I’m not immune. The slings and arrows of the American fashion industry tear me down. I feel fat. I feel ugly. I feel abnormal, bloated, simply too big to be allowed. I feel like I should have done another round of weights or biked another few speed intervals. I used to be a size 6. Then I took some medication, and over the course of nine months, I gained a roly-poly, curvy-wurvy, bouncy 50 pounds. It happened so slowly. And then one day I looked in the mirror, and I saw myself. I saw fat.
After some struggle and rage, I began to come to terms with my new body. I am 5-foot-6. I wear a size 14. And bitch, I am fabulous.
Here’s a secret though: I don’t always feel fabulous. And when I don’t, I turn to Europop for the answer. In my head, maybe quietly under my breath, I start singing: “Big girl, you are beautiful / Diet Coke and a pizza please/ Diet Coke, I’m on my knees / Screaming, “Big girl, you are beautiful!”
The song’s not just some Britpop candy-flip, and Mika didn’t write it that way. It specifically mentions The Butterfly Lounge, Orange County’s first size-acceptance club. Slant calls it “a discofied-exaltation of Queen’s ‘Fat Bottomed Girls.'” I call it my Britpop savior. It’s so earnest, and so dancy, and so exuberant. So my deep secret: I am singing Mika in my head. Right now. As you read this. I can’t stop. And bitch, I am fabulous. I’m saying that right now too. I say that a lot. Because I am. And so are you.
I’m not joking. My body is fucking fabulous. I have curves for miles. And I’m in good company. Ashley Graham has snagged the cover of Sports Illustrated, and she’s perfect at size 16. Hunter McGrady, who graced SI’s Swimsuit Issue in nothing more than body paint, told People that she loves her body now as a size 16. No less than traditional-beauty-worshiping Maxim says she “stuns in spray paint.” And voluptuous, gorgeous, Mad Men siren Christina Hendricks rocks a size 14 like nobody’s business. These women look amazing. These women look fabulous. And they are around the same size as me — or bigger. I look like Christina Hendricks, people. OMG. Excuse me while I go worship my mirror.
I’m just on the cusp between plus-size, extra large, and large. It depends on who’s making and where I’m buying. I learned to wear shapewear to smooth everything out — not to make it smaller but to make the curves more aesthetic. They still bounce and flounce and curve and wiggle. They just don’t bump out in weird ways. And I learned to wear clothes that flatter what I’ve got. I don’t wear empire waists, for example, because lots of the weight settled in my tummy. Tight with shapewear? Bangin’. Empire-waist flowy? Pregnant. My best dress clutches my tits, ass, hips, and thighs. It looks phenomenal on me. I catch men watching me walk down the street. Add some high-heeled sashay, and I am amazing.
It helps that I haven’t given up. I never looked in the mirror, saw a bigger body, and saw a non-person. I always saw a woman. And that woman likes product. I prefer red lipstick. I like gold eyeshadow. My makeup routine involves 20-plus steps and finishing spray. This does not count my hair. And no, I do not give myself contoured collarbones. That’s some bullshit right there. I also wear dresses almost every day because I can, because they look good, and because I love it — it’s what I feel the most confident and comfortable in. I deserve to dress well. I deserve to have people compliment me.
I also deserve to be cuddled, and that starts with my kids. I remember, when I was small, how much I loved to hug on my grandmother. She felt squishy and soft and good. As I type, my 3-year-old is using my ample thigh as a pillow. It’s a nice thigh. It has some stretch marks, and it doesn’t belong to Kate Moss, but it’s a lovely thigh nonetheless. It serves its purpose and does its job well.
They also love to pillow their heads on my tummy. My squishy-squashy, lovely tummy, the one smattered with stretch marks from carrying them. When I wore the wrong clothes, I was mistaken for pregnant, and I learned to hate it. It was devastating to me at the time. Then I figured out how to dress, and I slowly came to love my body’s graceful curve. High-waisted bathing suits rock it out, as do rash guards.
I can’t lie — I still struggle. It’s hard to feel fab when you know assholes like Milo Yiannopoulos would take your pic and slap the caption “fatty” on it. Sometimes I don’t believe my husband when he says I’m gorgeous because he married a size 4, not a size 14. But he says I look amazing. So I try to keep myself away from the haters. I surround myself with body positivity. I sing Mika. And most of all, I remind myself: It is a fundamental human right to love the skin you’re in. Every curve, every jiggle, every stretch mark is me, and I am amazing. I am beautiful. Bitch, I am fabulous.
And you are too, no matter what size you are, and don’t you forget it.