Kitty Fisher

Size-positivity, feminism, self-esteem crises, ginormous tits.

size doesn’t matter

Posted by Kitty on May 14, 2008

My boyfriend is a little sarcastic about my dinner-table discussion of size positivity and fat acceptance and all that.
He’s a sarcastic bastard in general, but he’s right about this.
I make fun of him for his size all the damn time.

Get your mind out of the gutter. I’m talking about his waist size.
He weighs 135 pounds. He can’t buy pants that fit, so he goes to specialty shops for the next best thing: 29 inch waist, 36-inch inseam. (He can also wear 30x34s in some brands, which you can occasionally get in straight shops, but it means he needs a belt and they ride lower than his underwear, which he dislikes.) The one pair of tailored pants he owns are tailored to a 28 and a half inch waist, with a thirty-seven inch inseam. He has very long legs and a high waist, and his lack of spare flesh means that, unusually for a man, his hipbones protrude beyond the width of his waist. His arms are likewise too long for his little body. His collarbones protrude. His knees are larger in circumference than his thighs.
People who are not used to him think he is starving. He had stomach problems in high school, and was referred to a gastroenterologist. I should explain, he had no problems with digestion, he just had mysterious tummyaches. He was eating normally, like a teenage boy– unable to sleep through the night during growth spurts, he would wake up and clean out the fridge– his mother would deliberately make too much at dinner so he’d have leftovers to eat at midnight. He ate probably three or four thousand calories a day– just like a normal teenager. But he was having stomach pains.
He walked into the gastroenterologist and the doctor actually gasped, “You shouldn’t have waited so long!” Assuming that this emaciated young man was having digestive issues and had starved for lack of medical attention. It took a few minutes to sort it out.

He isn’t starving. He isn’t anorexic. There’s nothing wrong with his intestines. But he’s six feet three, and 135 pounds. He eats more than me, most days, though I like sweet snacks more than he does, and am more cranky if I skip a meal. (He, on the other hand, likes to sit and munch through most of a bag of Chee-Tos while staring at the computer in the evening after dinner.) According to his BMI, he is one pound away from being hospitalized for anorexia. (He meets none of the other criteria, of course, but by the criteria that make me Obese with a capital O, he is Underweight, and Scarily So. He would not be allowed on a catwalk in Spain.)

I make fun of him for this all the time. I joke about his hollow leg where he puts all the food. I pinch his protruding hip-bones. I make noises like a xylophone and pretend to play songs on his protruding ribs.
I am wrong to do this. But I feel defensive, so I do it.
He is perfectly healthy. He beat me at arm wrestling last time we tried, and at regular wrestling too when that didn’t ‘take’, though I outweighed him by 70 pounds and got hours more exercise a week than him. When we move house (we’ve done this several times together) I do all the heavy lifting and he gets the door. He is stronger, for his size, than I am, but I am simply bigger than him, and 200 pounds of woman is going to be much more effective at leg-pressing a giant sofa up three flights of stairs than 135 pounds of man.

I grew up in a family with a big mother and a small father. My mother was always an impressive figure of a woman, five feet eleven inches with size eleven feet and broad shoulders and hips. My father was a small man, just six feet, narrow shoulders, narrow hips, small waist; he has never weighed more than 147 pounds. (Normally he’s 145. You can use him to calibrate your scale, most days, and his weight has been unchanged since 1965.) Several years ago my mother, through strict calorie restriction and a heightened exercise regimen, lost over 100 pounds. But even now, she still outweighs my father by at least thirty pounds. (She looks like a little old woman now, much older and frailer, but is overjoyed to finally not be “that fat woman” anymore, so I am glad for her at least. But she now has osteopenia, and I wonder how related it is to a crash diet at menopause.)

It shouldn’t bother me that my boyfriend is so much thinner than I am. That has always been normal, in my personal experience. I admit I’ve always found it a little odd when very large men take up with very small women; not that I don’t think it should happen, but that I’ve found it strange that the woman’s smallness is seen as normal or even desireable as a characteristic in itself.

But there– yesterday, it was a lovely sunny day. I did the laundry, and then went to hang it up outdoors. I have a little yard, finally, and a little clothesline, and these are things that make me happy. I grew up with clothes smelling of sunshine and grass, and in my young adult years city life has made that impossible. Now I can have it again, because I have a good living situation and a good life in general. I do count these blessings and am grateful for them. (I also have a dozen new strawberry plants. Life is joy, especially in the springtime.)

So I hung out the clothes yesterday. And there were the boxer shorts I sleep in sometimes, size XXL, white, with little penguins on them, my sister bought them for me when she worked at Old Navy. I hung them up: they’re probably twenty-two inches wide. Then I bent down and picked up the next item of clothing from the basket. A pair of the boyfriend’s boxer shorts. I hung them beside mine. Approximately half the width, but the same length, they made my shorts look comically gigantic, like cartoon bloomers. I could sail a boat with them.

I stood a moment, poleaxed by my unexpected reaction to the juxtaposition. I am a huge person. I am gigantic. How can I have been feeling so good about myself? (I was, in fact, wearing only a sports bra and a pair of jeans because I’d thrown my t-shirt into the washing machine because it was muddy from gardening, and had been inwardly smug at how nice it felt not to be worried that the neighbors might see the vast expanse of my snow-white belly which is, incidentally, more solid than normal what with all the workouts of late.) Whammo, self-esteem gone.

It took me a moment to bring myself back from it. I know I’m twice his size. I know that. I know it would kill me to weigh what he does. I also know he would look awful at my size, and the things he would have to do to reach, let alone maintain, my weight would make him miserable. We both eat a healthy diet– together. Now that I don’t care anymore, I may eat more than him, but not by much, and not most of the time (I seem to have a smaller stomach, and get full faster, despite the relative sizes of our midsections). He doesn’t make fun of me for being fat. I’m learning not to let my defensiveness make me make fun of him for being thin.

Of course his god-damned underpants are going to be smaller than mine. That is perhaps not how most people’s worlds look, but that’s how my world looks. And I like my world, I’m happier in my world. The only way this little fact of life is going to change, given that both of us are at healthy stable weights, is if I go and find myself a bigger man. And to do that, I’d have to get rid of the one I have.

Hah. Unlikely.

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