If I had a dollar for every time someone tried to tell me I couldn’t or shouldn’t do something because I’m a woman, I’d be extraordinarily well off. Now if I had a dollar for every time someone tried to tell me I couldn’t or shouldn’t do something because I’m a PLUS SIZE woman, well… that’s a horse of a different color. Y’all, I think it’s only fair to say that this post is going to be just a bit more serious. Still positive. Still on message. But I’ve been waiting to address this for a while and I have some thoughts—LAWD do I have some thoughts! So bear with me. Here we go.
I cannot begin to tell you how many times a day I hear people, men and women alike, body shame. They don’t even realize they’re doing it. Or, and I’m not sure if this is worse, they realize they’re being offensive and they either try to justify it with vague, pseudo-reasoning or feigned outrage if you try to call them on it or disagree with them (the horror!). Whether it’s judging someone for wearing spandex or telling someone who’s lost weight how much “better/healthier/prettier/just overall MORE” they look (because before they were lesser?) or making unrealistic comparisons and self deprecating comments (“I could never pull that off, I’m too fat. I wish I were as brave as you/I wish I could be like you and not have to care what I look like.”<– some of my personal kiss-with-a-fist favorite phrases that have actually been said to me).
It’s disgusting just how much we are programmed to hate ourselves and each other, in any form really, ranging from intelligence to taste, weight, sex, gender, etc. And for what? No one else is living my life. No one else is going to be responsible for me missing out and not making memories because I was too afraid of what I would look like making them. By buying into this perverse herd mentality I was taught very methodically how to become a spectator in my own life. And you know what? They judged me for this, too. This is a not a game anyone wins, y’all! Everyone loses.
It wasn’t until many, MANY years later that I was introduced to a new group of people and new ideas that took everything I thought I knew and changed it radically. I owe my life to these people and the life lessons they’ve imparted. Now that it’s my turn, I hope I can share with others what they’ve shared with me even half as well as they have.
Ever since I was a little girl and mistakenly asked for my waist length hair to be chopped into a pixie cut (because I was 8yo and had no idea what it meant–I just liked that there was a haircut called a pixie) it has been instilled in me that women are supposed to have long hair. More specifically, that larger women should try to hide their largeness with more hair. Like some sort of weird camouflage or something. Makes sense, right? I’m sorry, but is there suddenly less of me if my hair is longer? No. Even with immense, voluminous hair creating some sort of optical illusion, my body is my body and it’s not going anywhere. Needless to say, my request was denied that fateful day in the salon and it would be years before I was brave enough to think outside of long layers. But eventually I did chop my hair off (just above my shoulders) in high school for the first time. And I loved it. But I wasn’t ready to love myself just yet.
So fast forward many moons later to a twenty-something, plus size, freshly married woman starting a new job with several recent and humiliating failures under her belt. I was terrified of life and I needed to do something drastic because really, how much worse could it get? While I’m at the bottom, I may as well take a look around. Or perhaps the only way to change your luck is to be willing to take some risks. I couldn’t look at it this way at the time, but I can now. Anyway, pixie haircuts were cropping up everywhere and the evil hide-behind-you-hair mantra was grating on my already fried nerves. But I wanted one. I wanted one SOOOO badly.
My hair had suffered years of damage and while I had so painstakingly grown it out, it just wasn’t the same and the reality of the situation was that I needed a fresh start. So I did it. And you know what? I loved it again. It was delicate and whispy and cool and effortless. It was so many wonderful things. Suddenly there was no more security blanket of hair to fool people into thinking I wasn’t exactly what size I was (does this actually work? I mean, c’mon). My strong-featured face, short neck, occassional double chin, and broad shoulders were exposed. SPOILER ALERT: I survived.
But very few people were as positive about this experience as I was. Some of my closest friends and family tried to talk me out of it. Most of them tried to fat-splain to me their concerns about my size and what it would look like with my face and my shape. Some of them tried to be more sensitive about the subject and asked instead how I felt and what my thoughts and motives were behind such a rash decision. No one really had a genuine word of encouragement before I went in. That’s fine. It wasn’t their hair. And you know what? I learned to love myself a bit more and not take as much to heart.
Now don’t get me wrong. As it is with any major change, I had my moments of doubt and even brief feelings of regret. Especially after I went to get my pixie shaped up 6-8 weeks later by a different stylist who decided to buzz my neck–yeah, this was a big no-no for me. I wore hats for several weeks before I thought “to hell with it” and let it all hang out, so to speak. But overall, I enjoyed not having to really DO my hair or worry over damaged ends. I loved using less product and being able to drive with the windows down every damn day. I loved being able to try different styles and hair accessories and I loved how very utterly feminine (for lack of a better word) short hair made me feel. If it’s good enough for Julie Andrews, it’s good enough for me (and my plus size frame)!
Silly as it may seem to some, I think finally meeting my pixie was one of the bravest things I’ve done for myself. It forced me to not only reimagine and reinvent my own image and perception of beauty but the way others saw me. So maybe I wasn’t immediately beautiful to them. But without all the hair in the way they could see my intelligence. They could see my creativity and my drive. Because these qualities surfaced in me in such a strong and unapologetic way. I faced off with the part of me that feels this compulsive need to shrink down and under-compensate for fear of standing out or standing apart. Feeling suddenly so exposed brought me outside of myself a bit. It made me grow as a person and find value in myself beyond what I thought was expected of me, what I expected of myself.
Coincidentally, this bog quest is doing the same thing. Writing about my triumphs as well as my challenges and exposing my truths is forcing me to again reinvent myself and the perception I have of myself and what it is that I have to offer. I am a plus size woman. But I am so much more than this. I am a beautiful girl, not necessarily because of the happy accident that is my genetic makeup, but because of the qualities that make me a beautiful person: a kind heart, a desire to serve others, a creative and flexible mind. Still, I am more than this because my self worth is not determined by the expectations of others. And by continuing to put myself out there, my hope is to inspire others to do what makes them happy (without hurting themselves or others) and what makes them better individuals without the fear of falling short of society’s expectations or preconceived ideas of what or who we should be.
So wear the damn spandex. Cut your hair, honey. Start a blog about your pet hedgehog named Wilber. Or just plant radical, positive notions in the minds of others by restructuring daily conversations; remind people that you are more than your physical appearance, you are more than the limitations they would place on you. Because your life and what is expected of you from whatever it is that made you up in this universe is not to sit still and look pretty but to be a good person and to do good things. You are worth more than your beauty. “Courage, dear heart,” CS Lewis wrote. Courage indeed. On that note, I leave you all with an embarrassing number of pixie growth photos and an immense amount of love. Wishing you all good things, tribe. Always. Xo