A colleague walks up to me and says, “Word on the street is that you really need to lose some weight around your mid-section.”
I watch white webs of accumulated saliva elongate as he pulls his face in seemingly unconscious disgust. His fingers wave furiously around his abdominals, signalling to me exactly where the undesired weight is. All the while, he avoids my penetrative gaze.
I DONNED BLACK BOOTY SHORTS THAT PRESENT MY ROUNDED MOON OF AN ASS LIKE THE QUEEN OF THE NIGHT SKY IT IS.
Thanks. I was wondering where exactly my “mid-section” might be. I’m glad you’ve taken the liberty of showing me exactly which part of my body you, and all the “people on the street”, find unacceptable. At times of insecurity, when I’m naked in front of a mirror, wearing a bikini, or about to have sex with my loved one, I’ll be sure to remind myself of your hurtful opinion..
“Maybe you should stop being vegan,” he adds laughingly. “Excuse me?,” I ask, “who do you think you are to walk up to me and body shame me?”
He looks shook, for all of a second. “No, no, I wasn’t meaning it like that. I’m just saying that some of the wives at the wedding were discussing the outfit you wore. They were saying that you need to lose some weight on your stomach and put your arse away. I don’t agree with them! I’m just telling you what other people think.”
Thanks, mate. I’m so glad you thought it necessary to interrupt my otherwise pleasant existence with the unsolicited opinions of people I don’t even know. Hurtful opinions about a body I cannot change, and shouldn’t have to for the desire of others. Malicious gossip that no one ever needs to hear, let alone from strangers.
The outfit I wore to the wedding in question was a sheer, black dress covered in dangling sequins with delicious slut slits on either side. Beneath its transparent flow, I donned black booty shorts that present my rounded moon of an ass like the Queen of the night sky it is.
MAYBE I SHOULD GO THROUGH MY ENTIRE LIFE DRESSING AND EATING IN WAYS THAT MAKE OTHER PEOPLE ACCEPT ME.
I accompanied my dress with my prettiest lace bralette; a diddly, dainty number that makes my cleavage look as bomb as my butt cheeks. When I wear that outfit, I feel exquisite, powerful, sexy. I love that dress. I love the way it makes me feel.
Adorning my risqué gown, I ate all the bread drenched in all the olive oil. I indulged in a creamy, gorgonzola pasta (during my transitionary-vegan phase) and savoured my desert the way all deserts should be savoured, with plate-licking gusto. After I ate, my stomach began to bloat.
You see, my gut is an entity that acts of its own accord. Triggered by emotional unrest, ingredients that don’t agree, or something else entirely my stomach can go from flat to ‘fat’ in a matter of moments (sounds a bit like an advert for a hair volumiser, doesn’t it?).
On this occasion. I was already anxious before I had arrived at the wedding. This general anxiety was only worsened by the ill-concealed whispers I saw exchanged between wives clearly unimpressed with my outfit. That coupled with a big plate of dairy-covered pasta led to a bloated belly that was clearly a sight for stank eyes.
Maybe I should have ordered a salad. Maybe I wouldn’t have been as bloated. Maybe I should have skipped the bread and drank water instead. Maybe if I wore something less revealing, they wouldn’t have judged me and I wouldn’t have got anxious, and then bloated. Maybe I should go through my entire life dressing and eating in ways that make other people accept me. Maybe I fucking won’t.
Since I was a teenager, I’ve suffered with digestive issues. My symptoms are intermittent and unpredictable, they include severe abdominal pain, extreme bloating, irregular bowel movements, and a general difficulty digesting foods (among other things).
SOME GIRLS SAID I LOOKED PREGNANT IN A BIKINI.
Waves of excruciating gut-spasms can render me immobile at worst, and have me so bloated I look like I’m carrying twins at best. I’ve been in so much pain before that I’ve had to pull over my car, lay down on the backseat and wait for the abdominal agony to subside enough to grant me unhindered vision.
And on top of the physical and emotional turmoil of having these digestive issues, there comes the Body Shamers. I know them well, they’ve skinny-shamed me for my slim figure and body-shamed me for my bloated belly. They find each other like flies find shit. They decide who needs to lose weight. They decide who can and cannot wear what. They’re clearly severely insecure and emotionally underdeveloped. Shem.
In high school, there was a get-together on the beach and some of my then-boyfriend’s girl friends said I looked pregnant in a bikini. He relayed this information to me, cheeks rouged with a crimson shame, and suggested I stand up straight and suck my stomach in.
How silly of me. I should have known better. I should have maintained a permanent state of stomach suck, or avoided wearing a bikini at all. Then no one would have had anything to say about my body.
That school holiday, I went to visit my father in Johannesburg. He couldn’t afford to fly me back to Cape Town in time for the start of the new term, so I missed the first week of school. The rumours surrounding the reason I was AWOL grew from a smouldering kindling of hearsay, to a full-blown abortion fire. What the fuck is an abortion fire? Well, a poor metaphor for raging rumours that said I was absent because I was having an abortion.
I FOUND MYSELF SKINNY-SHAMING WOMEN EVEN SMALLER THAN I WAS.
