Sunday, December 26, 2010

I remember....

... clearly, where I was, where I was heading and how old I was and who was first:

In eight grade; heading down the stairs at the south east corner of my school, in the afternoon, on the way to biology or math class; I was thirteen - just hitting puberty; Shirley Hallam, who probably meant well or meant nothing.

In the context of what is currently in fashion, (at least, it is rumoured, among men of colour) my moaning about a large butt may not make sense for some people. For me, the size of my backside is no less horrific and traumatic than a red wine stain is for others - those disfiguring large red birthmarks that cover some people's facial skin.

Shirley, who was my best buddy in eight grade, certainly didn't mean to be the one to spark that awareness of my body, an awareness that, from the moment on the stairs, has left me highly conscious and embarrassed of my backside. She just noticed - out loud - that it was larger than the average butt. I suppose, at age 13, I might have weighed 105 pounds or may be 110 but I wasn't a big kid.

Later in my life, after I'd had my first child, I lost a LOT of weight and weight. was small. I wore a size 4. 117 pounds; that's what I weighed at my first wedding. I'm 5'4" so I wasn't model skinny but being a bit muscular naturally, I was pretty slight. But people still mentioned the size of my butt.

After I'd had all my kids - I think my youngest was possibly eight - I still weighed 117, (thanks to a serious and for a while un-diagnosed bought of 'beaver fever,'- more colloquially known as dysentery - and which one does still occasionally contract, usually from the taps in public washrooms, thanks to people who take a poo, wipe but don't wash: news flash; rinsing your dirty mits under cold water does leave your fecal matter on the taps. Thanks a lot.)

Despite being very small at many times of my life, including the three years I was a gym rat and was very fit and very muscular, I've always had a larger butt than apparently the general public thinks is appropriate. And the general public - total strangers - is as apt to comment on it as are my family members, although the comments from my family members are by far more insulting and cutting and regular than those of strangers.

I remember Shirley's comments and how suddenly, as I descended those stairs, I became very, uncomfortably aware that I was not like other girls and that my 'unlike' was not desirable. I got an immediate and distinct impression my butt was something I should do something about.

The reality of my body's shape has haunted me - and I mean with every ounce of the fear and discomfort and misery - for more than 30 years. I dream about my body shape - not nice dreams: dreams of being disgusted by myself. I dream about taking a knife to my body and I think about that when I'm awake too.

About 10 years ago, I took a very scary-for-me step and approached a plastic surgeon about my 'deformity.' The surgeon is well-known in my city but what I didn't know is that he caters to only a certain wealthy clientèle. His calling card is the guaranteed that whomever he takes on as a client will leave perfect.

I wasn't going to support that calling card. It was obvious from the outset he had no intention of helping me - he didn't see me in a proper examination room but in another room that was obviously  a reception room for people who were waiting for friends or loved-ones who were having day surgery.

He laughed at me when I told him what I wanted done, said it would leave horrible scars but did not realize the scars that I already have and how deep those are. He said, as he felt down the length of my ribs, "There's not much too you, but yes, you have larger-than-normal buttocks. What the hell is 'normal,' anyway???

I already felt stupid and a fraud coming in to his posh, exclusive office. Those feelings were more enhanced when I left. I stopped at the desk to arrange a second appointment but the reception staff wouldn't raise their eyes to look at me. The last thing the older, very perfected woman said to me as she shuffled my file to the back of her desk, was "We'll call you if we have an opening."

I haven't had that call yet.

As I've aged - I'm approaching 50 - my body has done the expected and gained weight. I understand this is, in the female body, a means of preserving estrogen, the disappearance of which is the beginnings of obvious old age in women. In my case, thanks to my unique body shape, I gain weight in the butt. I wear a size 10 jacket and a size 14 pant, the waistbands of which ALWAYS gape with easily five inches to spare.

I'm not sure what people expect me to do every time they remind me that my backside is big. I KNOW it. I realize they're uncomfortable. I realize that I'm not a tiny women back there. But what exactly does their reminding me serve to accomplish beyond hammering home over and over and over again that I am, in terms of what is considered beauty in 2010, essentially deformed?

I am edging again towards surgery, which is, I know, a painful and very expensive option. I do realize that much of my discomfort comes - came originally - from outside myself. I have, despite knowing better, internalized my pain over my appearance to the point that I'm now nearly too embarrassed to go to the gym, which I pay every month for regardless of whether I go or not.

I know that going to the gym won't change the fact of my body shape. I know that even if I were to lose 30 pounds and become a 110 pound bone rack, I will STILL have a too-large backside, according to whatever the supposed standards of 'ok with everyone' are. I also know that I wish I had the willpower and control of people who have anorexia (which is not a disease as much as the extreme limit of 'control freak.') but even then, I KNOW that I would STILL have a big butt for my size, even if I weighed 90 lbs.

I guess it must make people feel better or allow them to shift focus from their own flaws to point out mine. Where it comes to my family, I really, really don't get it. They know my body shape is a constant source of embarrassment for me; they know I am conscious of it all the time, waking and sleeping, yet they bring it up, often weekly. Why? What purpose could this possibly have for them?

I just want them to shut up. SHUT UP!