Friday, 28 March 2008

the girl in the pictures

Two or three years ago now, my mother sent me an album of my life. This is the first time I've been able to look at it without crying.

I barely recognise the beautiful girl in those pictures. I don't remember ever seeing her in the mirror. I certainly never thought I looked like that. All my life I've felt that I looked like I look now. This may be why my weight has been stable for about three years. This may be why I'm this big at all.

But that beautiful girl in those pictures believed from her soul that she was the fattest, most unattractive girl in any room, and that no one could ever find her attractive.

I really wish she had known how lovely she was.

I don't wish to imply, by the way, that I'm pig-ugly now, that fat people are automatically unattractive, or that beauty is a woman's only value, because none of those things are true. It's just that at the time, I had placed so much of my own value in my looks, and so much conviction in my unattractiveness that it undermined everything else.

I recently saw someone make the suggestion that feminist fat acceptance shouldn't really be about believing that we're beautiful, regardless of size, but about re-addressing the notion that a woman's value is based on her looks. I agree with this to a significant extent - after all, if I hadn't believed my looks were so all-important, not seeing my own beauty wouldn't have mattered as much.

But at the same time, we still live in this world, and as much as I want to move beyond the beauty=value equation, I still can't deny that my belief in my own unattractiveness (based largely on the belief that I was too fat to be pretty) was the main reason I felt bad about myself for twenty years. Still is, most days.

There are other factors, of course, early rejections that left me with a paralysing fear of opening myself to more rejection. But the dominant thought was always "I am too fat and ugly, he will never like me." And while we should absolutely encourage the importance of all other aspects of a person of either sex, we can't ignore the fact that our looks matter to us.

Some time ago, before I met my husband, I liked a boy I thought was so gorgeous I might die from it. I was, of course, convinced absolutely that he was far out of my league. But really, the girl in those photos, the girl I still was six years back when I fell in lust? She could've had him. Actually, there were a number of hims she could've had, if she hadn't been so terrified of their judgement of her looks, too convinced of her own unattractiveness to admit the thought that, hey, this one wants me.

Depression and compulsive eating have taken their toll. I'm not that girl any more, and that's okay. That girl was gone even when I met my husband, and he's still crazy about me. I'm older, smarter, just beginning to figure this fat thing and this self esteem thing out. There are advantages.

I just wish I'd known, that's all.

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