Saying goodbye to my waist.

This is going to be a rambly, self-indulgent, stream-of-consciousness kind of post, so I apologize in advance.

But it recently occurred to me that I have been in a long, gradual process of saying goodbye to my waist. I’ll explain.

As a teenager, I was never thin. I passed for mostly normal (with a big butt), and was always “overweight” by BMI standards. Needless to say, I pretty much hated myself, since that’s par for the course as a teenage girl in this culture. Frankly, I thought I was gross.

(Despite many helpful men in trucks loudly assuring me I was not.)

My one redeeming feature, it seemed to me, was that on top of my wide hips sat a comparatively narrow waist. And I fixated on it. It was, at times, the only thing that kept me from abandoning myself to the despair of total self-hatred, odd as that sounds. It was the one part of me that I felt was, for certain, socially acceptable.

Not my big nose, not my oily skin, not the cellulite on my thighs, not my fat ankles. My waist, and only my waist.

Over the next ten or so years, I would gain a hundred pounds. I would go from being a curvy-but-basically-normal teenager to a frankly fat woman.

For much of that time, through my twenties, my body shape itself did not change much. I looked the same, comparatively small waist and all, just…wider.

But in the last couple of years, as I’ve approached and then passed 30, that has changed. I’ve been watching with interest (and a little anxiety) as my body ages and does the things that it’s programmed to do: tiny surface creases have appeared around the outer edges of my eyes when I smile. Silvery-grey hairs are appearing with more vigour along my temples. My fingers are plumper, the skin on my hands more creased.

And I’ve grown a belly.

I denied it for the first couple of years. I resisted so strongly, in fact, that I wore corset-style bras just to feel normal in my body, so I would look the way I was accustomed to look in clothes.

I look back on it now as a transitional stage I had to go through — and I still keep a waist-nipper on hand in case of sartorial emergency — but I got rid of the corsets not long ago, and began to comfortably wear my clothes without them.

A friend I’ve been close with since the sixth grade came to visit me in the summer. We were at a someone’s house, talking, and I’m sure the topic turned to weight and body image. My old friend has always had a remarkably different body type than mine — long and slender instead of squat and pear-shaped, but with just a hint of belly. We’ve both admitted to having envied the other’s body shape through the interminable torture of adolescence.

Anyhow, on this evening, I stood up to walk into the kitchen, our conversation about bodies trailing off, and I heard her say, quietly, “…you always had such a tiny waist.”

I looked down at myself and had my first conscious thought that that was no longer the case. The body I had mentally defined myself with for so many years was gone, replaced by another I was still getting to know.

Even during all the corset-wearing and fretting about keeping my waist looking slender in clothes, I hadn’t really admitted to myself what it meant. It was just something I had to do to feel normal, and I tried not to think too much about it. Probably for fear of what I’d have to face, which are the things we all face — growing older, changing, losing the easy social acceptability of youth.

But when the realization hit — that I was, indeed, losing my waist — it came with another realization, totally unexpected: I really don’t mind very much. I actually kind of like my new body. And I can look back on old pictures of myself and appreciate what I thought was so hideous at the time, but still feel happy to have what I’ve got now.

If you know me personally, you know that I don’t wear much jewelry, aside from my watch and wedding ring. Nothing on me is pierced, including my ears, and I’ve never really owned a necklace or bracelet as an adult.

If you follow my inane ramblings on Twitter, you’ll also know that I got pearls for Christmas. Or, rather, that I strong-armed them out of my mom (thanks again, Mom!) because I’m an insistent brat who suddenly takes a fancy to something and cannot let it go.

When I turned 17, my mom gave me another piece of jewelry as a gift — another thing I’d suddenly and inexplicably fixated on: a shell cameo brooch, carved in the typical profile of feminine youth. I wore it constantly on a velvet ribbon around my neck, and then put it away when I got married. It’s not surprising that I strongly associate that shell cameo with youth. In my mind, it’s become a token of that period of my life.

And, subsequently, I think the reason I got those pearls, why I wanted them so intensely, was that they signified something about passing from youth into maturity. It was an assertion that there is as much beauty in maturity as in youth — even though it’s rarely admitted by our culture.

I decided I wanted to cultivate that, to appreciate it, after having spent much of my twenties stealthily avoiding cameras, wishing I could reinhabit my teenaged body, and absolutely dreading the thought that I was aging and would soon end up on some kind of social refuse-heap of oldness.

When I got them, I took the shell cameo out of storage. It now lives pinned on the lapel of my coat, like a merit badge of something accomplished, an adolescence survived. I wear the pearls daily, in the cameo’s former place, as an acceptance of finally feeling like a Real Adult, and as a way of showing how pleased I am with it.

