This is going to be a tough one. I have spent many years living in fear of the moment I would finally share this, and not only that, I have held back in life because of it. It is time to surrender the suffering.Body image is such a hard battle to overcome, I may not be the thinnest girl, or the prettiest girl, nor may I have the most appealing body, but why should any of that matter, that is your opinion, I think I am beautiful just the way I am. Why should I let what others think, dictate how I live my life? I do it because I was beat down in my youth, because I was humiliated, time and time again, and because of people who have nothing better to do with their time than to put others down. Their malicious acts were some sort of distorted way for them to feel better about themselves, and what is left over from their attacks? My life, lived in confinement. I ask myself to this day, “How could anyone love me, I am a unattractive, I am hideous, I don’t look like the other girls”, I try to pick myself back up, but the words of my past echo in my mind… “cankles”!
It took me a couple of minutes to even work up the courage to write that word out. I loathe hearing it, it’s not funny to me, and the mere thought of it gives me flashbacks to my past, to those feelings that I despise, the ones of humiliation and shame, the words that made me give up in life, quit sports, and inevitably made me lose the ability to feel confident in my own skin. I refuse to go to the beach or the pool, I won’t wear shorts or dresses, and I would rather suffer in sweltering heat than show my legs to another human being.
If this unfortunate leg encounter is to ever occur, I feel inclined to precede the sight with, “Hey I have big legs, I know it, please still be my friend after you see them”. Ask my friend Jen Tolley, she has been a victim of this very conversation. She wanted to hang out and get a pedicure, which I knew what that dreadful experience would entail and of which was the one and only time I ever got one. I attempted to be normal and socialize without holding back and decided to accompany her, I actually enjoyed it but I felt incredibly uncomfortable the whole time. And we did stay friends, lol.
So, I will tell you a little story about how all this shame came about.
I would like to take a moment to reminisce… I am 14 or 15 years old, enough is going on with a teens body at that time anyways, right? I am on the court playing basketball against a big rival team, I would also like to add that I have been playing since the 4th grade, and really enjoyed it. Any who, I get fouled on and have to shoot a free throw, in front of a rather intense crowd, which is stressful enough. As my arms raise to shoot the ball, I hear “cankles!!!” shouted out into the dead silence of the gymnasium and reverberate off the walls onto my eardrums. Mortification became me, and I no longer wanted to be the center of attention in that room. I shrugged it off at the moment, what else could I do, and continued the game, but of course, I was taken aback and really shook by the blatant disregard for me as a human being. It hurt.
A few days later, I am entering the school cafeteria for lunch and again I hear that word shouted by a group of guys standing at the entrance. I walked up to them and asked who said it. The first person to turn around was my victim of blackout rage and got punched in the face, now I don’t know if that blow rendered any damage, but when I turned around I saw the principle and they didn’t say a word. I thought that would be the end of it but I was sadly mistaken.
Let’s talk about the time I was eating a burger from burger king before volleyball practice in the school hallway outside the gym and a guy walks up to me and says, “Do you know where that burger is going?”, ” Straight to your cankles.” I mean, come on! WHY, just, WHY?!! What does that say about a person who goes out of their way to make someone feel so…. I can’t even find a word for how bad I felt about something I had absolutely no control over. I ran off in tears. I didn’t know how else to react, I wanted to strangle him.
I grew up knowing something was different about me, I don’t know how it came about, but I remember always feeling ashamed and wearing knee high socks if I had on shorts, even in the 4th or 5th grade there are pictures of me playing basketball with knee high socks on. I can recall asking my brother one time, when I was about 10 years old, if he could ever imagine dating a girl who had legs like mine. He said “Of course”, but what good did that do my state of mind? Not a damn thing. Think about it, how sad is that, I mean, really, really think about it. A girl at that age being concerned about her physique and what people perceive of her. There were bigger things to worry about as a kid, like, what game am I going to play tomorrow at school, who should I hang out with this weekend or completing homework for the next day. But no, this fear has been engraved in me since a very young age, written into the depths of my brain that all eyes are on my legs, that there is nothing more to me than my appearance.
These incidents of degradation convinced me give up the things I loved the most at that time. I worried too much about boys and being pretty enough to be dated. The level of my attraction was a constant mind f***, I even sought out attention that I look back on and would say I am ashamed of. These false truths even cost me close friendships. I let this indignity rule over my actions and I ended up quitting Volleyball, a sport that I seriously loved. What had happened was, we had a new coach my junior year, I went to the tryouts but failed in making the team, so the next summer, I busted my ass to be one of the names that made the list. The hard work paid off and when I heard my name I was elated, but I shortly found out we would be wearing spandex shorts. I couldn’t face the court again, especially not in something even more revealing than the polyester shorts that were worn in previous years.
I couldn’t bear the humiliation of being called out again. Yea, I made the team, but my beat up- ingrained mindset insisted upon a bogus lie to back out. My dad had lost his job that year, so I blamed my quitting on the inability to pay for the new gear. I remember the ladies trying to help me with pop can drives (soda can for those of you not from the north) to keep me on, but I refused. I was then shamed and viewed as someone who was just trying to get back at the coach for cutting me the season prior. That was never the case, I was just too ashamed of my body, and couldn’t find the nerve to tell the coach the truth.
