Friday, June 18, 2010

Lumpy Gets Personal

I had a startling realization the other day: I have an amazing body.

It isn't startling in that I suddenly looked down and saw a supermodel figure; obviously, I didn't. My body is still mine, of course, the same one I've always had: chest and hips and butt and lumps, and that's not going to change anytime soon. The part that startled me was that I used to love my body, and I had spent years slowly beginning to hate it. At some point, I began secretly (hidden even from myself) spiraling down this slippery slope of disgust and hatred at the one thing I have that's really mine: my body.

It's a pretty heavy realization to have fall into your lap, that once upon a time you looked in the mirror and appreciated what you saw there; then, what you saw became benign, lacking emotional significance behind it... then, slowly, you started avoiding mirrors, glancing in them to put on your make-up or fix your hair, and even then only focusing on your eyes or lips or whatever you were trying vainly to improve. To suddenly realize that one day you woke up hating yourself completely and utterly and having no idea when this transition happened - it's pretty heavy, and it's pretty terrifying.

I tried to think back to when it started, and this prompted another chilling realization: it began with lolita. Sure, nothing like this really "starts" with any one thing, and the pressures women are under today affect everyone whether they perceive it or not, but there is always something that, one day, exacerbates the problem to a point where return seems impossible. There's always a catalyst. I had never really cared about clothing before lolita, so therefore size wasn't really a huge topic of mental concern either; if I wanted a skirt that was too small, I could just grab the next size up and that was that. There was no concept of my body preventing me from having beautiful things; I never really thought twice about whether my body was "good" enough until I was looking at myself and wondering where my 28" waist had gone, when my bust had grown so, when I had stopped being something to appreciate and became detestable. The worst part? My waist was, during this period, around twenty-nine or thirty inches. Those one or two inches which I hadn't even noticed before suddenly became the harshest, cruelest burden I had ever been crushed under.

Some part of me realized how utterly inane it was; there were people larger than me looking absolutely amazing in lolita, brand or not. This didn't escape my notice; if anything, it tormented me worse than my own body did. I saw pictures of girls who looked like living women instead of emaciated dolls completely rocking their coordinates and instead of being relieved, it made me feel even worse. Somehow, all I could think was, "These women are beautifully accepting their bodies and loving themselves so much that they'll take and share pictures of themselves online, even if they don't fit into this horrible mold that has been assigned to them. Why can't I feel like that, too?"

It didn't matter why not. The fact was, I couldn't. And so it started.

I'm a very practical person. I know that food is necessary for living, for energy, even for losing weight. I know that most of the time, the people who look the best aren't trying to lose fifteen or ten or three pounds but are the people who are honestly, genuinely striving to be healthful. And I know that no matter how strongly you feel, energy is manifested in this universe not by hate but by love and nothing is ever gained or given to you if expressed in anger. And so I would tell myself that I was sick, that my stomach hurt whenever I ate, and that I needed to change my diet for my body's sake. I vehemently denied that I was trying to lose weight, saying instead that all I wanted was to get healthy and treat my body right. My pride kept me from bouncing between diets, from telling people what I was doing, from reaching out for help. From sharing anything.

The college lunchroom was a particularly damning experience. I started making excuses to not have to eat with my friends, invented essays and assignments that just HAD to be worked on, so they wouldn't see that all I was eating that day was a side salad and a petri dish of yogurt. I looked at the huge lines of students forming for steaming fried chicken and smirked inwardly, making a mental tally mark in my favor; Aly, one. Freshman Fifteen, zero. I'd sit down with my diet coke and salad and yogurt and pretend nothing was wrong with this picture. About halfway through, the realization that I was poisoning and starving my body would set in. I would be so disgusted with myself for thinking that this was a suitable substitute for nutrition that I would storm out and dispose of my half-eaten "meal."

Every so often, when I was laying in bed relishing in the emptiness in my stomach (that feeling of utter control; if I can control nothing else, at least I have my aching abdomen at my disposal), I would have a flash of insight, of understanding, of knowing exactly what I was doing to my body. The human body can't subsist on less than around 800-900 calories a day; organs start shutting down, you get dizzy and lightheaded, you have anemic attacks and pass out due to lack of iron. These nights, in the dark and silence of my dorm room, I felt high. With my eyes closed, the room twisted and spun and catapulted through the darkness; with my eyes open, the shadows made shapes and forms that undulated before my eyes and through my consciousness - sometimes I wonder if I actually fell asleep those nights, or if I just passed into unconsciousness, exhausted by the effort of malnutrition. Then, suddenly, I would fall into a panic; I would stuff my open mouth with pillows to silence the terrified sobs that would otherwise wake my roommate. What was I doing? How had this happened? I was killing myself, and not only was I doing it on purpose, I was enjoying it. For a self-professed hippie, I certainly wasn't channeling the beauty of the universe anymore.

