Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Shape of Me

When did it start? I'm not really sure.

Maybe it started when I looked into the studio mirror and realized that my legs no longer went straight down, but pushed out a bit at the sides.

Maybe it started when I sat down in a pair of shorts and noticed that my skin dimpled where it met the chair.

Maybe it started when I learned, through watching and listening, that the greatest sin I could commit as a teenage girl was to be overweight.

When my body became communal property, something for men to size up, for women to comment on and the clearest factor indicating my worth.

Maybe it started earlier.

Whatever the origin, fear took root. The word "fat" hovered just out of sight, a three-letter threat that always waited for me.

The need for praise took root as well. I learned I could get as much praise for choreographing a dance as for losing ten pounds. Twenty pounds? There's no equivalent for that.

The funny, horrible part is that praise only serves to accentuate fear. Beneath the words I can hear, "Good work, you! You've gotten temporarily further from the scary thing!"


Look at any group of women. The skinniest is the one who has "won", right? I'm not the only one who has had these thoughts. As if the word "skinny" is some badge of honor we can wear to show that we are easily moved and will not take up more room in this world than we deserve.

Sometimes it feels like we're all in a race to disappear.


I ate nothing but celery, soup and water.

I stuffed my face.

I worked out every night.

I did nothing but watch cartoons and lick crumbs off my own tee shirt.

I kept my eyes glued to the mirror watching, not for technique, but for love handles.

I refused to look in the mirror.

I cried in secret. A lot.

I wore the same pair of pants over and over again, because they made me look microscopically less heavy than my other pants.

I lied in my food journal.

I hated every skinny person I met.

I hated every costume I had to wear, because they weren't carefully constructed to conceal all of my misshapen body parts.


I have so much regret. For five years of my life, 80% of the thoughts that went through my head were a version of food-related self-loathing. Those were years that were vital to my development, years when I could have been growing, maybe even having an impact. I'm an intelligent person with a hungry mind, a creative soul and a drive to succeed. There's a lot I could have done with that time. Instead, I waged a war against myself, allowing my heart to grow smaller and smaller. That's what I regret. Losing those years.

Letting myself believe that I am only a body.


What changed?

I got tired. Hating yourself is exhausting and I decided to stop. It really is that simple.


Except it isn't always that simple. I still check myself out every day, hoping I measure up. I still fight to keep the voices away. In moments of weakness, I can still hear them. "You're so ugly. Everyone thinks you're ugly. Everyone sees the cellulite."

I'm not the only one. I'm not the only woman who feels like she's eternally on an auctioning block with her value fluctuating based on the way her jeans fit. The size of her bra.

I'm not the only one who hates looking at herself in photographs, because maybe her smile won't overshadow the fat on her arms.

We can't live up to it. We'll never live up to it. And it pisses me off.

This has us in bondage. Women in this country are literally in bondage, because so many of us believe that the most valuable gift we can give the world is our youth and our beauty. Not what we say. Not what we do. Not how we treat others, how we fill movement with purpose, the stories we tell, the things we feel, the sacrifices we make, the art we contribute, the experiences we share, the ideas we generate, the people we love, the places we visit, the lessons we teach, the mistakes we make, the companies we build, the children we encourage, the jokes we make, the gifts we give, or the blog entries we post.

Just physical beauty - a constantly changing series of parameters defined by others, enforced by others and for the profit of others.

It's a lie.

We are so much better than beautiful.


  1. this is so awesome. thanks Sarah. Sure as hell resonates for me as I'm sure it does for other girls/women and especially girl/women dancers. what a waste of time it all was, but all that time stored up a boatload of endorphins waiting to wash over (in increments or all at once) as we realize it doesn't matter and allow ourselves to care about other things.

    1. If only we could learn some of life's lessons a little faster, no? :)