Fast forward a couple of years and the humiliation continues. Imagine, I am in the military and get stationed in sunny San Diego, anyone should be happy to be in such a place. After being settled for a while I finally work up the courage to go out with some friends to the beach and I wore a pair of knee length shorts. Not long after my arrival, some jerk comes up to me out of no where and asks, “Did you know you have cankles?”. I had never seen this guy in my life and he had the audacity to obliterate my happiness that day. I wish I had the ability to brush it off candidly and come up with some snarky remark in return, but instead, I ran off in tears to my car. I left my friends on the beach and didn’t want to show my face again, let alone see that ass hat. But of course, that wasn’t my last encounter with him either. I was at a party later that year and he happened to be there, and again, he made the announcement of my larger than “normal” legs. I instantly blacked out in anger and attempted to attack him. All I remember were my two friends holding me back, again I fled the scene. He actually followed me out of the house to my car, taunting me with my label of shame the whole way.
Another occurrence happened when I received my assignment to my first job to a Naval ship. Imagine the excitement to be on such a sweet adventure, one that not many have the pleasure of experiencing in life. But even there, my elation was quickly diminished when I was faced with the same shrewd type of people. Occasionally, I would hear the negative remarks and body shaming of another woman on the ship. The guys I worked with would ridicule her behind her back and call her tree trunks. Right then and there I knew I could never show my legs there either, they would clearly discuss their disgust behind my back, or make it a topic of interest while socializing at the scuttlebutt (look it up). There was no escaping this horrible, unfortunate, deformity. Yes I felt like I had a deformity.
Finally, the last instance I can remember is when I was at Disney Land. I was running across the street, with my now husband, to go to the water park, decked out in my bathing suit, I get startled when I hear some guys sitting at the stop light yell out, “eww”, of all things, as I ran past. It broke my heart and instantly negativity consumed my thoughts, “how can my boyfriend be seen with me in public and not be embarrassed?”.
I just don’t understand, why can’t people love others for who they are instead of what they look like. I am a nice, and loving, and a caring person, and my legs are not my identity. As much as I try to convince myself of this truth, I can not get past that mental block and be who I am inside. I can’t control how my legs look, they are genetic, I inherited them, all the working out in the world will not fix the way God created me. NOTHING! I have to accept that and move on.
My biggest fear however, is that my insecurities will pass on to my daughter, who may or may not have larger ankles. I see her now, so sweet and innocent, and such a beautiful soul, she loves everyone and is so, so, kind and caring. The fact that some day someone could take all of that away, just for the hell of it, literally crushes my heart. I want to be strong for her, I don’t want her going through life feeling inadequate or unworthy, ugly, or different. We are all diverse as human beings and that is what makes us beautiful, it makes us who we are and that is perfectly O.K.
I must overcome this fear and show her that it’s acceptable to not fit into the mold of societies photo-shopped perception of beauty. She is exquisite, she is strong, she is my baby girl and I want to be fierce so she will be fierce if and when she is ever faced with the callous creatures of this world. She is more than what meets the eye, she is more than a pair of legs, there is more to life than worrying about other people’s opinions. I can’t stop the assholes out there anymore than I can change the way my body , or my mother’s body, or my daughter’s bodies were created. And I want to raise her to stand resilient in the face of the ruthless.
I would like to end this post with a final word, please be advised that the language will get a little vulgar here. I just want to say, I AM beautiful, I AM me, I AM perfect as I am, and I want to say FUCK YOU, to Aaron Gracik, the beach guy, that dude that had to comment on my hamburgers end destination, and the mindless douche bag in the car for making me feel like any less of a person. I will no longer let your senseless actions reign over me. As much anger as I harbored over the years, I am strong enough, however, to say I don’t need an apology, I forgive you, for I don’t know why you wanted to make me feel bad about myself, maybe you were going through things yourself and that was your way to cope, or maybe, you were/are just an ass and in that case my original FU stands.
My 30th birthday is coming up and this is my wish and promise to myself; Let the past be the past and live your life the way it should be lived, no ones opinion of me matters except my own, my happiness is my family’s happiness, my strength is their strength, I will come out stronger, and I will persevere. Your words will not get the better of me, you did not win. I AM PERFECT THE WAY GOD CREATED ME, IN HIS LIKENESS, I AM BEAUTIFUL!!
I hope this story helps anyone in this predicament or anyone who is currently bullying. If you are being bullied, please know there is so much more to life. Life is a beautiful gift and you should never waste it because of someone else, they do not have control over you. And if you are the bully, find it in your heart to realize the harm and damage you are causing in someone else’s life, it is never to late to say you are sorry. And with that being said, I know from being bullied I became one and I want to take a moment to apologize to Cathy Booty for being so mean to you on the bus rides home. I know your mom called mine to tell her that you would go home crying because of me, and if by chance you ever read this, please know from the bottom of my heart, I am deeply and truly sorry. Apologizing to you has weighed heavily on my heart and I know I have to let you know that.
Thanks for reading!