“No, that is NOT a baby bump” AKA sometimes people are the worst.

Over the last few months I feel like I’ve seen quite a few stories online about body shaming, and a myriad of positive responses about how women are supposed to love their bodies, be comfortable in their own skin, and just live their best lives without having to worry about the weirdo trolls who make asinine comments about weight, looks etc. And I totally agree! And I kept thinking how blessed I was to be in such a supportive community, full of strong and vibrant women who are positive and uplifting, and quirky and wonderful… and how glad I was to be in my 30s, and to not have to deal with the middle school/ high school drama, and how great I was feeling in my body, and how I was at such a great place in my life… And then a random woman asked me if I was pregnant…

Let me set the scene: It was a Monday, and I had just finished teaching a barre class, I was pretty sweaty and  I was wearing the brightest neon purple yoga pants in all the land. I wasn’t looking glamorous by any means, but considering that I had just finished teaching, and was going to be taking another class in a few hours, I wasn’t concerned with my overall appearance. No make-up/ yoga pants is a pretty common look for me on days that I’m teaching and running errands. I did have to stop by my work for a second to bring lunch for my roommate/ co-worker, so I ran in and dropped off her salad, told her I added some tomatoes from the garden, flipped through the mail, and was getting ready to leave when the woman at the counter out of nowhere said “Oh is that a baby bump you are sporting?” UM. WHAT?   I know that I’ve never been super great at controlling my facial expressions and I’m sure the look of confusion, shock and “I want to punch you in the face” probably came across, as I somewhat stammered “um… no… No it isn’t.” And I was kind of expecting a look of embarrassment to come over her as she apologized, but she just looked at me and simply said “Oh. Well you were kind of gesturing towards your stomach, and it looks like you definitely could be pregnant, so I just assumed by your body language that you were.” No apology, no embarrassment, no remorse.

This was the part that really killed me, because sure, it’s bad enough for someone to ask you if you are Pregnant on a Monday morning right after you finish working out, but for her to then try to justify why she even said something, and pretty much stand by her ridiculous faux pas was something I wasn’t really ready for. And everything about her facial expression and her tone made it very clear that she felt entitled to make a comment like that, and it almost inferred that rather than her being embarrassed for making a mistake, I should be embarrassed about my body because how was she to know? Clearly it wasn’t her fault for opening her mouth, it was my fault for looking the way that I did.

Now, I was brought up in the generation of “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Which is fascinating to me, because the older I get, the more I find that the mother’s who were preaching this sort of behavior to us, are the ones who feel entitled to tell us exactly what they think with this unfiltered bluntness, and seem to have no concept of what is rude and what is socially acceptable. It’s like they think they are doing you this huge favor. HOW IS THIS A THING?

I left the shop feeling baffled, and chubby, and oh so irritated. Let me just say, that I don’t have issues with my body. As a woman, I’m quite aware of what areas I could work on, I know that I have a genetic disposition for German hips, I know how quickly my metabolism is working (or not working) and what I put into my body. I know all of these things, and I exercise regularly, and I drink a lot of water, and I eat pretty healthy… but I also eat cheese. I eat cheese, and I drink beer, and I choose all of my choices. I take 3-4 barre classes a week, I teach yoga, I walk, I run occasionally, and I am 100% comfortable in my own skin. Yes, I could work out more, I could eat less, I could cut out alcohol, I could do a LOT of things, but I am not currently, nor have I ever been bogged down by issues of my weight and low self-esteem. I’m very self aware of my own body, I dress appropriately, I love my sense of style, I don’t get hung up on things like sizes, and I embrace the fact that I have a few curves.  Overall, I think I have a pretty healthy outlook… and then something like this happens, and though it is mostly just irritating, and rude, it still put a microscopic crack in my positive body image.

Me, being sassy, living my best life.

Me, being sassy, living my best life.

