Written on April 12, 2014.
I want to tell you that it hasn’t been easy. That I’ve been at war with myself since the 5th grade. One girl asked me how I got to be so confident — you don’t understand how much I wanted to grab her eyes out then and there just to see myself in that light. As a pillar and a rock rather than a girl who shares far too many dances with doubt.
I want to tell her now that it started with hate. It started with revulsion. It started with a mirror and a magazine and the knowledge that I was different from a lot of the other girls in class.
I’ve been overweight almost all my life.
I remember being 6-years-old, standing in front of a mirror, head bent, looking at my rolls curiously. Ten years later, at sixteen, I remember looking at those same rolls, somehow bigger and fleshier than before, with less curiosity and more disgust.
Maybe it began in the 7th grade when my classmates insisted that boys only liked girls with delicate waists. Girls who they could hold gingerly in their arms, who were precious and fragile rather than those who were sturdy, built like citadels or forest trees.
Maybe it began in high school when the boys in my class would put an arm around me, pat my shoulders and say, with brotherly concern: “Look, you’re cute but you’re big. Just stop eating –you’ll be alright.”
Maybe it began when my friends would roll their eyes at all the other big girls on campus, secretly gagging because they’d ‘rather die than be that fat’. “Oh! But don’t worry. You’re okay, Isa,” they’d insist — which was basically code for: you only pass because you’re our friend.
However it started, and wherever it did, the story that the world around me insisted on was that I would never be good enough if I didn’t try to be thinner and smaller and more svelte.
I think so much of my life has been spent between trying too hard and not trying hard enough.
I want to tell you that it hasn’t been easy. That there have been days when all I ever wanted from God and magic lamps and shooting stars was to not be in this body anymore. There have been days of resentment, days when I’d beg for the chance to wake up as someone else. Someone new. Someone who might possibly be more deserving of love.
Now that I am in my mid-20’s, I feel like my body and I have arrived at a truce. The war flares up every now and again but that, I suppose, is the reality of imperfection.
I eat better now. I exercise. I still see the rolls when I look in the mirror but on most days, I shrug instead and think: “You know what, Garcia? You’re kind of cute.”
(The beauty of getting older is you suddenly start to care less because you realize that nobody knows much of anything anyway. You’re all just trying to figure things out.)
My friend, Abraham, recently told me that I am beautiful and important. I carry that with me now especially when insecurity gnaws at my edges.
Being overweight has conditioned me to hide. To make myself smaller. To take up less space.
But now…. now I think I aspire to burn bright. To rise like a citadel or stand like a forest tree. To be the biggest person in the room.
I am beautiful and important. You are, too.