Friday, March 22, 2013

The Protractor of Fatness and Equation For Self Love

I will never forget the first time I saw the episode of The Simpsons where Homer goes to the doctor for a physical check up. One of the tests the doctor preformed was similar to a body fat analysis. However, instead of measuring actual body fat, the doctor poked Homer in the belly and used a stopwatch to time how long it took for his fat to stop jiggling. It was a clever joke and no doubt, hilarious to the general public. But through the eyes of a high school girl who couldn't have hated her body more if she tried; that episode gave me the greatest idea ever.

I jumped off the couch, ran to my room and shut the door. I stood in front of the full length mirror on the back of my door, promptly lifted up my shirt, poked my belly and began counting. The jiggling couldn't have lasted more than a second or so, but in light of what had happened to me at my last gymnastics competition, the jiggling might as well have lasted an hour and a half. 

I was pulling at my leotard, the way I always did before it was my turn to preform. I always wondered why we couldn't at least wear a pair of shorts over the leotards. Hell, wasn't it enough that an "above average" girl like myself had the balls to even consider getting involved in a skinny girl sport?? But I didn't let it stop me - I pursued the sport I loved and now, I stood as team co-captain, waiting for my turn to vault. As I saluted the judge and took my place on the run way, I hear what I think is a low mooing sound coming from the bleachers. I shook it off and chalked it up to being some odd trickery of gymnasium acoustics. My feet hit the spring board and mid-air, I hear it loud and clear: "MOOOOOOOOOO!" 

Humiliated, I rush over to my team mates who surrounded me as I quickly put my warm up suit back on. I look up and see my coach, Sarah (totally kick ass person, by the way) is already over at the bleachers, pissed as hell with smoke coming out of her ears, searching for who ever was responsible. She was not able to pin point who it was but the damage had already been done. I had somehow managed to shrink into a shadow under those bright gym lights. What little courage and self confidence I had was completely shattered and there was no way I could finish the rest of the competition. I just wanted to go home.

The struggle for self acceptance and self love has been something that has been ongoing in my life. I know for a fact that I am not alone. I think most people wrestle with these issues to some degree - whether it be body issues, substance abuse, choosing bad relationships... I could go on and on. I think they all boil down to fear of being inadequate - simply not good enough. And honestly, I am realizing more and more that the notion that we have to fit a certain standard (physically, socially, etc.) to be considered worthy of "good enough" status is complete bullshit. 

Early September of 2009, my friend Ashlee and I were out on the town and decided to enjoy some libations on the tiki patio at Psycho Suzi's in NE Minneapolis. Due to the complete awesomeness of the place, there was not a single open table to be found. As we made a second lap around the patio, a friendly group of people noticed us pathetically wandering around and offered us two open chairs a their table. We sat down and shared drinks and part of our evening with them. We exchanged Facebook contact info and even though  we have not seen each other since that night nearly four years ago, I have remained friends with all of them on Facebook. I have had the chance to slowly get to know more about them each over time through their posts and status updates. It is really pretty cool!

Recently, Abbey, one of the people I met that night at Psych Suzi's, started a community Facebook page called "The Protractor of Fatness." Intrigued by the name of it, I further investigated the page and found the most simple, yet profound story of something that happened to Abbey while shoveling her car out of the snow. Abbey writes: "During my 20 minute car-extraction extravaganza in the snow on a winter morning in Minneapolis, a school-bus drove past me. Though muffled by the hood of my big winter coat, I still clearly heard the *shhhUNK* of a bus window being lowered, followed by the  words "FAT BITCH!" hurled at me with the same force as this sad, broken half of a protractor. The little jerk missed me by a good 4 feet (seriously work on your aim, dipstick!), as I continued to remove 6+ inches of snow from my car's roof." 

What I love about this story is that it takes something so personally painful and turns it into a message about self love and acceptance. This kind of shit gives me inspiration-goose bumps. I am proud of her for being so open and brave - it is hard thing to do! Especially in a world that likes to sweep painful experiences under the rug - bury them deep and pretend they didn't happen. However, it is these experiences that ultimately unite us. They should be shared because it is a hell of a lot easier to deal with shitty stuff that happens to us when we realize that we are not the only ones. And when we are brave enough to share these stories, it calls out the ass holes who throw protractors and mooo at gymnasts. It makes them look like the poop stains that they really are. And by the way, just in case you were wondering, the protractor of fatness reads 72 degrees and 3.25 inches.
THE actual Protractor of Fatness
Photo from Facebook Page: Protractor of Fatness