No Pity for the Skinny Bitch
To my Sisters,
I hate trying on clothes, too.
But when I say it out loud, all I get are “fuck you” glares.
There’s no pity for the skinny bitch.
Once upon a time, I loved my job as a model, not because I believed I was superior to everyone else, but because I felt like less. When I was young, the external validation of being in the physical elite kept me from self-harm while satisfying my desire to disappear.
I was a coat hanger personified. Blouses and dresses hung from my collarbones unimpeded. The fabric swayed when I walked, free of the usual antagonistic insistence on anatomical interference that human bodies dare to assert.
The audacity of health.
They told me I was special. But I wasn’t. My body was.
And it was only special in its penchant for submission. I loved the work because no one saw me, they saw the garment. They praised the clothes for their divine proportions and the ethereal way the fabric draped and folded. I didn’t walk the clothes — the clothes walked themselves with my borrowed, emaciated frame as their vehicle.
The clothes were the subject. I was the object being acted upon.
And the industry praised and enabled my starvation so that they could continue to use my body to perpetuate an aspirational unreality and increase their bottom line.
They loved me for how small I was able to make myself and for how cheaply I was willing to trade my well-being for scattered moments of translucence and reverence.
I hate my body — and so do you.
It’s okay to admit it.
You hate it in the same way we collectively hate wealthy people and celebrities when they lament their sorrows and their plight. If we had all that money and fame, we wouldn’t take it for granted. How can they have so much and still have the audacity to complain?
70% of people in the U.S. are overweight. 1.7% are underweight. It’s easy to hate one-percenters.
No one feels sorry for me because I was biologically destined to reach over six feet tall, albeit with the aid of a connective tissue defect that stretched me like a medieval torture rack and shortened my predicted life span by a decade.
There’s no pity for a woman born into the highest sociobiological caste who was gifted improbable feminine proportions and an avian frame, but who can’t seem to make herself compact enough to curl up and plug the bullet hole in her self-esteem.
My “winning” ticket in the genetic lottery was a congenital defect. A DNA mutation tied up with a shiny, silver bow — like in a Lexus Christmas commercial — except this one came with the significant risk that my heart will one day spontaneously explode.
That won’t be pretty.
Still, how dare I look a gift horse in the mouth?
At work, I heard, “Book her.”
Everywhere else, “Skinny bitch.”
In my secret places, I wish there were pity for my plight, but there’s not and never will be.
No one cares that my joints ache and my shoulders and hips dislocate and my skin — so velvety and soft — shreds and bleeds with the most minute antagonism.
I don’t get to bemoan that my ex-husband was right when he said, “You’re not funny. You just think you are because no one would dare not laugh at your jokes.”
Or that, even at 40 years old, I still wonder who actually enjoys my company and who wants to be status-adjacent.
I can’t talk about my insecurities at all without encountering hostility and anger from people who believe that my aesthetic advantage should automatically convey confidence and that I’m ungrateful when it doesn’t.
Women love to hate me. Men want to use me.
So I’ve learned there’s no pity for the skinny bitch. And I’ve gotten okay with that.
The pity goes to the women whose self-esteem was collateral damage to my participation in normalizing the abnormal — so many of whom I’ve known personally — so many of whom are close to me — so many of whom my actions hurt, even indirectly.
I read articles about body acceptance and most of them refer to the other end of the spectrum — being overweight — and they talk about how women like me aren’t “real.” That used to hurt my feelings.
Some soul-searching has led me to the conclusion that “they”, at least in my case, have a point.
I didn’t choose my height or my slender bones or my pretty face. But it’s true that the exaggerated thinness was forged by neglect and deprivation via willful deference to my insecurities and other people’s expectations.
It was borne of pain — pain that I’m not allowed to recognize or acknowledge outside of my head.
In return for my thinness, I’m held up as a paragon of virtue. Congratulated. Admired. Revered.
People assign moral superiority to those who, like me, possess physical proportions that mimic our collective perceptions of what “healthy” looks like.
And I never corrected anyone and said, “Don’t idolize me. I’m not healthy. I’m hurting and I’m starving.”
We embrace an ideal that is not sustainable. Not healthy. My skinniness has very little to do with hard work or self-discipline or self-care. Encouraging unlikely physical aspirations has always been about leveraging the insecurities of a small sect of women to capitalize on the insecurities of masses of women.
I was their prop.
They flattered me a muse, but I was just a patsy.
The regrets I feel at the harm I have caused myself are, at times, overwhelming.
In retrospect, I’m not sure I had a choice.
I may have died without having a place to both be seen and hide.
And another tall, angular, desperate, “not real” girl would’ve popped up in my place.
I made some changes in the past year because, when I looked in the mirror, I did not see the woman I wanted to be.
I’ve gained 20 healthy pounds and am no longer 12% body fat. I’m 14.5%. I am changing my relationship with food and my body.
I’ve stepped away from my need to conform to the lowest common denominator — the one that feeds on our fears and doubts— to feel good about myself.
And yet I’m still not allowed to acknowledge my pain. I don’t deserve sympathy or empathy. I have too much “privilege”.
My clothes are no longer designer and they don’t hang unimpeded anymore … and for those changes, I feel equal parts shame and relief.
This isn’t a demand for pity.
It’s a plea for inclusion.
To be seen as a whole person.
To be acknowledged as “real”.
For the women in my life who take my pain as a dig at them, I want to say things that I’m usually only allowed to say in my head. I’m offering you my vulnerability and I want you to know:
My fear of being fat isn’t a commentary on you or your body.
My fear of being ugly isn’t a judgment of your attractiveness.
My fear of being broken and defective has no connection to how you should feel about yourself.
I read so many comments from women who say, “Your choice to remain thin at all costs shows how much contempt you have for my body.”
It’s been said to my face — countless times — before I learned to keep my doubts to myself:
“God. If you think you’re fat, I can’t imagine what you think of me,”
I am sorry that I perpetuated the thing that has brought us all to our knees, both the 1% and the 99.
I’m sorry that I am struggling to be comfortable occupying space.
When I confide to you, with tears in my eyes, that what I know to be true and what I see in the mirror don’t align — that I feel fat and it scares me — please trust that it’s not about you.
Hear this, beautiful girl. My fear and loathing are about me alone.
You’ve said you envy me. And I understand that when you look at me, you see something very different than what I feel. I know you think my delicate tattoos and the way I drive with my skinny leg on the dash are cool. I know you envy my svelte, elongated, waifish shape. I know you see a “model woman” with the world at her feet.
I know because you’ve told me. Over and over again, incredulous at my self-doubt. And I’m eternally grateful that you share your beautiful, rose-colored lens with me.
But, babe, I’m shivering up here on my pedestal. The air is too thin. I’m cold and I can’t breathe.
My insecurities are about my trauma and my pain.
And how hard it is to believe that there is anything good in me.
And that you can only put so much lipstick on this pig.
And I know that you see a person that I can’t feel and that when I put myself down, you can’t help but feel put down, too, and question your value and strength.
Right now, I’m going to shimmy down off this plastic pillar and ask you for a blanket and some food. And I’m going to eat it together with you. And we are going to hold hands and occupy the same space. We will cling to each other and ride out this storm.
And when the ache and sadness at the hole in my soul, that my appearance never has and never will fill, cries out in anguish … please know that my pain is real and that it’s not about you, sweet girl.
You are precious and perfect.
And I’m sorry for being a gear in the machine that made you — and me — feel like less.
I’d give this broken, abused body back if God would take it. But I can’t, so instead, I’ll keep trying to heal it.
I want to join the 99%…if you’ll take pity and have me.