The same goes for my belly. When I got rid of the corsets, it took a while to get comfortable wearing my belly so openly. Now it doesn’t faze me, and for the first time in my life, I can look at recent pictures of myself without cringing in horror. When I get up in the morning, and take my usual pains in getting dressed, I actually like how I look in a way I haven’t since early childhood.

I can’t help but think how funny it is that, in the end, gaining a hundred pounds and losing my waist really hasn’t turned out to be so bad. Actually rather nice.

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57 Comments

  1. Posted March 22, 2010 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    I think it’s great that you are learning to grow older gracefully. It’s a very admirable trait! I hope I feel the same after I hit 30.

  2. Posted March 22, 2010 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    My upcoming birthday officially puts me closer to 30 than 20. That, combined with gaining 20 lbs in the past year, which puts me well above my previous highest weight, definitely caused a bit of a crisis for me. I have more of a belly than I used to and my boobs are bigger than I like. I’m noticing cellulite, when I used to have very little, and have found several gray hairs. It’s a weird change.

    But this is my body and it does everything I ask it to do with little complaint.

    I think it’s amazing that you’ve made such a mental shift in how you see yourself. I hope I can do the same.

  3. Posted March 22, 2010 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Shout out for self acceptance! I love that you can embrace the change in yourself for its positive connotations. Cuz really the loathing is not about “new reality”, IMO, as much as it is about the reaction to change. I’m going to be 40 soon and I have to say, the changes are very liberating in many ways. They signify the person you are becoming.

  4. Posted March 22, 2010 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    This was a beautiful post to read . Thank you for sharing this and your perspective. I’m 25 and some days feel like I’m about to hit 40, and other days I feel like a confused teen. Thanks!

  5. Arwen
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    I’m 35. This was needed. Aging with grace is still not my strong suit.

    • Arwen
      Posted March 22, 2010 at 11:10 am | Permalink

      (And so, thank you!)

  6. usedtobeavegetarian
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Thanks for this! I’m well past 40, and have noticed my body shift in the past few years. I always hated my round belly, but now it is definitely wider as well and I *really* hate it. I’ve been fantasizing about corsets and Spanx and all the rest of it — acceptance feels impossibly far out of reach.

    I draw inspiration from your use of the pearls as a symbol of maturity. They sound dignified — not in a boring matronly way, just in an adult womanly way. I think it might help me to find a similar way to shift my self image positively into the present instead of just longing to reach back into the past to a youth that I didn’t enjoy or appreciate all that much when I had it.

    Thanks again!

  7. Posted March 22, 2010 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    I’m going trough that myself, I’m almost 35 now and my body has changed a lot the last couple of years.
    I always had big thighs and a round butt, but the upper part of my torso was thinner. When I lose weight the fisrt thing that shows are the bones around my neck. I never liked my big thighs, since I was little I remember feeling ashamed of them and comparing it to other people and feeling like a big disfigured monster. Specially when I sit, they are wow, BIG!
    But I used to have a thinner part, I didn’t have a belly and my arms were thinner than the lower part of my body, and that was my “salvation”.
    But as I got older and fatter, my thighs weren’t the problem anymore: I grew a belly (not huge, but big for me), my arms got thicker, I’ve got stretch marks on my thighs and butt. Last year I sat on an wooden armchair and I felt my butt being too big for that, I was shocked. I also have a lot of gray hair, but my family has it so I saw it coming a long time ago.
    But the thick arms, the belly and the armchairs were a shock, I must confess, and, to be honest I didn’t quite recover yet. And I started missing the old days when all I had to complain about was the size of my thighs. Sigh…
    About 2 and a half years ago I decided not to wear anything that is tight or unconfortable. Everything that isn’t a perfect fit for me as I am right now is put in a suitcase or I give to someone else or I host a swap evening when I invite friends over to swap our clothes (usually they are thinner than I am and usually get some accesories and give more than I get) but is usually fun. Anyway, when I decided not to wear nothing that feels unconfortable and always have hanging in the closet only the things that fits me great NOW it was a huuuuuuuuge step towards self acceptance.
    And also that although I’m fatter with bigger arms and stuff, my life hasn’t change, the world didn’t stop; I’m bolder and less neurotic than I used to be,I’m happier than I was, I know myself better, I respect myself and my body limitations, I do the things I like even when I’m not feeling confortable with my body. I have a better relationship with my body and I even thank my body parts for the things I did during the day.
    I guess I’m facing my worst fears, having a heavier and rounder body, but to be honest I feel good because although I’m at the “wrong” side of the scale, BMI’s and such things, at the same time I’ve never felt more aware and more respectful of myself and who I am. What I mean is that there were changes not only in my body, but really good changes about how I feel about myself. Thanks for sharing your story with us. I almost did a post myself here, sorry! ;)

  8. HeatherJ
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    What a wonderfully inspiring and feel-good post. Thanks Michelle.

