I was pretty ill at the beginning of May and I finally hauled my ailing ass to the doctor’s office during week two of the Martian Death Flu. They weighed me, like they always do. I was a good seven pounds heavier than I expected and I wasn’t thrilled about it. I mean, I didn’t get that sad-sick feeling that used to seep into my consciousness like a poison gas when I finally, grudgingly acknowledged weight gain. But I was surprised and dismayed and disappointed.
I stopped weighing myself ages ago when I realized that doing so regularly was just filling me top to tail with self-doubt and anxiety. I could LOOK fantastic in the mirror and feel confident about my body, but the minute I stepped on the scale and faced the numbers, it was all over. And after years and years and YEARS of this, I realized that since weighing myself wasn’t making me healthier – wasn’t a motivator to eat fewer French Fries or bike to work more often – then I just didn’t need to do it. And I stopped. And I have felt much more confident and strong and beautiful since I made that change.
But I get sick sometimes and I go to the doctor and they weigh me every damn time. So I can’t avoid those numbers completely. And since gaining seven pounds in the past six months didn’t send me into the emotional tailspin it once would’ve, I guess that’s OK. It’s progress, and I feel like I’m progressing still toward an understanding that my weight is not my body. There’s more story there than a single number can tell.
Due to my love of shopping, the numbers that invade my brain FAR more frequently are my clothing sizes. And I say “sizes” in the plural because I wear them all. Extra-smalls from J.Jill and extra-larges from American Apparel. I’ve thrifted skirts in size 4, size 14, and everything in between. My summer closet contains dresses from eras both current and past in sizes 6, 8, 10, 12, and 14 and am quite sure there’s a 16 out there somewhere with my name on it. And that means that I have finally made my peace with clothing sizes and their mind-blowing arbitrariness. When I weighed less than I do now, it was SUPER important to me to buy only sizes 4 and 6, even if they squoze my tender flesh and looked ghastly. Now, I buy what fits and flatters, no matter what the numbers. And I can honestly say I don’t give a flying rat’s ankle what those numbers are.
Then there are the numbers that hit me sporadically, like BMI and hip-to-waist ratio, that are just DRIPPING with skewed statistical information and implied judgment. And those I actively disdain. I don’t want to know, and if someone forces them on me, I am able to dismiss them as uninformative and unhelpful.
Mathematics can be elegant, poetic, and illustrative. Numbers can be precise and revealing and they are often a key factor in understanding complex concepts. But human bodies cannot be described by numbers, cannot be encompassed by statistics, cannot be explained by figures. Human bodies cannot truly be categorized because each one is unique, and using numbers to describe them is almost futile. We may need to know these numbers for pragmatic reasons – to give the cops some idea of how big we are if we rob a bank, to give the Anthropologie website some idea of which pants to mail to us – but they do not define our bodies. We are not our weights, our dress sizes, our BMIs.
We are ourselves, and beautifully indescribable.
Image courtesy Stewf.