Recently while looking at a friend’s holiday photos I found myself saying, “Wow, you look really good in that photo!” I then felt the need to be more specific, “You look skinny.” Later, I thought to myself, “W.T.F. Is my notion of prettiness so tied up with thinness?” And, sadly, it really is. Now, it isn’t that I think all overweight people are ugly. No, some of my best friends are overweight (haha). Seriously, I couldn’t love those overweight people more if they were skinny. But deep inside, do I think they would look better, be prettier, more handsome if they were skinnier? Yup, probably.
Do I think I personally look better when I am on the thinner side? Yup, most emphatically. Deer Mami and I recently got into a huge fight regarding my weight, her comments about it, my self-esteem, and on and on. She had no idea that her (to her) casual comments about my weight caused me a great deal of anguish. This latest exchange started with her saying, as she watched me finish a Portuguese meal that had both potatoes and rice, “Do you think you will still fit in your wedding dress.” Instant tears. After a while she became convinced that her remarks were hurtful and made me question how much she loved me and if it depended on how much I weighed. Which I know on a logical, rational level is silly: I know Mami Deer loves me unconditionally. But emotionally, I was devastated. I said to the sqvirrel that maybe we should cancel the wedding photographer since I didn’t want to look at photos of me looking fat, and hence UGLY.
As it turns out, I think I look good (read: skinny) in the photos friends have sent us of the wedding. On one level, YAY! On another level, why is my self-esteem so bound up in looking thin? Why is my notion of beauty so tied up with weight at all? Sure, I know, it’s a cultural thing. It’s being bombarded my whole life with images of thin women who are “beautiful.” When I was in college all the super-models were skinny, breast-less types. Part of my childhood was spent in California, where everyone is thin, health-conscious, and fitness-obsessed. It’d be pretty amazing if I hadn’t internalized the notion that skinny is beautiful.
But I’ve managed to successfully combat other culturally-imposed norms. I embrace my depression and realize that I don’t have to be a happy, cheery person 100% of the time. I’ve discarded heteronormative values and constantly try to combat the enormous amount of heterosexism that one comes across in the course of daily life. I’ve come to value my “otherness,” instead of wishing I was like all the cool kids. I now deeply value my Mexican-American ethnicity, instead of trying to fit in with white America (since I can almost successfully pass). So why can’t I just let go of the skinny is beautiful thing?