A Revelation: “Strong” does not mean you are not fragile…

So apparently my body is once again on the wane it’s like “Honey who shrunk my thighs!?” and trust me I wasn’t trying. Here’s what happened. My best friend April (the one with the amazing closet) was once again purging, hence I was to be the recipient of recycled couture, however this time I was concerned because I knew that I was a bit larger then I had been the last time we had one of these sessions. It is important to note that though April and I are the same height we have very different body types, she has it all up top and I have it all below, so shoes and tops and (depending on the cut) dresses are never a problem but pants (especially without a bit of stretch) can be an issue. So there we were, I was pulling clothes off and on with great success until I got to a pair of jeans a size 28. I slipped one leg in up to the thigh and the seams cried uncle! There was no way. I have to say that even before I got there I knew that there was no way they were going to fit, but knowing April she would never have believed it until I tried. Since I was under no delusion about where my body was I was not shattered that they didn’t fit and so I chucked them aside and carried on.

About a month later I was once again over April’s house helping her fold laundry. She pulled out a pair of jeans and announced, “Okay these are going, they just don’t work,” I said, “Hold on let me see if they fit”. I slipped them on without thought or resistance. They were actually loose, it was then April informed me that they in fact were the same jeans that fit like a tourniquet a month before. Clearly my body had made an executive decision to let go of my winter growth.

That was about two weeks ago, since my body has continued to wane. Just the other day coming home form Bikram, wearing the aforementioned jeans (now even looser) I glanced my reduced thighs as I ascended the subway stairs I thought to myself that they looked tiny, like a child’s thighs. Where I have not dropped that much weight, because I have no breasts and my upper body tends to remain lean, it gets rather bony when I am thinner, when I lose on the bottom I look a bit boyish (for me). As I emerged onto the street my mind went to why it is that I feel “better” when I am on the “thinner” side. I realized then that psychologically it ran far deeper for me than just the aesthetic of thinness. The child-like thing was a piece of that puzzle. Since I was very young I have been physically strong, as a child I had shapely muscular legs. At the age of 12 I was 5’7 and ripped, at 18 I had a bit more meat on my bones, and stood 5’10. As a Ballet dancer my stature earned me the title “Big girl” which referred both to my height in conjunction to my weight and muscularity. I hated it; it made me feel like a cow. It just reminded me that I was no way what I was supposed to be as a ballet dancer.

That is the physical side of the story; the other side has to do with my personality. In that area I too am a “Big girl” I have a large personality; I speak my mind and am honest and direct in any and all situations (sometimes to a fault). I have no problem standing up for what I think is right, I also tend to advocate for others when they cannot stand up for themselves. I am a strong woman physically and in personality. So what does that have to do with my body? Well here’s the thing, for some reason there is an idea that if you are physically strong, or have a strong personality that some how you are not sensitive, fragile or even vulnerable. There is this idea that because of the way that you look or carry yourself that your muscle or your voice acts as armor rendering you impervious to harsh words, actions or being hurt. Perhaps this is just my skewed perception, but I have noticed that small people (either petite in stature or bone) seem to be treated with more gentility, with a kind of care, or sensitivity as if they are delicate. Think about it” Pick on someone your own size” it not only implies that you should “pick” on someone of equal stature and weight but also that you shouldn’t pick on little people, or people who “appear” to be weak” or fragile.

I have lived in my body all of my life, in all it’s shapes and sizes, likewise I have lived with my energy and personality for just as long, I am completely aware of the fact that I can be “intimidating” both physically and energetically. I am aware that the combination of my stature and my unyielding, dogged personality work to solidify the impression that I can withstand every, and everything. I get it, I truly do, and this is exactly where my body – and its image come into play. I feel like (regardless of whether it is a reality or not) when I am thinner, smaller in a sense I may appear less “strong” thus less intimidating, and perchance more approachable in a way. The idea that my legs looked childlike in my mind is a part of that idea. Children are not scary or physically intimidating, people are more open and kinder with children, they are more tolerant and gentle, they acknowledge that they are fragile (mentally, emotionally and physically) and they act accordingly. Some where I feel like if I am “smaller”, people will then see the truth of my tenderness, my fragility and have a different reaction towards me, and perhaps then open a space for me to not have to be tough.

People who know me, and have experienced me know that I have a soft side, and am highly sensitive. My physical strength and bravado are not necessarily indicators of my internal emotional landscape. The truth is a person’s physical and emotional constitutions are not always mirror images. Someone’s “largeness” (be it physical or in personality) does not preclude the fact that they may be being sensitive, vulnerable even weak, and vice versa. Conversely I know a lot of diminutive, boney people who will throw you to the mat literally or figuratively and leave you for dead.

The reality is that I am not weak, but I am not a fortress either, I am capable and willing to be a support for others however it would be nice to be supported without having to ask, or be in complete breakdown for someone to think to offer. It is my belief that my physicality and my personality have something to do with creating the illusion that support, encouragement, and even help are things I- or “strong” people do not need. When you “look” like you are fine, strong, and confident it seldom occurs to others that you just might not be. It’s not their fault, it’s just the way that it looks. If you look like you need help, and then people are more likely to offer.

There is no answer or combat to the perceptions people hold when they look at you. When and if they get to know you then all becomes clear. hey, I’m a big girl, a strong woman and the fact of the matter is, no matter how thin I get, I will still be who I am and I am a big girl, a strong woman, – I am also a sensitive girl and a vulnerable woman, that is also a reality, and all those truths are housed in this body, be it full or thin, powerful or frail. Perhaps those who either care to look closely, ask or have to courage to approach will ever know, but maybe that’s the way it was meant to be.