Standing in the kitchen, my thick thighs rubbing together underneath my skirt, I am slowly working the premade pizza dough to stretch. It came in a plastic bag, this dough, from one of those “Cook At Home” meal box programs, the kind you try because you have a coupon for a free week and then ultimately pay for a few more weeks because you forget to cancel the service (because it costs way too much).
The meals I have ordered from this service are touted as both “healthy” and “vegetarian,” which are not, in case you didn’t know, synonymous terms in the least. I know this because I am primarily the latter (a vegetarian) and aspire to be the former (health conscious), but it’s a difficult reconciliation.
I want to be healthy. I try to be healthy. I don’t eat much meat, but I eat a lot of cheese and brussels sprouts. And spinach. I read ingredient labels; I put back the bread where the first word listed is enriched.
I drink a green smoothie every morning. Whir, whir. Pulsing the blender with my fingers, adding the chia, the flax. I like the taste, the texture. The green. I imagine the antioxidants swerving through my veins, Go Go Gadget Vitamin E.
Of course, I also eat dessert. Everyone knows there’s not much meat in dessert. And I really like dessert.
If you’re into that sort of thing, perhaps you can judge how much I like dessert by the way my thighs rub together. You can judge how much I like brie by the soft wobble of my upper arm, the part that keeps on waving long after my hand has signaled hello. You can judge every part of me that you see, if that’s the kind of thing you like to do.
If that’s the kind of thing you like to do, I won’t judge.
But what about the spinach? And the smoothie? Do you see my love for flax seed in the strong sloping hardness of my back? Are you looking at the whites of my eyes and the thickness of my hair, a braid down my back, a silver dollar-sized hunk? Can you see my sturdy bones? The pinkish hardened healthy half moons of my nails?
It’s not about the way you look. I’m concerned for your health.
But really, can you judge how healthy a woman is by the thick, fleshy curve of her hip? Does being a size 12, 14, 16 alone really mean my days are numbered? Is this the only answer that matters? Those who want to judge are much more apt to assess my healthfulness based on the number on the inside of my bathing suit versus the number on the paperwork from my doctor’s lab — they believe the measure of a healthy woman is the measure of her thighs. Forget science. Forgo numbers. Screw you, doctor. It’s modern beauty we should worry about. This tells me all I need to know about this woman.
If you are into that sort of thing, if you are the type to make a judgment based only on what you see, then you are not really my type at all.
It’s your health I worry about. It’s not about the way you look. Oh, but it is. It’s about the way YOU look at ME.
In a dress, as I sing karaoke. In soft pants, as I order some spaghetti. In my bathing suit, my beautiful bathing suit, at the ocean.
When you look, what you don’t see:
I’m strong. I can teach an 8-year-old girl to ride a two-wheeler in one Saturday afternoon and carry in six bags of groceries in one trip from the car.
My brain is fueled by flax seeds and sometimes chocolate croissants — it writes essays about love and sex and skin and kindness and dresses and teenagers and addiction and death and gratitude.
Sometimes my thighs rub together while I knead pizza dough.
Sometimes I am the only one in the house strong enough to open a jar of dill pickles.
Once I carried a bed up two flights of stairs, all by myself.
You can’t find those things, these intangible things, in the thick knot of flesh above my knees.
So they do not matter.
Here is what matters:
A girl at the beach whispered, “I like that fat girl’s bathing suit!” when I walked by.
I swam way out to where the waves drowned that girl’s voice.
Then I swam back in again.
I am the fat girl in the green bathing suit. It’s emerald, really, against the porcelain slope of my flesh. Green like a mermaid’s fin. All this flesh, my glorious oyster.
“They only make this suit for fat girls,” I said quietly to that girl, as I sifted my way back to my place in the sand. And her face turned red, but I smiled kindly at her anyway. Maybe she didn’t know I could hear her. Maybe she hadn’t meant it with disdain.
I smiled at that girl.
Sometimes the careful measure of my words, the beautiful measure of my style, the growing measure of my strength and my character is far greater than the size of my hips.
If only someone were interested in judging that.