And here I where I go on a little side tangent… I am 30, and I’ve recently started getting back into the dating scene. Every man I’ve dated in my adult life has at some point in conversation made a comment like “I don’t understand why you are still single!” Which I understand, is supposed to be this flattering, read between the lines, because I think you are awesome kind of compliment, but I also find it frustrating because what am I supposed to say to that? “Well… if I knew, I probably wouldn’t be single…” which just seems to confuse them even more, and really the simple answer is. Well, no one asks me out, and all the guys I ask out say no… so what is a girl supposed to do? And then it’s like “Well are they fishing for something? Are try wondering if I’m secretly crazy?” I mean, is being single SUCH a weird thing? Do I actually need to say “ I just haven’t met the right person yet, and lucky for you, because now we are on this date, and we get to try and figure out if you are the right person.” Overall, it’s not a question that keeps me up at night, I don’t lie awake and ask the universe “WHY AM I SINGLE? I JUST DON’T GET IT!” Because I’ve always been under the impression that it would happen when it happened and I have bigger things to worry about that finding a soul mate. ANYWAY… So I’m sitting in the shop and this woman has just looked at me and asked about my non-existent baby bump, and is kind of giving me this knowing look of like “isn’t this the best time of your life?” And her smugness is just pissing me off even more, because actually no, it is not my dream in life to be a mother, and yes it is the best time of my life, and it has nothing to do with the apparent burrito belly I’m currently sporting… and I’m not self conscious about my body, and I don’t care what other people think, and then with this one fleeting comment, suddenly the only thought running through my head is “Oh my god. This is why I’m single… all the men out there think I’m pregnant. This is why no one wants to date me.”

And I hate that my brain went there, even if it was for just a second. Microscopic chip, and in comes the self doubt.

Of course, I called all the friends who I knew would be offended, I vented, they consoled and told me things like “A) you don’t, and B) its your body, and it is highly inappropriate for her to make comments about it. Even if you were 9 months pregnant, if she doesn’t know you, it is NOT ok to assume and make comments, and she is insane, and people are dumb. Its never ok to say something like that.” I was consoled by their kindness, by the fact that we all agreed that people are crazy, and just tried to brush it off.

And I did. I opted not to take it personally, I opted not to dwell (I opted to do a few more core exercises) and rather than letting the situation bring me down, I decided to laugh about it. I wasn’t about to let what some stranger said about my stomach get inside my head. Flash forward a week and a half, I was back teaching barre, and I decided to tell the anecdote to my class. One of my favorite teaching tactics is to tell personal stories when we are right in the midst of doing something hard. It takes everyone’s mind off of what we are doing, it lightens the mood, and it’s a great way to bring a little authenticity to the class. I’m sharing about my life, I’m making myself vulnerable, we are on this journey together kind of stuff. I wasn’t looking for them to say “oh no, you don’t look pregnant” I was more hoping to distract them and then encourage them to keep their cores activated by saying “now everyone engage your core. Your faux baby bump, if you will.”   Everyone laughed, we made it through the hard part of class, the mood was light, and things were going great.

As we were cleaning up the mats and putting the props away most of my students were making comments about “I can’t believe someone said that to you! People can be so rude!” and I was appreciative, and thrilled to be in a group of women who seemed to understand that there are things that you just don’t say out loud to people. And then one of my students pulled me aside and said “Well… don’t be offended by this, but I HAVE noticed that you’ve gained quite a bit of weight, and it’s all kind of right around your waist and hips, and quite frankly, I think that woman kind of had a point. You do look like you could be pregnant.”

One of my students actually said this to me… I couldn’t move, I couldn’t blink, I couldn’t breath. Finally, I forced an awkward smile and continued cleaning up the studio, and hoped that I didn’t start crying before everyone left. I mean, I understand that I strive to have all of my classes be a safe environment for sharing… But really? I have never once in my life taken a class and afterwards  felt like “ You know what? That was a great class, and I’m feeling awesome, but my teacher is looking a little chubby, I should probably just let her know. Just in case she is under the impression that she is super fit…” WHO SAYS STUFF LIKE THAT? I mean, apparently I know who says stuff like that… this student of mine apparently says stuff like that… but I was so taken aback. I wasn’t telling that story so the whole class would tell me how good I looked, I wasn’t looking for them to compliment me, I was trying to open up and be vulnerable and show that I was human, and rather than a “thanks for class.” I got a “well you DID gain weight.” Again, it was this accusatory tone of “well if you didn’t look this way, people wouldn’t make comments.” I took several deep breaths. And then I took several more deep breaths. AND THEN SHE CAME BACK OVER TO ME AND RE-ITERATED HER POINT. You guys, I can’t make this stuff up. She actually came back over and said “I really hope you weren’t offended.   I know that you are really very strong… but you’ve definitely put on some weight, and I can see why that woman said that to you. You look like you could be pregnant! She had a point!” And then she walked out the door. (because when you pre-empt an offensive comment with I hope you weren’t offended, that totally lets you off the hook, right? )

And how am I even supposed to react to that? IS THIS REAL LIFE? (Yes, yes it is.) I sat on the floor of the studio and took a few moments somewhat wondering “Did that really just happen?” and I just couldn’t figure it out. (I still can’t…) I mean… really, in what universe is it ok to just casually tell someone you’ve noticed they’ve gotten chubby and maybe look pregnant? Is this a thing? Is the whole world assuming that I’m just not aware of my own body, and that suddenly it needs to be pointed out to me how I look? You know, just in case I didn’t know?  WHO ARE THESE WOMEN?

