The Numbers

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.

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8 thoughts on “The Numbers

  1. lisamariefletcher

    This. SO this. Amazing insight and wisdom and revelation. <3 Thanks for taking the time to share this.

  2. Stephanie

    There are SO many parts of this I can relate to. Once again, for many reasons, I thank you for your candid honesty.
    For what its worth, and this you know, I never saw you as planning a VBAC or VBAMC. I always saw you planning the healthiest possible birth for your kids; it was always just an extention of your parenting system. It might not be conventional, but it was always about taking care.
    On the NUMBERS side, I recently looked at pics of myself at camp when I was 16 and remember feeling so uncomfy in my skin. I was a size 8. ugh, I dont want this for my girls….

  3. loloM

    It’s like you and I are the same person! Although not as tall as you, I’m taller and bigger than the “average” and boy have I struggled with that all my life. I’m not a girly-girl and tell myself I don’t want to be, but I also hate NOT being treated like a girly-girl! I struggle with my femininity, alternating between embracing my height and curves, and feeling like a clumsy, lumbering, Amazon woman.

    Not to say that misery loves company, but it is good to know that there are women out there who identify with my particular issues. And because you are fabulous, maybe there’s a chance I am too! xoxoxo

  4. Chris

    You were beautiful then, and beautiful now! You’re right when you say that almost nobody looks like society’s ideal image. I struggle with “society’s image”, especially after having a daughter. They learn it so early! I can’t count how many times she will say “don’t I look beautiful” after putting on a dress, or make-up, or doing her hair up fancy. And every time, I tell her she is beautiful just the way God made her. She doesn’t need anything else to be beautiful.

  5. Jacqui Gingras

    As we drive across Canada with the family, I am reading your story and I am just so … Emotional. Your experience resonates for me as a woman, as a mom, as a partner, and as an activist. You are making such a tremendous ripple in our social ocean by saying you accept yourself. Our bodies do NOT need to change to suit some social ideal. The social ideal must shift to accept diversity in bodies. I think one of the most powerful ways to do that is to practice radical self acceptance – like you – and that looks like (for me) eating and moving in a loving way. Doing things for my body to keep it strong and magnificent JUST AS IT IS. Oh, geez…now the tears! I stand beside you herein you on in your radiance and strength and grace. You are my feminist family nature superhero!!
    J
    PS: the second most powerful way to change society is to not buy products that are sold to promote body distrust or shame. Thay’s the diet industry, baby, and it is one hungry beast. We give it way too many of our resources, in my humble opinion. Watcha think, mrs. FN?

  6. Angela Cuddy

    Last night my 3 teenagers (2 girls, 1 boy) were watching “Grease”. My 17 year old son said…”So mom, the point of this movie is that women need to change to please men? Why did either of them need to change? And if they did, why couldn’t he? Stupid movie.”
    ….a proud moment for me as a mom especially seeing the twinkle in my two daughters eyes as they exchanged glances and said nothing.

    Thank you for speaking to the numbers that haunt us all. Hopefully the more we talk, the better our chances of breaking the cycle. You are beautiful then and now.

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