1980s, in my 20s — at 115 pounds and 34-24-34; a girlfriend said I was “fat”
Body image is something many women relate to struggling with. While some blame the media or men, I have to say, that’s not what failed me. My issues haunted me in the worst way … blatantly in my face. Not even behind my back, but stabbed right through my heart. And always by a so-called “friend.”
Writing this brought tears to my eyes. But this is what writers do. We embarrass ourselves. We share personal things. We let it all hang out. Because when that one person thanks you for sharing their story, it’s all worth it.
So here goes … the most honest thing I ever wrote in my life.
Back in the 1980s we didn’t have access to health info on the internet. When I became a woman, the only way I knew how to keep my weight down was to eat less. That was a struggle when you come from an Italian family and your Grandmother made the best linguine with clam sauce — soaking the Italian bread in that sauce was heaven on earth. I’d only eat fruit during the day so I could come home from school and have that clam sauce — with not one, not two, but three slices of Italian bread.
My sister and I were always complimented on what healthy appetites we had. The fact that I didn’t eat much as a child and was way too thin made me proud of myself that I was now eating with gusto. Nevertheless, I stayed at 115 pounds by taking dance classes three times a week.
When I was 23, I was invited by a friend to perform on stage as part of his band’s show. I didn’t have to do much, just walk across the stage and hand the guitarist his guitar — while wearing a bikini.
I was thrilled. It was something fun and creative. Back then 25 was considered “old” so it was exciting to do something sexy like that, while I was “still young.” Eventually girls tried to be my friend (to get close to the band). Being naive, I fell for it. But being more naive, I was so stupid to consider this one girl a “friend.” She was the first women who ever remarked, right to my face, that I didn’t match up.
“You look like you put on weight,” she said with a big smile on her face. She was so proud that she thought she had one up on me.
Her words cut like a knife. And actually when she said it, I had lost weight, so obviously her biting words were said out of spite — not out of concern. This was my first taste of experiencing jealousy coming from another woman. And it didn’t feel too good. This girl, who I always thought was pretty, turned ugly right before my eyes — like the wicked witch melting into a puddle. It was so surreal. Her fake eyelashes looked like spiders. Her long nose looked like an anteater’s. Her bad ’80s teased hair looked like that of a dead black poodle. I could have thrown up looking at her. It was like the “Shallow Hal” movie — I saw her “ugly” on the inside transform to the outside. This person was not my friend. And now I had the upper hand because I “ghosted” her: avoided her phone calls like the plague. Who has the “one-up” now, bitch?
From that point on, I avoided getting too close to women. Like The Cramps song said, “All Women Are Bad.”
Modeling in my late 20s … Friend-Free, but Fat-Free
I went through my entire 20s and 30s without a real girlfriend. I couldn’t bear being falsely scrutinized like that again. Why do women do that to each other? I wasn’t raised that way. I’m not a jealous person. I see the good in everyone. While my faults are many, being an ugly person isn’t one of them. I don’t need to insult someone to feel better about myself. Instead, giving a sincere compliment makes me feel really good!
I’m the one who sees beauty in everyone. I’m always the first to give a compliment — to notice a new hairstyle, a new dress, or a new piece of jewelry. I’m not bragging, I’m enlightening … this is a great way to be. But sadly, many women don’t tap into that mindset. It seems some live to be bitches, literally, as some are so good at it, they territorial sprinkle their piss on others ever so delicately so that when you call them on their shit, they’ll poo-poo it off as a “joke” or insist you took it the wrong way.
In my 20s and 30s I had a lot of boyfriends and not one complained about my weight — ever! In fact, one told me I was “too thin” and that he preferred women who weighed at least 15 pounds more than me. It could have been so easy to gain weight to make that cute guy happy — but I couldn’t do it. Too many catty women were watching on the sidelines, waiting for me to fail. And here I was, just an average young person … I couldn’t even imagine what kind of scrutiny women in the public eye had to deal with!
With so much pressure — from other women — I would rather have died than gain one pound! I was in the gym three times a week. And even though anyone with half a brain knows that muscle weighs more than fat, I admit I only had half a brain back then because if I didn’t like what the scale said, I’d obsessively do an additional work-out.
