Column: No big deal?
Try me, bitch!
I’ve been staring at the empty Word page in front of me for over half an hour. In my mind: a thousand thoughts, none of which is clear. That’s because, when somebody would ask me privately, what my opinion about the whole “body stuff” is, the answer would often be “nothing” – depending on the day, who’s asking and my state of mind. Not because I really don’t have anything to say, but because my answer doesn’t fit within two or three casual sentences. And mostly because I cannot give an honest answer without performing an emotional strip-tease, which, with all due respect, I don’t want to do in any dinner conversation with some distant friends.
Ever since I can remember, I have been overweight. There were only a couple of kilos at the beginning – I was just a chubby kid. “No big deal”, she´ll grow out of that cute baby fat, the adults said. Then, I reached puberty. Suddenly, the cute baby fat from before, became simply fat. And, believe me, from the early to the mid 2000s, in the era of “size zero”, when Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton were the common body type standard, that self-description was neither neutral nor empowering. I first wore size 42, then 44/46. Entering the “Holy Ground” of the cool kids at that time, the local Miss Sixty-Store, I got depreciating looks first, then the remark “We don’t produce sizes THIS big, I’m sorry”. When boys were attracted to me, their friends usually threw a stinging line. A lot of things that were everyday life for others, were an obstacle course for me. Weight Watchers, FDH* (GER: Friss die Hälfte - eat half), gym… diets alternated with frustrated resignations and the supposed insight that I am not disciplined enough, no, simply not good enough.
In these circumstances, how can you become something else than a bullied victim, an outsider? My strategy was to be funnier, gutsier and more quick-witted than anyone else. Or, simply put, the “Try me, bitch” strategy. No stinging line was left unpunished, my attitude was my armor, my tongue my sword. I was tough. It’s still the case today, and I am often grateful for that. What’s changed is my attitude towards myself. And for that I am even more grateful. Today, I don't hate myself for being fat anymore. I know that diet culture, media and socialization were making me sick for years and pulled me into the vicious circle of frustration and self hate. I know, no, I FEEL that I am good enough.
I owe this “Mindset Shift” to the body positivity movement. The fat-fluencers that brought the same battles I fought in my daily life to the stage. The ones who exposed themselves to scorn, ridicule and hate in order to show other fat people that they don’t need to hide. That fat doesn’t mean ugly. And that fashion is for every body type. I am sure my own struggle with “body stuff” would have gone differently, if at fourteen, I had seen Lizzo instead of Paris in the Bravo magazine.
And yet in the meantime, I became skeptical about the movement. The tenacity, with which it yells “YOU MUST LOVE YOUR BODY” at me all over the internet, is pretty irritating. And that’s not all, I feel under pressure. Can I just accept my body without loving every roll and every stretch mark? It’s not even possible for me to curse about feeling uncomfortable, as the five kilos I gained over Christmas get me out of breath during yoga, without being called out as a traitor. And shouldn't we all learn not to associate our self-worth with our looks, instead of repeating like a mantra, that all bodies are beautiful?
The approval of other people and the representation in the media can only be small parts of the puzzle, even if they are important. Because, if I learned anything on my body-journey, it would be that my vision of beauty doesn’t need to change. To accept myself, or even love myself and my body, I need to learn to heal my internal damage, to find a response to the voice in my head screaming “YOU ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH”. And that would be all the moments, when I was intelligent and strong, and audacious. A good friend. A woman with civil courage. A skillful speaker. Someone who stood up for herself, when no one else did. A battle-scarred “Try me, bitch!” who, at least on a good day, screams from the top of the roof: “Fuck the body stuff!”.
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