Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Larger than Life

I am not the heaviest I have ever been, but I am close to my largest weight as an adult.  Always told "you have such a pretty face" and the rest was left silent, but the elephant in the room was me.  I don't struggle with my weight, though.  The world I live in struggles with my weight and while I'm getting older and worried about diabetes, my heart and weight on my joints, I generally eat pretty healthy, drink lots of water and am either commuting via public transit and walking at least an hour a day, or active with  my 2 and 4 year olds.  Most days, I collapse exhausted into bed from a day of chasing my daughter, playing sports with my son, and keeping these two active kids engaged with movement.  We have dance parties and walks to the park, I chase them down city blocks, through playgrounds and the green meadows of Lincoln Park with regularity. I live in my active wear.

I have no excuses for not losing "the baby weight" after Sali was born, except that I haven't been alone in 3 years and when the fuck am I going to lift weights and be able to lay on the floor for core work?   Doing so in my household is an invitation for both kids to climb me and begin wrestling with various limbs of mine, assuming that this was why I lowered myself to the floor on a yoga mat.  This summer, I have chosen sleeping in instead of getting up early to work out, and I don't doubt that choice for a second.  Why do moms have to feel pressured to "get their bodies back" so quickly?   I've never had a small pre-baby body, so the horror that many smaller women have about being 200 lbs is my everyday, for most of my life, and my life at that weight was pretty rad.  Why does our society not honor the scars of motherhood and mom bodies like other cultures do?  Why is our fatphobia so intense?

I also remember how great I feel after working out, and miss the solitary time to listen to a playlist and push my body's physical limits.  I grew up an athlete, and still run around after children, but I miss the calculated practice of breathing, moving and working out particular muscles to assist my growth.  I have friends who continue to work out, train, dance, practice jiu jitsu and capoeira, go to classes, even teach fitness classes while parenting, so I know it's possible, but my desire to work out is not linked to a desire to lose weight, rather to gain energy, strength, and endurance.

It has taken me a long time to get to love my post-children body.  It has taken conscious resistance to dieting, business cards given to me by plastic surgeons, others body shaming me in public, loudly talking badly about my body within earshot or saying I shouldn't have foods I love.  After Beyonce posted her announcement of her twins on Instagram last week, a mom group I'm a part of analyzed her belly in the photo, and mused about whether or not she had surgery, or the image was photo-shopped.  I said that the photo was fierce, and lamented that she didn't use the moment to share the realness of motherhood and how it changes your body, but her body is her livelihood in a way mine is not.  She is a billionaire, and I am not.  Surgery may be an investment for her brand, while it is not true of my lifestyle.  I also will not judge the choices that another woman makes about her body, as I hope they would leave me to captain mine.

In this country, it is frustrating to live the reality of a larger self for logistical reasons (not finding the right size, not fitting into "regular" store clothes, not fitting seat belts, assumptions of poor health, assumptions of being dirty), but this is not something new for me - I've been obese all of my life.  I learned a long, long time ago that being happy with myself as I am is the only way to be, instead of looking for all of the ways that I should change myself.   My weight has fluctuated between 175 and 275 pounds, and I feel comfortable and beautiful in my skin at the larger end of that range, because it looks proportionate on my frame. In my husband's culture, losing weight significantly is a sign of illness, not an accomplishment, as it is seen here in the U.S. Outside of whiteness, curves are beautiful, are natural and are desired.  Outside of patriarchal capitalism, we don't need to buy products that make us more beautiful, thinner, to please the male gaze.  The exercise industry is just as guilty as cosmetics in contributing to the idea that you need their product to be beautiful.  Sufi mystic poet Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī once said, "Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field.  I'll meet you there." So while you may look at me and think "oh, she's struggling with her weight", I am feeling myself.  You can't match this shine.

So, while ya'll might be chasing B's flat stomach and starting surgery funds, I'll be over here eating all the dishes my husband makes and dessert, living in the moment, trying to be active, healthy and taking self-care seriously.  I'll be reading, writing,  walking, playing 25 sports a day with my son and daughter.  As a working mom, educator, writer, thinker, wife, daughter and friend, I have a lot more to worry about than your struggles with my weight.  When you're ready, come meet me out in the field beyond white beauty standards, capitalism and insecurity, in the place of truth and love.  We have cake. :)

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