“Hop on,” the nurse instructed as she pointed to the scale.
I was going in for an annual checkup and hadn’t thought, until that moment, to weigh myself for the past two months.
“Okay, let me just take my shoes off.”
“No need—they don’t really make that much of a difference.”
Wary, the shoes remained and I stepped onto the dingy metal contraption.
The nurse must’ve seen my panicked, widened-eye look, because she immediately took back her previous statement:
“Don’t worry, clothes and shoes add at least five pounds to your weight.”
If she was going to lie, couldn’t she have made it a little less obvious?
As I sat in the examining room, waiting for the doctor to make his entrance, I recalled all of the things I did to contribute to my not drastic, but significant enough weight gain.
I turned 22: I ate and drank…and drank and drank.
I vacationed in New Orleans: I ate gorged on jambalaya.
I was stressed about my life after graduating from college: I ate more.
I realized I wouldn’t see some of my friends after graduation: I drank more…I swear, I’m not an alcoholic.
My asthma was flaring up: I stopped working out.
As I waited, I remembered the first time I was consciously insecure of how I looked. Samantha, who lived across the street from me had invited me and my next-door-neighbor, Molly, to go swimming with her in her pool. Being new to the neighborhood, I jumped at the opportunity to hang out with actual friends who had thought of me and wanted to see me. Thrilled, while rocking a magenta and orange two-piece, I skirted across the street to my swimming pool friend date. Molly was already there and started talking about American Girl Dolls with me, Samantha greeted me with a skeptical look.
“How much do you guys weigh?” her arms folded across her small waist.
I looked down to my stomach and noticed that instead of the slim, tan skin that Samantha had, I had pasty pudge sticking out from the line where my bathing suit met my body. We went around the circle: Molly was 72 pounds, Samantha was 72 pounds, and suddenly it was my turn to reveal my weight:
“74 pounds.” I heard myself squeak.
But I lied/guessed. I actually had no idea what I weighed. Why? Well, because I was nine-years-old…I wasn’t supposed to know or care about my weight. Molly, Samantha, and I jumped in the pool and swam for the rest of the afternoon and when I went home, I immediately ran to my parents bathroom to see how much I actually weighed: 80 pounds. I haven’t worn a two-piece bathing suit since.
From that point on, my insecurities, regarding weight, flourished with each passing year.
I was eleven when I started crossing my legs to make my thighs look smaller when I sat down.
Thirteen when I realized that sucking in my stomach fat made me look thinner.
Fifteen when I discovered wearing baggy t-shirts hid my curves and made my breasts less prominent.
Seventeen when I vowed to never wear a tube-top again after noticing that my strapless prom dress accentuated the small piece of fat between my chest and armpits.
Nineteen when I stepped on the scale and reached my heaviest weight: 164 pounds.
After reaching my heaviest point, I had an epiphany: I wasn’t living (Metaphorically, of course. Scientifically, I was very much alive.) My insecurities were holding me back from not only being confident, but feeling worthy of anything: nice clothes, enjoying a meal, friendship, romance. I wanted to change. Over the course of the following year I lost 17 pounds and believe it or not, I started to gain a bit of self-worth back. I wasn’t in jaw-dropping shape, but for the first time I was healthy.
My weight loss coincided with the start of mainstream media embracing “full-figured women.” It was weird to read the latest news and see headlines about Aerie refusing to airbrush its models, but to know my peers still held a much more traditional standard of beauty.
After hearing about a romantic escapade my Barbie of housemate went on, my friend and I started talking about what type of men are drawn to us versus our housemate.
“I don’t get it. Why are so many people so into her?” I honestly questioned
I was met with a scoff and all-knowing look.
“Oh, Michalyn, you know guys don’t go for girls like us.”
I physically felt my heart drop from my chest into my stomach as I sat there watching and listening to her explain to me the type of girl guys “go for:” blonde, blue-eyed, sun-kissed…thin.
I was none of those.
“That’s all they care about.”
Within seconds, I was the nineteen year old ashamed to be seen in public because of my weight; I was the fat-girl picked last in gym class; I was the girl with long, frizzy brown hair; the girl with glasses, braces, and un-groomed, thick, Middle Eastern eyebrows sitting alone in the back corner of the classroom; I was the girl sucking in her stomach fat while crossing her legs to conceal her meaty thighs; I was the nine-year-old girl who lied about her weight to fit in with her friends.
At 20 years old, I lost any semblance of self-love I had fought so hard for because of one uncalled-for comment by another insecure 20-year-old “friend.”
I was hurt and accepted that I would be a fat, ugly, spinster with 50 cats, despite hating cats. I gave up on trying; I gave up caring; I gave up on hoping for the future; I gave up.
But, I (Let’s be real, mostly my parents) didn’t want my pathetic self and lack luster future to miss out on the coveted American-college-kid experience of studying abroad.
My “unappealing” body and I packed up and moved to London for four months, leaving behind peers who picked friends based on who had which Louis Vuitton bag (Can we just take a moment to appreciate that I spelled Louis Vuitton correctly?) and saw me for who I was on the outside: a woman who didn’t bother wearing makeup to a class that started before 2:00 pm.
For those of you who have never heard me fawn over my love for London, I have argued (on multiple occasions) that London, not Disney World, is the happiest place on earth. And let me tell you, it’s not just because of the townhouses, flawless public transportation, vast history at every turn you make, and pretty men with pretty accents (although all of this certainly helped me love it even more.)
In London, I was away from a place where I had years of unpleasant memories of an unhappy, pudgy girl and unrewarding friendships that did nothing but strengthen a sense of self-pity. I made friends who celebrated me; friends who praised my fat thighs, big boobs, and “hourglass frame;” friends who encouraged intellect and humor; friends who encouraged me to show my personality; friends who reminded me that I was, in fact, beautiful and worthy of respect even though I wasn’t a size two.
And it felt incredible.
The truly magical thing, though, was the response I got when I returned from my mini adventure. I was greeted with a parade of curiosity:
“Did you lose weight?”
The truth is, I actually gained weight—there’s a lot of food to consume in Europe, believe it or not. I did look better, though, I’ll be the first to admit it. But it wasn’t because I lost weight, it was because, for the first time in my memory, I was genuinely happy.
So, here’s the moral of the story, folks: as I sat in the waiting room, having just learned of my minor weight gain, I finally understood that my weight will always fluctuate. I’ll have periods of time where I look thin, I’ll have periods when I look, well, not thin, and that’s okay. But what is not okay is attributing my state-of-mind to my weight.
In that waiting room, I decided that I will no longer push things off for, “when I lose weight.” If I want to wear a crop top, I’ll wear that crop top; if I want to wear a mini-skirt, I’ll wear the goddamn skirt; if I’m feeling like wearing a bikini, I’m gonna do it. Why? I want girls to look at me and see a woman who is confident, who demands respect, and knows her own self-worth. No nine-year-old girl should feel pressured to lie about her weight to her friends and if my embracing my imperfect, curvy, fluctuating body can help achieve that, then I’m in.
Plus, I’ve kinda grown to love my big butt…and I cannot lie about that.
**Michalyn Curran is a recent college graduate and aspiring writer working for Kirschenbaum Productions. Her blog, Begrudgingly Optimistic, explores the complexities of being positive in an increasingly negative world. While it is most often a challenge to stay optimistic while living in the heart of NYC and striving for recognition in a cutthroat industry, it IS possible with a little bit of effort and a forgiving sense of humor. To read more of her writings, visit her site at: begrudginglyoptimistic.com