Posted by: turtlebella | 19 August 2006

The Skinny

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?



  1. Oh, God, I so know what you mean here. I just can’t get over thinking that pretty has to equal skinny, and that because I’m not skinny, I can’t be pretty. Which is despite the fact that when I was skinny (or skinnier) I had lots of evidence that I was pretty (whatever that means), and while I’ve gained weight, it’s not like my face has been rearranged or my hair has fallen out or anything. So, presumably, I’m still pretty. But I just can’t be pretty at 30 lbs heavier than a good weight for me – and if I’m not pretty, I have to be ugly. Totally fucked up, isn’t it? And I can look at other overweight people and think they look pretty (though sometimes I do think, they’d look even better if they were thinner), but I can’t do that for myself. You’re right, it’s the one “otherness” that I can’t embrace (though I have to admit that being a conformist, and a white middle-class woman, I get to be mainstream in about every other way, so I have little experience being other. I’ve spent my life wanting to be one of the cool kids!). I am starting really consciously to recognize that I won’t get thinner just by wishing for it, so if I want to get thinner I have to be willing to put the work into it, and if I’m not willing to do that work, then I have to be willing to accept myself as I am, and I’m working on trying to reprogram myself to think that fat(ter) = pretty. But it’s not easy.

  2. New Kid, it might be kinda sick, but I guess I’m happy someone else feels like I do about this…like I’m not alone in my hangup. And I am right there with you on the have to be willing to work at being thinner! I’m still in the mindset of when I was younger, pre-puberty, when I was skinny without doing anything. We’ll just have to keep working on this one. And I guess it’s at least good that we aren’t aneorexic, which I think is even harder to “get over.”

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