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My Fat Body

By Jill Hollifield

Reprinted from the Spring 1996 issue of Radiance

In my life as a fat woman, I've been told again and again about the things I cannot do because of my body. I've been told by society, "You're fat, you can't be successful, you can't make a good impression, you can't win a lover or be attractive." I've been told by family and friends, "You're fat, you can't be happy, you can't be healthy, you can't really care about yourself and let yourself look like that." And I constructed my own long list of can'ts that I continually recited to myself: I'm fat, I can't wear a bathing suit, I can't dance in front of strangers at a club, I can't go to an exercise class with all the normal' size people, I can't eat in public, fly in an airplane without embarrassment, leave the lights on when I make love." And on and on and on. Whether it was a rude remark from a passing stranger, a "for-your-own-good" remark from someone who cared about me, or a self-defeating remark from the obnoxious but persistent little voice in my head, the message was clear: there are a million things you can't do because of your fat body. And I believed it, believed that my big body was one big negative, one big "can't." So I didn't.

But I'm finding, as my mind and spirit grow in size to match the rest of me, that my fat body is a miracle, a blessing, a long list of "cans" and "yesses" and "of courses." The things my body can do are so complex, so delightful, that the can'ts pale in comparison. So I'm tucking my list of limiting can'ts away and deciding, instead, to celebrate my fat body's capabilities, the wonderful, unique abilities that make it truly marvelous, truly me.

My fat body has the extraordinary ability to sing. Singing is a gift without measure, a pleasure I can share with others while it feeds my soul. My thick, powerful legs provide a firm foundation for the sound. My full, round belly houses my diaphragm, that miraculous muscle that lets me fill my lungs with air and control my breath. In my plump neck reside the tiny muscles of my larynx, which produce thrilling sounds, soulful sounds, moving sounds. My fleshy arms embrace the emotion of the music with graceful gestures, and my round face expresses the hidden meaning of the song behind the words. Not every body can do that. My fat body can.

My fat body can move with the majestic grace of the ocean. In action, it is rippling, flowing, circular, and beautiful. My moving body is all that is feminine personified. Soft roundness concealing strength, wide curves and planes moving together in harmony, a large, regal presence that dances in its rightful space with light and life, that gets noticed, commands attention, sweeps into a room with dignity and style. My fat body in motion deserves to be recognized as artful. My fat body in motion deserves praise.

My fat body can give great hugs. The wide, encompassing span of my pillowy arms, the generous expanse of my breasts, receive and embrace others willingly and fully. I know a young girl, gawky and beautiful in the way of preadolescents, who has a shy crush on me that I find endearing. One day, in a burst of excitement and enthusiasm about something we were discussing, she spontaneously wrapped her arms around my waist, and I returned her hug warmly. "Oh!" she said in surprise, pulling away slightly and looking up at my face with a wondrous smile on hers. "You're so soft!" I gathered her even closer, rejoicing in the fact that my body can give comfort and nurture. My fat body is a harbor. My fat body is a safe haven.

My fat body can receive and respond joyously to a lover. It offers a lush landscape of sensual ripeness, curves and bends and nooks and crannies that beg to be explored and adored. Because of its abundance, there are more textures to savor, and more areas to caress and receive caresses, and there is a more exquisitely sensitive expanse to react to a lover's touch. My wide hips buoy and support a partner. My soft thighs hold my partner close to my heat. My pliant, satiny, sweetly cushioned body arouses and is delightfully, fiercely aroused. While making love, so many of the things my body can do come together. In love, as in life, my fat body moves, sings, embraces.

But most important, my fat body can laugh. Truly laugh, from the inside out. I bounce on my big buttocks, my squishy stomach jiggles, my full breasts jangle, my soft shoulders heave, a double, and sometimes even a triple chin waggles in time to my guffaws, and riotous tears roll down my full, red cheeks. How can a body laughing be anything but beautiful?

There are, of course, hundreds and hundreds of other things my fat body can do, from the grand (my ability to command attention from an audience simply by walking straight and proud and tall) to the humorously banal (my ability to sit on a hard chair for prolonged periods of time without getting uncomfortable bone bruises). Maybe my fat body will never be able to do a cartwheel, squeeze into a straight skirt, or fit into some of the tighter spaces society offers it. I know there will always be some can'ts for my fat body, just as there are some can'ts for every body. However, I've made the choice to rejoice in the things my fat body can do, rather than dwell on the inconsequential can'ts, and I am dedicated to discovering and recognizing more of my body's special gifts, large and small, each and every day. My fat body can be a source of strength, of delight, of wonderment, merriment, excitement, and awe. My fat body already is all of these things. My fat body is me.

JILL HOLLIFIELD is a musician, actor, and freelance writer. She is currently a "nontraditional" student studying church music, voice, and piano.    A transplanted Minneapolitan, she resides in New Jersey with her cat, Madeleine.

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