Today I’m thinking about… being feminine.

May 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

I was hanging with a friend complaining about being fat, as I am wont to do far too often for someone who will stand in the kitchen and lick all the icing off a three layer cake unconsciously while trying to decide what to have for lunch, when he whipped around and with staggering contempt called me a ‘fucking idiot’. I met his derision with the wounded yelp of a stupid dog who’d caught its own damn tail. Bewildered by my sore butt, I turned away from him, scratched my nose, watched a fly land on the tiled floor and rub its legs together for a while, then finally stated that I was thirsty.

I contemplated the glass arrangement in my cupboard for a while before I asked if he’d like a drink, too? ‘Sorry’ he said so matter-of-fact I wanted to punch him, ‘I’m just so tired of girls who are perfectly aware they aren’t fat trying to fish for compliments.’ Wow, I thought smugly as I chugged my water and wiped the dribble off my chin, does this guy have it wrong.

I sat next to him in that way dads sit next to you when they are about to explain important life matters. I leaned into my spread apart knees, clasped my hands together and looked straight ahead. ‘You see (son), girls do think they’re fat. We really do. Not all of us, and not all the time, but sometimes we eat one too many jars of nuttella (with a spoon, only a spoon) in one sitting and we feel like it has somehow, miraculously congealed on the part of the body we hate the most.’ OK, what I really said was ‘you’re a fucking idiot’ and flicked him in the ear, but I think he got the point.

I pondered later over a peach, ice-cream and apricot jam concoction I’d constructed with pride why I felt I was fat, or moreover, why I kept having to tell people. It puzzled me in the same way telling people I was a serial killer would puzzle me (if I was a serial killer). If it’s something I hate about myself, something I’m ashamed of, why bring it up? Why not just stash the bodies in the dumpster… I mean wear my muumuu and get on with my life?

To me, the word ‘fat’ has always meant something more than just an amass of buttery cell lumps that mocked me at my inability to fit into my skinny jeans. In my primary school days I was friends with a lot of girls. Girls were these small mythical creatures with long hair, tiny feet and skinny arms. And for a while, I was one of them. Then came the 5th grade; a bowl cut, a weight gain of 15 kilos, my dad’s size feet and the first day of school. I watched all these impish waifs delicately flutter around me and tell me with stressed tones and compensating grins how different I looked. I was no longer one of them.

I spent the next 10 years of my life fighting to be that again. I missed it. I watched them run, smile, expose their bloomers with ecstatic joy to the 6th grade boys as they did rows and rows of cartwheels and thought ‘me too!’ Of course I was too young at the time to realise that that little impish waif was lost forever, and that no matter how many mornings I woke up thinking ‘this will be the day I only eat salad and do cartwheels’, I would never ever do a cartwheel on the school oval and expose my bloomers to the 6th grade boys on the hill (unless I want to go to court).

When I say I feel ‘fat’ it’s more that I feel big, cumbersome, man-ish. For me, being fat meant that I wasn’t a girl, and therefore I was one of the boys. Unfortunately, for the most part, I didn’t fit in much with them either. They’d indulge me with their company from time to time. We’d play wall ball and I’d wear shorts, but it was just never a match. Maybe they rejected me because I was terrible at catching, or I had knobbly knees? I will never know. What I did know was this; I had the body of a 50 year old man and the throwing skills of a nine year old girl. It just was never going to be an easy puberty for me.

Fast forward 15 years and I can say with utmost honesty and genuine surprise that I am not, in fact, fat. I lost weight a while ago and it’s only for so long after a considerable weight loss that you can keep thinking of yourself as fat without instantaneously rolling your eyes. It isn’t that I don’t have fat days where I want to tear the flesh off my wobbly thighs, but my rational side says that I am no longer a size 16, and therefore I am not fat.

So why did I tell my friend I was? I think this comes down to two reasons. The first is obvious and shouldn’t go unmentioned; I was having a fat day. Sometimes one just wakes up and feels shit about their body. This is unavoidable. It’s part of being a woman, I think. Maybe it’s part of being a person. And yes, having someone fish you for compliments can seem self-indulgent on their part and can get frustrating, particularly when, in your eyes, they are just fabulous. I think it’s important, however, to be aware that the people who do this the most are sometimes the most insecure and in need of a friend’s kind words and support. But, unfortunately, usually words don’t do much to change minds.

The other reason is more insidious, and telling of the kind of person I am. I was terribly and painfully aware in that moment of how much I wanted him to think I was a girl. It wasn’t that I wanted his sexual advance, or even his interest; I was simply feeling in that moment entirely unfeminine. I have many male and female friends nowadays, and when I’m around my male friends I do pride myself on being a bit of a bro. I can eat sloppy nachos and talk boobs with the best of them. Sometimes, though, this reminds me of those days I envied those mythical creatures who flutter and expose themselves excitedly. I felt caustically overwhelmed by my own ability to seem masculine, and I needed to remind him that he was sitting on the couch with a female. A long haired, big footed, medium size armed female.

Why was this important? I’m not sure. But I do many things that I think are the most important thing in the world one moment, and forget why the next. Things like taking a jazz ballet class or arranging my bookshelf by genre (it was at Rosenberg that I gave up). I suppose to my friend I should apologise for making him feel used for superficial self-affirmation, but I won’t. In stead I’ll call him a ‘fucking idiot’ the next time he tells me girls will never like him even though he has experienced a buffet of buxom (yet somehow, miraculously) impish waifs in his life.

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