For the vast majority of my life, I thought very little about my weight. Amid insecurities about my pigeon-toed gait, room-dominating volume and geeky love for homework, my body type was a constant point of confidence throughout the notoriously-insecure preteen and teen years. Naturally small and with the metabolism only possible under the age of 30, I had the unique ability to eat virtually whatever I wanted (read: a LOT of carbs) without gaining much of anything.
But at some point during my sophomore year of college, I began feeling like I was carrying around a little extra weight -- maybe 5 to 10 pounds, the exact amount unknown due to the fact that I had never owned a scale. I took up some yoga classes, cut back on the chocolate, and called it a day. It was on my way to one of these yoga classes that I ran into guy, a year older than me, who I considered to be a good friend. It was an unremarkable and unmemorable run-in -- typical small talk including parting words that I would see him a few nights later, at a fraternity event I would be attending.
The fraternity event in question was one I was particularly proud to be invited to -- a semi-exclusive dinner held for the best friends and girlfriends of the fraternity. I threw on one of my favorite dresses, spent an hour or so taming my wildly curly hair, and was looking forward to a night of the type of debauchery that (thankfully) only happens in college. And largely, that was exactly how the night proceeded.
It wasn't until a few hours in, where our inhibitions were all a bit dissolved by cheap vodka and loud music, that the same guy friend asked me how many days I was attending yoga classes. Thinking it a harmless question, I told him two. To which he responded a string of words that, unfortunately, I think I will remember for the rest of my life:
"Do you think you could maybe make that a few more? I just know what you looked like freshman year -- I mean, if you still looked like that you could have any guy you want. Coming from a friend, ya know."
It stung as badly as the cheap vodka did, and made me feel even more likely to vomit. Stunned by the comment and not wanting to make a scene, I responded in a way that I still cannot believe: I nodded and agreed, and then I said thank you.
I thanked someone for telling me, in the least-subtle-way-possible, that I had gained weight. And that this weight gain had made me significantly less attractive. And that the reason I wasn't already married to Channing Tatum was because I had let myself go over the past year. I thanked this douchebag, and then I retreated into a bathroom stall and cried. I cried the next morning, and standing in front of the mirror the next few days, and to this day whenever I tell the story. I cried because I live in a society where men think it's okay to tell a girl these things, and that the girl would respond by thanking him.
I'm lucky that the bit of confidence I had left, a severe love of food, and a kick-ass group of girlfriends helped me avoid letting this incidence trigger an eating disorder, or worse. I didn't instantly drop the extra weight, or start going to yoga classes more than twice a week, or suddenly throw up after all my meals. But, as much as I tried not to, I did let it affect the way I thought of myself, and the way I presented myself to others.
It's enough to have to look at magazines, TV shows and movies portraying women that look nothing like 99 percent of us, but having real-life people tell us that we're inadequate? At some point we're going to start believing it, and that's not true -- we are not inadequate, we are human. And that's okay.
For any other girl (or guy, for that matter) who's been made to feel they're inadequate, I hope this can serve as a reminder that you are not. You are beautiful. You are special. You are human. And you do not have to do exercise, or look a certain way, to be these things. And you certainly, should not thank anyone for making you feel differently.
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