Skinny Shaming.

It might be hard to imagine today, but it was a reality of the 1950’s and early 1960’s;glamour evident in every magazine, newspaper and television screen.

Standards of beauty involved curves. An iconic Marilyn Monroe stood at 5 ft. 5 in. and fluctuated between 125 and 140 lbs., reputed to be a size 16.

The ethic of my eastern European heritage dictated that a plump wife was a sign of a man’s good fortune. My grandmother and mother fell into line.

By anyone’s standards, they were overweight. Fat was not the exception, it was the norm; particularly in women who’d born children.

We children were quite different. We were rail-thin. I was, by far, the worst.

Somewhere around age 7, I just stopped eating. Today, they would call it a disorder, maybe even anorexia. I was grossly underweight, severely anemic, depressed over family trauma.

Me. Age 8 .

The family doctor suggested that I have my tonsils surgically removed, then believed to stimulate one’s appetite. It didn’t work.

I have limited memory of that time period. A few years ago, aΒ  caring neighbor sent me photos taken at her home; there were no pictures in our family album from these turbulent years.

I bore the ugly nicknames…skinny minny, beanpole, etc. I became painfully shy. In a neighborhood of athletic boys and tomboy girls, I was picked last.

Summers were difficult. I poured myself into academics; couldn’t wait to get back to school.

I went on to be an emaciated teen, physical development delayed, menses postponed until just before my 18th birthday.

I tried everything to gain weight. I binged, but never purged. I drank my mother’s Metrecal milk shakes, designed as a meal replacement for her. For me, it was a bedtime or between meal snack.

My metabolism must have been on fire. If I skipped a lunch, I’d drop a pound. People told me how lucky I was. I did not feel lucky. I mostly felt bloated and frustrated. Twiggy

Then in 1965, Twiggy happened; the new standard.

The British model was 5 ft. 6 in. and 91 lbs. Her face,Β  image was everywhere.

I could relate. By then, I had reached that same height, and was struggling to get to 100 lbs.

Oddly, her look was not popular among my peers. They weren’t buying it.

It did nothing to help my self esteem or body image. Only time took care of that. I began to feel good about my physical self sometime around 19 years old, when I ballooned to about 110 lbs.

Body shaming is still prevalent. Meghan Trainor spoke to the chubby girls of our current day by being proud of her size in the popular and catchy tune “All About That Bass”, but she did so by shaming the “skinny bitches” and “stick figures”.Β  How is that better ?

It is not easy to be different. Whoever and whatever defines “normal” will always create conflict; we will always be compared.

In an ideal world, we might be judged less for our body image, and more for our hearts, our souls, and our contribution to humanity.

One can dream.

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81 Responses to Skinny

  1. lbeth1950 says:

    Just love this Van. So hard when you have to be what someone else chooses. Reblogging both.

  2. lbeth1950 says:

    Reblogged this on Nutsrok and commented:
    Insights from my friend at Vanbytheriver

  3. bercatliz says:

    Love this piece. I am trying to learn to love being different though its others who make us feel different.

  4. A great message, Van. It struck me while reading that it’s another form of “bullying,” approved of by the culture – media, adults, peers, family members, and ultimately taught to children. I love your last line…perhaps one day we’ll get there.

  5. C.E.Robinson says:

    Van, all of that history behind you gives you a good perspective of what overrated “looks” are today. Same here with a similar story. Health seemed to be secondary. Twiggy look-a likes are all over the glamour mags. Makes you wonder! Chryssa

    • I know, Chryssa, there is a modicum of plus sized models out there, but not nearly enough, if the stats are correct and the average American woman in size 14. I can’t even get into the photo altering issue. Thanks for chiming in…πŸ’•

  6. I appreciate that it is just as difficult to be skinny as it is to be fat. Again, it is mostly based on others’ perceptions of what is beautiful or to some extent, the fashions of the time,
    Health doesn’t always come into it for slimmer people, but it causes them all sorts of problems as you mentioned. Thank you for sharing this Van and showing me what it like on the other side of the fence. The grass isn’t always greener! πŸ™‚

  7. Erika Kind says:

    My kids too were very skinni, but it all worked out over the years. I still have Twiggy’s heighth and 100 pounds. But I feel good. πŸ™‚

  8. Erica Herd says:

    I was skinny too, and then anorexic from age 17 to about 21. I never appreciated the “bean pole” term either. I’m no longer 98 pounds, but women are expected to remain the perfect figure to stay attractive.

  9. Mir Fleur says:

    It would be just great if we could all enjoy being alive, and celebrate the variety and differences between us – which make life interesting!

  10. Nurse Kelly says:

    Thank you for such an inspirational post. There really is no “normal,” and shouldn’t be. Just healthy!

    • You’re so welcome, Kelly. So happy if it inspired. When I had a health scare a few years back, I realized how ridiculous the battle seemed. I’d been trying to lose that menopausal weight gain for years. The thought of maybe losing my life…some real perspective arrived. πŸ’•

      • Nurse Kelly says:

        Absolutely. A few pounds mean nothing if you are healthy and feel good. And we have the choice as to whether we buy into some “ideal” or not. Life’s too short! Just be happy, right? xo

      • I have been healthier and more fit in the last 2 decades than I ever was in the first 2. ☺ It took a while to be comfortable in my own skin. But, it happened eventually.

      • Nurse Kelly says:

        Shows you how much your state of mind has to do with it – that has to be healthy first. I’m happy that you can say that.

