It’s the beginning of a new semester AND a new year, so I’m reading slowly this month … but I am slowly reading Jes Baker’s unflinching book, Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls, and it’s the sort of stuff that makes me want to put down the book after each paragraph and find someone to read it aloud to.
Stuff like this:
I’m painfully aware of the fact that I have apologized for my body for over two decades. Verbally–excusing myself for taking up so much space. Making jokes about what I was eating. Turning down compliments because I didn’t feel deserving. And physically–wearing black, long-sleeved shirts in the Arizona summer. Shying away from anything loud, flashy, or sparkly. Basically doing anything I could to minimize the presence of my body. What a way to live, huh?
And sadly, I think we can all relate on some level. I look back on those years of my life now and shake my head. It’s as if I thought I was keeping the fact that I was fat a secret by attempting to disguise it. As if those who saw me in black would then see me in bright colors and gasp, “HOLY SHIT! UNTIL NOW, I HAD NO IDEA SHE WAS FAT!” Illogical. Our bodies cannot truly be hidden, no many how many black outfits we wear. (page 22, emphasis mine)
Do you do this? I do this. I try to hide my body by evaluating every article of clothing by how obviously it reveals my true contours underneath the clothing. If I find material that drapes just so, will it obscure the reality lurking beneath?
Is anyone really fooled by this?
Happy people don’t try to purposely hurt other people. (page 52, emphasis in original)
This statement stood out to me … and not just because of the bold typeface. Jes was talking about the episode of This American Life wherein she reveals how she confronted an internet troll (listen here). This feels incredibly relevant here at the beginning of a new presidential administration, where internet trolling is rampant. When you let yourself read the comments, you must keep this simple truth in mind: Happy people don’t troll others.
Happiness is more fun, and remaining happy means staying away from those who are purposefully trying to hurt other people.
Or one more:
For those of you facing any kind of body hate, do me a favor: Ignore those people who tell you loving yourself is not okay. Have empathy for the people who hate you for being happy; we all know what that kind of self-loathing feels like. … Acknowledge that people spreading the animosity are simply regurgitating deception that’s been fed to our culture for decades; they just don’t know anything different. … In the words of Tess, don’t forget to “surround yourself with positive, like-minded people who support you. It’s crucial to your happiness and well-being. Never compare yourself to others and celebrate what makes you, YOU.” (page 59)
In that paragraph, Jes (and Tess Holliday, a plus-size model and body-acceptance role model) perfectly describes why I’m enamored of my Cultivating Kindness yoga series in Sewanee. I am trying, four weeks at a time, to create a community where women can be around positive, like-minded women who support one another and understand, deeply, what it’s like to feel less-than in this world. This is why I do what I do, and why I will keep on doin’ it.
So what I’m saying is: If any of this resonated with you, you should absolutely read Jes Baker’s book. You can buy it here from Amazon.