By Mary Ellen Martin
I am a big girl.
How do I know this? Did someone walk up and ask me when my due date was? No. Did having to buy the next larger size of pants give me my wakeup call? No.
About a year ago, I was at the airport. No, I didn’t get asked to buy a second seat. But while waiting for my plane, another plus-sizer looked over and asked me, “Are you going to the Big Girl’s Convention?”
Now, up to this point, I’d had a pretty healthy denial about my figure. Yes, I know what my pants size is, and yes, I’m not always thrilled with what I see in the mirror. But my kids don’t care. My husband doesn’t care, and I’ve had friends call me beautiful on more than one occasion. And I feel pretty beautiful more often than not. So it was easy to not pay attention.
Until this particular moment. Despite the fact I was traveling to visit a relative who’d just had a heart attack and a triple bypass. Despite the fact that heart disease runs in my family. But asked by a total stranger if I was going to a convention for a group of women who CELEBRATE their bodies?
I work part time and have two kids. The TV stays on the Disney Channel pretty much 24/7. I work hard at ignorance. So I was not aware this is a group of people who meet every year. Conventions in Vegas, Seattle, Florida, Chicago, Reno. And this woman considered me a potential member.
“Are you going to the Big Girl’s Convention?”
This was my wake up call. I had my friends and family who said I was beautiful, but a total stranger asked a simple question that shattered my self-denial. My feelings whirled between disappointment that I could no longer fool myself about my body, and absolute joy over learning about a new (to me) social subculture.
Rather shocked, I calmly said no, I wasn’t going, and didn’t know anything about it. The look on the woman’s face-looking back, it was priceless. But at the time, she was horrified. You could see her thinking, ‘Did I just offend her? How do I fix this?’ I tried to make it better by asking her for more information. What are airports for, after all, if not to learn about other people while waiting for an overbooked flight?
While talking with this very nice lady, it occurred to me I shouldn’t have been surprised clubs like this exist. Our society is something of a dichotomy when it comes to women’s figures. We obsess, we eat, we exercise, diet, groan, complain, sweat, and cheer. Lose weight, get healthy! No! Love yourself the way you are! You are already healthy and beautiful!
My conversation with this lady was cut short by the arrival of some of her friends, who were attending the same convention. She excused herself and began talking with them, catching up on children’s lives and what’s been happening since last year.
Now, perhaps it was shock over her initial question and assumption that this was a club to which I belonged. So I didn’t ask the right questions. I didn’t get her name, I didn’t get the official name of the group, and I didn’t get a website url. So trying to find out about this group later probably lacked the right key words, or maybe I was using the wrong search engine. My Internet searches on this particular social phenomenon were very disappointing. I found some blogs, including one that mentioned the convention was the setting of a CSI episode. I found a website that works hard to create laws that prevent weight discrimination (the NAAFA, National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance). I also found more than a few fetish sights (sorry, NSA). Yet despite what I couldn’t find, somehow these women know when and where the next convention is. That information is out there, somewhere.
So now I’m stuck. Who isn’t? It’s a trap between TV shows like the Biggest Loser (I don’t watch), cooking shows (I do watch), and every self help guru out there selling books that say you will be happier if you just ____________. And seeing my relative in the hospital, well, that adds to the dilemma. Do I succumb to the hype and get skinny so I think people will like me? Or do I love myself the way I am? Tough decision. After all, I understand this year’s convention is in Hawaii.
The most important thing about my friends and family: I am loved because of my heart, my humor, and how I tackle life. That is my beauty. Nothing else. So I think I will love me for me, love my family and friends, accept their love in return, and get me some sunshine, and maybe a Mai Tai or three.
I wonder who I’ll meet in the airport?