Size In Proximity To Others By Stephanie Seweryn
When will I become a confident, sassy fat woman?
Before I get into this, I know some people will immediately take issue with me calling myself a fat woman, but the fact of the matter is I am not just larger than some smaller women. I am not just over my goal weight or bigger than the average American. I am what the American Medical Association would one hundred percent factually and literally classify as obese. Nice people with good intentions could make excuses and I have made plenty of my own - did you know that researchers have found that premature babies are more likely to be overweight later in life and did you also know I was born 8 weeks premature?! But I digress.
This is not to say I am ready to “take back the word.” My size in proximity to others and what is considered healthy is something consistently on my mind. Anywhere from biweekly to quarterly I make new futile attempts to create a smaller me: low carb, no carb, no dairy, high fiber; yoga, zumba, pilates, running, power walking, high intensity interval training, low weight/high reps, high reps/low weight, “Just Dance! With Julianne Hough” (would not recommend). You name it I have probably tried it. I mean that earnestly: I was in third grade when I started drinking diet soda. Sixth grade when I officially started counting calories. Seventh grade when I tried my first fad diet (RIP, Mr. Atkins). Ninth grade when I started skipping meals. And 22 when I accidentally got guilted into signing up for a personal trainer I could not afford only to find and submit a cancellation of contract letter within the three-day window as provided by law.
But this isn’t about losing the weight. Not this time. This is about becoming that awesome, inspiring big sister, best friend of a gal who is so in love with life her body is merely her vessel from whenceforth she can carry her important message to the world. Or at least that’s what I picture the most ideal version of myself to be. So often on tv or in movies, larger women are portrayed as vivacious. Salty. Fashionable and boisterous. Well spoken ambassadors of the above average woman.
I very clearly remember rushing home every day after school to watch Rosie O’Donnell’s talk show. Bear with me. There are a lot of reasons to have a lot of feelings about Rosie O’Donnell, but being a nine year old girl in the 90th percentile for weight - and also 90th percentile for bangs to head ratio - I was eager to find a real role model in the women I saw on TV. Sure, there was Kathy Najimy, but she was a witch. And there were the Designing Women, but Delta Burke could be kind of mean sometimes. And even though I really thought the Golden Girls’ outfits could do something for my silhouette, they definitely didn’t sell that in the Juniors’ section at JCPenny. But Rosie O’Donnell was a funny, positive woman who ran her own show and was not afraid to talk about being hungry. On national television! Plus, she loved Donny Osmond! So did, I! It was like a dream come true.
But when would that confidence come? That grace and reckless abandon. To live life to the fullest regardless of my body size. To throw caution to the wind and say what I meant because it didn’t matter if I had to wear a sensible sweater set and a pant with some stretch. I was a woman with feelings and purpose!
If you asked me when I was younger when this would happen, I would have told you sometime around age 28. This age came to me in a dream. A premonition of the age at which I would finally master the art of being a confident, sassy fat woman (and maybe secretly hoping I would no longer have to categorize myself as fat).
Well, I turn 28 very soon and let me say definitively here and now: the confidence has not come (and as I mentioned before the American Medical Association is just not on my side). Some of that I attribute to my fashion or lack thereof. Those confident tv women always have the best fashion with the heels and the hair and the layering of the clothes so perfectly and the bold lip done just so. The few examples we had in the early 90s did and those we have now still do *Side Note: I am so sorry, I am not sorry Jennifer Lawrence I am sure as hell not talking about you. No hate because Hollywood is cruel, but you are far from a plus-sized icon.
Maybe some of it is tied to that Western idea of sex appeal. I know I personally am not bringing booty back. Would not categorize myself as “Bootylicious.” And I can make assumptions, but I am still not totally sure what the milkshake is that brings all the boys to the yard. They’re talking about butts right? If I had to describe my body shape in one word it would be rectangle and for whatever reason - most likely due to gerrymandering - rectangle was unanimously voted a categorically unsexy shape.
On a list of very terrible, very real things happening in the world today, my body image and self esteem are not high on the priorities list. Sure, I could ascribe the whole, “you need to put on your own oxygen mask first” mantra of self care, but compounding the issue of my confidence is the overwhelming feeling that I just need to get over it and focus on the greater issues of the world. This is made even more difficult by the fact that no matter where I try to go I cannot manage to escape my body. Please stop following me!
I want end this on the inspiring note that I’ll make a pledge to love myself more everyday. That I’ll spend at least 10 minutes staring in the mirror each morning telling myself I’m a beautiful, contributing member of society. But that’s a lie. More likely I’ll spend at least 30 minutes every day analyzing a candid photograph taken of me 3 years ago compared to a candid photograph taken of me 2 months ago and try to decide if I can note any marked physical changes.
The tidbit I can leave you with is this: if we were to meet, I would venture to guess there is at least one thing I would be totally and incredibly jealous about. Your hair. Your smile. Your ability to compute advanced mathematical equations. If we were to speak with one another, these things might distract me and I can with 100 percent assuredness say I am not noticing [insert XXXX body thing that makes you less confident]. Instead, I am obsessively, selfishly thinking about whether the face I’m making is creating a third or fourth chin while wondering if my bra is doing that thing where it makes my back look like lasagna noodles. Spoiler Alert: Absolutely.
But when will I become a confident, sassy fat woman? Please check back in with me after my 28th birthday.
Stephanie Seweryn balances her time between nonprofit fundraising and comedy. Stephanie currently serves as a writer, producer, and performer for the sketch group Double Chin, performs with music improv team Rhyme & Punishmint and as a member in the ensemble of MCL’s Gotcha Covered, curates an all women’s variety show, Lady Gravy, and dabbles in stand-up around town. In her non-comedy time, Stephanie serves on the Board for the Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago.