Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Oh So Skinny

There's a song called "All About That Bass" by Meghan Trainor that I initially really enjoyed. When I heard it for the first time, I didn't quite pay attention to the lyrics nor had I watched the video. So I enjoyed listening to it for many weeks after that. Then I finally saw the video & actually heard the lyrics. Since then there's an odd feeling I get when I listen to it. I still enjoy the tune & the overall feel of the song but the message disturbs me. Because the message of the song is quite paradoxical & it hits close to home. On the one hand it says you are perfect the way you are so don't worry about your size; on the other hand it says boys like more booty to hold at night. So... you're perfect if you have more booty since that's what boys prefer? WHAT???!?! Great. Now you're giving a reason for skinny people to feel inadequate & undesirable. 

This is what brought on an important inner discussion for me. This made me think long & hard about my feelings & I realized that this is one of those rare sensitive topics that make me feel low about myself. I'm going to turn 24 years old in a month & I still haven't settled on my opinion about my body. This is also one of the most difficult blog posts I've written.

I keep going through phases when sometimes I'm comfortable in my skin & sometimes I'm not. When I was in my early teenage years, I never felt this uncertainty; I was more than comfortable in my body. I didn't even notice that girls around me were growing boobs & I wasn't. Was it because I was in a girls' school? But even when I moved to a co-ed, I didn't feel inadequate. This began during my college life. It started with aunties & uncles commenting on how skinny I am.

Here are some of the comments I hear on a regular basis & my response to them (which is restricted to my inner voice):

"Eat something" - No thank you, I'll live without eating. Unlike your body, I have a mutant body that can survive without this basic necessity called food.

"Your parents don't give you food?" - No they don't. They're too busy giving me a better life than they had. Please call child services. 

"Come & stay with us for a month & you'll become fine" - Oh so you're one of those miracle workers? Like Baba Ramdev? Hmm, what's your strategy? Does this come with a money back guarantee?

"Take some meat from my body & put it on yours" - Cool. How about you go get a medical degree first & then invent this process. 

Putting their hand around my leg/wrist & saying "Look at those legs- so skinny! Your legs are the size of my arms!" - Good. Now I'll go replace the talking monkey in the street circus so people can come watch me & be amused.

"You're pretty, but you'll be prettier if you put on some weight" - Umm....Thank you....?

"The wind will blow you away!" - And you'll melt humanity with your stupidity! 

There's a BuzzFeed article that pretty much sums up my entire social life while throwing a little humor into this sad situation. 

Most people over a certain age believe it's their right to comment on my figure. Not only comment about how skinny I am but also assume that it's because I don't eat & give unsolicited advice about it. It’s actually quite ironic because most of these people are on the unhealthily fat side. If I wanted your advice, I would have asked for it. If I thought you were competent enough or an expert in the field & that I needed help, I would have certainly asked for it. But no, you're not an expert. You're fat & that's not a qualification!

Let’s talk about implicit social rules here for a bit. Why is it okay to call me 'skinny' at your free will but it's offensive if I call someone 'fat'? Why? Oh wait, I've been told that the acceptable word is 'Voluptuous'. You know, like how you can't call a deaf person deaf since the acceptable term is 'Hearing Impaired'. Okay. Is there an "acceptable" word for 'skinny' then that I haven’t heard of?

Dude, you know nothing about my medical history or genetic background so with what confidence are you assuming that I’m skinny because I want to be skinny? I have always been skinny. I was born underweight & I always have been. It's not like I was given a choice & I chose to be skinny. I eat fine. It's true that I'm not a big eater but I am neither bulimic nor do I skip meals. I'm just naturally skinny; plain & simple. Being skinny is in my genetic structure. You know how I know this? Because multiple doctors have said so! My Mother was 40 kgs when she got married. She, like me, was always skinny. She, like me, was a sportswoman. In fact she was better than me. She represented India in Basketball, played cricket for the state & was an athlete throughout her school life, college life & early career. She was skinny but she was fit. If she wasn't fit, I doubt she would've had such an incredible sports career. Similarly, my Father was quite skinny. He was in the Indian Air Force for 15 years & I'm sure you know how much importance is given to fitness when you're in National Defence. My brother is quite skinny too but he also is a damn good sportsman. My parents are in their late fifties now but they still look like they're in their forties. That's how fit they are despite their 'figures' & 'weights'. I highly doubt that these ‘voluptuous’ people who give us unsolicited ‘health’ advice can move at the speed & with the endurance that we can.

