On Tubby Legs and Heavy Hearts
I watched a video on Upworthy today. A video about Dustin Hoffman on his character in the film ‘Tootsie’. I’m sure it was shared somewhere on your Facebook walls or Twitter timelines.
If not, here it is — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xPAat-T1uhE
Watch it again, if you haven’t already.
Now, I haven’t blogged here in a very, very long time, but today, this moved me to immediately pen down my thoughts.
Mr. Hoffman, at one point in the video, says he couldn’t believe that he wasn’t more attractive when he was made-up to look like a woman. For me, this hit the proverbial nail right on its narrow-minded head.
I’ve struggled with weight and self-esteem issues for as long as I can remember. Apart from being a skinny toddler, I’ve always had the chubbiest cheeks, the tubbiest legs and the dimples on my elbows that so many kids in school seemed to lack.
Back then, it was cute. I was pampered and smothered with love. People would stop my mum on the street and comment on how adorable I was.
Now, as I face the problem of being overweight, it’s not so cute anymore.
I have no excuses to make for my weight, and I don’t choose to look for any. Simply put, I love food. I love everything that is bad for me and I lack the willpower to say “no” on a regular basis. But I don’t think that’s stopped me from leading a happy, relatively active lifestyle. I travel a fair bit, I run around for meetings all day and I rarely turn down an invitation to go dancing. The problem is that I’m constantly afraid of what I look like. If I dress up at home before a night out, I feel like I am pretty, until I step out on to the street. I look at the dresses women around me wear, and the fact that they can flaunt parts of themselves that I’d never dream of inflicting upon the general public.
Many times, I’ve tried to combat this feeling. I’ve worn knee-length shorts to Bandra and received strange looks on my way. I’ve worn an off-shoulder top and been asked to change, by my parents.
I’ve been out with friends and heard people say, “Dekh dekh, kitni moti hai”, as I’ve walked past them.
I’ve run into people from school all over the city, and a fair number (not all) of them have said the exact same thing – “You’ve not changed at all! Still fat!”
Once, I’ve been told that I must “be so funny because I have to compensate for my weight.”
It’s come to a point where I recently refused to go to an event that asked you to “Flaunt Your Back”, partly because I was terrified that I’d be the only one who wasn’t able to bring herself to actually do it.
I’ve always had skinny friends, and, when we go shopping, I stand and look at jewellery while they rummage through the latest collections, because there’s no way I’ll get clothes my size.
I go to a tailor to get a lot of my clothes stitched, and I never tell people that because I’m embarrassed. Instead, I’ll “forget” where that shirt is from, or say, “My mother bought it.”
My favourite instance, though, was when someone who used to follow this very blog many years ago, got talking to me and asked if we could meet. I agreed, semi-reluctantly, and we went to a neighbourhood coffee shop. I was having a good hair day, and I wore my nicest top and jeans. I reached five minutes early and occupied a prime spot.
As I waited for this person (Let’s call them “A”) to show up, I nervously checked if my kajal was smudged. just then, someone who i suspected could be “A” walked in, looked at me and walked out.
I was too nervous and shy to say anything, so I sat and waited. “A” sat at a nearby table. We both ordered cups of coffee, drank them and left, without saying a word to each other.
I messaged “A” later that night, after hours of toying with my phone and dealing with feelings I was unable to completely process. The reply to my question, “Where were you?” was, “I came in and saw you. But you were very different from what I expected. So I’m sorry, but I don’t think we can be friends.”
Instead of letting it go, I pushed for a clarification. In no uncertain terms, “A” messaged back – “You’re too fat. I’m sorry.”
Now, I’m not saying this to garner pity or anything of the sort. I’m not looking for you to say, “Awwww, you poor thing”, nor am I pretending that there’s nothing I can do about this.
But this isn’t my point.
As I watched this video, it hit me – I’m conditioned to believe that, just because I’m overweight, I am not beautiful. I am not someone you’d chat up in a bar, nor am I someone you’d claim to have a crush on.
It’s me, more than anything – I refuse to accept compliments under the guise of being coy. I immediately discount the fact that I could be remotely interesting to anyone, because, hey, look at me.
I am blessed to be surrounded by close friends who’ve never made me feel the pinch, so to speak. They’ll sit by quietly as we slowly suffocate to death due to lack of space in a rickshaw and move the table a little further away from the seat when I have to get up at a restaurant.
I guess, at some level, I’m just writing this to say, we all face this everywhere. No matter who we are and what we do, we will always find imperfections within ourselves – some obvious, some invisible to anyone else.
After watching this video today, I find myself sitting here with tears streaming down my face, because, even though so many years have passed, “A”‘s text still rings in my head every time I check myself out in a mirror, or look at photos of myself.
I will probably never feel beautiful or attractive. No matter how my body changes over the years, there will always be something to nitpick about, and, to be honest, I don’t know how I will ever combat it, and if I’ll ever be able to move past this negative body image.
It will always come as a genuine surprise when someone tells me they think I’m pretty, and I will never be able to positively respond to such a statement.
But, I will try.