The Fabulous Elephant In The Room

 

A few months ago, an old friend came to visit. “She gained weight ha, she wants you to know,”  our mutual friend C said. “She wanted me to tell you so that there would be no surprises when we see each other.”

At first I thought it was really strange that C found it imperative to inform me of this before we even saw her in person. Was she afraid of being judged? Did she expect me to berate her because of the weight gain? Why bother sending an FYI by proxy?

Body image is a really touchy subject these days. We live in a strange dichotomy of self-declared Instagram ‘fitspirations’ and anti-body shaming advocates. If you really take the time to think about it, those two things aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. And yet here we are, torn between praising friends who post their WOD’s and friends who are happy the way they are regardless of how much space they take up physically.

Take my friend, for example. Having been amply ‘warned’ before our inevitable meeting, I found myself mentally validating that she has indeed put on a few pounds since the last time we met. After the welcome hug, she tugged at her shirt self-consciously. I kept my eyes focused on her beautiful face.

“You are so pretty!” I wasn’t lying. She was.

Her face fell. “But I’m fat now.”

My heart ached a little.

***

So yesterday, my Uber driver assumed that I was pregnant.

It was raining and because this was Manila, the roads were soon congested. I instructed him to wait two blocks away from where I had originally asked to be picked up to avoid a bottleneck. Having made the incredibly unwise decision to wear heels earlier in the day, I teetered precariously all the way to his car in the soft drizzle.

About five minutes into the ride, the driver said “Sorry Ma’am, ha. Buntis pa naman po kayo.” (“Sorry, Maam. Didn’t realize you were pregnant.”)

Full body clench. What did he mean by that? I did a mental check of my outfit. I was wearing a short white skirt, a loose tank top, my usual denim jacket, and strappy white heels. In truth, I felt pretty good about my outfit yesterday. I even took my sweet time on my make-up to ensure that I was properly contoured. Did he just call me fat and pregnant?

“Um, hindi po ako buntis.” (“Um. I am not pregnant.”)

The driver turned beet red and apologized profusely. I could not quite figure out what I was feeling. Was I embarrassed? Angry? Feeling sorry for myself? Thankfully, our flat is just a few minutes away so I was saved from the awkward chit-chat after that bullet. I pulled my laptop bag onto my lap to hide my tummy.

I gave the driver a 4-star review instead of my usual 5. I still added a rainbow emoji though.

***

I’m not going to be a hypocrite and say that I never get conscious about my weight. To be perfectly candid, I sincerely despise any comments about it. Filipino family reunions are built on that very foundation of judgment. This explains why I have not been attending any since 2012.

Let me acknowledge the elephant in the room: I have gained 17 pounds since 2012. I no longer wear a size 2. The last time I wore something body-hugging was my best friend’s birthday in 2011. I never discuss these things out loud because I honestly feel no need to. It’s my body. Why do I need to discuss it with anyone else (other than my doctor, lawyer, or maybe John Lloyd Cruz the police should the need ever arise)?

In case you don’t know or assume that I feel crappy, I’m sorry to inform you that I still feel fantastic.

True, I should have stayed away from Paolo’s KFC over the years, but nevertheless I still look in the mirror everyday to affirm how fine I am with my appearance. Whenever older relatives charmingly tell me that I should lose weight, it always mildly surprises me. For one thing, I don’t really think about my weight all that much. And another, did I mention how happy I am nowadays?

Don’t get me wrong, the comments still sting. But they hurt me because there is always an underlying presumption that I had “let myself go”. (Odd really, since I am more well-fed nowadays than I have ever been in my life.) Months leading to my wedding,  numerous friends and family members advised me to trim down to “look my best on the big day.”

Spoiler alert: I didn’t kill myself to lose weight on the big day. And you know what I still looked pretty fabulous to me. 

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My husband agrees.

Whenever I verbalize this, some people would  roll their eyes and say things like “oh but what about your husband” (SURPRISE! He still thinks I’m sexy! I still feel that I’m sexy!) or “you’re just saying that because you’re already married.” (that last one is partially true, but more on this later) I have long given up defending my self-love to any one else.

Why is it so wrong to feel comfortable in your own skin when you are not a size 0? I happen to like the way I look (a compact mix of Destiny’s Child and Cabbage Patch Doll). Am I not allowed to love myself?

***

That’s me up there talking to you on a good day. Other days, I’m not so positive.

