MMB

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Body Issue (part 4): Nature vs. Nurture vs. Me

More and more frequently I wake up, I get dressed, I do my hair, I look in the mirror and I like who I see. I see me, I see who I always wanted to be. I am becoming who I am.

When I was a little girl, my mom frequently tried to get me to wear these little lacy pink outfits. I resisted. I would go to the closet I shared with my brother and I was far more intrigued by his vests and ties, and sporty shirts. That's me. that's always been me, and my mom quickly learned to not fight me on it. I hated back to school shopping every year, because it was hard to find things I liked that fit me. And also because I've always found shopping exhausting, and I get bored really quickly.  But now, I've stopped dressing to please everyone else, and there is a great amount of empowerment that has come with that. As I've said before, sometimes there are negative comments or looks and that can have a bit of an effect on me, but its far smaller than the effect of owning my soft butch style has on making me feel confident and powerful, able to own my own life. I seriously used to get mad when my ex girlfriend called me butch. Today I realized that that is a label I would take for my own. as long as you put "soft" in front of it.

 This is only "gender expression" and is a different thing all together to deal with than my transgender friends have gone through. I will not pretend to speak to their experience, but I did want to share the words of one friend who spoke to me on the subject about life before and after her transition.

"Part of the problem was I didn't like the way I looked, so I kinda just sat by myself and ate. 'Let myself go.' as they say. I had to make some decisions to end the fear. Said hard decisions ended up putting me out of a job, severely in debt, and in danger of homelessness. But I also have my happiness as a result.  I had to learn to take action to change myself and in so doing I kinda realized it's possible to get past a lot of self-doubt (not all, but a lot), by taking action. So after living 23 years without much to be happy about, the only thing that gets me down physically is when bits of before threaten to poke back in."        

But... even though my friend and I have gone through different journeys in life, and had different issues with not liking our looks, and feeling miserable when we  hid ourselves to conform to everyone elses expectations, and in the end we took action and are mostly pretty happy about it.

Her issues had a real effect on her weight, and  my issues did not.  But how we dress and/or present ourselves can have a huge impact on how comfortable we feel in our bodies, and can have a real impact on our mental state.

I want to switch gears a bit now and go back to my child hood, because there are some other things  that had an impact. I was super skinny as a kid. Sometimes, I did get teased for it, sometimes by family. I remember getting called bird legs as a kid, and being told to eat more, while watching others in my family being fat shamed, and others yet crashing through every fad diet out there.  I don't think there was a time in my life I can remember not feeling pressure to look one way or the other, and no one hit perfection, everyone was up for critique. That's not just family, that's friend circles, school, and society in general. But I think the genetics in my family, which tend to run on the heavier side of things on both sides of the family, made that pressure intense for all of us. And I feel like it resulted in some lashing out from one person to the next.

Genetics play a factor in all of this.  Genetics played into my friend being assigned the wrong gender at birth, Genetics has made me a bit paranoid every time my body just decides is going to suddenly gain or lose a lot of weight for no apparent reason at all.  Another friend and I had  a recent discussion about how its a lose-lose situation for everyone going to the doctors... if something is wrong and you go and you are over weight you may hear "You just need to lose weight."  If you are a healthy weight they may say the whole problem is in your head because  "you are healthy."  My friend discussing this with me ran the full gambit, and her problems were dismissed on both ends rather than ever addressed. It didn't matter if she was over weight, under weight or healthy...  that was the problem, not the actual problem.

