my size to me, I probably wouldn’t even know about half my flaws.

Growing up, I had to make a choice though. I either focus on the negative noise that people make about my body or when I look at myself, I look beyond the physical qualities I see in the mirror. Yes, it is important to love the way I look, no matter how bony I am or how loose my clothes sit on me and no matter how many times people refer to me as a hanger because of that.

Growing up I had to learn that I am not my thigh gap, I am an African queen with gold in my heart. My true value lies within me regardless of how I look today or how I’ll look tomorrow and if people choose to only see what’s on the outside, they’ll be missing out on the kingdom I carry within me.

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