“Have you noticed any change in your life or the way that people treat you since you lost weight?” my best friend asks.
“Only that my boyfriend didn’t want to be with me before I lost 15 pounds and now he does,” I reply.
“Yeah. Yeah, I noticed that, too,” she says.
It’s December 2015, and I’m lucky to have a friendship intimate enough where this conversation isn’t hurtful – it’s an honest and vulnerable discussion of what it feels like to be a woman in possession of a body.
I have no intention to throw any shade whatsoever at my ex-boyfriend by sharing the above anecdote, or my own feelings throughout the rest of this essay. The truth is, I cannot guess at what made him attracted to me, and I was so uncomfortable in my own skin it’s just as likely that I was projecting specific physical desires on him as that he had strong feelings either way. I’m not upset with him — I am upset with myself for assigning this quality as much importance as I did for so long.
It upsets me that not only did I assign him (and all men) this desire, I simply accepted that the love of someone who necessitated a rail-thin woman was love worth having. I made up this entire narrative, and then I lived by it. And I wasn’t alone – I was part of an enormous club of women who all felt similarly.
As women, we are told that feeling confident in our bodies is borderline immoral. We should be constantly striving to be perfect, but never feel like we are. I am currently close to accepting my body for the first time, maybe ever, and I am taking a minute to step back and look at why it is that today, 15 pounds heavier than my lowest weight this year, is the first time I’ve felt confident in it.
In September 2015, I weighed 145 lbs. That fall I hooked up with my best male friend, and he let me know that he did not want to be anything more than friends. I was in a funk with regard to my career and with comedy, and this rejection felt like it spoke to all of the things I disliked about myself. I decided if I was thinner, he would love me. By December, I got down to 127, and he’d told me those three special words.
I didn’t do much else to correct the other parts of my life that made me feel incomplete. In June, he rejected me again, and by July I weighed a sort-of scary low 120. All of these weights are technically in the healthy range for my height, but they all feel very different when you’re wearing them.
An iteration of this essay written in July, at my lowest adult weight and my lowest adult mood, reads as follows:
“What does being conventionally attractive really fucking get you? A sexy but uncomfortable relationship? An expectation that things will go well, and an increasingly entitled feeling of disappointment when they don’t? The sensation that the people around you might have elected to spend time with you based on what you represent physically rather than spiritually? A growing feeling of distance from girlfriends who, while beautiful, are more constantly being told by society that their completely normal and healthy bodies aren’t good enough?
I don’t know why I’m writing this. I know that “poor me, my conventionally rockin’ bod didn’t perfect my life!” is not a particularly compelling or sympathetic narrative, nor is it a particularly original one.
But I think there’s an inherent frustration in choosing to play by society’s rules — skinner is better — and being let down by them. There’s a hopelessness in feeling like you’ve achieved this thing you’re told lifelong will make you better, and not feeling any happier.
I’ve had happy moments in the past 10 months, and I am not an overall miserable person, but I can’t say that many of my life’s happiest moments have taken place since I lost weight. Mostly, I’ve been rejected more than ever before. I’ve had to do a lot of work to stay afloat, and I have more work to do.”
Reading this entry makes me so sad for the version of me that wrote it. I didn’t even open a new Drive document to write it – this blog draft is saved in the same document as a journal entry about how empty I felt all the time, and Jesus, it’s just short of being so hyperbolically dark that it’s funny again.
Of course, being crazy thin felt really cool in a lot of ways. My stomach looked the way I always thought it should after seeing representations of stomachs on TV. I could have my picture taken from any angle without having to worry there will be an extra chin. I wore a lot of crop tops. It was alright.
But everything felt ephemeral. I felt so strongly that if I ever gained a few pounds my boyfriend would break up with me that I never let myself feel comfortable at all. I suddenly felt like my weight was paramount to how I was perceived in all aspects of my life, including stand-up comedy, which, frankly, is dumb. Jokes is jokes is jokes. When I let myself be vulnerable I wrote some pretty good jokes about how I felt pressure to be thin, but actually, looking back, that was literally the only subject I successfully wrote about during my skinny period.
I’m now back up to around 130/135, but am not weighing myself as obsessively, so who knows? All I know is that I’ve begun to put in the work to find what stimulates me in my personal and professional life outside of attracting dudes. (And in the process, attracted a very cool dude. OK and sure, he also makes me feel really, really good about myself, but I like to think that that’s icing on an already pretty sweet cake made of genuine self confidence?)
This blog post is long and rambling, but I think I’m going to leave it this way. I know in an absolute sense that my body is actually fairly conventionally attractive, and has been, whether at 120 or 145 lbs, and probably would be for a ways after that, so in a way I’m embarrassed to even be writing this. If I, as a size 4, am insecure, what am I saying to the incredibly beautiful women I know who are a size 6, 12, 20, 30?
But I am curious what my female friends’ experiences are, and if sharing my journey into and out of complete obsession with my weight couldn’t enable me to start helpful conversations with women I love about their body anxieties, as well.
Every day is still a struggle to feel normal and happy with my body. I had been so obsessed with weight loss for so long that deciding to be happy with my current weight, and to let that number rise, feels weird. But I know that I’m happy, and that I am on a path to being happier still, and that lets me feel ok.
Anyway, it’s Christmas, and you know what? I’m a pretty good baker. Let’s eat some fuckin muffins.