“You’ve gotten a bit fat, Marie.”
The words came from his mouth with the same love and care as every other word he speaks to me. He called me fat. We were Skyping with each other. It had been quite a few weeks since we had time to sit down and do that. I was so excited to be able to see his sweet face again with his dark eyes and perfect smile. He kept telling me how excited he was to see me again, how beautiful I looked, and that there was just something different about me.
“Is it my hair? I did just get it cut.” — “No babe, I don’t think.”
“Oh, maybe my make-up is different.” — “That’s not it.”
“Ok, I don’t know then.”
Then it came. Like a ton of bricks. “You’ve gotten a bit fat, Marie.”
I lived in Uganda for a year, I knew that when he called me fat he was in no way associating it with beauty, worth, value, or anything else that comes along with that word here in the States. He was just making a very (unfortunately) factual statement. I had gotten a bit fat.
Now, on this side of the ocean we would say, “Oh yea, she has gained a little weight. But she could afford to do that!” or “She’s just a little chubby, but she’s so cute! So real!” But never would we tell someone, especially a girl that she had put on a few pounds. Never.
I tried so hard in that moment to remember that my sweet Paul loves and cares for me and is attracted to me and would never regret his choice to be with me because I had gained a couple pounds. In actuality, he was happy that I had gained some wait, in his opinion I was too small before. But regardless, when THAT word came falling out of his mouth, I felt like I had lost his admiration forever. He knew as soon as he said it that he had done something very bad. Tears came to my eyes, I became very quiet, my personality shifted. It was terrible. A very long conversation followed.
It was a great exercise in communication and perception for us. One of the better ones that we have had. And boy did it hurt. It hurt because I had to face some serious body image issues that I have been dealing with for such a long time. I remember being in 4th grade and I was at a pool party with some friends and we were playing Sharks & Minnows. I didn’t want to dive into the pool because I was afraid my legs wouldn’t look as skinny and pretty as the other girls’ as they flew through the air. I lied and told everyone that I was afraid to dive because I had busted my lip diving once before. I had never busted my lip.
I look back on pictures of myself from 4th grade and feel complete sadness and regret because I let poor body image keep me from being free as a child. And I laugh to myself because I would just love to be that petite again! I mean, I don’t think my stomach has ever been as flat and my legs as lean as when I was in 4th grade. It’s crazy how our mind can manipulate our eyes. How we can look in a mirror and see a completely different person than everyone else sees.
Unfortunately, this battle with poor self-image has staked it’s ground in my mind throughout many seasons in my life. I choose not to talk about in an attempt to not draw attention to the fact, but that Skype date with Paul opened Pandora’s box. And I am so thankful that it has been thrown wide open. Seeing myself through his eyes, feeling the freedom to talk about my insecurities, learning how he perceives beauty, and accepting his love and admiration has allowed me to move past this constant state of introspection and devaluing of myself, and towards a place of confidence and freedom.
One thing that Paul said to me that will never leave me was this: “Marie, I need you to be confident. I need you to stop worrying about your body and whether you look like you did 5 years ago, and be thankful for the life you have now. One day we are going to have children and they are going to look to you as an example. Show them that they are beautiful exactly how God made them through loving yourself, exactly the way God made you.”
He called me fat, then he called me to a place of realization that I am loved and cared for, and that my value and worth is not wrapped up in this fleeting exterior. And for that I am thankful.