Body-shaming: Revisiting my teenage cellulite
Let’s start with my own tryst with body-shaming all my life. From being a ‘hairy, wild pig’ in school to “You should join Cult. Fit” – I have come a long way with my flab and cellulite. Being among the top rankers in school did not help much when my crush of the year would secretly guffaw about my blessed bosom on a portly, pygmy body. I took to self-harming well into my teenage years. They catcalled, they made fun, they discovered my uncanny resemblance with a bulldog and I laughed along as I died a little inside every time.
I would pour in my insecurities onto my journal and fantasize a future version of myself that is some Angelina Jolie lookalike. Even as a teenager, I refused to wear anything sleeveless, body-hugging or above the knee. On rare occasions, I dared to wear my school skirt a little high, I would think everyone on the bus was staring at and being repelled by my leg hair. Of course, none of these stopped lecherous men from passing lewd comments or trying their hands in some ‘harmless’ public molestation.
I remember one weird moment at a rather boring Botany class. You see, I was infatuated with this ‘pretty boy’, and by the natural laws of attraction, he had no time to pay attention to the fat, short, hairy girl. After trying to impress him for ages with my appalling flirting skills, I finally gave up and confided to his best friend. This guy told me something that eventually became my mantra, growing up. He told me that it does not matter how you look now because once you get a job and start earning, you can undergo these cosmetic surgeries and become ‘sexy’ overnight. Rather bad advice, you would say.
On my farewell note in high school, my then best friend wrote I was nice as a person but needed to get a little ‘polished’ and ‘careful’ about my appearance. Well, you must have said the same if your friend was someone who brazenly exposed their Elvis-esque sideburns while tying their oiled hair into a messy pony.
Are we all hamsters on wheels?
A few months into college, with all the beautiful, beautiful women (and men) around, I took to shaving, waxing and all the usual procedures to appear ‘presentable’ at least. Would you believe that me, a hardcore foodie, started surviving on lettuce and boiled vegetables, with half a corn on the cob for dinners? Well, there was a little more motivation for subjecting myself to such agony – there was another guy!
I lost an enormous amount of weight within weeks and started fainting here and there as a repercussion. So, crash dieting was off the list. Next came the photo editing software – where I took hours to turn myself into horribly photoshopped humanoids.
I work out regularly, well, almost. I think twice about what I am putting in my body (and yet gorge on pizza every now and then). I try to look presentable even with the love handles bulging out.
But, now as I look back and think of it, why at all billions of women on earth are expected to look like a very boring standardised version? There are so many shapes, colours, heights, curves and faces, but instead of being awed by the diversity, each of us secretly hopes to be a ‘little thinner’, a ‘little more toned’, a ‘little curvier’, a ‘little more busty’ or a ‘little less busty’, a ‘little fairer’, a ‘little tanned’. It is a vicious cycle that we have been conditioned to live in, not much different from a hamster on a wheel.
Are you a ‘football’ or a ‘matchstick’?
Curvy women like me have been bullied throughout their lives, so were our skinny friends. At social gatherings, we were called ‘footballs’ and they were called ‘matchsticks’. We were advised to starve and they were advised to overeat. At clothing outlets, while the shop attendants nonchalantly took away the M-sized dress from my hand and handed me a XXL one, he shamelessly redirected my skinny friend to the Kids Section.