  9. catgirl
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Oh wow, I really admire you. I can’t even stop dying my hair (to save money) because I feel so attached to my current hair color as part of my identity.

    I also wish I could be more accepting of my giant floppy breasts so I could occasionally go out in public without a bra (because it’s impossible to find a comfortable bra at this size).

    • Posted March 22, 2010 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

      Full disclosure: I still dye my hair! Not because of the grey, though, but because it’s something I’ve always done since I like a shade darker than my usual colour, and it gives my very fine hair some body. Someday, I will be able to give it up :)

      • catgirl
        Posted March 22, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

        Oh, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with dying hair. I just feel bad that I’m so attached to this color that I might not be able to give it up even if I couldn’t afford to keep doing it. I don’t feel like my current color is any better than my natural color, I just feel like it’s more a part of my identity because I’ve had it for so long.

      • Goosie
        Posted March 22, 2010 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

        I always thought that I’d go gray naturally, but when I started noticing a LOT of gray hairs around age 27, I ditched that idea. For the last little while, I’ve been using henna, which I *love* and imagine I’ll be using for the foreseeable future. It’s kind of messy and time-intensive, but it’s awesome for my hair and I love all the gray coverage.

      • Meems
        Posted March 22, 2010 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

        I dye my hair a shade darker, too. I’ve always preferred the darkest brown with my coloring.

        • Posted March 22, 2010 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

          Yeah, see, my eyebrows are naturally black/very-dark-brown, but my hair is a medium brown. It’s just better if they match, I think.

    • Jen Casebolt
      Posted March 26, 2010 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

      Have you tried the Lane Bryant catalog? They don’t have really large sizes in the stores, but they went up at least to an H cup, back in the days when I wore a 38H (and probably needed bigger still but couldn’t find anything).

      I had breast reduction surgery 9 years ago, going from the aforementioned 38H+ down to a 38C. I still don’t regret getting rid of the 5 pounds of tissue that they took, but it definitely changed my self-image. Before, I was enormous on top, but because of that, my waist and hips looked smaller. After, I couldn’t help but notice my belly. And now that my belly actually sticks out farther than my breasts when you look at me from the side…

      Just goes to show, you can change your body however you want, but until you change your MIND, you will never be happy with your body.

  10. Ellen Brand
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for writing this. It’s a lovely post on it’s own, but for me it’s also a view into a world that I can’t really understand on my own.

    I’m 32. I don’t look distinctly different than I did at 22. Or than I did at 18. My weight’s fluctuated, but my proportions haven’t. I’m androgynous. I have a belly, no hips, no butt. My weight accrues in my belly and my back, like a man’s. It’s only my voice that pegs me as female. My body isn’t changing, except in the tiny, subtle ways of aging. My blood pressure’s creeping up, my eyesight is slowly becoming less-sharp. It feels odd, and I often don’t feel normal, so it’s nice to see what other people with more common patterns feel and think. Thank you.

  11. Posted March 22, 2010 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    In the last few years, not only have I grown older (well, duh!) but I’ve also realized that I’m one of the oldest people on the Internet sites I frequent. As an only child, I was brought up surrounded by people who were older than I was. On top of that, I accelerated, so I finished high school a year younger than most kids. Now, I am a venerable and wise older woman. It’s an interesting feeling and not necessarily one that I am always comfortable with.

    On the physical front, back problems and arthritis have made me grow old before my years. This I hate. But what I have a hard time dealing with is my face–more than my somewhat thicker waist (age, babies, weight–the usual) or rounder belly (I’ve never had a flat stomach). My face is drooping. I’ve got frown lines on either side of my mouth, am getting jowly and have a little turkey wattle. When I gently tug my jaw flesh upwards, there I am–a young woman again. Then I let go and London bridge comes falling down.

    I would like to say that I am growing old gracefully but that would be a lie. I don’t like it at all. Would I consider plastic surgery? At this point, I can’t say no, though I doubt I will ever go through with it. BTW, my (6 1/2 years younger) husband loves me just the way I am. He’d have me in the sack twice a day, if that were possible.

    I am 53.

