Learning to Love Me

This reminds me so much of my marriage. It’s funny how you think that loving someone is enough to make things work. I can’t honestly say I was in love with my ex-husband, but I did love him at one time. We got along pretty well, and I thought it was enough. But over time, I realized that I was the only one being supportive and I was the only one who could be counted on. I convinced myself that it was better to be in a marriage like mine — which wasn’t really based on love — because I knew that if something were to happen to him, I would be ok. Of course I would care, but our marriage had taught me that I could do just fine on my own.

But I was afraid to actually be alone.

What if no one else wanted me? That was the main thing, plus the unbearable thought of splitting holidays and time in general with my daughter, that kept me in my empty marriage for so much longer than I should have.

I actually remember when the turning point was. I was talking to a friend of mine one night, whom I hadn’t spoken to in some time. She had moved out of state so we hadn’t seen each other in at least a year or more. She asked how things were going, and the more I opened up and told her, the more she saw how unhappy I really was. She finally said, “You are in danger of losing your spirit. That part of you that makes everyone love you. You’re losing you.” I thought a lot about her words in the days and weeks and months after that conversation, and I knew something had to change. I didn’t want my daughter growing up thinking that marriage was separate bedrooms and very little laughter or real conversation or meals shared together as a family. I didn’t want her to grow up remembering me being miserable and short tempered. Not only had I stopped loving myself, I had definitely stopped liking myself. How could I expect anyone else to love or even like me, if I couldn’t look in the mirror and think of a single positive thing to say? I had to change.

One little change at a time, I started finding myself again. I started wearing clothes that fit me properly, rather than hiding under baggy, shapeless outfits. I started wearing makeup {which I seldom did before that because I didn’t see the point} and making more of an effort with my hair. And something changed. Men began to notice me and flirt with me when I went out in public. My confidence grew a little. People began to see the change in me, which didn’t go unnoticed by my {now} ex-husband. He accused me of having a boyfriend I was trying to impress. I said, “Did it ever occur to you that I’m doing this for me? I’m trying to take more pride in myself.” He didn’t seem to like that. Looking back, I wonder if he wanted me to stay overweight and miserable because it ensured that I would probably never leave. I believed no one else would want me, so I stayed. And even though he hadn’t been thrilled with my appearance over the years, he didn’t want to be alone either. He had also resigned himself to an empty marriage.

I don’t see myself as some beauty queen, but I like myself far more than I did five years ago. I like the person I’m becoming, and I’m so much happier than I was back then. I know that it shows because people have told me as much. A friend of mine at work, who I hadn’t seen in some time, saw me after my divorce and said I looked lighter. I thought she meant I looked like I had lost weight but she said,”No, you used to look like you had the weight of the world on your shoulders. But now you have some pep in your step. You just seem like a load has lifted off.” And it really had. My dad, who had tried to convince me not to get divorced because he was sure that my daughter and I would somehow end up on welfare and living in the projects, admitted how much happier I seem. He said that for a long time, it was like I was plodding through life — kind of a shadow of myself. But now they genuinely look forward to me coming over and the old me is back.

The old me is back, only maybe with a few upgrades. I’m proud of how far I’ve come. It hasn’t been easy and some things are still a struggle. But I’m on my way. And it’s satisfying to think my ex-husband must have looked at me at least once or twice over the past few years and wondered what the hell happened. I’m no longer that person sitting around on the couch all the time. I’m no longer hiding behind baggy clothes. I don’t dress up when I know I’ll see him, but I do make a point to be put together. When we split up, I swore I wouldn’t be that bitter divorcee who gains a bunch of weight and lets herself go. On my worst day, I still look better than I did on many of my best days with him. He never brought out the best in me, and I think now he realizes that. I woke up and realized there had to be something better in store for me.

I took a very scary leap into the unknown, and I flew.

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Booty, Caboose, Apple Bottom, Badonkadonk

For most of my life, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with my butt. When I was little, my mom affectionately called me “Toots,” and somewhere in my baby book, there’s a comment about my dimpled little bottom and chubby legs.

