I recently had a bout with a sort of flu — I still have no idea what happened or what it was, but I swear I puked up everything I’ve ever consumed since January in less than twenty-four hours. It lasted almost a week, rendering me only able to sample the Thanksgiving meal (and considering how much I love to eat, that really bummed me out). But soon I began to notice that my ribs were showing, my waist was more defined, and my acne disappearing due to how little I could eat. I complained constantly either that I was ill or starving, but as I looked in the mirror each day before my shower I admired my new appearance.
Then I recovered. Hallelujah! I could actually chow down on turkey masala and not die and devour the soup my dad made without curling up on the couch wishing I could cut my stomach from my body. But flesh began to hide my ribs again and the scale began to show larger numbers. I actively tried to make my meals smaller and farther — further? — between, and realized that I was becoming the girl I had always pitied and vowed I would never be.
I grew up being admired for how thin I was. I was blessed with good genetics, but some of the reason I was so petite was because we had very little money and my family was raised on fried pasta because we children liked it and it was cheap. I prided myself in how prominent my ribs were, and as a dancer, my lack of figure was ideal. I was dedicated to ballet from the time I was bitty, finally getting lessons when I was five years old. Life was perfect.
BAM — maturity. Yay! …Not. I hit puberty far earlier than anyone else, and I began to compare myself to all the other eleven-year-olds with child bodies, thinking my ever-more-womanly figure made me imperfect, and I began to be ashamed of the supposed weight on my thighs and that it was harder to balance with my heavier body. In truth, I was still abnormally thin, but I couldn’t see that.
We stopped dance as the recession hit, which was a real emotional blow for me. Meanwhile, I gained quite a curvaceous figure — still have it, obviously. We moved states and I struggled to make new friends, as I was the poor kid in a rich area. It took me years to accept myself as the beauty I was, which in all my blunt honesty was because I found God.
I aged even more, and when we moved states again, I gained a whopping ten pounds (working at Subway hasn’t helped). So when that weight began to disappear as I struggled with that stupid flu, I was understandably pleased with the consequences. But as that weight came back and my ribs disappeared beneath my flesh again, I’ve had to take a good look not at my body, but at my perception of it.
I am beautiful. I really don’t think I see just how beautiful I am, but as I’ve learned from my mother, most people don’t understand just how stunning they are. It saddens me how many people — guys and girls alike — come through the line at Subway with sadness in their eyes, and when you say a single word of encouragement they light up, thinking that maybe they’re worth something. I see people with plunging necklines, slathered in make-up, hiding behind their significant others as if the love they feel from them justifies their lack of physical perfection. I want to take them aside, wipe off the make-up, and give them a mirror. I want to show them all the things that I, as a perfect stranger, admire about them. The color of their eyes. The rounded curves of their not-stick-thin body. But more importantly, I want them to see the beauty inside. I want them to hear the crystalline quality of their speaking voice. I want them to understand how infectious their laugh is. I want them to see that their height adds a sense of regality that can’t be bought or sold. I want them to see the things that set them apart, their hobbies, their dreams, even their fears, are what make them beautiful.
You are beautiful. I don’t care what your belief system is, you are loved. It’s a wonderful feeling to be physically attractive, and I can promise you that you are beautiful, whether or not you believe it. There are no mistakes. But you are one of the most perfect things in the world. You are unparalleled, and there will only be one of you. All the world’s a stage, and you’re the star of the show. I pray that you can see your true beauty.
Update: I had a really good talk with my sisters last night, and this very subject came up. I can’t remember everything my sister said, but to paraphrase, she reminded me of the importance of loving yourself. When you love yourself, you love your inner beauty, which can lead to loving the body that houses your soul. I thought it was very insightful and wise. Please, take these words to heart.