It's not an easy thing to pull yourself out of, especially when the entire world is telling you that you're doing the right thing. Especially when your boyfriend just decided that all of the issues - YOUR issues - that were ruining your relationship just weren't really worth working out and let's just be friends. Especially when your boss is harassing you every weekend, telling you that if you ever try to quit he'll track you down at school and make you come back, and knowing that he means it. When the only thing you think you have control over is slowly starving yourself to death, there's not really much convincing you to change, and when you look at yourself in the mirror and see no change, no inches shed or pounds dropped, see only the things that keep you from being as beautiful as you know, you know, that you could be...

There has to be a catalyst. For me, it was realizing that over winter break, I was falling asleep at work every day; it was my boss, rude and callous as he can be at times, telling me that I was getting a side of pasta with my salad for lunch and that was that; but most of all, it was a question of the right person being introduced into my life at just the right time. I've been told I was hot plenty of times, but the man I started seeing over winter break was the first person in a long, long time that looked me in the eye and called me beautiful. Not sexy, not cute, not even just pretty: "beautiful." It shouldn't surprise you that "beautiful" is my favorite adjective; it says so much more than any other compliment in the world can, and though it took months of hearing it, I eventually began to believe it again.

The other day I looked in the mirror: just looked, didn't let myself make judgments or sigh, or groan, or cry. I observed my body, my face, all of these things that I had been trying so hard to will into something else. I looked in the mirror with ambivalence, then with nothing, devoid of emotion. Then contentment welled up within me from some previously blocked spring, and I smiled.

I'm healthy now, or as healthy as anyone living in our world is. After imposing so many dietary restrictions on myself for years, I can't eat anything unhealthy, or I really do get sick; no red meat, no dairy, nothing deep-fried, everything as fresh as possible or I have to curl up in bed for a few hours, drinking warm water and nursing my revolting stomach. Even though these new restrictions came from a place of negativity, they've transformed into a wellspring of positivity; I could start eating badly again, but not doing so has become a way of thanking my body for putting up with these things I've done to it. I'm eating right, and while I haven't lost "weight," I can see my body thanking me in the sheen of my hair, the smoothness of my skin, the brightness of my eyes.

I've accepted that this weight I find myself at is healthy for me, and that no dresses, no matter how beautiful or "right" they may seem, are worth the long-term damage it would take me to naturally fit into them. I have a custom-made corset on its way now, to help me be able to slip into that beauty ideal and then slip it off and be me again. I've made it my goal this past semester to eliminate anyone who helps me spread hate instead of love throughout my life; this meant abandoning some old friends, and while I still feel guilty for this, I only hope that someday they get to the same state themselves and in turn eliminate negativity from their own lives. For the first time in my life, I've swallowed my pride and have started seeing a therapist, though I've only actually told two or three people this. I'm making an active effort to turn my life into a more accurate representation of the beauty around me and a purer channel of the love and positivity in the universe. Sometimes I slip, and sometimes I still have to force myself into a piece of chicken or a veggie burger, but I'm trying, and that's all I can strive to do for now.

I typed this article up a few weeks ago, and put off actually finishing and posting it until now. What will people think? What will people say? However, the personal testaments I'm seeing in response to this amazing article about body image in lolita by Victoria Suzanne gave me the same realization that it gave everyone else: I'm not alone in this. Not only have other people felt this way before, they've beaten it, too; but more importantly, there are so many other girls who are facing it now, who have that same mortified, sobbing voice in the back of their heads screaming at them to be healthy while Mother Culture pours some more arsenic and laxatives in their coffee and whispers that they'll never be anything unless they're skinny. My experience was nowhere near as fatal as it could have been, nor was it as grueling or taxing or painful as some experience, but it was an experience; my story is a short one, but it's still mine, and only through sharing our stories will anything change. If no one thinks this is a problem, nothing will change. We gotta get up when we're pushed to the ground; they ain't gonna hear us if we're screaming face down. We all have a story; our culture make sure that no one goes unpunished. Tell yours. What's the point in having a story, in going through hell and coming out smoldering, if you're the only one who knows it?


