I want to remind the viewer that this series (originating on Steemit) are not meant to be extremely well edited or refined. Rather, I am trying to take some of the millions of thoughts from my brain and put them down on paper in hopes that they will be of value to me at a later date, or simply interesting/entertaining to voyeurs. With that in mind, please enjoy these thoughts.
Ever since I was a young teenager I have had adults tell me I needed to “get some meat on those bones”, or come up with nicknames for me (“Lanky”) which drew attention to my height and my thin body size. Now I never took any of this too seriously, I saw them for what they were – silly jokes. However, as I have gotten older and began to understand my own insecurities and lack of self esteem, I can now see that there are deeper issues to parse out from this experience. This is an attempt at understanding people’s motivations for these comments, and my personal view on the image of a male body put forth by society.
I have always been tall and lean, I had a growth spurt before most of my peers so for a while I was the tall kid. Interestingly, I remember the jokes or comments about how skinny I was as far back as 6th grade. I also remember that by 8th grade I was starving myself. That year I think I allowed myself to eat one bag of M&Ms a day. See, what these people didn’t understand is that I felt the exact opposite. I have always thought I was fat. I wanted to shred any amount of fat on my body so I could be thin and muscular. Ask any girl I have ever dated and they have likely heard me complain about feeling fat, feeling sick in my own skin. It’s not a pleasant experience and I hope anyone else dealing with it finds some way to process the pain.
A couple years later when I got into self harming, I started to cut and slice my stomach out of disgust. I would sit in my room with a blade and cry to myself (I was also very depressed) as I sliced across my stomach and watched the blood run and then dry over my skin. My body image issues were made worse by the fact that I had a great deal of depression from my lacking relationship with my father. I started to put a lot of blame on myself at an early age and it’s possible my aversion to my own body and skin came from self doubt and blame I picked up during my developmental years.
I did this for years. Starving myself, punishing myself, and then, ironically, being told by people around me that I was too skinny. I would hear this from adults, other guys who thought I wasn’t a “real man” because I wasn’t a huge dude with a beer gut. I would hear this (and still do) from women who think a “real man” is bigger than me. I always took these jokes with a grin (and still do), but there is a part of me that is screaming, “Fuck you! I don’t want to be an overweight piece of shit! It’s not healthy to be big and fat! Stop celebrating your fucking gluttony!”. As you can see, I held on to a lot of anger and frustration because of these experiences. The funny thing is, I am probably going to outlive all these people who tell me I need to gain weight while I watch them eat unhealthy and chug beer.
But beyond my personal experience, I think these jokes and comments from people illustrate a much deeper, pressing issue: gender and cultural norms. It’s something I touched on in my first book with @johnvibes in our essay “Balancing the Feminine and Masculine”. What I mean is that it seems as if society (and by that I mean the people) expect men to be big and strong, able bodied, and fearless. Men are not supposed to express emotion, cry, paint their nails, or be pretty. Women are expected to be emotionally available, weak, in need of protection, wear dresses, like the color pink, etc. However, many of us are learning that these expectations are bullshit.
For one, society is simply the collective of existing human beings. We do not have to push these expectations on one another and judge accordingly. We can recognize that the media, the politicians, and other opinion makers have their vision of what society should look like, what males and females should act like, and generally, how we should live our lives. Sometimes this vision aligns with our personal vision of happiness. Often, it does not. And when our expectations do not match with the expectations put forth by “society” an individual might feel different, they might feel outcast, and they might be judged by others who can’t understand why they are not going along with the program like a good citizen. This can lead to self doubt and uncertainty. This can lead to despising or hating oneself.
At least, for a long time, that’s what happened to me. In more recent years I have learned to love myself and ignore societies (and yours) expectations. I do what I want, I dress like I want, I talk like I want, I eat what I want, and I make an effort to not pay too much attention to the opinions of people who I do not value. Yes, I do still struggle with my weight and sometimes I feel fat and ugly. But it’s gotten a lot better over the last ten years, and even more specifically, the last two years. For a long time it was like my own personal hell, a struggle I dealt with mostly in private while the world told me I need to put on some weight so I can be a real man. Now I know that I am just as much a human as anyone else, no matter how thin I might be. I now embrace my natural weight, strive for a healthy and active lifestyle, and love myself.
The journey continues…