I watched a movie last night and cried my way through it. Have you seen Dumplin’ on Netflix? It’s about a girl in a bigger body trying to fit into a beauty pageant world. It explores the inadequacies we feel when our bodies are unacceptable to other people. And worse: when we perpetuate our own rejection.
The movie opens with a little girl, Willowdean, with a big smile and soft tummy holding a box of donuts. Three boys confront her with, “Omg, do you see her? You are honestly a pig. You’re huge.” They continue to dehumanize her by oinking.
That big smile dropped, and those bright eyes clouded with tears. And her emotion grabbed me at the throat. I’ve been that girl in a larger body chastised for eating the same food as my siblings and friends. I just wanted to eat what everyone else was eating. But only certain people are allowed to eat fast food and buy desserts without judgment.
Why is that? Why is it anyone else’s business what we eat?
Some people respond with, “Well we’re trying to help them be healthy.” Do you go around taunting smokers and smacking cigarettes out of their hands? No, because that would be rude. Why do we feel we have carte blanche to comment on people’s weight and make judgments about their health?
I know plenty of people who are thin but unhealthy, and I know people in larger bodies who have great health practices. The truth is we have absolutely no idea what is going on in someone’s life just by how they look. And furthermore, it’s frankly none of our damn business.
But for many of us, we have internalized these judgments and accepted them as our own. Willowdean has a moment when a boy she likes kisses her, and as he caresses her back, he touches a particularly soft spot. She jumps up and just leaves because she was so uncomfortable with him touching a part of her she didn’t like. Which is absolutely ok. She is allowed to set that boundary.
But when he tried to tell her that he liked her just the way she was, she pushed him away. She told him he couldn’t possibly want to cross the barrier between between thin and not acceptable. He looked at her with big eyes wondering how she could decide whether or not he liked her.
I spent most of my young life trying to be acceptable enough for a boy to like me. Hours and hours of late night sit ups, morning work outs, and perennial dieting. Every birthday, every eyelash, I wished for a boyfriend. So to watch a boy find a bigger body beautiful just wrecked me. Realizing that the hours and hours I had spent trying to change myself were actually completely unnecessary. Someone could have loved me just the way I was.
And then to watch Willowdean reject him for just loving all of her. To see how entrenched we are in diet culture that we believe the lie of our own inadequacy. I just sobbed.
I’m with someone now who loves all of me, and has loved me at every size, but the wounds run deep. Despite all of my work and therapy and logic, I still feel undeserving of love at times because of my body. How is that even possible after losing so much weight?
Because it’s never been about the weight. It’s all in our minds. Feeling inadequate is completely up to us. I’ve had moments of hating my body at every size. The only constant was how I felt about myself. And to think how little I care about the weight of others, why am I so hard on myself?
If you experience any of these feelings or questions, I encourage your to watch Dumplin’ on Netflix. It was a wonderful reminder that we are the biggest obstacle to loving ourselves, but, thankfully, we can change that.