Being fat in the ’90s.

1476484_10151783278006039_1435343232_nI was fat.

See this photo.

In this photo what you see here is me, sitting, being fat.

I was probably being funny too, cause that’s what fat girls do best, funny.

You can’t see it, but I reckon everyone in the room was laughing at something I’d just said.

Somebody probably peed his or her pants.

So back to the photo and me being fat in it.

I know I was fat because at the time this was taken I was constantly being picked on for my weight whether it be by ‘friends’ in the playground, or ‘friends’ of my parents commenting on my ‘full figure’ or my grandmother who would purposely buy my clothes too small for me and than make me wear them in front of her. Boys called me names.

One of my more humiliating moments I recall was when my grandmother returned from Spain with a bra for me. It was a 12AA. I was a 10DD. It didn’t fit. In my head now I know it didn’t fit because I wasn’t a boy, but at the time with very little around me to compare my figure to, I assumed that it didn’t fit because I was fat. And my grandmother didn’t correct me. My mother, I think burnt the bra. It didn’t matter how much my mother told me that I was OK how I was, I didn’t hear her. She was also wise enough to let me know there was nothing wrong with being fat either, lots of people were but that didn’t matter, all I heard was fat and now at 34 years old, I still hear it and the worst part is I view it as negative. When it comes to fat shaming myself, I’m my own worse bully. When this photo was taken I was 156cm tall. For those that know me, I had a very minor growth spurt after that (a whole 4 centimetres…small victories). And I was roughly a size 4-6 if not smaller. I weighed about 40 kilos.

It did not help that I didn’t look like all the other girls at my school. They were all so tall, like beanpoles, like all the girls in Australian magazines and soap operas. Thin, blonde, worthy. I had a tiny waist, boobs coming in and hips. Some adults often described me as ‘womanly’ or ‘sexy.’ I was 13.

And so it began. The great disconnect with my appearance. It’s been over 20 years since that photo was taken and I still struggle to see what everyone else sees. I hide behind mainly baggy clothes; I’ve been on a diet since I can remember. I get sick to my stomach if I break 1200 calories in a day. I exercise constantly. I honestly think that when I look in the mirror, that if I could just lose a bit more weight I’d be able to wear clothes that draped. I’m an idiot. I’ve got curves like a Kardashian minus the personal tailor. There will be no draping in my lifetime unless I make friends with flesh-eating bacteria…but hey you can only cross your fingers for so long…

The narrative of my chubbiness has informed so much of my creative work that I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was imperative to my identity. I write from the perspective of the outsider looking in, the best friend character, the strong personality driven girl, the underdog, the alien. I’ve done pretty well out of it, whether it’s the truth or not. Here’s the thing, it shouldn’t matter whether I’m chubby. I might not be. I might be. I really have no gauge anymore. I know I can wear children’s pyjamas but I’m not sure that means anything.

The thing is when I saw that photo the other night I got upset. I wanted to go back and tell my 13 year-old self to not listen to all the fat shaming and than maybe the next 20 years would be different. Social engagements would not be so crippling at times, I wouldn’t always think somewhere in the back of my head that my relationships didn’t work out because of my appearance, I would write populist chick-lit fiction that opened with lines like ‘the clacking of $700 heels only served to heighten her enviable calf muscles and say to the world that she was ready for anything’ as opposed to ‘she masturbated quietly to a poster of Zach Efron as her boyfriend sat in the study on the phone to his new girlfriend.’ But telling my 13 year old self that if anything I was actually almost underweight at the time that photo was taken wouldn’t have been enough, after all it wasn’t myself that thought I was fat, it was everyone else saying it, making excuses for saying it and shaming me into thinking it was the truth, a truth I’ve lived by ever since. It takes up a lot of my time thinking I should like myself better, sorry correction – it wastes a lot of time. My time. No one else’s, mine. I’ve decided next year I’m going to have a body shaming detox and take up sword fighting or podcasting, I don’t know, I could do anything. All I know is, it’s got to be more productive than what I’ve been doing.

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A girls guide to having an origami (well a rough estimate)

For years my relationship with my self-esteem has been fraught with friction, none of it helped by my self-esteems amazing ability to fuck off when I quite obviously need it the most.  Such famous incidences include:

1.    The time that in the middle of sex a guy told me he fancied someone else and without the guidance of ‘self-esteem’ I thought what the hell ‘let’s finish what we started, I mean he had to like me to get this far.’

2.    The time I set my boyfriend up with my friend because she was blonde because as he told me ‘come on Lou, you know this isn’t going to work out, like I don’t even like you much, well not as much as I like your friend – come on help a fella out.’ And with my self-esteem nowhere in sight I did.

