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.
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, a 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.
Then in 1965, Twiggy happened; the new standard.
The British model was 5 ft. 6 in. and 91 lbs. Her face, 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”. 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.