Decorated Bodies

Written by Montez Louria
Art by Laura Tancredi

It’s midnight and I am sitting on my floor scrolling through Instagram. I see ads for Fashion Nova Curve, Love Vera, and Savage Fenty; all the bodies are some sort of “plus-sized.” The 2021 idea of what it means to be plus-sized: beautiful models with plump lips, full busts, wide hips, and big butts. Most of these models conveniently have no bellies and are perfectly smooth. I look down at my own protruding belly, my thighs that kiss each other, my flappy arms.  

I have been fat, or “plus-sized,” for most of my life. I remember walking to the bathroom in third grade when a teacher I didn’t know walked over to me and poked my belly. “Fatty-poo,” she said with a shaking hand and wide grin, “I wish I was as fat as you, fatty-poo.” I suppose she thought rhyming would make me feel good about being poked and called fat. Growing up, fat was a bad term and I was always made to be ashamed of being fat. The teacher continued, obstructing my walkway, “fatty-poo, where you going fatty-poo?”

Finally, when she saw that I would not respond, she let me go to the bathroom. I sat in the bathroom for a moment, not even using it. I looked down at my belly and I sighed. She wasn’t the first to say this, my classmates would also mention my impish belly. I recalled my classmates pointing and screaming at me: “Your fat tail!” I felt so defeated that I hung my head low, looking at my yellow, collared school shirt.

In church I was called “cheeseburger” because I was fat and lighter skinned, while a dark-skinned chubby girl was called “hamburger.” My mother was appalled by the sentiment, she demanded them to stop calling me “cheeseburger” because it was reminiscent of her fat sister who was called “bacon” in her youth. Everywhere I went I was reminded that something was wrong with my weight.

Because my mother and grandmother were so upset about the “cheeseburger” comments, they began scolding me about my weight. My grandmother valued smaller bodies; she believed being thin was the key to success in any facet. When I was in eleventh grade she told me, “Start working out, lose weight so a nice boy can take you out on a date.” She would poke, squeeze, and feel my stomach to examine if I had lost any weight. In my youth, my mother would scream at the top of her lungs, “You’re getting too fat!” She started limiting what I ate; my grandmother had convinced her that tuna fish was the best “nice and light” option for my lunches. I was reminded that a distant uncle lost over 100 pounds by eating cereal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Corn pops were his only food. I would look in the mirror and desperately want to be thin, I was always concerned about eating in public and the amount of snacks I consumed. I hated my body.

I would ogle Seventeen Magazine, Girl’s Life, Teen Vogue, and even Cosmo, wishing I could look like all the girls on TV. Thin, petite, straight hair, all the things I didn’t have and would never be. I had sadly accepted that I would never be as pretty because I would never be as thin.

As I got older the body positivity movement started, but I noticed that something was off about it. Fat bodies, actual fat bodies, are still not appreciated unless they are deemed “sexy.” I scroll through the hashtag on Instagram to see bodies that are beautiful yet aren’t a reflection of bodies that have been shamed, pummeled, and overlooked for many years. There are bodies that fit the casting call for plus-size models: no bellies, no cellulite. Yes, I know there are ads and places that do feature bellies, but with the idea of body diversity it isn’t enough. No, I don’t want thin or hourglass bodies to be replaced, I want better representation, actual representation for fat bodies. Larger bodied people have to parade in lingerie, business attire, or overly-elegant outfits to be deemed worthy of showing. Many fashion influencers are only influencers because they aren’t fat.

Fat femme bodies should not have to be sexy to be appreciated. I log onto Instagram just to see accounts of plus-sized models loaded with comments about BBWs because they are exposing their skin or wearing lacy underwear. I have noticed an appreciation for the bountiful bodies of plus-sized women, but only with certain stipulations. The guise of appreciation is strongly masked with fetishization. Fat femme bodies shouldn’t have to be decorated to be appreciated. At times, when I look at Instagram, I feel like the eight-year-old in the hallway on my way to the bathroom. The fat little girl who was ashamed to be seen, the fat little girl who desperately wanted to be thin.

I sit by my balcony door. I let the breeze hit my face and I scroll over to the tags section of Instagram. I search, “fat ootd.” I see bodies that resemble my own. I search, “fat yoga.” I see bodies that look like my own being active and happy. I get up and look in the mirror, examining my own body. I have a belly that rests on my thighs, I have arms and legs with stretch marks. My pants are found in the “special” sections of stores or mostly online. I am not proud but I am not ashamed, I am becoming content with my body. I have given up on working out 5-6 times a week. I retired my meal plan that only included protein, a cup of leafy greens, and brown rice. I stopped obsessing over my weight and how I looked in a bathing suit and I just started living. I realized that life is too short to spend it hating my body.