3.    The time I closed my eyes and let an old boyfriend of mine pretend I was a man, my self-esteem more then likely watched from a gallery seat.

4.    The time I got back together with an ex based on this conversation ‘so I was in San Fran trying to tap… well, let’s just call them someone, and… let’s just say their tits weren’t real and then I thought ‘you know what… Lou’s tits are real’ and so then I thought about it some more and thought ‘yeah, I quite like Lou’s tits’, so deep down in my subconscious that meant that some part of me was attracted to you, and is probably still attracted to you – so what do you say we give it another shot? – and I did.

Now I’m not sure what when my self-esteem decided to leave me, but if I had to guestimate I’d say it was around the time I needed to get my first bra. I was about 14 and after my mothers comments of ‘I can see your crumpets’ and ‘someone’s been invited to party at bolder mountain!’ I agreed to go and get fitted for a bra. As my mum grabbed the car keys and rounded up my father and younger brother for another Sanz family adventure I excused myself to the bathroom only to discover that to coincide with ‘Lou gets her first bra’ I also had been visited for the first time by ‘Aunt Flo’.

Now. I’m not sure how most of you purchase your feminine hygiene products, but on that day my mother decided we should stop into ‘Campbell’s Cash’n’Carry’ to stock up; but she didn’t come in with me, couldn’t find a car park – no she sent my dad and I in together and just before we stepped inside the building she wound the window down and shouted ‘get super  – I’ve run out of mattress protectors.’

The department store wasn’t much better, as mum had ordered my brother to walk behind me on ‘spot patrol’. A lovely woman named Irene approached us to help out – I think she saw the large jumper tied around my waste as a sign that perhaps this was the first time out of the house without my polio support unit. She offered my mother one of those bras that does up at the front – my mother was not impressed ‘gotta make the boys or girls work for their crumpet – hey Lou? Hey? Hi five!’ I watched in horror as my mother and Irene shared skin.

Finally I convinced my mum that the dignity of a changing room was much needed, especially after that cute Xavier boy walked past me as my mother fitted a bra on the outside of my Sportsgirl t-shirt and just as he was in ear shot spoke the irretrievable words ‘and smells like someone’s going need deodorant too – this is a big day for you Lou – if you’re lucky it’ll be boys next.’ Following that remark I knew I was going to be lucky to be fingered by a cousin in later years.

Now it’s rather hard to hang yourself in a department store change room, but fuck I gave it a right go and if you look at the little stool they give you to rest your clothes on as your jumping off point then you’re well on your way to success, that is until your little brother crawls under the door but only enough to see you putting a bra around your neck and screams out ‘mum, dad! Lou’s doing that thing that Michael Hutchinson did to have an origami!’.

Suddenly the door burst open, my father hurtling towards me before I could jump off the stool and my mother sternly standing in front me taking the scene in – me in my undies and a bra around my neck, my brother still lying on the floor and all she could think to do was offer up more advice ‘now is not the time to start a life of self pleasure Lou – first things first let’s get you some supportive underwear and then what you do behind the privacy of closed doors is up to you.’ She then turned to my brother ‘now who wants milkshakes?’ and then to my father ‘I think your daughter might like your opinion on the whole front or back clasp debate Michael.’

I didn’t think it could get much worse but as the years went on my self-esteem became more of absence in my life rather than an active participant – such as last Friday night when I ended up at Billboard nightclub.

I could end this story on that above line alone but then I wouldn’t get to the bit where inside the nightclub and with my friend telling me I looked like a mother searching for her wayward daughter and almost being overwhelmed by the amount of pussy that one can glance based entirely on the knowledge that Friday nights at Billboard appear to be underwear free nights, I had a man approach me – ‘a man of the one eyebrow, I sweat a lot and probably chaff variety’- and what happened next was entirely my self-esteems fault – rather than think I was too good for him, what went through my mind was this ‘that guy looked around this nightclub spotted me and thought I can tap that – oh my god he thought I was achievable; I have become achievable for men who fit the profile of a sex offender – fuck me, does this mean I’ve finally decided on a type?

My friends laughed at me, pointing out that maybe tonight I could find if sex-offenders spooned after that act and so I escaped off into the bathroom hoping to just take a moment to find my confidence in the bottom of my handbag when I walked in on two girls helping each other adjust their g-strings and in the middle of a conversation entitled ‘if you don’t get Brazilian waxes you shouldn’t be allowed to have sex.’

It was then I realised I couldn’t hate my self-esteem – because unlike those two girls in that bathroom that night, well at least I knew what self-esteem was (well that’s what I told myself as I removed the toilet paper from the bottom of my shoe that both girls were kind enough to point out – they could probably tell I was one of those girls now banned from sex according to their new rules) – Score one for Lou! Hi-five….anyone?…anyone?…anyone at all….

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