Even when I was in the best shape of my life, I’ve had female co-workers tell me I was “fat”; I looked “short” and even overheard one tell a guy not to compliment me so much because it would go to my head. How could it go to my head when women all around me were trashing me; trying to make me feel bad? Nothing went to my head. Women did a number on me. I rarely thought I was much to look at — and always saw myself as “fat” when I obviously wasn’t. Any ounce of confidence I had was FAKE.
30s, 113 lbs, 34-24-34, & a jealous girlfriend compared my body to Mama Cass
In my late 30s I met a woman I once looked up to. She was a lot older than me and incredibly stylish; always wearing designer clothing. She resembled Angie Bowie. At first we got along beautifully. Then she started taking cheap shots at me: My body was the same size at “Mama” Cass Elliot … I was “fat” (and she put her hand to her face and giggled like a child as she said it) … and my hair was too long, it needed to be cut, but when I did, it wasn’t cut right — it only looked good the first time I had it cut.
This was not constructive criticism. It was verbal abuse.
I did everything with this person: dinner, concert, museums … but then I found myself avoiding her because I didn’t enjoy her company. Having to worry about whether or not someone is going to insult you is not fun.
Before my disappearance act, I tried confronting her. She confessed that she had a problem with body image and said, “Don’t take my remarks too seriously. You’re beautiful.” But the damage was done. Once someone hurts you like that, it’s hard to get past it. You can’t be friends with someone who makes you feel self-conscious or inferior.
In my 40s, as good as it ever got — now all I heard was “too thin”
When you go through your life hearing that you’re “fat” you would think someone telling you that you’re “thin” would be a compliment. No … it’s worse.
In my late 30s I started having sugar handling and thyroid issues. From 2003 to 2006 I struggled terribly to try to keep weight on. I got down to 105 pounds and barely fit into size 3 jeans. During this time, I had three cancer scares and was in and out of hospitals for tests. I was working at a newspaper as an editorial assistant … and not one day went by that a catty female co-worker didn’t bitch about how thin I was. And the bizarre thing was, I was eating more than I ever did in my life. Because of my health issues, I became a raw foodist, hoping that would magically make everything better. I was burning calories like crazy — without doing much. One of my boyfriends nicknamed me “metab” for “fast metabolism.” He was amazed and said, “It’s not like you’re on the treadmill every night.”
I wasn’t. It was because of my hyper-thyroid issue, but also because not all calories are created equal. If you eat food in its natural unprocessed state, you will lose weight.
Health practitioners were worried that I was losing bone mass because of my hyper-thyroid. Some begged me to gain weight while others asked what my “secret” was. I was more insecure and confused than ever. Now I wasn’t “fat.” I wasn’t thin either. I was “too thin.” How do you fix that? Would there ever be a happy medium? Actually I was “medium” — that was the problem. There’s nothing wrong with “medium” so unhappy people have to find something wrong with it and turn it to “fat” or “thin.” People are fucking WEIRD!
So when the editor of the newspaper overhead me talking on the telephone to a doctor he went ballistic on me. I wasn’t allowed to let anyone in the newsroom know I had health problems. So I suffered in secret while I heard all these bitchy comments …
“The girl who eats all day!” (It was announced like I was a circus freak!)
“Raw foods — the diet where you eat appetizers and never get to the main course!”
“Do you go to the bathroom and make yourself throw-up? How could you eat so much and not gain weight?” (This one should have been reported to Human Resources, but I let it slide and called her a “cunt” under my breath).
I tracked my calories on FitDay dot com — I was eating over 4000 calories per day and struggling to keep my weight ON!
Several months before the last test confirmed I did NOT have cancer, I met my super amazing husband. For the first few years he put up with my raw food obsession (that I thought was helping me, but really wasn’t). He never commented that I was “too thin.” He always made me feel amazing.
Eventually I gave up the raw foods and weaned myself back on to healthy cooked foods. And of course continued to exercise. I was effortlessly thin for many years and happy with my body — thanks to my supportive husband.
Then I hit 50 and something happened that never happened before. I let the numbers of the scale go up. I couldn’t fight it anymore. It never bothered me — or my husband. We loved my new curves! Of course I never stopped exercising, so my butt remained hard as a rock — like it’s always been.