I am still baffled by the situation… I mean, how else am I supposed to react? Was it hurtful? Sure. Was I offended? Absolutely. But also… I suppose that in some weird way I am grateful… I’m grateful that I can see this type of behavior, and know that as I age, I don’t want to be the type of woman who doesn’t have a filter. I don’t’ want to be the type of woman who feels entitled to speak her mind at the expense of other’s feelings. I don’t want to be the woman who is brazen enough to tell her yoga teacher that she’s put on a few pounds, I don’t want to be rude.

I’m not saying that I’m perfect, I’m not saying that I haven’t inadvertently said hurtful things to people in the past… and I’m sure I’ll say plenty of stupid things, and continue to screw up, and be flawed… but at the very least, I’m going to try and stick with the motto from my childhood about only saying nice things… (unless you make comments about my weight… and then I’ll just write about it on my blog.)

Let’s just take a moment to talk about body image…

 

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Lets just take a moment to talk about body image… Because it’s something that resonates with everyone… Even if it’s not something that you personally struggle with, you probably know someone who does… These days there are movements and initiatives, foundations and the works all about building self-esteem in young girls and empowering the next generation. There is constant controversy about how the media is portraying  beauty ideals and promoting a warped view to young girls… And whether we went through a chubby stage in middle school (check), gained the freshman 15 (check), or have watched our bodies change with age (check) its a topic that dances in and out of conversation, and has lingering effects.  Full disclosure, I gained about 12 pounds last year, and I could write several excuses about how I was working in a restaurant, how a broken toe f’ed up my running routine, how I have no self control when it comes to things like Chantilly cream and full fat dairy, but the truth of the matter is, I made the choices that I made, and I’m in the body that I’m in, and I’m totally ok with that. Was I more comfortable in my body 12 pounds ago? Probably. Am I spending countless moments throughout my day fretting about my size and how my clothes fit and how I look? No.  Because 12 pounds isn’t worth the negativity. I simply think “this is where I am today, and I’m going to make choices accordingly.” When I look in the mirror every morning I see myself, just the way I am, and sure, I have those fleeting thoughts of  “I should go for a run” or “I need to move my person a little bit more” because everyone has those thoughts from time to time, but I think the important thing is to recognize them without dwelling on them.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that having a positive body image is something that I’ve struggled with for years and years, because really, I haven’t. I’ve always been comfortable with who I am, and how I look… and yes I have fat days, and bad hair days just like everyone else. I have days where I wish I had less cellulite and better abs. I have moments of being unhappy with my body, but they are just that, moments.  They aren’t something that hinder my self-esteem, they don’t affect how I live my life, how I see myself… and I realize that I am incredibly lucky in this regard. ( I have other hang ups, its ok).

I DID go through a pudgy phase when I was younger… (didn’t everyone?) I don’t remember ever feeling like a fat kid, though I do remember my mother encouraging me to go outside more and maybe jump on the trampoline… And I vividly remember a few years later when  my pediatrician came up to my mom and said “wow, Tayler was so beautiful in the recital! I remember her being kind of chunky!”  I of course also gained some weight when I went to college, and have this somewhat horrific memory of coming home for Christmas and one of my “friends” actually pinched my cheeks and loudly announced “Look at these! I’m so glad you are getting fat like the rest of us!” Can I just say that sometimes girls are the worst? I mean the worst.   And the older I’m getting the more I’m realizing that there seem to be two types of insecure women… the type that put others down because they are insecure, or the type that put themselves down. And really, both make me so sad.  Now that I’m in my late 20’s I can look back on adolescence and of course recognize the mean girl mentality, the bullies who were constantly spewing negativity about other people  because they were struggling to feel good about themselves… But when you are in the thick of it, when the negativity is coming your way, and you are 14 its almost impossible to be objective and say “well really, she is just insecure, so she is trying to make me feel bad.”

