For the most-part, I have always loved being tall. I’m just a shade less than 6 feet with an hourglass figure. There’s something striking about tall women, don’t you think? Someone told me once that tall people are elegant no matter what; that they can trip and fall and still look elegant. I don’t see myself as particularly elegant but still, I like the idea that this is how some people might see me. I had a teacher in high school who insisted that I pursue a modelling career – like, every time I saw her in the hallways. Others always thought I would be great at basketball (I wasn’t). Mr. FamilyNature sees me as the strong-Xena-Warrior-Princess-type. Elegant, warrior princess, model, athlete – however it is people view tall women, most people view it as something positive. I can’t imagine being any other way.
As a result of being tall and curvy, I’ve never been a one-size-fits-all kind of gal. Things never seem to fit me well. Gloves are too small, sleeves and pants too short, the bust-line and waist-line of dresses never sit in the right place, and all my t-shirts end up like crop-tops after they’ve gone through the dryer a couple of times. I wish that tables and counter tops were just a little bit higher. That bathtubs and beds were a little bit longer. The world is made for average people. That’s what makes the most sense.
So here’s where I go sideways a bit. When I’m not thinking about it, I feel like I am exactly like everyone else. I am average. I am normal. But then I look in the mirror, or see a picture of myself, or catch a reflection of myself walking down the street with a friend, or I go clothes shopping – or worse, when I go bra shopping and walk out with a size most people didn’t even know existed – I feel awkward and out of place. At times like these I don’t think I look “normal”, as in, the way a woman is “supposed” to look. There is an image of what society thinks the ideal woman should look like. I am not it.
A while ago, when I was cleaning out some old boxes, I came across some old pictures. I found this:
In this picture, I’m 20. I look at it now and think that I’m gorgeous and that I’d kill to have that body again. At the time? I thought I was fat and I hated my body. I wish I could go back and give my 20-year-old-self a shake.
When that picture was taken I was a size 12 or 14. Usually, size 14 is considered a plus size (depending on where you shop). At the time I hated that I was so dangerously close to being a plus size when I was at a pretty normal weight for my body type. In this picture I’m also very, very close to the BMI’s definition of “overweight”. When I stepped on a scale, the number that came up is a number that was in a range in which “normal” women don’t show up. I was tormented by these numbers then and still am today. I am reminded constantly by the numbers, that I am not “normal” or “average”.
Not long after my first was born, Mr. FN and I went shopping. I needed some new clothes. Maternity clothes were too big but I wasn’t fitting into my pre-pregnancy clothes. We went into a store and when I was looking at the clothes and sizes I realized that the “plus” size clothes were in a different section. There was a section off to the side of the store that had a big “Plus Size” sign hanging over it. It might as well have been a flashing neon sign. I wouldn’t have been caught dead there. I left the store empty handed. Later, when we were on our way home in the car, I cried and cried to Mr. FN, “I’m not a plus size person. I’m just a person!”
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a conformist. I shaved my head this spring partly as a rebellion. Sometimes I say things that not everyone would. My parenting style has not always been accepted by those around me. I fought for a VBA2C attempt when just about everyone in the medical world thought I was nuts (as a side note, the ACOG and SOGC have both since admitted that VBAMC is a safe option).
I try to teach my kids about acceptance and differences, and that if everyone looked the same, had the same opinion and agreed on everything the world would be a boring place. Nothing would ever change, nobody would ever take risks and everything would be stagnant and mediocre. I want them to know that it’s okay if they don’t conform, if they ask difficult questions, if they challenge things. In fact, I want them to be like that!
I want my daughter to love herself. I want her to feel beautiful no matter what her hair looks like. No matter what she wears. No matter what size she is. How do I instill these beliefs and self-confidence in her when I have a hard time with them myself?
There is a contradiction here, I realize that. I really do love being tall. I don’t ever want to be “normal” or “average”. I don’t want to conform. I simply could not live like that. I don’t look like society’s ideal image of a woman because almost nobody looks like that. But … in a way I do want to look like that ideal woman.
I’ve struggled with my weight since having kids. I’ve wanted to lose a bit of weight for years. But the truth is I don’t know if I’d be any happier if I did. There was a moment of realization when I found that old picture of myself. I hated my body then – that gorgeous, tall, flat-tummy, slim body – and although my body has changed since that photo, my feelings about it haven’t. My realization was this: it’s not my body that has to change, it’s my attitude. I keep that picture in my kitchen as a reminder. While I strive to be healthier; eat a bit better, exercise more, I know that I have to be a little easier on myself. Focus a bit less on the numbers and more on a healthy attitude, and this remains my biggest challenge.
Numbers photo by Koren Vereeken via Flickr.