In 2nd grade, I remember my teacher asking me to deliver a message to another teacher. I was in cutoff shorts because it was track & field day {I went to Catholic school, so any day without the uniform was a rare treat}, and I remember one of the kids from that class commenting later about how my butt stuck out as I stood waiting for the teacher’s response.

In 5th grade, a boy whom I had a crush on measured my rear end {unbeknownst to me} when I was leaning over, exclaiming at how many inches wide it was. Nah, that wasn’t embarrassing at all! Asshole.

I liked the fact that my butt was round, but it was always hard to find jeans that fit right because of my curvy hips. I bemoaned my ample backside many times over the years, trying desperately to keep everything covered and silently cursing my skinny sister, who never had trouble finding clothes that looked good on her.

So imagine my surprise to discover, after years of hiding, covering, grumbling, and groaning, that there are men out there who love a big butt. What the… WHAT??

In the year or so before my divorce, I became friends with some girls {sorry, but ‘women’ sounds like we had a quilting circle, and some of them sure ain’t ladies} who are part of a BBW group. I had never heard of such a thing, much to their amazement.

BBWs {Big Beautiful Women} have groups, fan pages, calendars, parties, admirers… How had I never heard of this? My parents had pretty much raised me to believe that bigger was absolutely NOT better, so in my mind, a BBW party was another way of saying, “Fat Girls on Parade.” I imagined heavyset girls awkwardly trying to have a good time at a party while skinny people pointed and laughed. As someone who was extremely bashful as a child {and even now has moments of shyness}, not to mention very self-conscious about my weight, this sounded like my worst nightmare. My new friends assured me that there are many men out there who not only like bigger girls, but PREFER them. I admit, I was skeptical.

After a few months of badgering, they finally convinced me to go to a Valentine’s Day dance. Dressing up for me back then pretty much involved some kind of semi-dressy top and black dress slacks. I didn’t own any heels, so I wore my black loafers, which had a very slight chunky heel. Sexy, huh?

I hadn’t been to any kind of social thing like that since college, and I completely froze. I spent almost the entire evening by the wall, occasionally talking to people if they came near me, but not knowing what to do with myself. My friends kept asking me to come out on the floor and dance, but I couldn’t. I was honestly frozen to my seat and couldn’t bring myself to do much of anything.

A few guys did notice me, especially one {that’s a story for another post}, but I was a total wallflower.

Despite my being a social failure that night, the party really opened my eyes to a whole new world — one where it’s ok to have a big butt and chubby legs. I learned that even though I’ve spent my whole life thinking of myself as fat, what I am is more often called ‘thick.’ There are girls bigger than me at these parties who love their bodies and have all the confidence in the world. If only I had met some of them years ago, but better late than never.

I still occasionally go to the parties, but the bar scene really isn’t my thing and I’m still not big on hitting that dance floor very often. I feel a little more confident {and sometimes, dare I say, sexy} when I dress up, and I’ve even started wearing skirts and dresses {something I hadn’t done since my now-teenage daughter was a toddler, and those were borderline muumuus… shudder}. I’m coming to terms with my curves and I’m becoming more and more comfortable in my own skin.

I’ve stopped hiding my ass under oversized shirts. No, I don’t dress trampy, but I’m owning who I am. Guess what? I have a big ass! And for the first time in my entire life, I’m ok with that. My daughter is built just like me, and because I’ve always made a point to reassure her that she’s perfect exactly the way she is, I don’t think she’s ever given a second thought to her butt {except one time several years ago when a little boy in day camp sang “Baby Got Back” to her. I laughed and told her to take it as a compliment.}.

The majority of guys I’ve met since my divorce have liked my curves and have shown me that you can absolutely be attractive and sexy, even if you’re not built like a swizzle stick. Thanks, guys.

butt

Next up: The One Who Got Stella’s Groove Back