Growing up, I didn’t believe that fat could be beautiful. No, beauty was restricted to those who were thin. I didn’t understand the beauty of Renaissance models, instead trying to say that they valued fat as a sign of wealth, but that it wasn’t actually beautiful.
And I was completely confused when I watched Oklahoma! and heard Will singing about Kansas City. In the song, he describes going to a burlesque show and how “one of the girls was fat and pink and pretty.” But using the words “fat” and “pretty” in the same sentence, the same description, just didn’t compute. I assumed he must be using the word “fat” to mean curvy, not actually fat. I even said so to a girl I was babysitting (who was also confused by that line).
In both cases, I was performing mental gymnastics to avoid associating anything beautiful with fat. Fat was a bad word, an ugly word. After all, all the media told me that beautiful women were thin. My grandfather, who was wonderful in many respects, also commented negatively on the weight of any in the family who were not super thin (and praised those who were slender).
Even though I was naturally slender – to the point of being accused of having an eating disorder, which is also not a fun stereotype, but not the same as fat-shaming – I always hoped I wouldn’t gain weight. I hoped I wouldn’t gain the “freshman 15” in college, for fear of being less beautiful. I’m ashamed to say I even looked down on those who did gain that weight.
But now I have children of my own, and I see the media portrayals and stray comments with a new perspective. I wonder how my children will receive and internalize those nearly subconscious messages. What I want them to know, what I want to teach them, is that their beauty comes from within, and that their clothing size matters not at all in that determination.
A lot of this comes from my acceptance of the changes in my own body, having had 3 children well over 8lbs at birth, and the diastasis recti that has come with that. While I wish I could’ve come to this realization earlier, I’m glad I’m learning it now, and I hope my children see me be comfortable in my own skin and internalize that example. I’ll just keep repeating that size matters not, and pray that message will overshadow what the media tells my children.