One morning, I stepped out of the shower. While dressing, I happened to catch a sight of myself in the wall-to-wall bathroom mirror. It was my body in profile, and instantly, I was reminded of some of the awful pictures one sees while standing in the grocery checkout line. You know, the magazines like National Enquirer and such, “She is secretly starving! You can see her ribs! Taken to emergency, near collapse…”
Yes, I am thin, you can call me skinny. No, my ribs are not visible but it does appear, at times, like I lack the depth dimension to my torso… Almost flat.
I have always been a thin person. As a child, I was scrawny, bony, big-eyed, curious, shy. But I had a big mouth with big teeth, lots of opinions, and zero qualms about sharing them… What a strange combination. Anyway, puberty didn’t come soon enough. I was impatient. Finally, it showed up and I was nearly ecstatic. But no, I didn’t morph into a beautiful flower. I became taller, developed a (little) chest, and life continued as usual. That elusive prettiness didn’t dawn (or maybe I was blind to it?). I did have a nice head of hair, though. Guys complimented me on my silky-straight hair all the time. They kept trying to touch it, play with it. All very flattering, yes. Until I met a guy who I fell in love with but then, he didn’t do any of those things! 🙂
Ahh, I digress. As life progressed, my body stayed on track. Slim-slender, not gaining weight but not exactly athletic or lean either. Then I went to Egypt. Spent a year there — working long hours, gorging on delicious kebabs and koftas and koshery, gawking at beautiful Egyptian women and the mighty Nile, marveling at a new culture, dreaming away the hot nights and cool days, wondering about my life and its purpose.
I came back to India, looking a little curvy, as my sister described it. I remember seeing a picture taken at a sunny beach vacation in Hurghada. The first thought that arose was, “Pillow!” Yes, I thought I looked like a tight, plump pillow, a case pulled tightly over. I was getting married soon, and I wanted none of those descriptors.
(I was/am a tad uncomfortable with the ‘woman” descriptor. It feels alien, like it is meant to describe another person, not me. Of course, I am a woman in terms of gender, age and physicality but I don’t feel like one. To me, the term feels very… mature, for lack of a better word. I have a problem identifying with it. Okay, I will be the first to admit that this might come across as rather silly and ignorant, clearly influenced by patriarchal norms. Perhaps it will change. Maybe I will wear the “woman” label with ease and naturalness some day.)
(On a similar note, I hate being addressed with a “Hello ladies.” I do not like the “Girls” appellation either. My husband enquires – Do you like being addressed with a “Hello folks?” Yes, that will do.)
(As I remember telling my Ayurvedic physician many years later, I probably have a “less developed” body consciousness. All the experiences I have had thus far with my body (as being a female form) seem to fall within the realm of mundane, commonplace, boring? Perhaps that is why I don’t have much of a relation with it. Not in the sense of my being female, I mean. I remain in utter awe of my body’s superior intelligence… But I don’t feel particularly connected to the sense of living in a female physical form. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that I have not faced any problems linked with the female physical body/form? Oh, that begs the question, does the sense of being female have to be negative? Clearly not. Maybe I am simply neutral about it.)
Anyway, off I went to the gym. Lifted weights, ran on the treadmill, did all the right moves… and 3 months later, the trainer proudly announced that I had lost 3 inches all over. I suppose this is a common experience with people who start working out. She was disappointed when I informed her that I wasn’t returning. I was getting married! Moving to the United States… YAY!
One dreary Christmas Day, I landed in Atlanta. Spent the next few months making sense of my new husband, new country of residence, new found sense of dependence… Miserable. Perhaps, it all made sense… because I didn’t gain a single ounce of weight. Au contraire, I lost some, most likely. As time passed, I became happier, and life brightened up. But my weight stayed put. One of my friends shared that she moved up several dress sizes after she moved to the United States. Perhaps it is a combination of reduced physical activity (you drive EVERYWHERE in this city) and changed food habits (hello, endless cereal/chips/cookie/candy aisle) and homesickness, maybe?
Anyways, it is more than thirteen years since I moved here, and my weight has dropped to pre-marriage levels, if I imagine right. For a while, I wondered if I should be concerned. But I think I am okay. I have no health issues.
It isn’t always easy to find clothes but of late, I seem to have lost the urge to buy clothes. Plus I have a good tailor who alters clothes until they fit me just right.
I realize that I am in an enviable position because I seem to fit into a popular stereotype of thinness and beauty. People often remark – Oh, you can afford to eat that cupcake! I am sure she is losing weight simply by breathing! People comment on my weight (or the lack of it), all the time. Sometimes I am apologetic. “You know, I am actually underweight.” “Yes, I have lost weight.”
(My sister who lives in India gets it too. People aren’t exactly shy about expressing their shock/disbelief at her size. Seriously, G, are you okay? How can you be so thin??)
I would be lying if I said that I don’t enjoy being a thin person. To me, it fits perfectly into the “girl” narrative; I am in no hurry to become a woman. (To be frank, a lot of the time, I feel like a “girl” in a world of women. Equal parts naive and questioning, curious and detached, utterly lacking in the mature knowingness that women my age appear to have in spades. Like I am yet to learn the secrets of my tribe but then I may never learn them.)
At this juncture, what I have a sense of real appreciation and gratitude for is the fact that I have a healthy and friendly body. It supports my desire to practise yoga, hike mountains, learn Aikido, swim, dance. It lets me experience the joy, exhilaration, lightness and freedom of physical movement. If I can spend the years ahead supporting this lovely body of mine, I’ll go on to becoming a happy, old woman. Yes, woman. 🙂