  12. Lori
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful post!

    I had a baby a week and a half ago, and I’m in the process of adjusting to my post-second-baby body. I actually weigh about 10 pounds less now than I did before I got pregnant, thanks to months and months of morning sickness (baby girl was 8 lbs. and is super healthy, so my low weight gain didn’t do her any harm), but my body is just different. My hips and butt seem to have shrunk down and my waist has spread out. It may be temporary, as it was after my son was born, or my body might be losing some of its hourglass-iness. I don’t know. It’s hard not to feel like my body isn’t looking the way it should, though.

  13. Kelly
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    (@Lori – congratulations!)

    I’m 32 and my body has changed over the years. I don’t know how baby-related it is (four pregnancies, two children). Sometimes I think it’s more age related. Most things have been improvements. I like having a mature woman’s figure, strong legs and arms, big soft breasts. My husband does too. He can’t keep his hands off me. Neither can the kids, really. Everyone who really matters to me thinks I’m lovely.

    Still, the word “waist” actually hurts to read because I’ve never had a waist.* Or not much of one, anyway. I measure 43″, 36″, 43″ (I know this because I sew). I know that is technically d

    I’m taking a bellydancing class. This is week three. Having my belly exposed and hanging out? I’m not quite ready for that. However, learning to move and shake it and feel it move? (instead of) This feels … disconcerting. And amazing.

    * OK, I do know everyone actually has a waist, even those whose waists aren’t smaller than breast or hips. What I mean by “waist” is what Michelle meant – a small waist.

  14. Posted March 22, 2010 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    My second paragraph was truncated. I meant to write:

    “I know that is technically defined as a ‘waist’ but I’ve never felt I had a small enough waist. Ever. Even when I was very slim. I suppose I feel ashamed or bad about my waist in the same way other women hate their breasts or whatever. Makes me sad because – when in our lives are we going to learn to love and enjoy what we have?”

  15. Michellers
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    Wow, I really wish that I was so reconciled about losing my waist. But even more so my chin. Throughout my life, no matter how much I weighed, I had a defined jawline and neck, which allowed me to “pass” as thinner no matter what was going on below the neck. But now in my 40s, the chin and neck have…merged. I’m still working on not cringing when I see pictures of myself.

    Which brings me to the “usual pains in getting dressed” that you do. I haven’t bought any–and certainly not any flattering–clothing in several years. I have been thinking a lot lately about taking some “pains” and reclaiming my appearance. Chin or no chin, waist or no waist, I do deserve some nice things to put on my body.

    Maybe not pearls, though… :-)

    • Posted March 22, 2010 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

      I got the double chin going on these days too, at least from certain angles. It was very hard to get used to, but it’s another thing I don’t mind so much now.

      Also, I spent a good several years in my twenties not really dressing well because I felt awful about myself. It is so, so worth wearing clothes you like. I enjoy clothes and makeup and girly things in general, so allowing myself to get back into them after a bizarre period of abstention was really nice, and only helped me feel better.

  16. Patsy Nevins
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    I am past 60 & I started out with an hourglass-shaped body, though my belly has always been round & prominent in comparison to the rest of my body at whatever weight I have been & moreso because my cerebral palsy causes me to throw my belly forward when I walk. I have had two children, spent nearly three years nursing, & I have been active all my life. In fact, my strongest tendency has been to exercise compulsively & I have done so for about 3 to 4 years at a stretch on four different occasions in my life. I suppose that this helped me hold on to the hourglass a bit longer. The last compulsive period lasted from about 11 to about 7 years ago. Of course, during this time, I was aging in earnest (& am puzzled to see women in their 20’s & 30’s talking about ‘changes of aging’…WHAT aging?) & going through the perimenopausal period (I finally finished menopause three years ago at 57.) Having a large, round tummy has always been something I have worked at accepting, moreso since both my abusive alcoholic father & the emotionally/verbally abusive father of my sons always ridiculed & criticized my body. And now, as I have moved through my late 50’s & into my 60’s, I too am ‘losing my waistline’…the hourglass has evolved into an apple & when I wear Rightfit jeans, for instance, I am definitely a yellow. It isn’t just the normal slight gradual weight gain which accompanies aging until we become old enough to start shrinking, it is that aging causes some gradual loss of muscle tone & a redistribution of weight; that happens even to people who really don’t gain much weight, including naturally lean, athletic men who still weigh what they did when they played football but discover that their waists are 4″-5″ larger at 50 than they were at 20. It is called gravity & it weighs down on all of us & presses harder the longer we travel around this planet.

