I am so glad I am 26 years old in this social media day and age instead of 13. When I was 13, I was rosy-cheeked and yet to shed my baby fat. And you know what I did the year I was 13? I basically quit eating. I remember asking my mom to make me the same tortilla roll with turkey and a tiny bit of cheese, and that was generally what I’d eat every day at school. That’s it. I would mask my grumbling stomach with lots of water and chewing gum.
I remember feeling very uncomfortable in my body. I hated the adolescent chubbiness. I didn’t realize that as you age, your body changes practically overnight. The curves of my grown-up body hadn’t formed yet. I didn’t look like the older girls, like the girls I saw in my fashion magazines and issues of “YM.”
So I shrank it to my liking. If that meant I spent a chunk of every night on my treadmill, then that’s what I did. Though this baby eating disorder never fully took hold of my brain and body – thank God – it was definitely something I struggled
with for awhile.
I was lucky to move past it relatively quickly. If you look at photos of me from high school, I look happy, healthy. I was a regular Midwestern girl who wore a size 5 jean, who ate M&Ms by the bag but cheered my heart out on the basketball court, dancing with my pom-poms for hours. I looked totally normal. I still do.
That’s not to say I don’t feel guilty about eating an entire bag of jalapeno Cheetos, or compare myself to other women, or hate the way my arms look in a photo, or whine about my love handles in low-rise jeans. I have days where I think I’m the nastiest creature to walk the earth, but I also have days where I think I’m sexy as hell. That’s normal.
I don’t have a thigh gap. Guess what? My body isn’t made that way! You can’t just achieve a thigh gap; it’s all in the positioning of your bones and your legs. And guess what? I don’t give a shit. I don’t have a thigh gap, but I have legs that can carry me for miles and that I can stand on for hours a day. They’re not perfect, but they work. I don’t care that my thighs are not Instagram-worthy, and neither does anyone important to me.
I don’t have a “bikini bridge,” which seems to be the new social media-driven trend this week in women’s bodies. If you’re not familiar, the bikini bridge is the area of open space created by bikini strings and hipbones, exposing a small space of your lower abdomen. Seriously? I mean, I guess I have one if I position my lower back just so, suck in and quickly snap a photo. No boy who’s ever been on the receiving end of a bikini photo has ever made a comment.
I’m reading that the bikini bridge is a hoax started by Internet boards like 4chan and Reddit, but if it’s taken off this quickly then it’s not a hoax anymore. It’s a trend. Congratulations, Internet folks! You’ve created another ridiculous expectation that makes young girls like the 13-year-old I once was feel bad about themselves.
I feel awful for young girls who have to see these things on their Instagram feeds, plastered all over their Pinterest boards. I hate that they feel defined by the space between their thighs. Hashtags and photos seem so simple, but they can make a huge impact. Teenagers have embraced social media in their own unique way; those “anon” Twitter accounts they create wrack up the followers as they retweet insipid quotes and Pinterest photos, dreaming of a life that they don’t yet know is unattainable, fabricated for the internet. The girl who hides behind her anonymous Twitter account full of pretty pictures wants her followers to think she’s that picture-perfect girl in the Pinterest photos, but she’s not. Social media has just conditioned her to wish she was, to wish she was the girl with the tumbling head of wavy hair, the tiny waist and the thigh gap posing on some random beach during the sunset.
Some girls have thigh gaps. Some girls have bikini bridges. Some girls have both, and others, like me, have neither. I might not have these things, but I do have plenty of others: a busy brain, a couple talents, parents who love and support me, plenty of great friends, a relatively healthy approach to the way I look in a swimsuit. My body is far from perfect, but it’s the only one I have. I try every day to look for the positive in myself. And I wish for those things for every impressionable young girl.