There are days when I feel crappy about the fact that I don’t look the same in a bathing suit (SURPRISE! I can still wear them in public? Didn’t you hear? All you need is a suit AND a body!). There are days when I feel embarrassed whenever someone gives me a head-to-toe sweep at the mall. I feel especially bad about my body whenever I see skinnier women at the gym, having an easier time at the squat machine than myself. I feel self-conscious and small whenever somebody touches my belly.

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Loving this vintage suit from Women’s Secret. I told the sales girl “I want to look like 2011 Katy Perry”. She was pretty spot on! Please notice my meaty, happy braso. 🙂

I let myself have those bad days. My husband calls them my ‘Sad Days’, mostly because I like to sit sullenly in one corner whilst browsing through my Instagram feed. I sulk and viciously compare myself to the ‘fitspirations’ (“I will never be Aubrey Miles.”) . I indulge in post-meal remorse (“Why did I even order that fried rice yesterday!”). On my worst days, I cry like a spurned ex-lover. (If my lover was my exposed collar bones)

Those days are terrible and if I don’t control myself, I would fall into the vortex of self-pity. That is a pit that is difficult to escape from.

If you have these days, don’t worry. I have them, too.

 

***

So where exactly do I stand?

I stand with women who work out to care for their body. They exist so that us mere mortals understand that losing weight and keeping fit is possible — if you really want to.

I stand with women who celebrate life by eating. Who doesn’t like to eat? Eating is one of the most sublime pleasures known to man. They are there for us to remember that happiness can be as simple as a sundae cone or Chicken McNugget with extra barbecue sauce.

I stand with those who struggle with their bodies. That’s all of us isn’t it? Because — SURPRISE!—- we are all human. It’s in our nature to want what we do not have.

I stand with all of you really. We are all a mixed bag of blessings and that’s pretty damn fabulous. Life would be so boring if we all looked alike.

***

So what’s my secret to feeling fabulous regardless of my weight?

  1. I mind my own damn businessMy body is my body. If I feel fabulous in it, that’s really my decision isn’t it? Nobody has the right to tell me to feel bad about my BMI. I don’t have the right to make someone else feel bad about themselves either. Live and let live. We will all be happier for it.
  2. I keep my priorities straightI can’t do it all. Nobody can. I can’t wake up at the crack of dawn to devote 3 hours of my day to working out before work. Neither do I have the patience to meticulously calorie count every meal. That is because I am working on my self-declared goal to be self-employed before I am 40. That’s my goal, and that’s where most of my waking hours are devoted to. That, and loving my husband and cats in equal measure. If you tell me that your goal is to lose weight because you want to keep healthy, I fully support you on that too. In fact, I straight up envy you for your patience and tenacity (two virtues I lack). All I’m saying is that, while losing weight would be a bonus, I have other things in mind. I understand that I cannot be all things I want to be, I just have to focus on what I what to achieve the most: being future Mrs. John Lloyd Cruz  self-employment. More on this soon.
  3. I surround myself with people who appreciate me the way I amEver had  friends who purposefully made you feel bad about yourself? I’ve had those people in my life, too. Over the years, I’ve shed them all off my listThese ‘friends’ are very different from brutally honest friends who volunteer judgment opinions when asked. (‘when asked’ is a very important phrase) Those friends I welcome, because we all need people who set us straight when we go astray. But then you have those fake ‘friends’ who exist simply to remind you how inferior you are to the rest of the universe. Forget them. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life. They are the Crocs of Friendships.

This last one is the most important of all:

4. I’ve made commitment to love my body the way it is until the end of time. – I find it really weird when people assume that I am only fine looking the way I do because my husband ‘accepts’ me the way I am. I have a problem with this line of thinking because it presupposes that my husband has to bear the burden of being with someone who looks like me for eternity. “He loves you, and that’s what matters.” Yes, he loves me. Yes, it matters quite a lot (I will always be grateful that I married him). But most important is that I accept me the way I amwarts and all. You need to love yourself before you can let someone else love you. A self-actualized person is a better partner than one who is always hankering for validation from someone else. At the end of the day, I am a better wife and lover because I am happy with being me.  

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Pak. May oras mag-countour!

This is probably the first time I’ve ever written about my appearance. It has always been a pain point while I was growing up. But it was a necessary journey. Because at 32, I’ve finally come to accept that I am stuck with this body I have been given forever.

And you know what, I’m fabulous.

AND YOU’RE FABULOUS, TOO. Don’t let anybody else tell you otherwise.

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