The Elephant In The Room

By Tina Price-Johnson

I leave the house with a flirty bounce in my step, full of confidence.  I had dressed to suit my voluptuousness, had braved the shops where a ‘medium’ is now ‘large’ and women are sized out of existence. I had complied with the women’s magazines.

I enter the room filling more space than a woman should, pretending not to notice the glances of pity, disgust and indifference.  Women, set up to seek approval of men and compete with each other, sigh to themselves: “thank goodness I’m not the largest”.  I do not fit society’s mould.

My friends accept and love me yet for each there is the constant question, spoken quickly and secretly lest the men hear, “do I look fat in this?”  All women created paranoid needing approval.  They have ‘fat days’ but did not awake with extra soft blubber encasing their bodies.  Their misnomered self-criticism strikes at the core of my reality.  They fear fat, they fear becoming me, being me, living my life.  They strip me of my womanhood.  They tell me I look good, the words “for your size” halted on the tongue but I still hear them.

I am healthy but health is not desired.  Should I acquiesce, should I deform myself to conform to society?  I halt at starving myself, at sticking my fingers down my throat, at vomiting vital nutrients.  But the constant attack at my womanhood makes it so tempting sometimes.  I know I inhabit too much space, my physical form does not acquiesce.

I avoid photos, distorting my body to the mantra “stomach in, bum in, tits out” if I see the camera pointing at me.  Hiding behind tables, chairs, cushions, people, anything to hide myself.  So large I am forced to disappear.

I have had lovers who desired me, who made me feel sexy, but still I fear the experience of youth.  The lover who was ashamed to be seen with me, of association with the shouted insults of strangers, of hearing my denial of pregnancy.  The lover who separated my body from myself and suggested, so caringly, that I should lose weight “to be happy”.  Experience which created internal ‘otherness’, a separation of body and self.  My body becomes fetishised; I become a specialist sex object.

My body defines, oppresses and suppresses me.  I fear the rejection that I have already suffered.  My anger turns inward, depression ever close.  I stay silent, playing the role and pretending not to notice as they pretend not to notice me.  The elephant in the room.

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