My Name is Lesley, and I Am Better Than That

She is full of fire and it's about freaking time I share her story.

We all do it. We look at other people. We look at their hair, their faces, the way they apply their makeup. We look at their clothes and the way they style themselves. We look at their fat and their bones and the way their body is structured. We look at their expressions and the postures they stand with. We look at their muffin tops and the gaps between their thighs. We look at these things and think about them positively and negatively or sometimes we simply observe. Observing similarities and differences is human nature. Making judgements about those observations, whether positive or negative, is a reflection of our own selves.

My name is Lesley and I am skinny.

My name is Lesley and there is much more to me than my body. There is much more to my life than my body type.

Referring to something someone posted in the Facebook group--the article on Thin Privilege [you can read it here] --it's possible I misunderstood, but I read it over and over again and could not bring myself to feel comfortable with what the author was saying. I felt that she made a lot of generalizations and assumptions about thin people based on her own experiences. Is it fair to reduce our experience and struggles by assuming they were because of our bodies?

One thing she said stuck out to me in particular: "And while your internal struggle is real and significant, the point is: You might hate your body, but society doesn't."

Again, I may be taking this the wrong way, but I will tell you that I hated my body for two reasons: because when I looked in the mirror, I didn't look like the pretty people (others told me so) and because other people said I was ugly and that my body was gross. These people are a part of society. I very much think that society and the collective group made up of the modeling industry, media, and celebrities, are two very different things. The latter is extreme and disconnected from reality. The former may be influenced in part by the latter, but that does not excuse their actions.

The unrealistic standard that advertising creates does not just affect fat people. That unrealistic model has also had her skin airbrushed, bony parts smoothed, boobs inflated, facial features perfected, hair perfected, and has been photographed at a great angle in great lighting by a photographer. I remember seeing pictures of myself after senior prom and what did I see? I saw my collarbone, my lack of breasts, my hips jutting through the material of the dress, my shoulder blades that looked like they could cut a person, my big dumbo ears sticking out because my hair pulled back was too thin to cover them, and the fact that the full length dress I'd loved before I saw the photos actually only came down to my ankles because I was too tall. I looked ugly compared to the models on the cover of teen magazines, plain and simple, and being skinny didn't help.

And for all my life I was bullied for many things including being skinny, the media's obsession with women being thin had less to do with it or my reaction to it than what I was experiencing first hand. So, here is something I wanted to say that I didn't feel comfortable posting in the group:

It does not matter why someone is telling me my body is ugly. It does not matter that I am thin. It does not matter if their action is influenced by society, by the media, by fat-shaming, by their own personal experiences. Their action does not have a damn thing to do with any privileges I may have as a thin person. My internal struggle is real and significant. Period.

I did not think I was beautiful for the first 20+ years of my life. I was too skinny. I was scrawny and awkward, and I had a long face, a gummy smile, and big ears. I didn't develop any curves until a couple of years ago. I didn't know how to put makeup on or make my hair pretty. I wore ugly clothes I found at thrift stores. I had terrible self-esteem, low confidence, and because of past bullying, I was extremely shy in most situations. I picked my nails down farther than they should be because of severe anxiety. Great, I was skinny. How awesome. Here's the truth: People went out of their way to tell me how ugly I was, to point out how thin I was, to make fun of my long face and my big gummy smile.

People asked me to my face if I was anorexic, they asked my friends, they asked my brother. They told me to eat. They shoved food in my face and said, "What's wrong with you?" because clearly there must be something wrong. I once overhead a guy tell a group of mutual friends how disgusting it must be to sleep with me. They thought I had gone to bed. I was sitting in the dark crying. One girl stood up for me. That was 2005. I'll probably never forget it. After that night, I tried to stuff myself as much as I could with food. At the end of the summer, I had hardly gained any weight.

I am better than that.

I am better than that.

My name is Lesley and my spine sticks out and I have a gap between my thighs. Is that all you see when you look at me?

