The Fat Girl in a Green Bathing Suit

Standing in the kitchen, my thick thighs rubbing together underneath my skirt, I am slowly working the pre-made pizza dough so it stretches. It came in a plastic bag, this dough, from one of those "Cook At Home" meal box programs, the kind you try because you have a coupon for a free week and then ultimately pay for a few more weeks because you forget to cancel the service (because it costs way too much).

The meals I have ordered from this service are touted as both "healthy" and "vegetarian," which are not, in case you didn't know, synonymous terms in the least. I know this because I am primarily the latter (a vegetarian) and aspire to be the former (health conscious), but it's a difficult reconciliation.

I want to be healthy. I try to be healthy. I don't eat much meat, but I eat a lot of cheese and Brussels sprouts. And spinach. I read ingredient labels, and put back the bread when the first word listed is "enriched."

I drink a green smoothie every morning. Whir, whir. Pulsing the blender with my fingers, I add the chia, the flax. I like the taste, the texture. The green. I imagine the antioxidants swerving through my veins, Go Go Gadget Vitamin E.

Of course, I sometimes eat dessert. Everyone knows there's not much meat in dessert. And I really like dessert.

If you're into that sort of thing, perhaps you can judge how much I like dessert by the way my thighs rub together. You can judge how much I like brie by the soft wobble of my upper arm, the part that keeps on waving long after my hand has signaled by hello. You can judge every part of me that you see, if that's the kind of thing you like to do.

If that's the kind of thing you like to do, I won't judge.

But what about the spinach? And the smoothie? Can you see those on me too? Do you see my love for flax seed in the strong, sloping hardness of my back? Are you looking at the whites of my eyes and the thickness of my hair, a braid down my back, a silver dollar-sized hunk? Can you see my sturdy bones? The pinkish, hardened, healthy half moons of my nails?

It's not about the way she looks. I'm concerned for her health.

But really, can you really judge how healthy a woman is by the thick, fleshy curve of her hip? Does being a size 12, 14 or 16 alone really mean my days are numbered? That I'm done for? Those who want to judge are much more apt to assess my healthfulness based on the number on the inside of my bathing suit versus the number on the paperwork from my doctor's lab. They believe the measure of a healthy woman is the measure of her thighs. Forget science. Forgo numbers. Screw you, doctor. It's modern beauty standards we should worry about. This tells me all I need to know.

If you are into that sort of thing, if you are the type to make a judgement based only on what you see, then you are not really my type at all.

It's her health I'm worried about. It's not about the way you look. Oh, but it is. It's about the way YOU look at ME.

In a dress, as I sing karaoke. In soft pants, as I order some spaghetti. In my bathing suit, at the ocean.

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What you don't see:

How strong I am. I can teach an 8-year-old girl to ride a two-wheeler in one Saturday afternoon and carry in six bags of groceries in one trip from the car.

My brain is fueled by flax seeds and sometimes chocolate croissants -- it composes essays about love and sex and skin and kindness and dresses and teenagers and addiction and death and gratitude.

Sometimes, my thighs rub together while I knead pizza dough.

Sometimes, I am the only one in the house strong enough to open a jar of dill pickles.

Once, I carried a bed up two flights of stairs, all by myself.

You can't find those things, these intangible things, in the thick knots of flesh above my knees.

So they do not matter.

Here is what matters:

A girl at the beach whispered, "I like that fat girls bathing suit!" when I walked by.

I swam way out to where the waves drowned out that girl's voice.

Then I swam back in again.

I am the fat girl in the green bathing suit. It's emerald, really, against the porcelain slope of my flesh. I'm a mermaid, you know. A soft, billowing mermaid. All this flesh, my glorious oyster.

"They only make this suit for fat girls," I said quietly to that girl, as I sifted my way back to my place in the sand. And her face turned red, but I smiled kindly at her anyway. Maybe she didn't know I could hear her. Maybe she hadn't meant it with disdain.

I smiled at that girl.

Sometimes, the careful measure of my words, the beautiful measure of my style, the growing measure of my strength and my character, is far greater than the size of my hips.

If only someone was interested in judging that.

This piece was first featured on Nicole's blog www.momof4istired.com and also on the website www.scarymommy.com.

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