I Feel Pretty?

For the longest time, I felt bad about myself. Insecure. Fat. Ugly. Undesirable. Unwanted.

I think it’s something girls are predisposed to as children. We’re force-fed Barbie and Disney princesses with long legs, skinny waists and well-endowed chests. We are taught that the ideal woman is thin, proper, wears pretty dresses and makes herself look beautiful for the guy.

I was about eight years old when I started showing signs of being Not-Skinny-Enough. I was an active, normal kid and while I did have a fairly large sweet tooth, I don’t think I was particularly overweight. Certainly, photos of me from that time don’t look like it. But, my mom felt I was gaining too much weight so off I went to the dietitian.

Now, I am a child-care professional. I have taken a course in childhood nutrition. I’ve read the books. Hell, I even passed primary school biology where they teach you about what a balanced diet is. What that dietitian put me on was NOT a balanced diet for a normal, active eight year old girl.

No sugar at all, fair enough.
Minimal dairy.
I could have rice with veg a few times a week.
I could have a protein with veg once or twice a week.
I don’t remember what breakfast was.
My school snack was a few slices of cucumber and a couple of carrot sticks.

I was so hungry. I felt weak. My body literally went nuts. I craved food. I craved energy. Anything I could get my hands on, I binged on because if I didn’t it would get taken away. I would eat my way through slabs of chocolate, whole giant bags of Smarties, tubs of ice-cream, anything with sugar.

It was round about then that I actually started having a weight problem.

“You are a thief! A thief and a cheat!” my mom would scream at me whenever I was caught. To this day, I hear that whenever I indulge in a chocolate.

By the time we moved house when I was nine and I started at a new school late in the year, I was the Short Chubby Kid. When I was ten, I became the Short Chubby Kid with Glasses. I was a bully magnet.

“Hey fatso!”
“You’re so ugly you should die!”
“The elephants are getting jealous!”
“Don’t come near me! You’re so fat you stink!”

Three years. I lived with that for three years. I started self-harming at eleven. So then I was the Short Chubby Satanic Kid with Glasses and Scars.

I would like to take this moment to mention that I was not, in fact a Satanist. But the enforced Bible study in my school taught all the kids to think that I was.

I would also like to mention that at no point did any teachers intervene. And my parents told me the bullies were “irrelevant”. Also, I self-harmed in front of my class of other eleven and twelve year olds. I got in trouble for bringing a knife to school but at no point was the issue of my self-harm addressed. How’s that for an awesome school system, eh?

I eventually became suicidal at twelve. I overdosed on pills (don’t remember what they were). I got sick, and got booked off with gastro. End of story.

By that point I had resigned myself to the fact that I was fat, ugly, a thief and a cheat and I would Never Ever be Beautiful Ever.

Incidentally, psychology indicates that a person’s view of themselves, their world, their morals and ideals are all formed between the ages of six and twelve. After that point, it’s ingrained and hard-wired and very hard to change.

By the time I got away from the bullies in high school, other than my school uniform, I did not wear dresses. My clothes were frumpy and hid my body. I wore a lot of boy’s clothes, tracksuit pants and jeans. My weight never went down (indeed, it went up). I wasn’t that much of an unhealthy eater, but the normal active eight year old did not become a normal active teenager. I hid in the library mostly. I curled up in a corner with fantasy novels and escaped.

In matric I cut my hair. If not for my fairly big boobs and wide hips, I could have passed for a boy.

After I left school and did my whole journey of self-discovery at eighteen (“Wow, I actually AM gay, fancy that!” It’s very hard to realise if you’re actually gay or just sexually and hormonally frustrated when you go to an all-girls school), I became even more masculine. Not because I was gay and wanted to somehow fit into the “stereotype” but because I wasn’t required to be feminine any more. I wore my hair short, even shaved at one point. I dressed in jeans, takkies and men’s shirts. I walked with a slouch to hide my chest and never crossed my legs when sitting on a chair.

You see, in my mind, to be feminine was to be beautiful. I was not beautiful, so how could I be feminine?

That was the truth of my world. It was one I accepted like an uppity colt accepts being broken in. The saddle was horrible but I didn’t actually have a choice.

And then I met two friends who saw my worth. Friends who called me beautiful and told me to stand up straight and be proud of my boobs and big hips. One showed me how to start letting go of my past (and with it the Short Chubby Scared Scarred Kid with Glasses) and the other showed me how to dance.

The thing with belly dance is it doesn’t require you to be any sort of fixed shape. I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t like the music. I felt awkward and ungainly (and too fat and too ugly and too unfeminine) and to be honest for the first few minutes I hated it. And then something clicked. My brain and my body met for the first time since the normal active eight year old stopped being normal, active and eight. And we kind of said, “Oh hi. I remember you.”

It sounds ridiculous, right? But you need to understand that when you don’t exercise at all for years because you’re too busy escaping into the worlds of fantasy novels, your brain knows nothing about your body except for what it sees in the mirror. My brain didn’t like what it saw in the mirror so tried to ignore my body as much as it could.

Dance changed that. Dance has helped me connect with muscles I didn’t know I had. Dance has taught me to be unafraid. Dance has taught me to shake my ass in front of three hundred people and dare them to say just one word about elephants.

It has been a long and painful journey and it is by no means over. I turn twenty-seven in eleven days time. For the first time in my life, I feel feminine. I feel proud. And if I don’t quite feel beautiful yet, at least I feel pretty.

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Me, in 2005, with a guy friend who happened to be wearing the same shirt (I’m the short one without a beard).

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Me, last week.

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Nothing At All

Not much has happened today.

Also, I can’t remember the topic that I planned out fully in my head as I was going to sleep last night.

But in the interest of writing every day (and WordPress has a goal-setting tool that tells you that there’re only 2 more posts until the next goal that is just infuriating), I thought I would just write something just to keep the habit going, as inane as this post may be.

I’ve worked on that DVD I’m editing (for a belly dance competition, not the group I dance with, but someone affiliated). I’ve watched a Star Trek movie. I’ve watched Doctor Who, the most recent Christmas Special which I hadn’t seen yet, so I’m extremely excited about that. Seriously, it’s actually kinda disturbing how obsessed I am with that show. Oh well.

Other than that, I’ve really done not much today. We had a big storm. Xavier’s gone to sleep over at his friend Colby’s house. And now my Mom is watching Ancient Aliens, which I love, so I’ll be joining her.

(And this is an example of how to write nearly 200 words and really say nothing at all).