By Kimberly Poovey
This year, I gave birth to a 10lb 5oz baby. And I just bought the first bikini of my life.
For the first 30 years of my existence, you couldn’t get me to even try on a bikini without nearly bursting into tears. But somehow, pregnancy managed to completely change my relationship with my body in the best possible way.
“Body hatred” is an almost beloved part of our culture; spend five minutes on Pinterest or in the checkout line of any grocery store and prepare to get bombarded by 87 ways to flatten your belly, tighten your butt, rid yourself of wobbly bits, and basically look young and flawless until the age of 93. We’re absolutely obsessed with how fast celebs “get their bodies back” after launching whole humans from their bodies. (Get them back from where? Were they stolen?) The American standard of “conventional hotness” is a narrow road, and it gets even narrower postpartum.
It was during the Perfect Storm of middle school that I realized “conventionally hot” was never going to describe me. Already six feet tall, I towered over almost everyone I knew, and terrified boys my age like some kind of roaring, red-haired Godzilla. Freckled and translucent even in the Florida sun, I stood out in sharp contrast to the blond and bronzed goddesses who traipsed along the beach beside me. And at a perfectly normal size 12, I saw myself as a chubby monster compared to my diminutive gal-pals in their size 2 jeans. And so the body hatred began. I thought that if I could just be thinner, prettier, more delicate, more “normal,” then boys would adore me and I would finally feel good about how I looked. And so I cried and starved and mistreated and basically attempted to loathe myself into a more acceptable state.
For years, I put the definition of my worth, my value, into the hands of other people and their perception of me. I was also putting far too much weight (no pun intended) on my appearance as a source of my value and worth. To silly young me, prettier equalled more valuable, important, and worthy. The really sad thing is that I had good friends and a great family that always supported me and lifted me up. I was smart, creative, artistic and had all kinds of good things going for me. I really had no excuse to feel so painfully insecure. But I did. And it was just a tremendous waste of time.
For the past decade, my amazing husband (who is a pretty big fan of every inch of my tall, voluptuous self) has helped to alleviate a lot of my insecurities through his constant admiration and encouragement, but still, I don’t know if I ever really let it sink into the deepest parts of my identity.