    I have to make daily adjustments to living in my fat, aging, disabled body & to being partnered with a naturally lean, athletic, & quite handsome man 9 years my junior, who is doing his own aging, but doing so in a sexier, more socially-approved way in a much more socially-accepted body. I have to adjust to more aches & pains, to the change in sleep patterns, to a gradual, slow loss of mobility (which is likely easier for me than for able-bodied people, since I have lived with disability since birth.) I do not dye my hair or wear makeup & have no intention of everdoing so, though I give my skin good care & use good moisturizers with sunblock. However, I have some genetic things in my favor, aside from being related to a lot of fat women who lived well into their late 80’s to early 90’s. The women in my family look much younger than we are (enough so that, in my own case, I have twice been mistaken for my son’s wife & the mother of my granddaughter when we were out together). I have few lines or wrinkles & no grey hair; neither my mother nor my grandmother had any discernible grey until at least age 75. I understand that it is genetic, much like being fat or whether or not a person goes bald. I hope that, as time moves on & my body changes & I deal with my life challenges & eventually begin to look my age, I will be able to accept it & adjust & continue to feel comfortable in my own skin & live my life as fully as I can & know, as we all need to know, that I am “good enough” as I am. We all are & age is just a number. I figure that the higher the number goes, the better. I want to live as long as possible, at least as long as my mind is sharp & I can enjoy life, love & be loved. Also, as a fat activist, I sort of consider every birthday to be a victory over the fat bigots.

    • Posted March 22, 2010 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

      Also, as a fat activist, I sort of consider every birthday to be a victory over the fat bigots.

      Haha, this is awesome.

      I also tend to think the higher the number, the better. The older I get, the more I like myself — God’s honest truth.

    • Meems
      Posted March 22, 2010 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

      Oh, I plan to live to at least 90. Hell, my grandfather did and he smoked for 30+ years.

  17. Anna
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    -hugs- Thankyou.

  18. Posted March 22, 2010 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    It’s funny, but I’ve had an odd sort of secret weapon in aging gracefully: my great-grandmother. As it happens, I was named for her and I look precisely like her. No, really, I do. I also seem to have inherited her gift for baking. Anyway.

    I’ve got pictures of her from about age fourteen to her golden wedding anniversary, so I’ve always been able to look at her pictures and see what I’m going to look like a bit later on in life. I honestly think that’s been part of my general zen attitude toward aging and the physical changes that have come with it thus far.

    Of course it also helps that I have the examples of a lot of long-lived relatives who have remained vital and active into their eighties and nineties. With fifty creeping up fast, I feel as comfortable in my own skin as I did at eighteen, and I was pretty comfortable then, too.

    Then again, part of looking like my great-grandmother involves no grey hair yet and just starting in the last few years to get some tiny character lines. I’ll readily admit that doesn’t hurt one bit.

    But my waist? I gave up on hoping that would appear any time soon years ago. Great-grandma didn’t have one, and now, neither do I. I can live with that easily enough.

  19. Posted March 22, 2010 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

    I tweeted about <3 ing you with my other name tonight. That was before reading this. Now I <3 you even more.

    Do you know how often, if I look at myself naked. I lift my arms to the ceiling hoping to make a waist appear?

    For a short time I was doing this "beautiful vulvas" tumblr blog (lasted about 3 days, I'm not into porn, it actually distresses me) but I found some sites called "normal people" or other such things. There were REAL women on there who had curves, but not in that "I'm a curvy woman but I'm an hourglass" kind of way, the curves were not always in an 8 shape, they curved all over, in and out. YAY BODIES!

    (PS I <3'd you because of your suggestion people who accuse you of hating M Pollan should donate organic food to shelters. :-)

  20. meerkat
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

    “things we all face — […] losing the easy social acceptability of youth.”

    Not “we all.” Those of us who ever had that to start with.

    • Posted March 22, 2010 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

      Well, to be fair, I never really had that either, though I’ve now come to like how I look. When I was young, people mocked me mercilessly, and called me ugly to my face — when they weren’t sexually harassing me.

      But youth, in general, does find more social acceptability than older-ness, I think.

      In the end, though, people are never really as ugly as other people would have them believe. I’m convinced of this.

      • La
        Posted March 23, 2010 at 7:17 am | Permalink

        I find the opposit to be true as far as social acceptability.

        When I was a young fat girl, I was absolutely terrified of being noticed because I knew what was going to happen – I would be ridiculed mercilessly. Kids can be SO mean!!! They don’t tend to think of or care about another person’s situation or feelings.

        Older adults are not like that, for the most part. I can go anywhere and do anything and I don’t usually get any comments (even though I am a VERY large person). Maybe it’s because I am more comfortable in my own skin as I grow closer to 50. Not real comfortable, mind you, just more so than when I was younger.

