This past weekend, I spent some time on Tybee Island down here in GA, with some friends. It was a typical summer day down south, which means that it felt like 110º in the shade, and the sun was blazing from the time we got there at 8:30am to the time we left at 2:30pm. Now, the beach is not my favorite thing in the world, but I love spending time in the water, and I was hoping to read an entire book, so I went along for the ride.
For those of you that don’t know me, I’m a proud BBW, or fluffy, woman. Extra stomach rolling over my waistband, a couple of chins in most pictures, 1.5 chins on a good day, some arms jiggles and thighs that spread like water in a pie tin when I sit down. I have since come to terms with the fact that I will never be a size 2, and have even come to realize that it’s not an obstacle in my dating life, which I long feared that it would be. I am always upfront about my body type, and if men don’t like it, they don’t have to talk to me. It’s really that simple. Still, as much as I have accepted my appearance and who I am, and am still working on body positivity, I sometimes worry how I will be perceived in the world because of my weight.
Hence why this weekend was such a major win for me.
Going to the beach, I was wearing a sports bra, athletic shorts and a long t-shirt that I sometimes use as a sleeping shirt. When we got there, I was determined not to take my shirt off, even though I knew it was going to be hot and everything that I was wearing was designed to dry quickly. As far as I’ve come with comfort with my body, and can even take my clothes off and have sex with a man, I didn’t want to expose my naked stomach to a bunch of strangers and beachgoers. I had images of men, women and children, even the lifeguards pointing at my large stomach and yelling “ewww!” and “gross!” and all over varieties of things that would make me feel self-conscious and not welcome on the beach because of my weight and would send me running back to the tent we set up in shame and disgust.
I got hot, wanted to go in the water, and still wanted to have something to wear for the car ride home, so I decided to take my shirt off and go in the water. As I walked to the water, I just had all the words of hatred and disgust in my head, people screaming and yelling “ewww! why don’t you cover yourself up? there are children here!!” and other kinds of nasty things at me. There were moments when I wanted to turn around and run back to my shirt, just to silence the voices in my head. (And by the way, this was not a long walk to the water.) While I loathe saltwater, I wanted to hurry up and get covered so that everyone would stop staring at me (all in my head, remember). Every step I took, the farther away I was from the water or my shirt, was another opportunity for someone to notice me and be disgusted.
But no one said a word.
I walked to the water undisturbed, unharmed, and possibly unnoticed, just another beachgoer who wanted to beat the heat and hang out in the ocean. No lifeguards screamed at me for people at risk, no mothers attempted to shield their children’s eyes, and no men came up and spat in my face and told me they were never going to date me. Just a young woman, who wanted to hang out and swim, and enjoy her Saturday at the beach, and not bother anyone. I wasn’t told to leave the beach and get my disgustingness away from everyone, and I had a relaxing time in the ocean and on the beach with my friends. And, I’ll tell you a little secret, I actually enjoyed how my body and fluffiness felt in the ocean waves: all free and easy, flowing with the movement of the ocean, and just doing whatever it pleased, taking a day off for itself too, just like me.
This experience was an eye-opening one for me, in a different way than normal. Everyday, I walk around with this body type, in clothes and dresses that make me feel beautiful, and people usually notice the confidence that I have, if they notice me at all. However, walking on the beach, with nothing on but a sports bra and some shorts, I felt exposed and open in a whole new way. But still, no one said anything. I realized that people have their own lives, their own families, and their own things to focus on other than one person walking down the beach leading with her stomach. While looking at the internet, you see people shaming large people all the time, most people in their daily lives don’t really care all that much whether or not the person walking past them is overweight or not. The voices inside my head are the things that hold me back the most, not the people on the street who make comments about my weight because, honestly, most people don’t care. I spent so much time worrying about whether or not people were taking time out their lives to look at me, when I should have been concerned more with myself and how I was feeling. I was taking a huge risk by exposing my naked stomach to the world, and I should have been proud of myself for that, and only thinking of the positive things. And, after realizing that no one else really cared but me, I was proud of myself. I took myself out of my shell a little bit, and I was ready to show the world how confident I was.
Size doesn’t matter as much as I think it does. Weight is a personal choice, and a personal thing. People have a lot of other things to worry about than what I look like. I am proud of myself, and proud of who I am. God gave me a big personality and He gave me a big body to hold it all in. And I thank him for it every day.