Broken Chairs and Body Love

 

Last night a nightmare scenario that has haunted the minds and lived at the forefront of fears for fat people for ages came to life for me: my chair broke. I was seated in the front row of a comedy show with a cast and audience comprised mostly of slender, incredibly attractive (according to societal standards) people as is bound to happen in LA, minding my own business enjoying the show when the punk of a plastic chair I was sitting in betrayed me. One minute I was laughing and sipping my Old Fashioned, the next I was screaming “WHOOOOOA” and falling as the chair collapsed beneath me then flattened like a pancake under the weight of my body.

I. Was. Mortified.

Fortunately the comedians on stage were kind angelic women who had the tact not to make a joke of it, but still addressed me directly and cursed the chair while I crouched next to my friend half hiding my face while smiling and laughing on the outside, insisting I was fine, and begging them to go on with the show like nothing had happened. Inside I could feel my temperature rising to deathly levels and wanted to apparate out of there.  If I could have chosen to go to “the sunken place” in that moment I would have. Alright, maybe not, but I was THAT embarrassed.

I was embarrassed because in that moment I was no longer confident, mature, 28 year old me, I was 11 year old me. The second I hit the ground I was transplanted back to my fifth grade classroom on the day my class played a game that involved everyone sitting on their desks while we passed a ball around the room answering trivia questions. The day had been a good one so far because no one had teased me yet which was highly unusual given my being brand new to the school, the only black student in the class, and very overweight. Things were going well, I’d even been passed the ball a few times, and then it happened. The four legs on my desk leapt out to the side like synchronized swimmers and I dropped to the floor shattering the top of the desk upon landing. Everyone laughed. I sobbed silently in the rubble then said my back hurt and went home early. I was hurt, just not physically.

That was the day I learned to hate my body, and I carried that hatred for over a decade. I couldn’t believe it was a coincidence or a flaw in the desk, It had to be a flaw in me, and society backed up that thinking so I became obsessed with fixing it. I dieted, developed an eating disorder, took weight loss pills, wore sweaters in the summertime, avoided mirrors and cameras, hired a personal trainer, and daydreamed about how one day if I just deprived myself enough, I would look like Tyra Banks and then I’d be happy and worthy of love.

I’m gonna save the story of how I shifted from living in a body I hated for 13 years to learning to love every inch of it for another post because it was a beautiful journey and deserves its own space, but thankfully I did. For now I want to express that last night reminded me I am still on that journey, and it is still beautiful, and that is okay.

It’s okay because even though I was flooded with doubts and insecurities at that show and came home wondering if my body still takes up too much space, I looked in the mirror before bed and all I felt was love. So I stayed in the mirror loving on myself, taking pictures (including the one below), and reveling in the beauty of the body I was worried about mere minutes before because I let the limits of a shitty inanimate plastic chair equate to limits on my body image and self worth. That chair’s inability to hold me as I am has nothing to do with my deserving to be held. That desk failing to keep me lifted as a child had no bearing on my right to be supported, just as society’s consistent failure to see the beauty in any body that is not thin and white has nothing to do with the billions of beautiful bodies that fall outside that standard. We are masterpieces. We do not need to shrink ourselves for anyone who cant see that, and as long as we come back to this knowledge after inevitable moments of weakness, we are okay. Anything that can’t uphold us, simply isn’t meant for us. Faulty and limited manufacturing  – whether it be in furniture, beliefs, or societal structures- should be rapidly rejected and returned for maintenance lest it needlessly ruin 13 years of life for another little soul.

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