It was your typical last day of school. I walked hand in hand with my three year old daughter, enjoying the breeze of a warm sunny day lightly tease her golden curls. I let go of her hand and watched her run to her best preschool friend as I joined the girl’s mother for the rest of the walk to our cars. We exchanged the normal small talk and answered questions about plans for the summer. Then she said, “We should get the girls together sometime over the break.” I suggested swimming because it’s summer in Texas, and it’s hot.
She stopped in the middle of the parking lot, looked down her nose and scowled at me as she said, “Well I’m not going swimming with you. Maybe if you had more of a mommy body,” and then walked to her car like she didn’t just insult me. In front of my daughter.
I said nothing, waved her farewell, and buckled my daughter into her little safety seat. Then I sat in my car, hands firmly gripping my steering wheel, shaking my head wondering what gave that other mother the right to talk to me that way, to make me feel bad about my body, to look at me with disgust.
Why is this acceptable? Why did I not say something to defend myself? Why did I let her talk to me that way? Not only did she shame me in front of my daughter, she did it in front of her daughter, too. She pointed out our differences as if appearance is all that matters. What does this say to our girls?
And I’m sick of it.
Truth: people have been saying things like this to me my entire life. Some things were worse. As a teenager, I was mocked for being thin, for not having boobs, for not having curves. Kids teased me relentlessly calling me “twiggy” or “lil’ bit” or my favorite “mosquito bites.” Girls constantly said, “Why don’t you eat a hamburger…or two?” And when they felt kinder, they said things like “You’re so skinny,” which was not a compliment.
Today I often hear, “You’re just so lucky because you’re naturally thin.” “It must be nice to get to eat what you want and not gain weight.” “You must have good genes.”
What if I turned the table on the other mother at the school? What if I said, “Nah, I don’t want to go swimming with you because you haven’t lost all of your baby weight?” What if I said, “Maybe you should eat fewer hamburgers?”
That would be called fat shaming. We’ve read the articles. We’ve nodded along, appalled at the audacity of people to hurt other people for their weight. We argue that it needs to stop. Yet, when we flip the coin, and the skinny girl sits in the hot seat, it is suddenly okay that she gets berated for her body type. It’s okay for that mom to tell me that my body isn’t good enough to be in a swimsuit in front of her. It’s okay for someone to tell me that my figure is disgusting. It’s okay for someone to say to me, “Eat more.”
And that is the definition of a double standard.
I have a confession to make. I absolutely hate to wear a swimsuit in front of another woman, and it’s not because I don’t like my body. I hate the judgment. I loathe the looks, the whispers, the mean girls who so clearly are talking about me, so this summer, I even bought a special swimsuit to wear around the other mommies. And then I took it back. Because I refuse to cover up my body for the sake of someone else. I refuse to allow another mom to make me feel bad about being fit. I refuse to succumb to the mean girls.
Let me clarify something. I work really hard to maintain my weight. I spend hours in the gym. I go to bed sore every night. Every.Single.Night. I don’t keep junk food in my house because I have no will power. I don’t eat fast food (often). I drink about 130 ounces of water a day. I don’t eat after 8:00 pm (except for date nights). I make healthy choices most of the time. I work really hard to maintain my weight, and it doesn’t come naturally.
As a teenager, yes. I was naturally thin…to a fault. Try being sixteen and the only girl without boobs in the locker room. Try being the girl whose ribs stick out no matter how many “hamburgers” she eats. Try being the girl who’s different and can’t do anything about it. Try being the only girl who doesn’t get noticed by the boys because she looks more like them than the girls. While my closest friends were buying sized C bras, I was crying in my bedroom. While they were getting felt up for the first time, I was playing basketball with my brothers.
As I got older, I finally began to gain some weight. When I had a car accident, I was forced to be in a wheelchair, and I gained the much needed freshmen 15. I missed my legs. I missed aerobics, and as soon as I gained the ability to walk again, I went straight back to the place where I always found solace. The gym.
In my twenties, my metabolism slowed down, I experienced the heartache of infertility, and I gained thirty pounds. I was unhappy. I didn’t feel good about myself. I didn’t like who I saw in my reflection, so I made the decision to lose the weight, to pull out of the darkness, and to carry on with or without a child. I lost the weight. It was a struggle, and I worked really hard to do it.
Several months later, I saw the two lines on the stick for the first time. I gained thirty five pounds, and when I delivered that beautiful baby boy, I only lost 7 lbs. 9 oz. The other twenty seven pounds didn’t come off over night. I worked my ass off to lose that weight. And then as soon as I was back in my skinny jeans, I got pregnant again and had to start the process from the beginning. Why? Because it’s important to me that I like what I see when I look in the mirror. I do it for no other reason. Three years later, I’m in my skinny jeans again, and I’m proud of my body.
I still have insecurities. I still see the places on my body that are forever changed by the precious beings that it carried, but my love for myself is what drives me. How dare someone say I don’t have a “mommy body?” This body carried two babies, delivered two babies, and nursed two babies from my breasts. Does it look different than other moms’ bodies? Yes. Is it better than their bodies? No.
Different isn’t better or worse. It’s just different.
It doesn’t matter whether or not I have good genes, or if I’m “naturally thin.” It doesn’t matter if she isn’t thin. None of this matters. It’s not a competition.
We are women.
It’s time we take a united stand and stop shaming each other.
We must break this cycle of meanness. We need to find the good in each other, to point out the beauty that we see, whether it’s external or internal beauty. We need to teach our daughters to do the same, to build someone up rather than tear her down, to make her feel good about herself rather than break her spirit. To remember the Golden Rule. To be proud of her reflection whether or not she sees curves or flab, cellulite or bones, muscle tone or baby weight.
It is our jobs as mothers, aunts, sisters, friends, women, to teach our daughters. We are the ones who are responsible for breaking this mean-girl cycle. We must let our younger generation hear us find value in other women. Stop gossiping. Stop pointing out each other’s flaws. Stop allowing your insecurities to fester into bitterness. Don’t let these girls hear you say, “I’m fat.” “I’m ugly.” “I’m not good enough.” “I’m not pretty enough.” “I don’t fit in.” Be proud of yourself. Praise yourself. Applaud yourself out loud in front of these girls.
Allow them to join a world where they can find safety and solidarity in the presence of other women rather than shrink or retreat away from them. Pave the road to better self-esteem. Show them they are valuable, no matter what they look like on the outside, by finding value in yourself first.
My name is Mandi. I’m 36. I’m 5’3”. I weigh 120 pounds, and I’m not ashamed of it.
Mandi is a happy-go-lucky Texas girl. She loves tell stories, laugh, and have dance parties in her kitchen. She tries to keep life simple and to live on the bright side. To learn more, visit her at: Cellulite Looks Better Tan and connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.