By Jazmine Hughes
“You’ve put on some weight!”
I am in a hospital in Midwood, Brooklyn, with my grandmother and father. My grand-aunt is lying in a hospital bed, stricken with cancer. I am seeing my cousin, her daughter, for the first time in ten years. This is the first thing she says to me.
“You look so much better!” is the second.
In seventh grade, when I was 4’10” and ten years old, we weighed ourselves on an old scale in science class. I weighed 87 pounds, less than anyone else in the class, and I was filled with a secret pride. Freshman year of high school, I weighed 100 pounds; senior year, 104.
To make the lives of women’s magazine editors easier, women’s body shapes are roughly classified into four categories: the apple, where a woman carries more weight above her waist; the pear, where more weight is below; the banana, where weight is evenly distributed (often called the boyish shape), and the hourglass.
My name is Jazmine, and I am a girl that walks in with an itty bitty waist, and a round thing in your face. I am a pear.
I was painfully skinny until I started college. Within the first year and a half, I was hit by the three Ps: PUBERTY, THE PILL, AND PIZZA. I started college at sixteen, and the acres of green grass and 10:25 classes and the empty vodka bottles littered about my hallway jumpstarted my hormones into making me a woman. I went on birth control sophomore year– I returned after winter break half a cup size bigger. Also, I ate a lot of pizza.
I eat slightly better now, but, as they say, four years on the lips, a lifetime on the hips, and now your pants don’t fit. When I first realized this, I texted my best friend in a panic: “My hips blossomed! They’re bigger!”
I grew up “skinny” and “smart,” these being the only words adults used to describe me. There were too many years of lauded for being skinny, of being praised for something that didn’t involve hard work. “You are so skinny! I bet you eat whatever you want and still look good in anything.” Of course I did. I was nine.
For years, I thought my weight was directly related to my self-worth. “You’re getting fat” was a dagger; “You look anorexic” was a song. My skinniness made me special. But when you lose the thing that makes you stand out– whether it’s your slim hips or curly blonde hair– you panic. What else will people talk to me about?
I have a love-hate relationship with my ass and thighs. Beyonce has definitely helped. There are days where I can literally spend whole minutes staring at my body lovingly in the mirror before I find something I dislike. There are days where I struggle– “God, I hate my body, but GOD I could eat like twelve burritos right now”– and the desire to be happy wins out over the desire to be skinny. Because being skinny again won’t make me happy; accepting my body for what it is will. Every day, I tell myself: no matter how many empire-waisted dresses I buy or thigh-slimming miles on the elliptical, this is my shape. I could lose ten pounds tomorrow and I’d still have more ass than anything else. Despite these daily self-affirmations (“Your ass is glorious. Your ass is beautiful. Your ass is from New York, therefore your ass is just naturally interesting.”), I’m still coming around to embracing my pear shape.
And that’s what you should do too: you are not a fruit. You are maybe an artist, or an ace at navigating the West Village, or a champ at sandwich making. You are more than your gratuitous ass, or ample breasts, or slim hips, or broad shoulders. There’s no use in putting so much emphasis on something that can change so easily, that has no bearing on who you are, that affects no one but you, that is prone to such radical ambivalence. No one looks at the mirror in the morning and suddenly doesn’t like their kindness.
I’ve always liked my boobs, though.
About Jazmine Hughes
Jazmine was once the reason a busload of kids couldn’t watch a PG-13 movie on the eighth grade class trip to DC, because she hadn’t yet turned thirteen. She mocked up a permission slip for her parents to sign; they refused, and told her to “enjoy her youth.” The tweens had to instead watch Finding Nemo, noted for lacking in fight scenes, and Jazmine has never forgiven herself. A life riddled with this sort of angst drove her to writing; a liberal arts degree and lack of talent to do anything else will keep her there. She lives in Brooklyn with her boyfriend and a rotating clown car of characters. Mexican food is a recurring theme in her work. Tweet her @jazzedloon[divider] [/divider]