But, what I have discovered recently, is that women of a certain age are almost as bad as middle-schoolers, only they take all that negativity and insecurity and turn it right back on themselves. I can’t even tell you how many women I come across who are a size 4 and have hangups about their arms, or think they look too fat in something and then turn to me and say “you don’t have these problems, you are tiny.” and I’m thinking “Well thank you, but I’m actually 3 sizes larger than you, and my arms are like 6 of yours put together…”  And then you have the mothers who are looking in the mirror who are verbally berating themselves, saying how fat they look, how they hate their legs or whatever, as their daughters sit there observing their behavior. And it’s interesting because it seems like these days there are so many movement about building self esteem in young girls, programs that are trying to teach you that uniqueness is beautiful, that individuality should be celebrated, that curves are ok, and I think that these programs are great, but there is a part of me that wonders if maybe we also need these types of programs for our Mother’s generation. Maybe we need to be helping the women who have been dealing with years and years of negative body image see themselves in a different light.

So now I have to tell a story that is going to horrify my mother… (its ok, she has been warned… Also, she is my mom, and we love each other, so there is that. )  Last week she was in shopping at the boutique and one of my bosses was there, as was my best friend.  My mom was asking an opinion about a shirt she was trying on, and we started to tell her how we had just been talking about body image, and how we really thought that women should be celebrating their curves and dressing the bodies that they have, and not the bodies that they wish they had, or the bodies that they think they have… working in a clothing boutique this is something that we see everyday… and my mom was like “Really?” and we told her “Well, we want you to be wearing something that you feel good in, and that also looks good on you, so if it’s something that just doesn’t work, we will tell you.”  And then we were talking about curves and body shapes and dressing them, and I said in passing “yes, I have curves, and I’m not self-conscious about them, I kind of have a belly and its fine! ” and then I stuck out my stomach for full emphasis… and without missing a beat my mother was like “Yeah I KNOW you do, I see it all over the place.” … OK MOM!

The moment was a little shocking, my boss was totally taken aback, and my mom did follow up with something about how I think she doesn’t have a filter… (case in point… I’m at a fairly new job, and she just made a comment about my belly fat in front of my boss and my best friend while I’m working… yeah, there is NO filter) And the thing is, I wasn’t upset, I wasn’t mad, I wasn’t embarrassed… I was sad. Not because of the offhanded comment,  but because I was sitting there witnessing my mother subconsciously succumb to the mean girl mentality. I could feel her trying on this top and not feeling 100% great in her body and there was a group of us, and without meaning to and without being aware of it she took all that insecurity and directed it at me. She put me down around my peers. We talked about it later and I totally called her out on it, and we had a good conversation, she felt terrible, she wasn’t trying to be mean, and legitimately we are fine… I’m not telling this story to embarrass my mom, or to make her out to be a bad mother, she isn’t. She is human, and she has her hang ups just like everyone else. And though it would be nice if those hang-ups didn’t manifest at my place of work, I did also realize that, as a mother, she was feeling insecure and in an back-handed way she was trying to be helpful. Like when she corrects my posture… because she wants me to learn from her mistakes… She sees things in herself that she doesn’t like, and so she points them out in me, not to be hurtful or a pain in the ass, but because she wants what is best for me. She wants  me to happy and healthy… and sometimes it comes out completely wrong. Sometimes it drives me absolutely crazy, but I do know that it comes from a place of love… And at the end of the day, I’m very familiar with intentions being lost in translation…

If anything, the whole situation made me appreciate my mom, and my upbringing. I can only imagine how her life was 60 years ago.. growing up I was told I could be whatever I wanted to be (ok, ok I was told once that I probably shouldn’t be an artist… in retrospect, that was probably very good advice.) I was allowed to do activities that I liked, I was allowed to develop my own interests, I was uplifted and supported and loved… not to say that my mother wasn’t, but our upbringings were VERY different. Being in Generation Y my entire childhood  was pretty much a self-esteem building exercise, I was allowed to make my own choices, make my own mistakes, and become my own person without any preconceived notions. And as a result, I don’t seem to have any of my mother’s hang-ups  (as I said, I have plenty of my own!)

I guess in a way, this blog post is a Thank You to my Mom.  She has her moments, for sure, but overall, I think I turned out the way that I did because of her, and not despite of her… Thank you for raising me to be comfortable in my own skin. Thank you for not passing along any of your hang ups, and for wanting what is best for me always, and Thank you for putting up with me and letting me tell stories about you on my blog.

And to all you ladies out there who ARE struggling with body image, I hope you can take a moment to just settle into your own skin, even if it’s just a moment.  Celebrate your curves (or lack of them) appreciate where you are right now, and give yourself permission to not dwell on your flaws.