Less isn’t always more
The one consolation for sitting in a classroom until 11 p.m. putting together the school newspaper was the free food. Every night of layout week – the week from hell when articles and photographs and headlines and cutlines were all shoved into place – we would order out for food to fuel the arduous task of completing the paper.
I would take breaks from the lines and grids of my computer to fill up on Domino’s Pizza, a fat Chipotle burrito, or some it-might-be-cat-but-it-still-tastes-good Chinese food. It was all rewarding, all satisfying and all delicious.
“You know what’s been great about having you on staff for two years, Kaely?” my newspaper advisor yelled across the room to me one night during such a dinner.
“What?” I yelled back, my voice muffled by the sweet and sour “chicken” in my mouth.
“When people ask me if you eat, I can say yes.”
“When people ask me if you eat..’ That one sentence has been playing on repeat since my freshman year of high school. It has become a part of my life, a part of me, that I can never seem to get rid of. Because the fact is, no matter how much I tell people I eat, no matter how often I devour twice as much food as the other staff members on layout nights, people still wonder, they still worry, still ask.
Almost every new person I meet comments on my weight. People I hardly know wrap their fingers around my wrist to see just how small it really is. People approach me and ask if I’m anorexic or if I barf up my food after meals. They make jokes about pumping my veins full of butter or making me eat a hundred Big Macs. What doesn’t make sense to me about these comments is how every one of them has been said as if believed to be a compliment.
“I wish I was anorexic-skinny, like you,” a girl in my 10th-grade journalism class once said.
“What size pants do you wear – a zero?” my ninth-grade algebra teacher asked me.
“Miss Kaely, you’re so skinny,” the kids at my job said at least three times a week.
I don’t understand why people think I like hearing that I look anorexic. When someone says I’m “anorexic-skinny,” they’re not just judging my appearance, they’re judging me. I have no choice regarding my weight. My mom was thin when she was young, and I am, too. I didn’t ask to look this way, and nothing I do, nothing I eat, has helped me look any other way.
It’s offensive when people imply that I have an eating disorder, because such conditions are very serious. People kill themselves by refusing to eat or by vomiting up their food. Their bodies and lives suffer because they care more about their appearance than what is really good for them. Why would I want to be classified as a person who would do that to themselves? Why would I want to be known as someone who would literally starve just to look how society dictates women should look?
What people don’t understand is that I am self-conscious about my weight. I’m self-conscious because I can see my ribs when I wear a low-cut shirt. I’m self-conscious because I can see my hip bones when I wear a bikini. I’m self-conscious because my shoulders and elbows and knees and ankles are all angular and bony.
I don’t think that’s attractive, and it doesn’t help that people point it out constantly. It’s like being put on display: an intriguing animal in a cage at the zoo that those passing by are free to gawk and wonder at. No one considers that. No one thinks that their “compliments,” while packed with good intentions and humor, can touch something deeper.
People are always talking about the prejudices surrounding overweight people. Famous faces from Tyra Banks to Vanessa Minnillo have donned fat suits in an attempt to show the world just how much being overweight is looked down on in our society. The results of these experiments are always horrifying. People are rude, judgmental, and cruel to them, basing their entire perception of these individuals on their appearance alone.
Being skinny is supposed to be a good thing. But being too skinny is just as bad as being overweight. Society is screwed up that way. On the one hand, diet books like Atkins and South Beach dominate best-seller lists. On the other, every magazine from People to The National Enquirer goes on about the latest cases of “too-skinny” celebrities.
It doesn’t make sense. No one is ever satisfied with their appearance. And meanwhile, the continuous mixed signals of society wage war with how I perceive myself. I feel obligated to clear my plate at meals if I’m eating with someone I have recently met, fearing that they’ll think I’m anorexic. I try not to go to the restroom after I eat because I don’t want others to think that I’ve gone to throw up. Whenever we learn about eating disorders in class, everyone’s eyes seem to suddenly turn to look at me.
It’s sad that the society we live in is so dependent on appearance. And it’s devastating that no matter how we look, what we eat or don’t eat, or how much we exercise or watch TV – we can never look the way we’re “supposed to.” I’m tired of hearing that I’m skinny, that I’m too thin, that I’m small and bony. I can read a scale – I already know.
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Kaely Moore at email@example.com.