It was a Monday and I was shuffling around the Providence Place Mall, looking to spend the money I don’t have on clothes I don’t need. And there it was. A plain canvas bag with black lettering on it, hanging inconspicuously on the edge of a rack.
“I’m pretty sure pizza tastes as good as skinny feels.”
I laughed out loud, showed it to my best friend dismissively, and began thumbing through the silk shirts that hung beside it. But soon the smile quietly drained from my lips, because which is more popular: these sardonic words that I’m supposed to tote with an ironic smirk, or the famous Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels?
You know the answer, and so do I. So I stopped smiling.
I stopped smiling because just minutes before, in the curtain-draped dressing room, I was squeezing size four jeans over my size six ass because smaller is better and we are taught to always be better.
I stopped smiling because we are taught that a thigh gap should be on our list of New Year’s Resolutions. We are taught not to eat too much in front of the boys we like, to pretend that we love crunching leaves like we are rabbits in order to seem dainty enough to hang off their arms like Christmas tree ornaments—pretty and delicate and angular when the light hits us.
I stopped smiling because this summer I ate only slices of oranges and handfuls of nuts for 10 days in hopes of dropping 10 pounds. I stopped smiling because for those 10 days, I told myself I was full and that my stomach was shrinking that I was shrinking that shrinking is beautiful that to be beautiful is to have your hip bones jut out and jab the boy who has deemed you fuckable based on the size of your waist.
I stopped smiling because I have spent weeks and years and grades and schools and lifetimes hating the pudge of skin that falls over the waistband of my jeans when I sit down. Because I have welcomed oncoming flus with open arms and an open mind to the possibility that it might drop my appetite, a few pounds.
Because I grew up believing that skinny is the first characteristic I should strive for, I stopped smiling. Because to this day, I consider the summer I lost 13 pounds to be one of my greatest accomplishments, I didn’t feel like laughing anymore, shopping anymore. Because I’ve spent my whole life trying to take up less space, I finally felt that I had gone too far. Realized that maybe I might have disappeared completely into this quest for visible ripples over my rib cage where the skin stretches thin, for sharp cheekbones that scream nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.
I stopped smiling, but now I am laughing louder than ever.
I’m laughing because pizza definitely tastes better than skinny feels and because I’m pretty sure thigh gaps are a myth invented by masochists. I’m laughing because exercise should be done only in hopes of having fun and feeling better and because any girl who pretends a runner’s high is real is full of shit. I’m laughing because if the boy I like wants to have sex with me for my thin arms and toned calves, I probably shouldn’t want to have sex with him back. I’m laughing because I would probably fill that bag with snacks if I bought it and because I’ve decided that I’ll worry about my muffin top the next time my boyfriend is made to worry about his by everything we watch on TV, everything we see in magazines, everything we’ve been taught is normal. Beautiful.
I am laughing and I will continue to laugh and to eat and to put the love in love handles because I’m a girl with size six thighs in a size four world and that’s ok because I’m (probably) still good enough.