"Solid" Ain't a Four Letter Word
Friday, April 03, 2015
When I was younger, middle and high school age, I didn’t really have any concept of health or fitness. I was the kid who walked the mile in gym class or used my period as an excuse to sit out a game. I think I drank an Arizona Iced Tea at least once a day for most of my teenage years. I’d skip eating until three o’clock in the afternoon and then just eat everything in sight. And I never really moved. I was overweight. Not obese. Not exceptionally overweight. Just kind of soft.
Perhaps to spare my feelings, if I asked friends or family if I was fat, they’d nearly always respond, “No. You’re not. You’re solid.”
There are really no words to express how much I hated hearing that. It just seemed like a euphemism. They didn’t want to tell me I was big so they chose another adjective. In hindsight, that was actually pretty kind. Asking people to comment on your body puts them in a pretty bad position. And it just isn’t healthy. Chalk that up to things I know now that Teenage Jolene didn’t. I could probably make a list.
But even though I realize now that they were trying to be kind, it wasn’t what I wanted to hear from them. I wanted to be skinny. I wanted a concave belly and tiny legs. I wanted to be a girl who could strip down to her bikini without an ounce of self-consciousness. I know now that probably zero teenage girls have that kind of confidence, regardless of their body type. Add that to the list.
A lot has changed since I was 17. I run now. I lift. I like to have adventures with my husband. I’m pretty conscious of what food I put in my body but I’m not afraid to have a treat or skip counting calories if I’m out to dinner with friends. I don’t drink Arizona Iced Teas anymore. But I do love an iced coffee.
And I don’t hate the word “solid” anymore.
See, a lot has changed but the basic shape of my body is still the same. My thighs are still thick. My boobs are still small. My butt is still the dominant feature of my body, probably. And I don’t hate the idea of the word “solid” anymore.
Because I am. I realized this standing in the dressing room at Nordstrom Rack, trying on a blouse. It didn’t really pair well with the skirt I had on so I was taking it off. And then I had that awesome panic-inducing moment where I got stuck. I could not get it over my biceps. And I did that horrible wiggle dance in the dressing room and eventually shucked myself out of it. But man. That blouse just wasn’t designed for guns like these. It fit my waist and my (still small) boobs. But not my arms.
Looking in the mirror, seeing all of my many perceived flaws, I laughed. Because man. I love these arms. And these linebacker shoulders. And this booty. I’m fit. I’m strong. And I am solid.
I’m taking back the word from Teenage Jolene. She was afraid to take up space. She just wanted to be smaller and she didn’t, couldn’t, recognize what an incredible compliment it was to be called solid. To have a body that commands presence and space. To have the potential for muscle and strength. Grownup Jolene does.
And don’t let me fool you. I have my moments. When my toddler niece sees my love handle poke out and grabs a handful, let me tell you, that stuff can send you for a loop. But she also LOVES bellies. And why not? Why not grow up loving the way her body takes up her space? I wish it hadn’t taken me a decade to make peace with my own skin.
It may always be a battle but it’s not a battle I’m fighting against my body. We’re fighting together. And let me tell you, we present a solid front.