I barely remember a time when I was not self-conscious of my stomach. I remember being in the fifth grade, hanging out at recess (because we were ten and too cool to play or run or do anything besides hang around and maybe play four square) when one of my friends turned to me.”No offense,” she said. “But your stomach sticks out.” This was my first introduction to the fact that nothing good ever happens after “No offense.” I nodded like, “No doy, I’ve lived with this stomach my whole life so I already know,” and pretended I didn’t care while I burned with shame. (I’ve since seen photos and home videos of myself at that age and I’m seriously perplexed because I cannot see a stomach situation no matter how hard I search for one.)
In my 20’s I worked as an occupational therapist at the University of North Carolina Hospital, where every day, I wore the required powder blue, ill-fitting hospital-issued scrubs, which were comfortable and had ample pockets, but did nothing for my figure. I’m five feet tall, my build is athletic, and I’ve always stored my extra weight in my stomach. Some random things I remember about that job: Taking stupidly long lunches, paging my favorite coworker to the proctology department (because butt doctors are funny, obvs), and the time the chief neurology resident interrupted my session with a patient to tell her she had multiple sclerosis and left the room as abruptly as he’d entered it. Also: Every couple of months someone was asking when I was due.
Who were these socially awkward idiots!? you might be asking. They were just… people. Nurses. Family members of my patients. A willowy resident with shiny, long brown hair.
Every time, I was catapulted into an abyss of self-loathing. I’d spend the next 24-48 hours hating myself because a stranger made an assumption about my body. I’d feel ugly, embarrassed, unworthy. I’d wonder how it was possible I worked out pretty much every free second I had and I still didn’t look how I wanted to look. I’d stare at myself in the mirror and tug and pinch at my perceived imperfections and fantasize about how happy I’d be if only I didn’t look so bloated all the time. It didn’t occur to me that there were worse things than looking pregnant when you weren’t.
It would be years until I realized I needed to focus on my ideal mental state and not my ideal weight.
In the meantime, I ordered new scrub pants (low rise, Dickies, size petite small with a much better pocket situation than my free hospital pants) and no one asked me about my stomach for a while.
And then I actually had a couple of babies. Being pregnant was a total joy because I never had to suck my stomach in. For the first and only time in my life, it was tight as a drum. It stuck out and people thought it was adorable. I decided heaven was pregnancy without the sensation of a sandbag pressing down on your pelvic floor, unrelenting fatigue, insomnia, and nausea. During my second pregnancy, people were curious about whether I was having twins or even triplets. It was annoying but not soul-crushing like the pregnancy questions I got when I wasn’t pregnant.
And then the other night, an acquaintance asked if I was pregnant… And I was grateful for the question. I made a video to explain why:
10 thoughts on “People are socially awkward and I don’t have to care”
Pam!! Best Vlog ever! Thank you for your sharing your story, allowing yourself to be vulnerable, and non apropos- your hair looks amazing! I loved seeing your face and hearing your voice share that story. I hope there are more to come!
Thank you so much!!! xoxoxo
I’m so sorry. People can be so thoughtless. I’m trying to think of a time I ever pointed out anyone’s flaws in such a thoughtless way. I’ve had it happen, too, not about my stomach.
I have a lifetime of people, often men, pointing out my flaws, usually involving me needing to lose weight.
Some guy at a bar pointed out a front tooth of mine that’s a bit crooked. “Thanks, guy!”
A female customer I was talking to asked why I had bags under my eyes. What I wish I said, “Oh maybe because not only do I run a home business but, due to the crappy economy, I’m now selling cars to assholes like you for twelve hours a day often nine consecutive days without a day off, and on that day off I have to go shopping, do my laundry, to get ready for the next work day. All that AND I’m not making any money.” No, I didn’t say that. What I did was go home and cry. Something about my bone structure, like my father’s, I tend to have deep caverns under my eyes. I’m so self conscious about that I wear glasses instead of contact lenses.
I’m sorry people can be so thoughtless.
Thanks for reading and commenting:) Yeah people can be totally thoughtless. I get dark circles under my eyes too… I HATE when people are like “You look tired.” It’s no one’s business but at the same time, people making rude comments says so much more about them than it does about you!
Hmmm, this video is not loading for me. Is it just something on my end?
I don’t know… Others have been able to watch. Perhaps try another browser? I will look into it… Thanks for the heads up!
You’re remarkable, Pam! Thanks for sharing your story and reminding us that we all have the power to choose how to respond to stupid people. Keep loving your badass self!