I slipped into the tightest jeans I had every owed when I was 12 years old, which hugged the little womanly curves I could muster at that age. I was happy as pie because they were not another of my brothers’ hand-me-down. I had just finished a performance and had to go back to school to get my satchel. I bumped into a school-mate we barely spoke or joked together so a quick ‘sup’ escaped my mouth. She stood in my path to stop me and looked me up and down commenting scornfully at my outfit. “Your legs are so thin, they are actually disgusting.” Time froze as those words sunk in. I don’t know what I muttered to break free and found myself in my class packing up. What happened directly after that I cannot remember (the wonderful job of repression) but I remember I never looked at myself the same again. Till that day I never had an opinion about my body. It was ok, oh wait, I was slightly embarrassed about it because I was ‘an early bloomer’. Other than that I didn’t mind it but had to bury it in oversized clothes… until those jeans. The two legged representation of liberation into a new incarceration. I wanted to gain weight.
I would also make myself ‘protein shakes’ and would drudge through man-size portions to try gain a few but to no avail I would titter around the 45 kg / 7 stone 2 lbs mark. I tried a couple years of gulping raw eggs for added protein to no avail. This caused me to have a strained relationship with food where it served a purpose to help me gain weight not to enjoy. I don’t know which angel told me that my metabolism may be at play and I would not easily gain weight and my mom said she had the same happen to her. So I have been basically the same weight since I was 12 years old. Other that what triggered it, people thinking you are 17 when you are 27 has its affects on relationships, career progression and general mental wellbeing.
So I’m a size 6 (UK size)… alot of people think I shouldn’t complain and that every woman in the world should aim to be that size.
You’re healthier (cholesterol can still be clogging your arteries)
You get nice clothes (most shops start on size 8)
You will get more opportunities (You come across juvenile and inexperienced)
You are more attractive to men (Maybe some)
you get praised in the streets (no one does)
you feel better about yourself (skinny shame is real)
Things only get worse when you are size 6 and woman of colour. In the African context you are a woman when you are curvaceous you are more attractive, fertile and more fortunate. It is so coveted that in parts of the world there are feeding houses for girls so that they gain weight. In Mauritania gavage feeding happens till this day to speed up puberty and speed up marriage. Al Jazeera made a documentary about it.
There are fat houses in Nigeria, although the practise is illegal, where it is considered as a right of passage and an assurance of marriage. Journeyman pictures made a documentary too.
So being African and skinny isn’t the best traditionally and will lead to skinny shame. Being African and a size 6 but with globalisation the idea isn’t as repulsive.
Personally I have given up the fight to gain weight and decided to love me the way I am (cue inspirational music). I do struggle with food and often ‘forget’ to eat until I’m about to pass out. I always say it will change when I have a family. Probably not. Till then.. I need to finish my supper.