It had been a bleak year. I started taking anti-depressants and was slowly putting on weight, as the side effects had warned. This alone was not a problem: guys always told me I was a little too skinny and that I had a bony butt, so I actually enjoyed having a juicy badonkadonk for the first time in my life. But as I packed on more pounds on my slender frame, my clothes stopped fitting. J.Crew skinny jeans? Couldn’t wear ‘em anymore. Vintage mini-dress? So tight it ripped. Silk blouse? My upper arms no longer fit without gnarly pit stains. I had to chuck tons of panties that now squeezed uncomfortably around my new butt. Not surprisingly, I started to get a little neurotic (and vain) and seriously considered ditching my happy pills in the hopes that I’d get my zippy ol’ metabolism back.
Then my 26th birthday arrived. My boyfriend was out of town on a business trip and left a birthday present waiting for me on our bed. I ripped the paper off and saw a box from one of New York City’s fanciest lingerie stores: inside was an adorable black and pink bra and panties set from Betsey Johnson. He did his sizing-homework in advance: the panties fit my rotund butt, the bra did not pinch my shoulders. And something immediately clicked: I am attractive no matter what size I wear. Sexy lingerie comes in all sizes! I realized I didn’t have to fit into my existing clothes to be sexy; I could still look sexy in sizes that fit me properly.
These days, I’m OK with my weight. But there’s one person who’s not — my mom.
“I wasn’t loved — and I’m not being loved — for being just the way I am.”Visiting home this weekend, one of the first comments out of my mother’s mouth after “Hi” was “You’ve gained weight.” And it’s true, I gained about five to seven pounds recently. Why? Well, I’ve been eating crap: Frappucinos, greasy fries, ice cream.
But for the past six months or so, my mother has been making comments like this about my plumper physique — sometimes multiple times during a visit home — and it never fails to make me feel humiliated and judged. Usually I freak out and tell her she’s being rude. (Because she is.) But even if Mom kept her mouth shut, just the look on her face would be enough to convey her disapproval.
I wish I could brush off weight criticism as motherly fussing, like “You need to brush your hair.” But as we all know, criticizing another woman’s weight is far too loaded to write off as “fussing.” I know I used to be thinner, but that’s not what bothers me. No, what bothers me is that I used to look more like what society says is beautiful and I’m not anymore. It hurts my feelings that my mother is making these comments because I know my slenderness was a point of pride for her.
Maybe the disdain stings so much because I’m not used to critiques of my weight. I was one of the lucky ones growing up and I never, ever heard anything negative about my body in my own home. When my mom humiliates me by pointing out my heavier weight, though, I realize I probably never heard criticism because I was so skinny to begin with. Subtly, I’m beginning to realize “I wasn’t loved — and I’m not being loved — for being just the way I am.”
But the reason I’m not formally dieting — or ditching my Lexapro entirely — is because I don’t particularly care about being as skinny as I used to be. Maybe it’s because I know my boyfriend still thinks I’m sexy now. Or maybe it’s because I remember that when I weighed 120 lbs. or 130 lbs., I wasn’t particularly happy, anyway, because of the depression. I might not fit into my skinny jeans anymore, but holistically speaking, I’m a hell of a lot more content than ever before in my life.
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t want to put on weight from eating crap, nor am I denying that what I’ve been eating lately is unhealthy. But I just don’t have an arbitrary number on the scale that I’m striving for. Would 145 be good enough? 140? 130 again? The most important thing is that I feel good about myself when I look in the mirror. (And honestly, I feel more bad about my greasy-looking hair on humid days than I do about my slightly protruding belly.) I don’t need to be shamed into realizing fruit salad is a healthier dinner than ice cream, either.
The bummer of the relationship I have with my mother, who is kind of the epitome of unemotional WASP-iness, is not one where I can say, “STFU about my weight, Mom! It hurts my feelings when you criticize me like that. I know I need to stop eating ice cream and French fries! You don’t need to tell me!” She won’t respond to that and probably wouldn’t even acknowledge it. But I still wish I could remind her that in a mother’s eyes, every child should be beautiful.
At least I think so … right?