Growing up, I was always the smallest of all my friends. I was very short and skinny all through elementary and junior high and by the time I started high school, I was only 5’1″ and weighed 85 pounds. All of my (female) friends had their growth spurts in 7th and 8th grade, so they towered over me, and looked more like actual girls than just a stick figure running around the schoolyard.
There were some advantages to being so small and skinny. I was very athletic, so my small stature made it easy to learn flips in gymnastics classes, plus I spent several summers teaching myself crazy tricks off the diving board. It’s easy to whip yourself around when there isn’t much to you.
By the time I was 15, most of the girls I had usually hung out with showed more interest in getting attention from boys than anything else. Since it was the 80′s, these girls cared more about finding the shortest mini skirts to show skin than anything else. I ended up making friends with more guys than girls because I could play sports and goof off with them, and none of them would talk to me about makeup or clothes or gossip about their friends the way girls did.
The boys treated me like one of them most of the time, but occasionally, they’d tease me about being little and light because all the other girls my age were significantly less stick like. I begged my mom to take me to the doctor to get my thyroid and other hormone levels checked because I wasn’t growing much in ANY capacity. The doctor assured her everything was fine and that I was just a “late bloomer” like all of the other women in my family.
By my junior year of high school, I had reached 5’4″ and 92 pounds. Still small, but showing signs of growth. Kids at school would tell me to eat something because I was so skinny, even though ate ALL the time. I couldn’t help that I was the way I was, and it made me feel bad about myself. People didn’t like the way I looked, and were trying to tell me how to change it, and it sucked.
I was 5’6″ and 105 pounds when I graduated from high school. Over the next couple of years, I got up to just 5’8″ and 120 pounds, eventually losing most of my stick figure status. My entire adulthood (other than when I was pregnant) I have weighed between 123 and 126 pounds. That’s just the way I am, and that’s ok.
The one thing that hasn’t changed is people still telling me I’m “too skinny and need to eat something.” All I hear when a person says that is “I don’t like the way you look. Please change that” but I can’t. Well, I guess technically I could if I ate a lot of foods that were really bad for me ALL the time but I was raised to eat healthy and when I eat like crap, I feel like crap. I have the occasional indulgences, but I don’t go overboard because I don’t like the way it makes me feel.
I’m not sure if people who say that think it’s a compliment or what, but I hear that comment every single time a full length photo of me is put online. EVERY. TIME. If I respond by saying I do eat, the response is always “Well, not enough!” or “must be a nice problem to have” or the best one, that it’s a “white people problem.”
When someone is thin, people seem to feel they should voice their opinion on how much they should eat. When someone is heavier, the voiced opinion is to eat less. For some of us, it’s just the way we’re made. Just like how tall or short we are. We can’t help it.
I guess in one sense, being treated this way my whole life has made me the kind of person who gets to know someone for who they are on the inside and not what they look like. My closest friends vary drastically on size and appearance because it’s the person I care about, not how they look. Who cares what someone looks like, we all get old and wrinkly in the end. The awesome person on the inside is all that matters.