        Also, someone posted earlier that she wished she had appreciated the body that she had as a younger woman as compared to now. I so agree with that. I look back on my much smaller times and realize that I was so very miserable back then. Too bad I didn’t take advantage of it while I had it. Now, I have to learn to love the me that I am now – wrinkles, big belly, thin hair, ugly legs and all!

        Thanks for your post….it was awesome as usual.

        • Posted March 23, 2010 at 7:22 am | Permalink

          Kids can be SO mean!!! They don’t tend to think of or care about another person’s situation or feelings.

          Older adults are not like that, for the most part.

          Good point…at least there’s a bit more of an expectation of politeness from adults!

      • meerkat
        Posted March 24, 2010 at 10:47 am | Permalink

        I think I get what you’re trying to say, but I’m not sure. When you’re a kid, you get put into various groups and are expected to make friends with other kids in the group. (Even I had a little success with this, but usually it was very very little.) When you’re an adult, it is harder to meet people in a social context, because you have to spend a lot of time working, and you may not be lucky enough to make friends with your coworkers; I know I wasn’t.

        But the overall trend has been toward more social acceptability, as my peer group became less fiercely mean-spirited (as La said). I don’t know if I would attribute the decline in social fun stuff since college to less acceptability or just less opportunity (no convenient concentrations of geeks my age anymore).

  21. Posted March 22, 2010 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

    It’s amazing at how you look at life! People ought to be more positive about all things to be able to grasp the meaning of life. Aging gracefully is not that difficult if you start with a positive mind.Love your post!

  22. Posted March 22, 2010 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    I had a rocking figure in high school, a bit well padded, of course, but a lovely hourglass. I, of course, though I was a cow, thanks to everyone around me telling me I was one.

    These days, I do still have a waist, but it’s not nearly as pronounced as it used to be. And I’m okay with that. I flew while fat recently, and I know I got looks because I also used a wheelchair at every airport, thanks to my bum, arthritic knee.

    And you know what? I’m okay with that too, even though I’m only 44.

  23. Posted March 23, 2010 at 5:57 am | Permalink

    Who was it that said “a waist is a terrible thing to mind?”

    I share your overall attitude toward aging.

    I am vain about my hair — it’s curly and after many years of hating it, my curls ended up being what others were copying via perms and such circa 1984, so I loved my curls more than the rest of me as a teenager. Now, my hair does not function well (other than keeping my head warm, thank you hair) here in the pacific northwest and tends to frizz and “clown-out” but I haven’t spent many years coloring it because I was afraid of damaging it.

    But I’m about 20-25% gray these days, with lots and lots of different residual colors in there, and I like it. It’s multicolored and pretty.

    The way my body has changed as I’ve aged is that my thighs, hips and butt have gotten bigger. I never had much of a waist, so that hasn’t been disturbing me.

    I like my body so much more than I did when I was younger — it’s been a brain change more than a body change.

    On thing that I’ve come to realize, and the fatosphere has played a big role in this, is that I prefer fat people to not-fat ones, from the outset. I might come to dislike someone who is fat and also shows themselves to be boorish, but I relax a little around other fat people these days. I try not to make chummy assumptions, but I notice that I no longer prefer to look at thinner bodies, but that fat bodies are to me a sign that a person has had a certain path through life (not that it’s why they are fat, but being fat has caused them to have been exposed to certain things). It’s not a matter of jolliness — but someone who has emerged from battle with a perspective on what’s truly important. I know this isn’t necessarily the case, but it can be.

    I like the way fat bodies look. I like the way some thin bodies look, too. But as containers go, fat bodies are quite nice to look at, IMHO.

    It has been a long, slow, subtle change. But being open to the idea that maybe what I think of as beautiful is more pliable than I might have though has allowed me to develop this perspective — although it’s probably always been there, when I think about it, as for the most part, the fatter people in my life were kinder and more loving and less hurtful to me than the thinner people. There certainly are not-fat people I love (my daughter being the most obvious example and I love no one else more than her) but it is interesting to notice my own biases and preferences.

    This is not bashing thin people. This is an observation about what I, in my indosyncratic way, feel when I see fatter bodies. I don’t dislike thinner ones at all. All bodies are good bodies.

    • Posted March 23, 2010 at 7:25 am | Permalink

      I prefer fat people to not-fat ones, from the outset.

      Haha, so do I! I actually took the tacit bias test (or whatever it’s called) that was developed by Harvard (I think…bad memory here) in relation to whether I preferred fat people over thin people. And I preferred fat people, which kind of surprised me. I think because I assume someone who is fat is likely to be more friendly/understanding toward me.

  24. Posted March 23, 2010 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    I have a big ole belly. Like REALLY big. 2o months pregnant big. I’ve always had a belly, but as I age it is getting more and more prominent. I used to LOATHE it and always try to disguise it, hide it, deny it.

