I have been repeatedly accused of being skinny. Like it’s not fair or I am cheating somehow. Like I have never had any issues with weight management or body shape. This has been going on as long as I can remember. I even had one friend in high school tell me she couldn’t wait for me to finally get fat one day. Even then, I knew she didn’t mean it personally. She was struggling with her own issues. What she failed to consider was that I was struggling with mine. My own grandmother called me snake hips. Though I knew she loved me dearly, she had no idea, as she sat there with her own womanly hips, that people were constantly describing me in boyish terms. There I was, with the boyish body that supposedly every woman wanted, but apparently no boy wanted to date. My father encouraged me that one day I would be glad that I didn’t have wider hips like the other girls. I filed that information, but I didn’t believe him.
I kept waiting to blossom. I waited and waited. Other girls turned into roses. I was just a long stem. I did gain some weight after a bit, but when I saw that it went on evenly everywhere, I knew I was expecting the wrong thing. I would just turn into a thicker stem if I kept gaining weight. I decided to lose weight; and in my search for the female figure that I hoped was hidden inside somewhere, I lost too much weight. But for a while, I thought I was fat because my waist size was incompatible with ready made clothing for women. I would buy pants and skirts to fit my hips, but they wouldn’t button. I finally stopped trying to be so very thin, I learned to sew a lot of my own clothes, and I poured myself into my studies. I still kept an eye on my weight because if I was going to be a shapeless stem, I would at least like to be a slender one.
Then along came this fellow that liked to run and he said he thought I was attractive, although I didn’t believe him either. Sometimes he said I was athletic, but with all the input I’d had over the years, all I heard was boyish. But I really liked to be around him, so he could say what he wanted. We went on runs together and had fun being active. One day we got married and within 2 years we had a baby. But in my mind, I was still boyish.
Seven babies later, it was starting to occur to me that I might actually be a little bit feminine. However, almost everyone that I met still made comments about me being skinny. They didn’t know that in my desperation to be somewhat attractively feminine, I was bound and determined to keep losing weight. That’s right. I kept losing it. Over and over. I know some women have trouble gaining weight, but I’m really not one of them. I would have severe morning sickness while pregnant that could only be controlled by constant eating, but I rarely threw up. I also believed that it was in the baby’s best interest for me to not worry too much about weight gain while I was pregnant, so I was not one of the skinny pregnant people. It may have looked like it because of my taller than average height and my “snake hips,” but I fed those babies.
When I wasn’t having babies, I counted calories and exercised when I could. Sometimes, as a mother of young children it was hard to exercise 3 times a week for 20 minutes at a stint. But I did what I could because I figured that it made more sense than sitting around being unhappy about feeling unfashionably thick. I knew I would be depressed otherwise, which meant everyone in the family would suffer. If this could all be avoided by losing weight, I would give it my best try. My belly came and went, and then partially stayed because you can only stretch something so many times before it gives up. Whenever the youngest child was old enough, I would slip off to the gym for an hour or so a couple mornings a week before the hubby had to leave for work. He left early, so this meant some very strict scheduling. He was supportive and patient. When I made deprecating comments about myself, he would roll his eyes in his subtle engineer way and ask if I was accusing him of having bad taste.
After the youngest kids were fairly independent, my husband and I started using some of our together time to run, bike, and swim. We also spent some independent time training for our first outdoor triathlon, a sprint distance, at ages 49 for our 29th wedding anniversary. I have since completed a couple more of those, and tackled my first half marathon last year just after turning 52. I am currently considering my first marathon next year, and maybe an Olympic distance triathlon. Add a lot of yard work to this, and some weekend dancing, and it burns a lot of calories!
And now here I am, at a time of life when other women around me are wishing they didn’t have quite the size of hips and other feminine attributes that they do. Yes, Dad, you were right about that. I can see that gravity has less to play with on me. It is not uncommon for me to be told that I couldn’t possibly understand dealing with weight issues, and everyone around me trumpets comforting phrases like real women have curves. Then they turn around and tell me that I am skinny. Skinny is not a nice word. Sometimes they do tell me I look amazingly young and in shape, often implying that it isn’t fair and that I am cheating. To myself, I look like a 13 year old that got left in the dryer a little too long. Still, I get no credit for all the weight I have lost or worked at keeping off over the years. I get no understanding for the years of wishing I looked more feminine. The intense effort I have put into training is discounted as “natural” for me. I’m just lucky to be “skinny,” I guess.