One of my favorite people in the world is a younger girl I became friends with a few years ago who is curvy and confident. So when I gained weight, I smiled to myself thinking of how pretty she was and how she rocked her weight. The kid was a goddess!
And of course I was thrilled when my cup size went from B to DD! I felt empowered. Plus, I got to buy all new clothes. I embraced the “new me.” Middle-age is an amazing place to be. You don’t have to prove anything anymore. There’s a beautiful peace and content inside you (if you’re lucky to accept this growth and not pine for your youth).
The bad news is, I mistakenly thought that now that I was middle-aged and had a little gut, women wouldn’t feel threatened by me anymore. I imagined I could be in the company of any woman and it would be okay. We could have lunch and tea and shop and chat and bond. Well, in many cases, that did happen. In middle-age I have some of the best girlfriends in the world. My “picker” is finally working and I know quality people when I meet them. Not everyone is perfect and I’ve learned that when a woman, who is normally a decent person, starts going through a bitchy period, RUN. You could always come back when (or if) she comes back to her senses.
So, who am I avoiding these days?
- The woman who told me that if I took my dream job as managing editor for DiningOut magazine I’d get fat from eating at all those restaurants. (Should I have told her she’d go blind from all the art work she does?)
- The woman who asked me how my husband felt about my weight gain. (The answer — He ADORES me! MEOW — you catty bitch!)
- ANYONE who judges a woman’s merit by her looks. After three years I dropped a client who tried to fat-shame me in front of other people saying, “Show me your ass!” Had this been in a corporate situation, this dumb fuck’s sorry butt would be in Human Resources faster than a greased rat’s ass. And THIS from a bloke who won’t splurge for a pair of new shoes and walks around with a shoe that has the sole separated from the actual shoe.
Seriously, if it wasn’t for amazing people like my husband, my sister, and some really cool friends, it would be so easy to let this nasty shit get to me. It’s nothing new. For four decades I’ve heard more people lash out ugly than I’ve heard good. So I cherish all the nice things I’m told because those heartfelt compliments are few and far between. But it’s not just me … it’s everybody. People always share stories about the mean things others say to them. Where do people get their nerve? Like my sister said on the phone this morning, “We were raised good. We’d never hurt people on purpose.”
It’s natural for people to want to feel good about themselves; and it’s natural to work at it. But sometimes whether we’ve gained weight or lost too much, it’s no one’s business and people should learn once and for all to keep their big mouths shut! You don’t know why someone gained weight — or why they lost it. A real cool, together person recognizes the fact that women can be beautiful no matter what she is going through. We have all these brave, fascinating women with bald heads battling cancer cheering each other on via magazines and internet. But let’s not stop there. Let’s celebrate women for their every day battles. There’s need for bad mouthing someone’s looks — EVER! Cheap people take cheap shots. And to belittle is to BE LITTLE.
Before you start shooting your mouth off about someone’s weight gain or weight loss, THINK …
If she’s a little chunky, bless her, for she may have a grandmother around who is cooking for her. (I miss mine terribly and would LOVE gain weight because of her good sauce!).
If she’s too thin, maybe she has health issues or is going through a divorce/break-up. Bless her for her strength. Don’t accuse her of having an eating disorder — that is just plain cruel!
If someone is over 50, weight gain could be unavoidable as hormones start to change. Bless her for going with it — for not obsessing over something that really doesn’t matter in the long run.
People gain weight. People get old. People get sick. People get thin. So shame on anyone who doesn’t look at the body part that’s really important — THE HEART. <3
2015, 52-years-old and 130 pounds (with natural Double Ds!)
I’m so blessed to have an adoring husband who tells me every day I’m “gorgeous.” But even more blessed that I’ve accepted myself for who I am. The scale can go up and down and up again, but my soul will always be a stable one — a GOOD one!
Looking back, I should have never put so much emphasis on my weight (or lack of). Ladies, don’t let one or two bad experiences with other women scare you from seeking good friends. They are out there! Find a girlfriend who will support you, not scrutinize you. And most important of all, love your body no matter what — it’s the only one you have, and damn, it’s gorgeous! <3
Side note: I’m now under the care of an awesome nutritionist and my thyroid and sugar handling issues are resolved!
Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta is a public speaker and lectures through-out New Jersey. For pricing and availability, contact: email@example.com