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Fat. The weight of the word has always been harder to carry than the extra pounds I have nearly all my life. When little, I was just confused: fat chance = none at all. Fat ass = too much of. But it wasn't I. Not then. I was swimmer. I was sassy. I was leader (sometimes too bossy). I was A-student and loyal friend. Curious learner and life lover. I was sunlight on toasted tan skin. I was bold, sometimes brash. I was me, beautifully me, without and within.

Fat became who I was around age ten when boys at the neighborhood pool called me "Hardy" next to a slimmer friend "Laurel". Their laugh, a sinister snickering, clued me in fully to two life truths: People can be mean. I was fat. Self-shaming and ugliness grew within the way mold grows: in darkness. In the dampness of tears refusing to shed. Because I was turning off heart. Started living in head. Fat head. Started trying to be beautiful in ugly ways. Starting hiding under layers of clothing. Stopped wearing bathing suits. Started wearing football jerseys. Stopped wearing sleeveless. Started preferring hoodies that hid belly and arms.

I'd like to say all these years later, all the starts and stops of loving and loathing and limiting myself to one word: fat are behind me. That I have a new, grander definition of self. Of Beauty. But I cannot make that claim fully. I am more grounded, less swayed by public opinion. My soul does shimmer and I see it. My body is of less prominence to me. Those are wins. But it is also partially due to the inevitability of aging when there's even more to question and critique. You get real real: just glad you can move and that you are alive without any (major) infirmities (yet).

And I want to believe that society no longer raises little fat girls or little fat boys--too many of them turn into body dysmorphic cynics. But social media filters and 12-year-old preteens who seek fillers and plastic surgery for their birthday gifts make me leery. But maybe we are making headway and heartway.

As for me, I began wearing bathing suits again just this summer. I comfortably snapped and shared this photo with those who care. In that, and in sharing here, I step on. And maybe tomorrow the camera will comfortably pan back and encompass more of my body with a "what the hell" attitude. I have (some) patience left. We'll see. Maybe I will continue to become kinder to my physical self. For you see, all this talk about "my struggle with weight" that I read doesn't resonate. For me, the struggle isn't with weight. Never really was. It's with the wait of loving self fully.


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