Forty-three years ago today, on February 27, 1974, my family arrived in the USA after a year-long process of immigration. We lived in Israel and Italy during while we waited for paperwork and visas and all the accompanying bits and pieces of immigration.
We landed at JFK airport sometime in the late afternoon, I believe. Here is what I remember. My mom was very pregnant with my sister, Golda, who was born just a little over a month later. Mom walked off the plane hand-carrying my 1/4 size violin (no case, no bow, just the wee bitty instrument). I played that violin until I got a 3/4 size one for a bit when I was eight and then my full size one (which I still play to this day) when I was nine. Everything was busy, busy and people scurried to and fro’ but I don’t recall being bothered by the hustle and bustle of one of the busiest airports in the world. I spoke only a few words of English so I observed and let it all flow over me. I took it in with a
Here is what I remember. My mom was very pregnant with my sister, Golda, who was born just a little over a month later. Mom walked off the plane hand-carrying my 1/4 size violin (no case, no bow, just the wee bitty instrument). I played that violin until I got a 3/4 size one for a bit when I was eight and then my full size one (which I still play to this day) when I was nine.
Everything was busy, busy and people scurried to and fro’ but I don’t recall being bothered by the hustle and bustle of one of the busiest airports in the world. I spoke only a few words of English so I observed and let it all flow over me. I took it in with a seven-year-old’s delight in the new.
The room at the Holiday Inn (where we stayed that first night) had a square shower stall (I don’t recall ever seeing a shower before much less a square one) and was bright and clean and had glass doors. I remember looking out the window and see color and light all around. We lived up high in Israel (as I recall, we had to climb down many stairs to get down to the bomb shelter), but because it was wartime, there wasn’t much light at night. And I believe our time in Italy was spent on a lower floor so I never saw that much light and motion at night until we came to New York City (the ultimate nighttime light and motion place). So, I come by my love affair with NY honestly. It started first thing.
The next day we flew to Detroit to begin our lives as new Americans.
Happy anniversary my mom and sisters. Our lives would be nothing like we have had in this great nation.
“You would be so pretty if only you would lose some weight.”
“You have such a gorgeous face. You would be stunning if you lost some weight.”
“Being so heavy is unhealthy for you.”
“You are a fat cow,” (this last was said to me by my parents, many times).
I’ve heard these so many times. I still hear them periodically only now I say things like, “Wow, you need help. Here is the name of a good therapist and an excellent etiquette counselor.”
Being fat/overweight/obese/a person of size/a BBW/a BBM is a bastion of shaming that is still hanging on. The body positive movement, led in part by people like Ashley Graham, is gaining some traction, but the trolls are still out there and spewing their muck. And what really ties my knickers into a bunch is that they are couching it in terms of being concerned for these women’s health. On her instagram feed, Ashley Graham posted a collection of shots of women wearing her swimsuit line. Most people are doing the “Queen” “Gorgeous” “Stunning” comment thing. A few are doing the “this is unhealthy.” “These women are too big. It will lead to diabetes, heart attacks, etc.” Now, please remember, they don’t know these women. They don’t know their medical history, their current BP, their current sugar numbers or anything. They only know what they see, and they feel like they can call them unhealthy and tell them that the only way they will get healthy is if they lose weight. (Not true, by the way. You can be a very healthy person who carries more weight and you can be a very unhealthy person who carries very little weight. We. Are. All. Different. Weight and shape must be addressed individually in order for a clear path to form.)
Why do people feel like they have the right to criticize your size and simultaneously couch it in terms of a concern for your health? It makes no sense to me at all. I get it that our size isn’t something we can hide. It’s right out there. But the question plaguing me this morning is how and why people feel like they have the right to talk to you about it. In a job interview, the interviewer doesn’t have the right to ask you about your gender, your sexual orientation, whether or not you have kids or are planning on having kids, etc. To obey the law, she or he must not talk about your personal life at all. Yet, I have had interviewers for jobs ask me about my exercise regimen. How about none of your freakin’ business? The fact that I have one has nothing to do with whether or not I will kick ass in this job.
And yet, it happens, all the time. I’ve had complete strangers come up to me in the street and tell me how beautiful I would be if I would only lose a few pounds. NEWSFLASH: I *am* beautiful. Am I the most gorgeous thing you will ever see? No. I am not. I am at peace with that. But I’ll be damned if I will let anyone tell me I am less than pretty because of how much I weigh or how beautiful I would be if only I lost a few pounds. Another newsflash: If we are all too busy trying to fit into a certain mold of “pretty” or “hot” we likely aren’t paying enough attention to being “kick-ass” or “talented” or “ambitious” or “kind” or “creative.” The important thing is to be healthy to try and make that the priority. If our bodies work, we can do anything! If they don’t, life becomes about managing what isn’t working instead of pushing our personal limits in other ways. So, yeah, health=good.
For my health if not for my weight, I work out every single day. I try my hardest to do weight training, swimming, yoga, boxing, zumba or something every day. I eat a vegan diet. I eat no sugar. I hardly ever drink. I’ve never smoked. I use sunscreen. And yet I have the metabolism of a three-toed sloth because of hypothyroidism. No matter what I do, I will never have a faster metabolic rate unless I am willing to go on meds for the rest of my life. I am unwilling to do that (since those were either tested on animals or the thyroid hormone comes directly from cows and I don’t use animal products if I can at all help it) so I have to make my peace with my weight and my energy levels.
I know so many people (women mostly though men have this issue as well [and non-gender specific folks too, of course]) who try super hard to be in shape and be healthy and who due to various reasons carry more weight than society deems “healthy” or “attractive.” (this doesn’t mean that those people are unhealthy, btw. It means they are carrying more weight than someone else says they should be because as the research shows, weight/size don’t correlate with health. You can be “overweight” and be super healthy. You can be “skinny” and be super unhealthy.).
How about this? Unless you are that person’s doctor or other medical professional, it’s none of your freakin’ business! And even doctors don’t know the whole story. New research is coming out all the time that says that size and health are not necessarily related. And size might be a genetic issue that the person can do nothing about. And that dieting or exercise might be useless to address size because each individual has a specific method that will work for them.
So, here’s my thought. Let’s try to boost each other up rather than tearing each other down. Let’s work together. Let’s play together. Let’s appreciate each other (and just as importantly ourselves) for who we are, for what kindnesses we do, for our sense of play and adventure, for our contributions to the world rather than what number it says on the label of our clothing or the tape measure or the scale.
That is just a number.
We can be better. We can do better. We can love each other harder. We can support each other more.
We can lift ourselves and each other out of this bizarre judgmental competition and instead usher in a new era joy and celebration of each other and more importantly ourselves.