While people made assumptions about the state of my uterus and passed my bloated belly off as pregnancy, I was mediating between my recently-separated parents #BrokenFamilyTelephone. I was in a state of hysteria, wondering whether I’d ever get back to school or eat a meal that wasn’t baked beans on potatoes – although I am grateful there was something to eat at all #CheckYourPrivilege
Another time, a group of older girls walked behind me making vomiting noises, insinuating that I was bulimic, and shouted at me to “eat a burger”. Other girls told me that I was “so lucky to be a skinny bitch” and that they wished they could look like me. I was too young to understand where their thoughts stemmed from: a slim-preferring, fat-shaming society.
I became confused. Was I too skinny? Or was I the patriarchal preference? How could I be skinny but also “fat” sometimes? Why did the girls who skinny-glorified me hate their own bodies? Who made them feel that they were undesirable in comparison? I felt terrible when women told me how much they wished they could have my body, and even worse when they expected me to chime in as they threw shade on their own.
I internalised all views, and became uncertain whether my body was ideal, unacceptably skinny, or too “fat” – see bloated – around the mid-section . I was never happy with my body, because I was always relying on opposing views to determine how I felt about it. Body-shaming, most of it disguised as compliments, stole from me my adolescent chance to form an opinion of my own.
And I’m not blaming any of those young women, it’s not their fault for being brain-washed by society’s normalisation of body-shaming/commentary and the idolisation of the slim, white form as the only desirable aesthetic. It’s no one’s fault, but we can unlearn that shit and we really fucking need to.
As trends changed from stick-thin to stick-thin with boobs and an ass, I wished I was curvier, fuller, bigger, not as skinny. UGH, I fucking hate that body shapes trend. Like, how about my body is fucking trendy all the time purely because it enables me to live my fucking life? Anyway, I found myself skinny-shaming women even smaller than I was.
THESE BACKHANDED “COMPLIMENTS” AND HARMFUL CRITICISMS HAVE CAUSED ME, AND SLIM PEOPLE AROUND ME, A SERIES OF COMPLEX INSECURITIES.
I was unimpressed by all body shapes that weren’t Victoria Secret-esque, but especially those of super-slim girls. Maybe I saw myself in them and felt I needed to shame them the way I’d been shamed? I don’t know. What I do know is that there is a misconception that skinny-shaming isn’t a Thing, that slim people can’t be affected by body-shaming/commentary because the slim body-type has been long glorified.
I know I’ll never truly understand what it feels like to be fat-shamed, and I’m not trying to detract from how fucked up and unacceptable fat-shaming is. While I have experienced body-shaming, I will never know what being fat-shamed is like as a person who holds slim-privilege. I’m not trying to say that fat-shaming isn’t the fucking worst. It is. What I am trying to do, is introduce you to two concepts that seem to be foreign to many people:
Skinny shaming fucking sucks for slim people.
Almost all types of body commentary is harmful.
“You’re so skinny.” “Oh my gosh, do you even eat. You’re so lucky.” “I wish I could eat as much as you and look the way you do. I hate you for it.” “You really need to put some meat on those bones. Here, have some more food.” “You don’t look like you’re eating enough. Boys like girls with big bums and big boobs. You should eat some more.” “You eat like a bird, no wonder you’re so tiny.” “You’re clearly not in a good mental space and your body is starting to show it.”
These backhanded “compliments” and harmful criticisms have caused me, and slim people around me, a series of complex insecurities. Just because the slim figure has been preferred, paraded, and applauded everywhere you look, doesn’t mean skinny-shaming doesn’t affect slim people. The fact is: it isn’t okay to fat shame, it isn’t okay to skinny shame, it isn’t okay to body shame, and it isn’t okay to comment on people’s bodies, period.
Don’t tell me what you think of my body. Don’t tell me what you think I need to do with my body to make it look “better”. Don’t tell me how you think it should look. Don’t tell anyone how you think their body should look. Teach yourself that it is never okay to comment on someone else’s body, even if you’re trying to compliment them.
If you really need to praise someone’s body shape, try telling them that they’re looking healthy, strong, or happy. When you commend someone’s body in light of their weight loss/gain, you’re telling them that their body wasn’t acceptable or good enough before. That can be triggering for people with mental health issues and eating disorders.
When someone loses a lot of weight, they could be seriously depressed or ill. Now you’re out here like, “Oh my gosh, you’re looking amazing! You’ve lost so much weight, you skinny bitch!” – meanwhile it’s because they’re in a fucking unhealthy space and unable to care for themselves.
TEACH YOURSELF THAT SOCIETY’S OBSESSION WITH THE PHYSICAL FORM IS TOXIC.
People’s relationships with their weight and body-image is deeply personal and complex. You can’t keep going around triggering people with your shit, unsolicited body commentary. If it’s not your body, it’s not your business.
Teach yourself that someone else’s weight loss/gain journey is exactly that; someone else’s. Unless the person speaks to you about it themselves, bringing up someone’s weight/body type is totally unacceptable. It has literally fuck all to do with you and you have no idea what their relationship is with their body, or how you’re commentary will affect it.
Teach yourself that society’s obsession with the physical form is toxic. Teach yourself that our bodies are just the physical vessels for our ever-expansive souls. Vessels that enable us to experience the real magic of being human: dreaming, creating, loving, learning, and fucking living – if you are so privileged to have a body that facilitates any of that.
And if not, you’re still worthy of living a full life sans body-shaming. We all are. Teach yourself that you are the sum of all of that intangible magic, you are not just the vessel from whence the magic pours. ♥
Written by Cheri Morris
Catch more of Cheri's refreshing Sassyness on her blog It's Cuntroversial