Remember Pregnant Melinda? I do. I'll never forget the burn of humiliation on my cheeks or how deep I had to dig into my shallow emotional reserves to not fall to pieces in the pool that day during water aerobics. When the instructor asked me if I was pregnant, into the microphone for the whole pool to hear, I felt I had hit a new low. Since adolescence I have been hearing people either call me fat or ask me if I was pregnant. And there I was, in a water aerobics class trying to be healthy and fit, and yet, meeting up with the same old comments.
|03/12 "Pregnant Amy and Pregnant Melinda"|
One of my current jobs is at a maternity store. Last Sunday, I greeted a mother and daughter as they entered the store. The mother said, "We need to find my daughter some maternity shirts. She just isn't fitting into her tops anymore." I stepped out from behind the counter to assist her and her daughter, "Of course, we have all of our maternity clothes right over here." The mother looked me up and down and said, "Looks like you need one too," with a smile. "NO," I said sternly and with force, as I continued to walk toward her, "I am NOT pregnant." She continued to smile and pretended the whole thing never happened. I spent the next 30 minutes helping her daughter find maternity shirts, exhibiting nothing but exemplary customer service. I think they spent a few hundred dollars.
While it did affect me, and I have shared the story with friends in a "Can you believe that?" kind of way, I did notice a huge difference. I felt bold. I felt fierce. I did not feel small and less than everyone else just because those words were spoken at me. I did not cower and want to hide with humiliation. In that moment, I chose to stand tall and continue to do my job. Sure, it has hurt my feelings since then, and occasionally added fuel to my fire of self loathing as I look into the mirror...but I can tell that I have changed since that last time I was called pregnant in the pool at water aerobics. I still carry that inner dialogue of being the fat one and looking pregnant, but it's quieter and less incessant.
I notice the contrast most in the yoga studio. In yoga, you stare at your own reflection for 90 minutes. This can be a challenge for those of us with body image issues. The bright lights, the tight clothes, the sea of tiny women in the room seems to have no horizon at times. I might start off class, looking around the room, comparing my body to others, feeling like the "big girl" in the back of the class. But by the time I have rocked my way through half-moon, I feel strong and confident, and my size doesn't matter in the least.