'You're not curvy!' and other compliments I'm tired of
Firstly, a disclaimer: I am well aware that I have immense privilege when it comes to my size. I am not overweight and I've got a relatively hourglass shape. I know that many people might suffer with more severe body confidence issues, but I think we can all appreciate how it feels to be called out like this. BTW I've seen the opposite happen to my really slim friends as well.
Yesterday, I had a couple friends over and decided to try on the dress I’m planning to wear to an event later this month. As I tried on the form fitting crushed velvet silky number, they oohed and aahed in appreciation. But, when I proceeded to grab the lil bulge of belly poking up below my belly button and profess this is my hard-earned pain au chocolat tax. I was met with oh don’t be sillys and you’re not fat at all don’t be ridiculous. The problem is I’m sure they had the best intentions as they tried to reassure me I had no fat and was skinny. In reality it can feel like the worst kind of body shaming.
In my journey to own and accept my curves, I’ve started employing hashtags like #thickthighssavelives and #thicc. In a recent post a friend commented on how smoking I looked – she was right. So, I responded with these hashtags and the seductive emoji (you know the one). Immediately she replied something like ‘don’t be ridiculous, you look great’. As if my hashtags were a self-deprecating fish for compliments. I assure you they were not. In terms of my Instagram feed I surround myself with larger ladies who are embracing their natural curves. ‘Plus size’ models like Iskra Lawrence or Ashley Graham who we cheer on with these reclaimed hashtags. You see in my Instagram reality #thickthighssaveslives is girl power and the best compliment.
So, when I grab my thighs in the gym making a comment about how muscley they are becoming and my well-meaning friend shuts me down by saying I look skinny. I can’t help but take it the wrong way. If we operate from a belief that celebrating your body has to be in relation to skinniness we still have a long way to go to body confidence. Personally, I do not aspire to be ‘skinny’ in fact I’m at the stage in my life where I want to be as curvy as possible. Recovery for me has also meant that Belgian pastries have been consumed in copious amounts.
Shockingly, I happen to believe I look amazing and healthy. So, please do not discourage my self love by pushing me back into the stereotypical beauty standards I’ve recently released myself from. Better yet, when I make a comment about losing weight please do not give me a gold star. I know it’s coming from the best intentions and it’s not your fault. We women have been programmed from a very young age to value skinny as healthy and beautiful. But, when you congratulate me for looking skinnier or mention something about how flattering my top is, I can't help but take that as an insult. Us women are in the process of tearing up the rulebook surrounding these restricted and quite often dysmorphic body values. The first stage is to start reclaiming the vocabulary that historically was used to shame us. Start by encouraging mantras like bigger is better or curvylicious.
When my friends told me not to be silly about the bulge above my waistline. The journey I’d gone on to love myself in all my curvy glory felt shamed. As if celebrating my new physique was a cry for help. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: PLEASE DO NOT COMMENT ON OTHER PEOPLE’S BODIES. Honestly, some of the most hurtful and triggering things that have been said to me were some kind of warped compliment. If you’re looking to recalibrate your aesthetic on beauty check out the plus size movement on Instagram for a start. There’s a beautiful community blossoming where curvy isn’t an insult.
Once again my friends, who might be guilty of these well-intentioned comments on my appearance, what matters now is reflection on why you still associate skinny as healthy, better and crucially beautiful. Better yet let's compliment each other on personality, personal achievements or gratitude. Leave the body remarks in the last hundred centuries.
All my love, Sam