Too Fat for Ballet

I’m a fat girl, and I don’t deny it. The thinnest I have been as an adult has been 135lbs. This was not a healthy thing for me. I had lost 30lbs in as many days thanks to the crash “Your gall bladder WILL try to gnaw its way out of your body through your liver if you eat anything with a .1 gram of fat…and that’s anything at all” diet.

This? This was not something I wanted. I had to exist, painfully, on mostly veggies, because anything else caused excruciating pain. See, what was not known by my doctors was that my “gallstones” were obstructing my liver, and by the time they figured that out, my liver was starting to fail. Funny thing about a gal that doesn’t fever; there was no way to tell until they actually tried to look for something causing pain so bad I couldn’t walk and could barely remain conscious. By that time, I had lost a dangerous amount of weight in a very short period of time.

What was my mother’s reaction? As I was recovering, she told me how good I looked for how thin I was. I felt horrible.  I had just been through the biggest medical scare of my life, where removing my gallbladder had become something doctors were kicking around the thought of to something that was a medical necessity before I succumbed to septicemia, and I was being praised for how good I looked so ‘thin’. I was too thin. I didn’t feel like me. Now, there are a ton of issues that could have contributed to the feeling of hating my body at that weight for being too thin, including the abuse issues that cropped up at the same time with my then common-law husband, however, the main thing is that I didn’t like my body that way.

Yet, then the question becomes, how healthy was my body image then or now? I remember being a little girl and wanting desperately to go to ballet classes, but I was put in sports instead. I remember times where I was told I wasn’t thin enough for certain outfits as I went back-to-school shopping with my mother or sister. Then I see pictures of me at that age, and while I had chubby cheeks, I had a body I would certainly not call “fat”. Yet my impressions, going back to some of my earliest childhood memories, were that my mother and sister thought of me as a “chubby” or downright “fat” kid.

The reality of it is that I was not fat, nor chubby. I have long legs, an elegant neck, and a natural flexibility and balance that, assuming it had been encouraged, would have been perfect as a dancer. However, that was never to be because I was ‘too chubby’ for ballet. Of course, if asked now, the reason I couldn’t do ballet was because I needed glasses, or ‘you were never interested in that!’ It is funny how all my happy childhood memories my parents remember exactly as I do, and how all the worst, especially but not limited to the ones that cast my family into any possible negative light, I am simply ‘making up’ or ‘misremembering’ at best.

My sister, eight years older than me, had one of those figures were she could eat anything she wanted and she’d stay thin. She went to dance classes. Of course, she was seen as not eating as much as me. She was very proud of the pretty clothes she could wear. She made my parents very proud for how pretty she was, how many friends she had, while I remained the chubby girl with thick glasses that was socially awkward.

My sister had a Sweet Sixteen Party. It was the envy of my youth. A hall was rented, food was catered, and there was even a (non-alcoholic) bar! A DJ had been hired. My parents danced. Oh, I couldn’t wait to turn sixteen. I remember that, even through the depression that came associated with my pre and early teens, how I couldn’t wait to be sixteen for my own rented hall party. I think there was even something I said in a suicidal haze once to that effect; that if I died before I turned sixteen, I couldn’t have my party, now could I?

My “Sweet Sixteen” birthday came and went in 1997 without a single fanfare. My cake didn’t even say how old I was. It was just a store-bought cake with ‘Happy Birthday’, to my recollection, not even saying my name. I think it was chocolate, whereas my favourite is vanilla. It was the obligatory ‘birthday dinner’, with my immediate family, a few cards, maybe some presents. That was my Sweet Sixteen. There are any number of possible, and ultimately plausible, excuses ranging from the fact they weren’t that “in” during the 1990s, my father was not in the best of health and had been medically retired so money was tight, but the only thing that matter as a teenager was the thought “Fat girls don’t get ballet.”

After my sister went to college, dropped out, got married, and had two children all in very short order, she gained weight. At one point, she and I, proportionally, weighed the same. I remember how ashamed she was of that fact. I remember her dieting; getting tips from my mother, going on fad or crash diets, talking about ‘allergens’ etc. Eventually, she lost the weight. My mother was and is so proud of her for losing that nasty weight and being thin again.

For as long as I can remember, there have been diet pills, laxatives, and various fads involved in my mother’s life. Even though she is 5’ even and possibly weighed at most 120lbs. While I don’t believe in the BMI, even at the heaviest I can ever imagine she was (because she never talked about what she actually weighed, just that she needed to lose weight), she would have been within the normal, healthy weight. Yet, all through my teens, other than drugs, any ‘diet’ my mother tried to put herself on, she tried to put me on. From the cabbage soup nonsense diet, to pretty much anything. When I expressed an interest in following the (ultimately balanced) diet my father had been put on by a dietitian once, my mother said ‘no’ because it was designed to help my father gain weight. Actually, it was meant for my father to maintain a healthy blood sugar by balancing carbs properly; if anything, it would have added lean muscle, and was definitely healthier than any “diet soup”.

Recently, my mother told me that I need to lose more weight; she’s worried about my health. It is hard for me to take dieting advice from a woman who is as thick around as my pinky finger. While I do suffer from health problems, none of my health problems have ever been tied directly or indirectly to my weight. I do not have diabetes despite having Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and a father with type 1 diabetes. I do not have heart problems, blood pressure problems, or cholesterol problems. While I have problems with my joints, it centers around my hands mostly, and my legs only hurt in really damp and cold weather, and all the specialists I’ve seen have never even considered ‘weight’ to be a factor. The fact my gallbladder was removed might attribute to a lack of proper fat metabolism and/or to some abdominal and gastric intestinal complaints I’ve had over the years correlating directly to its removal, however, those began when I was my ‘thinnest’. I have never had a doctor that suggested my weight could be a factor in any health issue that I’ve ever complained about; the only discussion of weight was as a symptom of an underlying condition, such as a hormonal imbalance.

So, keeping in mind that my doctor has never seen a reason to question my weight in correlation to my health, why does my mother keep pressing me to lose weight? I think, at the heart of it, she still believes that fat girls don’t get ballet. It’s hard to take body image seriously from someone that thinks she needs to lose weight when she is nearly at the underweight category according to the most ridiculous of body image nonsense tools.

I’m a fat girl, and I’m damned proud of it.

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