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Sometimes the Scale Lies

March 29, 2006

The scale has finally hit 165.

It seems odd that just a few months ago, I was ranting about my inability to lose weight.  I was stuck on the wavering edge of 170, and wondering if I would ever see a six in the middle of my weight again.  I had bought new jeans, larger ones, to replace the stretch denim pair that were finally giving up their elastic grasp on my ass.  I was exercising, eating smaller portions, and yet still I was stuck.  Wandering anywhere from 177 to 172, and wondering if I had only dreamed being 125.  In my mind, I know that it’s only a number.  In my mind, I know that 125 is an illusion.  I bounced from a muscular 125 at the end of my senior year in high school, to a slightly curvier 140 at the end of that summer, and dropped back down again to a considerably less muscular 130 during the downward spiral that was my freshman year.  130 is a pretty good number, all things considered.  130 is the number that carried me though my final growth spurt in junior high, on through my first two years of college.  And for all those years, I knew that 130 was fat.

Taking dance can be the most liberating and cruel experience a young girl can go through.  With your arms held just so, fingers extending the line of the arm, legs flexed outward, and toes curled to a fine point, how can you not feel long and beautiful?  When your muscles are flexed, all of the padded flesh around them seems to disappear.  With your arms in a perfect loop around your head and only the tips of your toes keeping you on the ground, the stomach stretches flat and perfect.  With your head held high, the loose skin under the jaw line reveals itself to be a graceful curve instead.  No matter how you may feel about yourself away from the dance floor, if you can conform to the dance, then you can be beautiful.  You can know the thrill of being a part of something huge and greater than oneself.  Like the swelling of the choir, like the rise of the crowd, like the sway and flow of a thousand bodies all shouting their passion and pain as one.  Something bigger.  Big enough to hide in.

Once out of the group, though, the dancers could be just as cruel to each other as they were to themselves.  Spandex leotards and cotton tights flatter few figures.  In high school, a slender young girl standing next to me once told me that it was considered ideal for a dancer to have a small space at the tops of her thighs when she stood with her feet together.  The space indicated that the dancer was lean, and therefore beautiful.  I remember looking at myself in the mirror, seeing where the tops of my thighs touched each other, and thinking about how fat I was.  I was shorter than her, more muscular than her, and no matter how hard I flexed or pointed, I would never be as long and lean as she was.  My mind knew that I was a better dancer than her.  I spent most of my childhood tagging along with my sisters to drill team competitions, imitating them on quiet afternoons when no one could see me, and waiting for the day when I could join the dance team, and be as beautiful as they are.  But no matter how much I knew about my skills, I couldn’t deny the reflection of the girl standing beside me.

Every weight chart at the time swore that I was on the low end of overweight.  I can’t remember a time in my life when the weight charts didn’t swear that I should weigh less for my height.  Even the dreaded pinch test claimed I had way too much fat on my body, though I learned to doubt that one early on.  The doctor, my teachers, the girls at school, and even my mother spent each and every day of my life all telling me the same thing.  That I was over weight.  And I believed them.  How could I not look at the long and beautiful girls dancing through life beside me, and not believe?  Today, there is a whole new way of measuring one’s weight.  It’s still basically a weight chart, but with the weights raised to a more reasonable level.  Now, 130 is considered “normal.”  It still doesn’t take into account a more muscular figure, but the wider ranges allow for a great deal more leeway.  And now at 165, I’m still overweight.  No longer creeping steadily upwards towards 180 and obese, but still overweight.

The thing is, I spent most of my life believing that I am fat.  And I’m working really hard to overcome that, both by trying to get back down to a reasonable weight, and working to improve my body image.  I no longer look at the thinner girls around me and wish for their more ideal beauty.  Instead, I look at other women who are bigger than me, see how beautiful they are, and tell myself “If they are beautiful at their weight, then I am beautiful at mine.”  I am dressing better, trying to ensure that my clothes fit my figure, and trying to get more modeling work, so that I can prove to myself that I can indeed look beautiful in front of the camera.  I dance when I can, because a part of me still believes that I am my most beautiful when I am dancing.

Every day, I try to project the image of a confident, assured woman.  Sometimes I let down my walls by choice.  Sometimes they crumble down under a wave of unshed tears.  Sometimes my temper rips them down and goes stomping all over them.  The woman on the surface of those walls knows that she is beautiful.  She has spent years proving it to herself and to the world around her.  But behind those walls is still a shy little mouse in a leotard and tights, who can’t take her eyes off of the girl in the mirror beside her.

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