Sometimes I think about being thin. I remember what it was like to be noticeably thin as a pre-teen and even a teenager — the kind of skinny that most easily translates to “gangly,” “flat as a board,” or “like a stickbug.” I remember wanting so desperately to have curves, stuffing my bra and sticking my butt out when I walked, wondering if my hip-hugger jeans made me look any less angular.
And then, all at once, I became something that magazines and salesgirls and even personal trainers would call “pear-shaped.” My hips grew wide and my ratios became impossible to fit into the stylish, distressed jeans I used to love. Suddenly, there were little pockets of fat at the top of my thighs and I worried about the way my arms would jiggle in a sleeveless dress. Where I once was too slender to be considered a woman by the cruel boys in my class, I was now just a little bit bigger than I would want to be.
I don’t know what big is, really. It’s not a size, that’s for sure. It’s not a number on a pair of jeans, or a belt that has to be loosened one notch, or even a little pouch that forms on your stomach when you sit down. Big is a feeling, it’s worrying that your thighs might dimple when you cross your legs, or that a bikini will turn into a joke on your body, or that the dress you have chosen doesn’t fit onto the diagram that Cosmopolitan has told you illustrates your body shape. (“You aren’t hourglass, dear, you are pear-shaped.”)
Big is feeling like you are not elegant, like you are not the gazelle that strides into the room, all flowing, effortless clothes and the kind of long, thin arms that imply a great deal of self-control. You see the women who embody this, walking lightly on their feet and laughing over iced tea and salad, all clean lines and soft movements. Everything they do seems light where you are heavy and clumsy, and you can’t help but want to be them, even when the only thing you know is that they are thin.
When you feel big — even if you may not be, in some cold, statistical way — everything feels wrong on you. Just a little too tight, just a little too much, and you are trying to contain it all at once. You suck it in with tights and belts and jeans you have to zip while lying flat on your back. You are suddenly taking up too much space, overly aware of where your body begins and ends as you try to squeeze between two very-close restaurant tables.
I remember what it was like to be thin, and I hated it. I used to dream of a body with rises and falls, that someone could squeeze and hold onto and think to themselves, “This is a woman.” I was filled with unfair notions of what a “woman” even was, surrounded by the girls who blossomed quickly and looked just like the ones the boys saw in magazines. I remember closing my eyes and imagining myself with breasts, with a butt, with wide, generous hips. I remember hating the feeling of thinness, the way everything seemed to swim on me, the way I jutted out of my silly ruffled bikini at every angle. All I wanted was to grow soft.
And now I am soft everywhere, and everything around me feels sharp.