I talked to another friend who's story I will now share:
"My whole life, I was always so happy with my body image. My parents were fantastic examples in all things, but especially when it came to eating healthy and exercising. One year in high school, I actually gained a bit of weight, but they never said anything negative to me. My mom encouraged me to do a daily walk on the treadmill to help "keep me busy" and in a month I had lost 10 pounds. This all changed when my great grandmother moved in with us. She is AWFUL. One night, I was getting out popcorn seeds to make some popcorn for some vising relatives and she looked at me and said, "you're too fat, you're too fat, you're too fat!" I burst into tears and ran away. I wasn't even getting it for myself (not that that should have mattered). Then, a couple of weeks later, she looked at me and said, "you've really been putting on the weight now, haven't you?" Then, another week after that, I went outside to roller blade and she said, "oh, are you finally trying to lose some of that weight?" I went to college, thrilled to be away from her, starting running with some friends, and fell in love with running. I lost about 15 pounds that Semester, and felt great. I put on some weight again right before my wedding, so I was technically overweight, but didn't feel like I was. When I got pregnant, and didn't even have hardly a bump at 17 weeks, my great grandma saw me and said, "wow, you better not gain any more weight." I furiously told her that I needed to gain weight to be healthy for my baby. When I was pregnant the second time, I ate one plate at Thanksgiving dinner, and then picked up a roll to eat. As soon as I picked up a roll, she said, "you're going to gain a lot of weight!" I glared at her, slammed down my knife and left her sitting all alone. I was irate. Later, she felt the need to say something about my cousin's weight (who was also pregnant). She has honestly given me so many mental issues in regards to weight. There have been times that I have seriously considered bulimia (I have gagged myself quite a few times). I look in the mirror most mornings and criticize every aspect of myself. I step on the scale and groan if it hasn't moved downwards. Lately, I've decided to only focus on training for a half-marathon, and that helps me to not focus on "numbers," but on strength and endurance. Also, my husband often reminds me that if I talked to my best friend the way that I talk to myself, I wouldn't have a friend anymore. I need to talk to myself like I would talk to my best friend."

I  am grateful my friend decided to share this story with me. I think that we all have a different bag of things to deal with, but they all interplay. The love and support I got from my parents growing up was very helpful to me. at the same time watching others around me struggle and hearing negative comments had a very real impact on how I felt about myself, and the things I liked, and how I looked.  I don't think being called 'Bird Legs" for being skinny had an impact on me into my adult life, because I love my legs and will spend sometimes 20 mins checking them out in my mirror at home. but sometimes other worries do creep in.  When I was skinny and people would yell at me to "eat something" that didn't help either. I was eating a healthy amount of food.  honestly not a lot has changed in my diet from when I was skinny to now,  my body just seriously doesn't seem to have an in between, and  no matter what the scale says, I'm actually over all healthy, even if my BMI disagrees.

 But all these other body issues I have mentioned today, play into a more psychological issue for me, and that is shyness. Ive gained a lot of confidence, I've fought hard to be me, and that isn't all down to external pressure or genes. its something I have always struggled with. Sometimes I just feel like too much of a nerd, too much of a looser to own some small piece of me. Those are the toughest battles of all for me.  On my own, and in places I'm comfortable I can let my awesome shine, but one little thing can knock me straight back to  Jr High or elementary school and all those feelings that I just am not cool enough, I'm not someone worth knowing.  And when that happens its absolutely shocking to me that it has.

When I was in 9th grade, my mom did something amazing for me, to try to help me gain some confidence and make new friends. She challenged me for a month straight to smile and say hi to every single person who's path I crossed. That was a lot for me. It was scary, and hard, and some days I could only do a few hellos and then I was completely depleted.  but by the end of that month I had made a lot of new friends, and it was much easier to do.

 The equivalent of that struggle resurfaced this week, over the dumbest thing. I bought one of the US national soccer team Pride jerseys. I was struggling really hard with what to put on the back, because of this very shyness issue. I had two possibilities of what I really wanted to do. 1- I wanted to put Harris 24  on the back, for Ashlyn Harris, who is now one of my favorite soccer players, fashion inspirations, and general inspiring person person. She also got injured at the last Reign home game, and I was very sad about it. So I wanted to do that to send good get well soon energy into the universe.  But US soccer doesn't have a goalie jersey option, and she is a goalie, and I just didn't like putting a goalie on a regular jersey. it doesn't match and I couldn't do it.  I thought briefly about just doing Ali Kreiger on the back, because she's nice and I like her too. but then she didn't get called up for this last international competition, and people were talking like it was the end or something, and then I was like... great lets continue the curse of people getting injured or retiring, or leaving teams when I get their name on the jersey, no thanks.  Ashlyn's already injured so that's safe, but I will not be responsible for ending Ali Kreigers career.

