One of the reasons that I started Stylaphile was as an effort to deal with body insecurities that I’ve suffered since I was a teenager. I shared my story originally on the fabulous JustMaryDesigns website (visit it if you want to see and buy some amazing body-positive art!), but I also wanted to share it here on Stylaphile.
If you’ve been through the same thing, I can relate. And if you need someone to talk to about your body image issues, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I Need to Lay Off the Meat & Potatoes:
How a Thoughtless Comment 25 Years Ago Still Affects the Way I See Myself Today
Growing up in the very small town of Gadsden, Alabama, I had one big dream as a kid: I wanted to be an Emma Sansom High School majorette.
My mother was a majorette at the same high school back in the 50’s. (That’s her on the far right in the photo. Wasn’t she cute?)
When my older sister was in high school, a few of her best friends were majorettes. I wanted to be them.
I loved going to the football games to watch the marching band perform during half-time. I was mesmerized by the beautiful girls out front twirling batons in sparkly uniforms with big smiles on their faces. It was a big deal to be a majorette at Emma Sansom High School.
So, at about the age of seven, I started learning to twirl. It became my obsession. I trained like an Olympic athlete every single day with one goal in mind – becoming an ESH majorette. I even endured that awful one-year period where you had play a musical instrument in the band and wear less than flattering band uniforms.
My sophomore year, I tried-out for majorette, and I got it! My dream had come true. I’d done it! I was one of the “chosen” ones. My high school popularity was sealed! I was living my dream.
Then, something happened that would affect me every single day for the rest of my life. A new band director was hired – “Mr. P” as we unaffectionately referred to him. He didn’t like the majorettes. He thought we took away from the performance of the band because no matter what fascinating formations the band was doing, nobody was paying any attention because the whole crowd was watching us.
One day during band practice, Mr. P was “addressing” the majorettes about what we were doing wrong (there was always something). He looked at me, and in front of the whole band said, “You need to lay off the meat and potatoes.”
Even as I write this blog post, I can still feel the utter humiliation that I felt that day. From that very moment, I have always thought of myself as overweight. I’m not, and I wasn’t back then (I was a size 8 at the time). I’ve never been a skinny girl. I inherited my mother’s hourglass figure and I’ve always had curvy legs.
Mr. P actually took it a step further and instituted a weight requirement and weigh-in prior to the next year’s majorette try-outs. This is when my eating disorder started. I learned to stick my finger down my throat and purge anything that might keep me from being a majorette the following year.
I passed the weigh in that year, but something else was happening. My self-image had changed. No longer was I out front twirling and happy, but I was constantly thinking to myself during half-time performances, “all of these people are looking at me and thinking I’m fat.” The joy of achieving my childhood dream was gone. One comment by one man had taken that away from me.
I quit the band at the end of my junior year. Mr. P was changing the majorette line to a “dance line” and I really had no desire to be a part of it. But two really good things happened to me that year. I joined the tennis team and got really interested in health and fitness and I stopped sticking my finger down my throat. One day during my senior year, I passed Mr. P in the hallway and he told me that I looked great and that I should come back to the band. I told him to “F” off.
Now, in my adult life, I’m actually a size 6 and a lot thinner than I was even in high school. I work out every day and I take very good care of myself. But I still weigh myself every single morning and regardless of what the scale says, I still hear Mr. P saying “you need to lay off the meat and potatoes” and decades later, I still struggle with body image issues.
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