 

I was also born severely pigeon-toed; I had to wear corrective casts at 4 months old. I had to live with terrible pain for several years when we were trying to correct the way my feet and legs were growing. Sometimes, it hurt so much I'd fall to the floor. I'd make my mom squeeze my feet as hard as she could to offset the pain. If we hadn't corrected them, I probably wouldn't walk well, much less be able to run easily. I'm thin and terribly out of shape. I used to have gorgeous posture until I hit my growth spurt in middle school and was made fun of for being tall. I slouched to fit in. Most things don't fit me right. 1/5 bras are carried in my size and even my size doesn't fit half the time. Pants are a bitch to find. Just-above-the-knee dresses that look beautiful on shorter women hit me about or above mid-thigh. Shorter women look classy. I look like a slut. On the other hand, I assume this is a problem big-bosomed women have with things my smaller chest can get away with.

I was diagnosed with tachycardic syncope because I was blacking out several times per day and passing out when I stood for too long, something common with tall, thin adolescent women. I couldn't even stand in choir to sing through our repertoire some days. I once went to the doctor for a cough. She did nothing for my cough and spent the appointment trying to make me confess I had an eating disorder. She made me do a follow-up appointment a week or two later. I was underweight (more than normal). She made me so angry, I stuffed myself and managed to gain ten (ten!) pounds in time for the next appointment. The look on her face when she weighed me after accusing me of lying...well...that made me feel better.

My name is Lesley and here is what I think: we need to stop defining and separating bullying into categories. Fat people and skinny people have much more in common than people think. That collective group I mentioned earlier that is made up of the modeling industry, media, and celebrities influences fat-shaming AND thin-shaming. It also convinces people that skinny people and non-skinny people must be separated. Why?

No body type gives us the right to make assumptions about that person's life simply because it makes us feel better. We need to learn to be okay with flattering ourselves and taking responsibility for things we don't like, and when there are things we can't change, accept them. When there are things we don't like that we can change, whether we do or don't, that falls on us. Not other people. Not on society.

And when we think someone is pretty, we should tell them. When we make negative judgements about someone’s body, we should keep them to ourselves and remind ourselves that the negative judgement reflects us, not them.

My name is Lesley and I am a photographer. I am a musician. I play the piano and sing.

I love animals, and someday I want to work or volunteer at a rescue center.

I majored in writing and minored in graphics and photo.

I was just certified as an EMT.

I've played softball for 17 years and I hope I'm still playing when I'm old.

I became an Aunt a few months ago.

I started dying my hair when I was 13 and didn't stop until I was 26. I haven't dyed my hair in two years, and I finally like my natural color.

I've never gotten a tattoo and maybe never will, but I have 9 piercings.

I love camping and being outdoors.

My favorite kid's song is Baby Beluga, and being by large, seemingly unending bodies of water calms me.

I usually (and awkwardly) can't seem to detect subtle flirting from the opposite sex.

I love pretty much every genre of music except the ones I don't. I played the French Horn for 8 years and I still remember how, although it probably wouldn't be pleasant to listen to.

I seem to remain pretty naive to the idea that some people are just mean for no reason (or maybe for reasons I'll just never know).

I love the way my legs feel freshly shaved. When I wear a swimming suit, sometimes I feel attractive, sometimes I don't.

Sometimes I do or say really stupid things. It can take me a while to forgive myself.

I am not perfect, but after several years of experimenting with makeup, hair, and clothes, I can say (although not publicly), I think I am more beautiful than I used to be. Not always, as I am still very picky about the way my clothes fit, and some days, my face and hair just seem terribly off. I don't think I'm very stylish and I do get frustrated when I see women who are. I own a lot of plain comfortable clothing, and some clothing I've bought because I saw something similar look cute on someone else and then never wore for one reason or another...often confidence related.

I am a woman who wants to feel beautiful and will put the minimum time it takes to accomplish that. I am a woman who wants to be woodsy, free-spirited, and full of life—and often I find myself fighting anxiety and bad habits to try to reach these. I am a woman who is tired of hearing people dehumanize thin people, just as I am sure big women are tired of hearing people dehumanize fat people.

There are still many physical things about myself that I don't like, but I have come a long way. I am generally a private person, so sharing all of this was a bit hard. I have a hard time opening myself up to other women and being vulnerable, but I think that my being a part of this project is worth it if it means I can clarify misconceptions people have about being a thin woman and break down some walls.

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