Listen, just like how you would argue that being 'large' is not necessarily unhealthy, being 'skinny' is also not the same as being unhealthy. You don't know the next person's medical history or genetic background or even just what their life has been so far & that means you don't know enough to say whether someone's trying to be size 0 or is unhealthy. Also, I think at the age of 24 I know enough about my body to have tried various things & identified what has resulted in success & what in failure (I'm looking at you Aunties who keep saying I should try XYZ protein shakes).

There’s a beautiful blog post titled “OMG do you eat?” written by Rebecca Judd- a model, speech pathologist, mother &  wife- on her being the target of “Skinny Shaming” by a famous daily. It neatly sums up my issues with this. Seriously, why can't the message be ‘"Be healthy" & be healthy because you deserve it’? Why does it have to be ‘"Be skinny" or "Be fat" because boys want it?’ Why does Meghan Trainor have to sing about the time when her Momma told her that boys like a little more booty at night so throw that damn Barbie away?! Her Momma should have told her to get her act together. 

I’ll tell you what ‘skinny shaming’ does, what I let happen to me.
There was a brief period when I started to withdraw from social interactions. I would refuse to go to parties with my parents because I knew I would have to face 'skinny shaming' without lashing out. I just didn't have the patience to deal with that. I also stopped dancing & performing on stage because I looked really skinny compared to all the other dancers/performers in the group. I got extremely conscious about going on stage & having the spotlight on me. I started imagining that everybody's eyes were on me & they were whispering how skinny & ugly I am. So I just stopped doing the thing I did since I was three years old- dancing. I gave up dance for a while & with it whatever little grace I had. (Eventually I went back to dancing; I took up Kathak & that brought back some amount of grace & inner beauty that I needed.)

I see all these Instagram photos & blogs which women of my age post about their bodies & I'm simply amazed. How do they have so much confidence in their bare skin to post a beautiful picture of their body? I'm too conscious to even pose for a photo fully clothed & here are everyday women of my age sharing pictures of their bodies.   

I've never been one to wear skimpy clothes in public such as tube tops, hot pants, mini-skirts, corsets, etc., not because I know I don't have the body for it but mostly because I want to avoid 'skinny shaming’. (And also because I never find any of these in my size.) As it is shopping for my size in India is impossible since very rarely do I find clothes of my size. On top of that every time I have to dress up to go out, I spend a considerable amount of time wondering which piece of clothing would make me look less skinny. Even for my hairstyle I go through the same decision making process.

Let's talk about guys' behaviour towards my figure for a bit now. You'd imagine that I would feel inadequate because men don't find me pretty since I'm too skinny. But no, that couldn't be further from the truth. Except uncles & their fathers, not many men have commented on my 'skinny' figure. It's mostly been from women & media. And what is this BS about men like ‘Real Women’? What makes ‘voluptuous’ women “real” and not me? So I guess that the time when my Mother was bedridden for a week & I spent 2.5 hrs everyday cooking for the whole family of 6- breakfast, lunch & dinner- I wasn’t being a real woman since I don’t have any curves. Okay awesome.
I have become so conscious about my body now that I don't believe a man when he says he finds me hot or beautiful. My mind just blocks it out. My immediate thoughts are “maybe he says that to every girl” or “maybe he’s just saying that to get into my skirt” or “maybe he’s a loser & thinks I’m easy”. As you can imagine, this is one of the big factors that is affecting my love life.

But in the spirit of being honest I have to admit that this year has not been good for me health-wise. I had my first ever operation this year & fell ill a few times before & after that. Most of the issues though were brought on by mental stress. See there's another thing- Mental health is as important, if not more, as physical health. When I realized that my job was killing me I decided to take a break to focus on my health. It's been a month & even though my focus is split between my health & preparing for the GMAT, I've done a good job w.r.t getting my health back on track. You know how I know this? Because I can feel it from within even though it hasn't resulted in a bigger booty. More on this in another post.

So like I said, I don’t work towards being skinny. Yes, I’d like to have bigger boobs so I can shop for bras easily, and have a bigger behind so I can finally fill out my damn jeans. But it’s not a choice that I’m given. Having said that, if I were given a choice between only skinny & fat, I would choose skinny. You see, pardon me, but if we get onto a race track, I bet it would be my ‘skinny’ legs that would defeat your 'voluptuous' backside. Now that much I'm confident about.

Here's something for the skinny guys too :)


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