    But with stronger self esteem and confidence comes a sense of peace with my belly. I look at it and I see the belly my Grandma has always had. The “pregnant look” belly. It’s part of me, and there’s no hiding or denying it. It’s just there for the whole world to see.

    It’s a good feeling to let go of that self loathing. Sometimes it bugs me, but nowhere near as much as it used to.

  25. MM
    Posted March 23, 2010 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    What you say about self-consciousness in wearing your belly/new body “so openly” and your subsequent sense of tenuous coming-to-terms in time are words well taken by those who have eating disorders and must learn to live in a much different body, physically, emotionally and from a point of identity. When someone with anorexia goes through re-feeding, it’s a process destined to prompt relapse for the very reasons you describe a “normal” person’s response to the changes with aging. Except it happens all at once … 20,30,50 pounds or more and doesn’t distribute evenly for a year or more. Your body moves differently. You don’t recognize the self you have known for however long the eating disorder has persisted. Sometimes, body systems don’t function well for awhile, and that is difficult to abide and accept. All of it on top of the pathology and neurology that drives eating disorders. It’s a lot. Treatment providers will tell patients to give it time … to sit with restored weight … to give your brain, body and identity time to catch up, to find some semblence of something-less-than-total-disgust-or-discomfort. And for those who do, it seems it helps. To read the self-talk, body-identity and change-acceptance stories of women coping with aging helps me feel less alone with the experience of anorexia … bodies, identity, fear, change … they are common to all of us.

  26. Posted March 23, 2010 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    La said, “Older adults are not like that, for the most part. I can go anywhere and do anything and I don’t usually get any comments (even though I am a VERY large person).”

    Yes, that’s true, but it’s because as we age (especially we women), we become invisible. I see this all the time when I am working with a certain colleague who is much younger and a real “knockout” by society’s standards. When I’m beside a traditionally beautiful and young person, other people (usually men) don’t even realize I’m there.

    This can actually be a very interesting experience, as it enables me to surreptitiously observe testosterone at work and see how men can start to go all stupid and goo-goo eyed over a beautiful package with absolutely no content or content so vapidly narcissistic as to make it (her) unpalatable.

    Yes, I am referring to a real person. And I don’t think I’m being catty. I’m simply observing how men cannot see narcissism in a beautiful (read skinny, young) woman. They still want her more than life itself.

    • Posted March 23, 2010 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

      as it enables me to surreptitiously observe testosterone at work

      I do this quite a bit. I actually amuse myself by seeing if I can catch the ass-gapers in action. Sometimes they catch me catching them, and I laugh at them out loud or give them a knowing grin. I think it embarrasses them a little, to be reminded that people can see (and know) what they’re doing, and that they’re being waaaaay too obvious about it.

  27. Michellers
    Posted March 23, 2010 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Has anyone else whose weight has fluctuated a lot experience the “new car” problem? For years after gaining a lot of weight I felt like I was driving around a strange new car and I couldn’t tell where my perimeters were. I would attempt to brush by an object and instead slam right into, because I was constantly misgauging how far out I spread. I had bruises on my hips and thighs, and sometime even my arms, for months at a time.

    So while I haven’t totally reconciled myself emotionally with this body of mine, I am happy that at least I have come a long way in figuring out how to “drive” it.

    (I was going to make a lame joke about learning to parallel park my body but then it started to sound…a little weird.)

    • Posted March 23, 2010 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I found myself running into doorframes and stuff with my newly-expanded arms. Took a while to get used to that. But I am very clutzy and have poor eyesight, too, which doesn’t help matters.

      I also trip over my feet a lot because they are HUGE, and I’ve apparently never gotten used to them. I think part of it is that I need to work on being more mindful in my body, in general, because I kind of live in my head a lot, and I’m always preoccupied, thinking Highly Theoretical and Conceptual Thoughts while going about my day. Paying attention here and there to what I’m actually doing would be nice.

      • mh
        Posted March 23, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

        LOL as I too think Highly Theoretical and Conceptual Thoughts while constantly bumping into stuff.

  28. mh
    Posted March 23, 2010 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    I’ve always had a belly and it has recently gotten bigger. My coworkers have started asking me if I am pregnant and/or when I am due. At least 5 people have done this, and it never fails to shock me. I’m sorry, but when, exactly, did these become socially acceptable, workplace appropriate questions?

    Has this happened to anyone else, and if so, what do you say? I do my best to answer cheerfully, “Not pregnant, just fat!” But more often than not, my delivery is off (either the wording or tone go awry because I am so appalled at the rudeness, and so embarassed that my colleagues are scrutinizing my body). Any other suggestions?

