My Three Unruly Bodies

My Three Unruly Bodies

In high school, I had a friend named Jennifer. She was a plus-sized woman, and she took pride in her size. In many ways, she was the body-positive movement before Twitter introduced me to it. I admired her confidence.

She told me that she started an Instagram account for beautiful plus-sized people. I asked her if she would post one of my photos. Her cold brown eyes dug into me and she said, “Arkee, you’re not plus-sized. That shit is starting to get annoying.”

I thought she was joking. Surely she saw the same guy I saw when I stared in the mirror — that large bellied man with flabby arms and breasts. But she didn’t. I didn’t realize it until recently, but she saw the truth of my body. However, she suspected that I was fishing for compliments like those hot-bodied idiots who take shirtless pictures and caption them “ugh, I’m getting fat.”

That couldn’t be further from the truth.

I’ve had an Instagram account since 2013, but I only have 36 posts. I created the account, like I created a Snapchat account, to connect with my friends. However, my inactivity on both apps makes it virtually pointless to add me.

I’m not photogenic. And contrary to popular belief, I’m a very private person, despite my incessant need to tweet my most pointless mind vomits. Therefore, apps that require me to post pictures are worthless to me, just like my pinky toe and nipples.

However, that doesn’t stop people from making assumptions about why Instagram and Snapchat don’t pique my interest. People always assume the worst about people who don’t feel the need to take a selfie every minute. So far, I’ve been asked questions like: “Are you insecure about your weight?” “Do you think you’re ugly?”

Yes, to both questions. However, that is not why I don’t take pictures. I’m simply not photogenic. And no, I won’t get rid of my Instagram or Snapchat because it’s a visual diary that records the evolution of my body.

Throughout my years, I’ve inhabited three different bodies. All of them have been unruly, as Roxane Gay would say. Two, my previous bodies, have been dishonest. And my new body has been honest to a fault, just like Jim Carrey in Liar Liar.

My first body was shockingly thin. However, I could never see that when staring in the mirror. Before my eyes stood the illusion of a larger man. The man in the mirror wasn’t just large. He was ugly, too. He needed to lose over twenty pounds so that he could be beautiful.

My second body rested somewhere between thin and stocky. I had begun going to the gym and I stopped sticking my fingers down my throat after every meal. Still, no matter how hard I worked out, I kept seeing the illusion of an outrageously large and ugly man in the mirror.

My third body is my latest body. I’m not ‘thick’ or stocky. I’m fat. My doctors would call me morbidly obese and recommend strict diets and exercises. One doctor even recommended the gastric bypass surgery. “If you follow the surgeon’s rules, you can return to your thinner self in weeks,” he promised.

But why would I desire that? My last two bodies were filthy liars. They made me see what I feared I would become if I didn’t stick my fingers down my throat after every meal. They made me believe that I enjoyed that acidic sensation that lingered in my throat after I vomited. They made me believe that the tears streaming down my face were tears of joy—joy that I conformed to my superficiality and caused myself harm.

Instagram and Snapchat chronicled the truth of my body. Staring at my old pictures, I can’t help but see my shocking transformation. The body I feared I’d someday occupy is finally mine. Be that as it may, it’s difficult to see my new body the way I once saw it. I don’t see an outrageously large and ugly man in the mirror.

Finally, I see a body that isn’t interested in deceiving me. My new body tells it how it is, no matter how hurtful the truth is. When I outgrow a shirt, my body lets me know by giving me shortness of breath. When I overeat, my body lets me know by giving me sharp stomach pains. When I overexert my muscles, they shut down. But most importantly, when I stare into the mirror, I see the truth of my body.

If I could go back eight years, I’d understand Jennifer’s anger. As a fat person, one of the first things we learn is how to accept the truth of our bodies. If we don’t accept the truth ourselves, someone else will point it out—some rude little kid, some snarky teen, or even an adult who lacks decorum. No one actualized the illusion of the large guy I saw in the mirror because it was nothing more than an illusion my body dysmorphia created. It was a lie that my new body, Instagram, and Snapchat exposed.

I love my new, honest body.

Image via Getty


Arkee E.

Arkee E. is a writer based in the Bronx.

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