Yesterday I felt entirely right in my body.

At first I described it as, “I just feel like I am incredibly slender today.” Later on I realized that it wasn’t so much slenderness as a feeling of “fitting”. My clothes fit well and didn’t feel restrictive and it felt like every part of my body had purpose and meaning. Slenderness is such an ideal in our society that I at first associated this feeling of ideal with slenderness, but that wasn’t the right description.

I’ve been experimenting lately with trying to move past a place of quiet acceptance of my body as it is, plumpness and all (but don’t talk about it too much), to a place of appreciating and perhaps celebrating the plumpness on its own merits. What if my body was not just attractive in spite of its faults, not just attractive because of its strength which somehow “makes up” for the plumpness, but attractive because of its strength and plumpness both? How would it feel to move all the things I have been taught to see as negatives in my body into the plus column?

Perhaps it would feel the way I felt yesterday.

This is a process I have probably already begun. There are many things about my body that I like that aren’t in the societal beauty mag standard of beauty and attractiveness. For instance, I love my breasts. As I move through my 20s they become less and less round, they ride flatter and closer to my chest, and they droop lower. Sometimes when my nipples are not erect my breasts actually cave in above them. When my nipples are erect they pull my breasts into a different and rounder shape, and this process amuses me. I love the way they look in the mirror and how it feels to touch them, squashy and soft. I can slide my fingers underneath them and warm them up.

Call me the last to really get the memo, but it hadn’t actually occurred to me that it was possible for others to love plump parts of the body other than the breasts or buttocks, just for the pleasure and attractiveness of that plumpness. I somehow didn’t get that people could find attractive a plump and roll-y belly for the same reasons that I love my breasts, because it is squashy and soft, yielding and full of inviting curves to slip fingers around and beneath.

Of course, I knew that I myself liked the feeling of my own and other plump people’s bodies, when I was permitted to touch them, and that it was as wonderful to curl up behind my girlfriend and cup her breast in my hand as it was to cup her round tummy, or to curl up behind my boyfriend and slide my palm down around the firm bottom curve of his belly. Somehow it was difficult to reconcile this tactile attractiveness with the visual for me.

Which actually leaves me thinking of my mother when I was young. She was always a larger person, close to six feet tall with entirely proportionately large hands and feet. After my sister was born she started to gain more and more weight. She hated to be looked at, or to have pictures taken of her, and she hated most of all to be touched. We weren’t allowed to touch her very often, and although she was very affectionate and loving with us in many ways, she was not very affectionate or loving with herself at all. I knew from an early age that she hated her body and that somehow we were supposed to hate it also. It was impossible and perverse in her mind that anyone could love her body as it was.

I think, in retrospect, that I, an entirely sensual and physical touch sort of person, wanted to love her body however it was, wanted to touch it and cuddle it the way a child does with her mother. Her body could have been just the body of my mother, but instead it was very much forbidden territory, so that even as a teenager, after my mother had lost a significant portion of her weight via gastric bypass surgery and intense daily exercise, I had to be very careful how I embraced my mother. If I touched her sides or belly she would break away, or protest that I was “jiggling the fat”. There was simply no room in there to explore the idea that perhaps she was a pleasurable person to touch. What an extraordinary idea!

My mother and sister both often say to me, “You’re looking good! Have you lost weight?” Of course, every time they’ve asked I haven’t, to the best of my knowledge, lost any weight at all, and sometimes have in fact gained. Then we all sort of awkwardly stand around engaging in a bizarre process that FEELS like we have to somehow find some reason why I “look good” to them but if I haven’t lost weight then it’s completely inexplicable why I would look good at all. I have felt entirely confused by these conversations before now, too caught up in their “weight loss = looking good” societal assumption to even challenge it properly.

In India a woman in a store said to me, “Oh! You are so fat!” and she said it in such an entirely pleased and complimentary way that it completely threw me for a loop. I almost burst into tears. She said it in almost the exact same way we would say, “You’ve lost weight!” in North America. I could tell she had no idea how this pronouncement could possibly be negative.

Perhaps there isn’t something glib I could toss off that would instantly educate and change other people’s perspectives, but I would like to move away from the “weight loss = looking good” assumption. Sometimes I’ve tried to just say, “Thank you! I feel good!” Sometimes I’ve said matter-of-factly that, in fact, I had gained weight, but thanks for the compliment.

I wonder if I could pull off rejoicing in gained weight in a convincing manner in our society? Would anyone ever believe it?

“Actually, I’ve gained 5 pounds! I’m very excited about it! I haven’t felt so sexy in months!”

(This post was cross-posted from my personal LJ at rainbowk.livejournal.com.)

2 Comments »

  1. The Scarlet Pervygirl said,

    October 3, 2006 @ 11:45 pm

    I would believe it. I gain between 7 and 10 pounds every month as I’m about to start my period, and in some ways I really like it, just as you’re describing here. Every morning for the past week, the first thing I’ve done when I’ve woken up is stroke my belly, which is unbelievably soft and smooth.

    There are two things I’ve learned about people, especially female people. One is that, underneath a glaze of conformity, the wealth of diversity of opinions and passions and reactions is pretty astonishing; the other is that a lot of women like and hate their bodies *at the same time,* and sometimes don’t so much hate their fat as have an absolute terror of censure if they’re caught talking about it in a positive way.

    For that reason, I have to say, *thank you* for writing this piece. The difference between feeling like your emotions and opinions are perfectly justified and feeling like they’re freakish (even if they are perfectly justified) can be as small as one other person saying they feel the same way.

  2. Sarah said,

    November 27, 2006 @ 2:47 pm

    In India a woman in a store said to me, “Oh! You are so fat!? and she said it in such an entirely pleased and complimentary way that it completely threw me for a loop.

    Just reading this threw ME for a loop. So totally awesome. Thanks for this.

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URI

Leave a Comment

Please read the comment moderation policy before posting. Thanks!