“You’ve grown fatter, you know.” My cousin said, sitting cross-legged on my bed, not even looking up from his iPhone. “Ever since summer vacation started.”
I scoffed and threw a glare his way. He just looked at me innocently and shrugged. I had this urge to whack him over the head with one of my pillows, but the tiny, non-violent part of me chose to ignore him and go back to drooling over the awesome tenor ukuleles on Amazon. It was probably the right decision. I just replaced my pillow covers and it was best to have it far away from his smug-looking face as possible.
The next time it was said, I was seated on the dining table, my laptop alongside a slice of chocolate cake that I bought from Goldilocks for Mother’s Day. It was ooey, gooey, and I walked down the street under the summer sun (without an umbrella, mind you) just to get it, and I sure as hell was gonna have my cake and eat it, too.
On the other side of the kitchen counter, my mom and aunt were having a conversation over some drinks. It was innocent enough, just some talk about plane fares or something. Until my ears picked up on some conspicuous chatter over the jazz music playing from my earphones (a few years in journalism pried my ears open permanently, I’m afraid so).
“She’s gained some weight, hasn’t she?” My aunt not-so-discreetly said to my mother, eyeing me carefully. She didn’t mean any harm, I’m sure. Probably just voicing out her observations. “A bit chubbier on the cheeks.”
My mom hummed in response, shooting me a look as if to say, “Don’t take it to heart, honey.”
I shot her a tight-lipped smile and went back to my work.
The last time it was said, I admitted it myself. My best friend and I were trying to squeeze in a coffee run in the middle of our 30-minute lunch break, and so we found ourselves seated on a small table at the local Starbucks, nursing cups of grande Frappuccinos. I was reading over an editorial article which was due in 10 minutes, she was taking pics for her Instagram story. It was a peaceful dynamic.
But looking at the caramel popcorn sprinkled on the mountain of whipped cream on my cup, I became suddenly aware of how snug my skinny jeans were clinging to my hips compared to their slight bagginess just a month or so before, and the inevitable question slipped out before I could focus on how heavy my arms were feeling. “I’ve gotten fat, haven’t I?” I said aloud, breaking the silence.
She looked up from her phone momentarily, regarding me with a curios look. Perhaps she was just checking if I was still mentally sane. “Maybe just a bit. Everyone’s fat these days, though.” She said in a tone that suggested it was nothing to worry about. She was probably right. But that didn’t stop me from calorie counting the whole tricycle ride back to our summer training at school.
Writing this now, sitting on our porch, watching the sun sink with a pint of Hiland Moose Tracks ice cream in my hand, I’ve come a long way from the insecure teenage girl who had a few nasty words thrown her way in the middle of summer (as far as said girl could go in a span of a month). If I have to be brutally honest here, even if my closet is still mostly composed of size small clothes, being called “fat” beckoned distant memories of the overweight kid I used to be, back when I was called “little pig” and I couldn’t buy pretty dresses from the bright boutiques because there weren’t any in my size; back before the diets and the workouts and the occasional fingers down the throat. Back to a simpler time.
When I was young (or younger, considering that 14 doesn’t really fall into the old spectrum), I never really worried about weight all that much. I was in an age where fat could still be considered “cute”. I spent a lot of time with my dad and my grandfather, both of whom bonded with me over our mutual love for buffets. We were a force to be reckoned with, carrying comic-book-period-Jughead style hunger. During the obligatory trips to my pediatrician, I was constantly declared overweight, about two hundred McFlurrys away from obese, but still.
I never really took any of it seriously, not until I was slowly easing into 12 and all my fellow fat friends (FFFs for short; BFFs are overrated) were beginning to slim down to curvy little things who could squeeze into xs t-shirts. At that time, I was already at a decent height, not far from my 5’4 stature right now. Most of my clothes were medium-sized and I had no need for my old large and extra large sized stuff. I was starting to slim down (thank the heavens for puberty), but some baby fat remained, and I grew to hate my pudgy arms and chubby stomach.
That feeling I had back then, when I was 12 and awkward and considered the “fat friend” of the group, was the exact same sensation that settled into the pit of my stomach and kindled a fire the moment my cousin remarked on my weight a month ago. It was the same monster that reared its ugly fat head while I was enjoying a well-deserved slice of chocolate cake. It was the same ghost that haunted me as I contemplated whether or not I should throw away the overpriced sugary drink I bought from Starbucks.
People can be real beyotches sometimes (although not to the point that I’d have to use the more wide-used alternative word for it). You can spend years building these walls made to protect yourself from the world, but these people, love them or hate them, will always be able to break them down and strip you down to your raw, vulnerable self, using nothing but the simple power of words. We can all admit that whispers, remarks, insults, threats, said in innocence or not, make us feel the judgement of the world. And I can admit that I’ve lived under that judgement for a very long time. But right now, typing this, eating ice cream straight off the carton, the mellow light of the sun hitting my eyes, I think I’m finally at a point where I can honestly say that none of it matters anymore. Things have changed and I have changed and life is better.
Sure, I still find it hard to finish one cup of rice every now and then. Yeah, I have an assortment of sports bras and yoga pants which I tend to overuse in my workout sessions. And okay, most of my clothes fall under the extra small / small category. But I also tend to pig out on yogurt drinks and spoonfuls of peanut butter on a nearly daily basis. Also, the money I try hard to save almost always ends up getting spent on bacon, slushies, and other assortments of grocery store junk food that weigh me down every now and then.
It’s a balanced little arrangement that holds me down enough to let me breathe a while. The numbers on the weighing scale are never constant every time I step on it. They plunge and skyrocket and waver continuously, almost as if afraid of staying still. And that’s fine with me. One of the unsung beauties of this world is the impermanence of everything in it. The numbers, the insecurities, the labels, the comments…they won’t last forever. And the sooner you realize that, the sooner you’ll be able to accept yourself as you are; absolutely beautiful and without-a-doubt worth it.
Out there, the sun is still high and the heat is still searing. Run out to the beach if you have the chance. And please, ditch the rash guards and the baggy shirts. The stores are full of perfectly good swimsuits and you have a perfectly good body. And honestly, to all those people who would go out on a limb and say that you’re not “beach body material”, it’s pretty obvious that they lack basic common sense. Somewhere out there is a beach, and attached to your pretty head is a set of limbs and a stomach and whatever else is required to make up the basic human anatomy. Put two and two together and you get a beach body. It’s not really that hard to understand. If they can’t accept that logic, then it’s their loss. At least one of you gets it.
P.S. You’re pretty and worth loving, whatever shape or size it is that you were blessed with ❤