2- I wanted to put Krashlyn on the back. This would beat the curse problem, because its not a real name. its a mix of real names, but the rules told me they do not apply here, and that's how superstition works.  I loved the Idea as soon as thought of it, for multiple reasons.  Krashlyn is the portmanteau for Ali Krieger  and Ashlyn Harris. SO, it would be like a 2 for 1 deal. Since meeting Ali Krieger last month, I have decided she is even more awesome than I originally thought.  Second- I can think of nothing more queer than all the people shipping these two in fan fic, and in real life. I mean, seriously,  watch the gay women's channel on YouTube, we love our 'Ships.   Thirdly, having recently seen this lovely hilarious video from Krieger's brother, they are clearly playing back with the fans on this... so why not also have some fun with it.  This video also contains an excellent message on body image from Ashlyn. Please watch.

The struggle I have with this decision on this jersey though,  is ridiculous. Like, Thinking about actually pulling the trigger on this one, and putting Krashlyn on a USWNT Pride month jersey caused me to have a massive emotional melt down. So I considered options 3 and 4. 3 - get yet another Megan Rapinoe Jersey. I love Megan, but I don't feel like I need any more jerseys with her name on it. that's just too much.  But I don't really super love any of the other players on the USWNT, so at this point its Krashyln, or its another Pinoe... or I could get yet another Marquardt Jersey with my name on it, and walk around and have stupid people constantly ask me who that is. I really don't like this last option. Sorry for calling people stupid. Its just really annoying to me.  I knew if I did the Krashly thing though, I may get questions or flack for it. I may come off as a crazy fan. I don't want to come off as a crazy fan. I work very hard to not cross that line. I flirt with it at times, I am aware, but I try to not do anything invasive or disrespectful, or just a bit too much. and this. this jersey idea was flirting with that line a lot.  And thus... the melt down.

So I talked to my best friend, and she talked me into just doing it. So I did. I ordered a Krashlyn USWNT pride jersey. and then I spent three days melting down that I had done it. and oh the shame bombs I threw at myself.  "You NERD. You Weirdo. What are you doing. people are going to think you are strange. You can never get that jersey signed because Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger would think you are disrespecting their boundaries.  You can't even wear that in public. You shouldn't have ordered it."  and so on. and then I talked to my friend, and she was like... 'Well why don't you try thinking of positive things people might say about it.'  I did it, because I thought it was clever, funny, and perfectly fit pride month combining with US Soccer. and it is! but I couldn't own that. too much shame. I tried to vulnerable my way out of it, but  I still felt like the most uncool kid to ever exist.

 So then I talked to one of my soccer buddies, and she thought it was the best idea anyone had ever had. She even volunteered to get it signed for me should the opportunity arise and I be too ashamed and in melt down mode to make that happen.

I'm not quite done feeling like a complete dork about this. Perhaps that's why I am sharing it here. To confront it one last time, to stare my shame demons right in the face and say, I'm terrified of you, but I'm not going to back down.'  I may have to have an army of friends around me anytime I wear this jersey in public, but I'm gonna do it, because my mom taught me to do things that scare me, to face my fears, and to find a way to believe  I can have friends, that I am worthy of love. That my ideas are clever and they are worth something. That I can be me, and even if I am a dork, I'm still cool. I know I am awesome when I'm alone. I am one of the funnest people on the planet. I do lip syncs and I dance on my treadmill, and I paint stuff, and I look in the mirror and I see a bad ass hot soft butch Bi girl.

But people... I've always been OK on my own. but adding other people to the element, letting them see how awesome I am. That's scary. its terrifying, and I can't believe as a 35 year old I still have to fight it sometimes to the point of tears, and melt downs.  But apparently, I'm not alone. Even as adults we have this mixed bag of our history, and our genes and hormones, and the environment we grew up in and all the good and all the bad.  And some days its a lot to fight off. Some days, you feel like no mater what you do, you're gonna lose.  Those days, my only answer is to risk it. Risk everything. Risk having everyone see what a weird kid I am. That damn round peg that never fits in the square hole.   But if you reach out to the right people, they remind you... you are a round peg. There is nothing wrong with being around peg.  Stop trying to fit in that square hole. Go be a badass in a round hole. Where you belong.

As always, this was super long, and probably more all over the place than any other blog I have written. But LOVE YOURSELVES people, I promise I see you, I see your amazing. LET IT SHINE. and thanks mom, for teaching me to do things that scare me, to take chances on humans, to reach out to them and make them my friends. 

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