  11. Melanie says:

    I’ve been skinny my whole life, and it’s like that gives people license to comment on my size. Ironically, that’s the same lament I hear from the opposite camp.
    When the world was praising “All About That Bass” as the body anthem, I was not with them. I was too firmly offended by her line, “tell all those skinny bitches…”. Her “nah, just playin'” right after didn’t do enough for me. It turned the song from body positive, to bodies, except skinny bodies.

    • I had this discussion at the time with my adult daughter, who is thin, had eating issues, and was deeply offended that the song was garnering so much attention and praise. It was just reverse body-slamming to a huge community of women. Thanks for the observation, Mel. πŸ’•

  12. I very much agree with you, Van. We need to stop slating people for being too skinny, too fat, too curvy, too boyish … It just never ends the ways in which we find labels and ideals with which to judge ourselves unfairly, criticise others and bring everyone down. We need to quit being so superficial! Embrace and celebrate diversity.

    Now I have to shed quite a few pounds because I want to be healthier and fitter but I long ago gave up striving to be slim. I enjoy food but find exercise boring and frankly at my ideal BMI I just looked ill because I go gaunt around the face and neck while still having a pudgy butt and thighs. I know what weight I am aiming for and it is not my ideal BMI because I am focusing on a weight that I feel comfortable at and which I can actually feasibly maintain without being miserable. I have been fat and I have been skinny and all shapes and sizes in between. Now I just want to be happy and healthy in my own skin and the measurements can get stuffed.

    • I think you have the perfect attitude about it, Laura. Bravo. πŸ’•

      • It’s taken me a long time to reach this level of acceptance about myself. I think I have just reached and age and stage and degree of life experience where I know that life is way too short and precious to be so angst-ridden over my weight and body. I think also as a mother I do not want to pass on the same unhealthy relationship with food and eating that I have to my sons. That helps keep me on track with this mindset.

      • Excellent. Be proud of that. ☺

  13. Thumbup says:

    Reminded me of the show I have seen years ago.

  14. Just Plain Ol' Vic says:

    One of the hardest things to do: love yourself exactly as you are.

  15. George says:

    I don’t know why were so obsessed with this as a society. I really don’t. If people are happy and healthy why must we be so same concerned about weight. There is not enough room here to try and dissect this topic but you’ve done a nice job bringing it out front from a personal perspective. With all the things in life we need to focus on, barring health issues, body image should not be part of our discussion. Thank you.

    • You’re so welcome, George, and you’re right, it shouldn’t matter. Sadly, until we’ve reached a certain level of self-assurance, it affects us all. Thanks for your thoughts, it is a tough subject. I feel like we can only scratch the surface. ☺

  16. So sorry you were felt shamed as a child Van. It seems no matter what your situation, someone somewhere will find fault with it. that’s the real shame in my opinion. ❀
    Diana xo

  17. markbialczak says:

    I wish it were all about the heart and soul, Van. By the way, I think beauty really is in the eye of the beholder, if we let it be. Not everybody buys into the too-this or too-that.

  18. amommasview says:

    Crazy… too thin, too thick… but it’s never about how nice you are which would be the best thing to measure someone at as you kind of said in your last sentence…

  19. Amy says:

    I love this post. I went through a period of time after I had my last daughter where my thyroid was out of whack and I couldn’t keep weight on. I can’t tell you how many people made comments to me that i looked like a 14 year old boy etc. I felt really bad about myself and agree that there should be no name calling in either direction, and less pre occupation with the differences in our bodies. Excellent post!

    • Health conditions, genetics, medications, eating disorders…we never know what leads to weight loss or gain and should really think twice about making assumptions. We don’t walk another’s path. Thanks, Amy πŸ’•

  20. Van, I look forward to the day when that dream becomes a reality.

  21. buddha9 says:

    Reblogged this on Buddha9 and commented:
    I can relate to this except I was chubby

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  23. I can’t help noticing the three guys drooling over the curvy women in the ad. Success for women was making guys drool like dogs. It’s kinda gross.

  24. megdekorne says:

    Hoping too this dream manifests into our world soon …beautifully written , lovely Van…hugs , megxxx

  25. Ellen Hawley says:

    I’m not even sure it’s easy to be “normal.” Women are under such pressure to look fantastic (however that’s defined it’s almost always impossible). Most women in the US think they could stand to lose at least 5 pounds. I’m not immune, but honestly, who cares about it? We’re more than what we look like.

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  27. Reblogged this on sherriemiranda1 and commented:
    This is just another -ISM, a form of prejudice. It’s another way people make themselves feel better by putting down others!
    I fall in the other category though I now realize I was just fine when I was younger, BUT MY peers DID buy into the “Twiggy” thing.
    What I have finally decided is that I MUST try to be my healthiest. That means taking off SOME weight, converting fat to muscle and being more active.
    If a skinny person has muscle, they are healthy. If a heavy person has muscle, they are healthier than the ones who don’t.
    Whatever else you do, try to get the nutrients you need and keep adding muscle, no matter your age.
    Don’t be like I was. I heard that meat built muscle. As a teen, the last thing I wanted was muscle, so I ate almost no meat. Luckily, in my early twenties, I was introduced to black beans, which I love to this day! I still eat some meat (if it’s crunchy), but I eat more beans, grains and especially eat lots of fiber. The fiber helps me get some of these poisons out that accumulate from our American diet.
    So, love yourself the way you are, but keep working on becoming healthier. DAY BY DAY!
    Peace, self-love & inner joy to all,

  28. Ann Koplow says:

    I love the way you dream, Van! ❀

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