    I feel that it’s not right to respond to this rudeness with further rudeness (eg, “none of your goddman business!”) due to both common courtesy and the fact that I see these people every day, but does there exist a polite way to let them know that my belly is indeed none of their goddamn business?

    • Posted March 23, 2010 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

      Hmmm. Good question. I haven’t been in this situation, but sometimes people ask me personal questions I’d rather not get into. I’ve heard advice columnists suggest that you say something along the lines of, “Wow, that’s a rather personal question!” (but cheerfully) or, coldly, “How kind of you to take an interest in my personal life,” and then directly changing the subject.

      If someone asked me if I were pregnant, my off-the-cuff response would probably be, “I’d better not be!” but that’s probably not what you’re looking for.

      I wonder if Miss Conduct (Robin Abrahams) has covered this? Ah, indeed, she has, here: http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/magazine/articles/2009/12/20/upstaged_by_christmas/

      It’s the second question down the page.

      • mh
        Posted March 23, 2010 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for the Miss Conduct link, especially this:

        …you are not being asked The Stupid Question 100 times by one person, but one time by 100 people. It is not fair to take out your anger toward the previous 99 people who asked you TSQ on the unlucky 100th person to do so. The more polite you are, in fact, the worse the person will feel.

        Quite helpful.

      • Posted March 23, 2010 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

        I’ve heard Dear Abby suggest saying “Why do you ask” while smiling sweetly, as a response to none-of-your-business questions. That would certainly throw them off balance in this situation.

        I wonder if practicing your “Not pregnant, just fat!” line by yourself would help you with your delivery or not. Might be worth a shot.

        • mh
          Posted March 23, 2010 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

          This is also good advice, thanks.

    • catgirl
      Posted March 24, 2010 at 8:17 am | Permalink

      That reminds me of a funny story. I gained weight throughout college, just like many other people. I also baby-sat to make some extra money. One day a 4 year-old asked me if I had a “baby in my belly”. Well I wasn’t surprised because I’ve always had a large stomach with firm, hard fat even when I was relatively thin, but I thought I must be really gaining a lot if a 4 year-old thinks I’m pregnant. So I baby-sat again in a few weeks and realized then that her mom was pregnant and just starting to show, and that’s why the little girl asked me about. Of course, she was just a child so she can get away with doing it. I don’t know how you can turn that into a clever response though.

      • Posted March 24, 2010 at 9:36 am | Permalink

        True story: one time I was babysitting and the kid (he was 2) grabbed my boob and looked up at me solemnly and said, “BIG.”

        I was 14, I think, and pretty mortified. Still funny, though.

        • mh
          Posted March 24, 2010 at 10:54 am | Permalink

          One time my sister was holding our 18-month-old neice, who grabbed her (my sister’s) boob and solemnly pronounced it, “Boob. Squishy boob.” She then proceeded to squish it in her little hand a few times. Classic.

  29. Posted March 23, 2010 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    Isn’t it amazing to look back at your teenage self and realize how cute you were even though you thought you were SO fat and SO ugly at the time? I keep looking at pictures and wondering what I would’ve been like if I’d learned to love my body back then rather than taking 10 years to get around to it….

  30. Posted March 24, 2010 at 2:17 am | Permalink

    My girlfriend was having a wardrobe clear out last night and gave me a bunch of clothes to try on and keep them if I wanted them. I tried on several of the skirts and when I looked in the mirror it was a case of “Holy Zarquon’s Singing Fish! Is that *my* ass? That looks amazing!” On the other hand, I have trouble sometimes liking my upper arms. I glare at them to see if my disapproval will cause them to become firmer (hasn’t worked yet)

  31. Posted March 24, 2010 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    So that’s where my waist went. I’ve been wasting a lot of time, then, lately, blaming myself for a lifetime of dieting and regaining. You know, OMG! the dreaded Belly Fat!
    Guess not.

  32. deeleigh
    Posted March 24, 2010 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    Well, I’m always a little nostalgic for the days when I had a 32″ waist and 48″ hips. Due to my bad hip and middle aged spread, it’s now a 37″ waist and 49″ hips. And you know what? Clothes fit me better, and my waist still looks defined. Maybe as I get more active it will get firmer again. Who knows.

    I’ve always had a belly, though. One roll below my waist and one above. When I’m on the smaller end of my weight range, the one above my waist can be sucked in so it looks like it doesn’t exist. The one below always sticks out around the same distance as my boobs, no matter what I weigh.

    So, just because you’ve grown a belly, it doesn’t mean you’ve lost your waist. You just have a belly+waist.

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