  1. Wow, what an amazing story. You are a talented writer. Thanks for posting this. :-)

  2. thank you so much for sharing this. your story is very similar to mine and i'm so happy you could recover and find yourself beautiful again, it happened to me in the same way, i found someone who tells me i'm beautiful everyday too. i hope you continue to be so happy! =)

  3. This is the third article I've read on this subject on a lolita blog recently. They're all inspiring and are bit by bit helping me feel stronger. I never believe someone I know when they tell me I'm pretty or sexy or even beautiful. I just feel like they're pitying me and playing the part of a friend. It's sad that I can't just take their compliments, but there's that voice in my head telling me that they are factually wrong.

    I'm so happy that you're able to love your body, because our bodies are what keeps our minds in place and are the only reasons we're able to enjoy things like clothes. I'm trying to make up to my body for the years of poor treatment I put it through too. And I do mean I'm trying to lose weight, but I don't feel healthy where I am and I want to be stronger. Thank you for writing this :)

  4. Dear Miss Lumpy,

    I have a lot of respect for you. I really admire you for opening up like this. It must have been really, really hard.
    Your way of writing really moved me to tears.
    I am very glad you are happy again and able to smile. I hope you will forever.

    And to be honest: I think you are very beautiful too.

  5. I hope you are well now!

    It's the image that media creates and if you're not like that image, you're nothing it seems.
    You can look at it from two ways;
    1 - the media has to much influence
    2 - the people are too easily influenced by

    To explain point 2, some people shrugg it off and know quite clearly that 99% of the times the models are photoshopped! Or, super unhealth etc.. etc..

    I still avoid mirrors though, it's quit stupid you may think, but really, any pictures? I'll delete them. As long as I am not on the picture/on tape, it's fine, otherwise I MUST remove them. I think I really hate me face for that matter.
    I have no model type body either, but my body is at it's right weigth and that which is healthy.

  6. a really writen post. I've been feeling down about myself lately and i was the same I used to love my body and I was happy i wasn't feeling the same as other girls (low self esteem, self conscious)

    I agree with the lolita thing aswell, its depressing whena gorgeus dress is up for sale and your only one or two inches off from squeesing into it. I digress thanks for posting this :)

  7. Thank you for sharing your story and I am really glad to hear that you are doing better now as you deserve it. We all do.
    Many girls I know (including me) are struggling with the same issues and it is really unfair that from the media and the society we live in we are driven towards hating our bodies instead of loving them.
    The next time I feel down about my body I will make sure to read this post.
    Thank you for the inspiration.

  8. I'm glad you've conquered your problems and you've become healthier and happier for it. You've always seemed so ethereally perfect, both in Lolita and just as a person, to me! Truly you are beautiful; think no less of yourself.

    I'm sorry, though, Miss Lumpy - sorry that I have such a negative story to tell, and that I couldn't post this under my usual alias. I couldn't bear it.

    I feel stronger too when I read these stories. I feel better that I'm not alone. People understand, out there. I want them so much not to feel the pain and the shame of it. I wouldn't wish it on anyone. But it makes me feel better to see others who recovered.

    Lolita was my catalyst out of eating disorders. One day, all dressed up, I looked in the mirror and realised: I'm fine as I am. There's no point punishing myself for what nature gave me; if anything, it's selfish and insulting to the girls who starve and die to get what nature gave me to believe that it's not enough. I recovered. I developed a long-needed sense of self-worth that I hadn't ever had. Lolita's a goal always dancing a little out of my reach, like a soap-bubble, and that should be a beautiful thing. Constant, positive self-improvement, isn't that a wonderful experience?

    It's so painful to say these things, but I'm so afraid. I'm afraid of myself and afraid that Lolita will be not just the thing that dragged me out of my ruins, but the thing that dumps me back in there. These worries always come back to me at low times, at night and when I feel lonely or afraid: I feel so beautiful and confident in it but I'm not sure that deep down, it isn't worming holes in the sediment of my consciousness.

    Isn't it ridiculous? I know that it won't do me any good. I know I'm not fat and I don't need to lose weight. It will only hurt me. It will make my loved ones worry for me. I can't get it out of my head; I'm scared about how my 'big, fat' 25" waist gaining that one fatal inch more will take me out of brand territory.
    The stupid thing: I know it won't. Clearly it won't, why do I still believe it? Why do I tell myself that I won't fit any of my clothes if I have that yoghurt after lunch, and so on, to stop myself? I have so much higher standards for myself than for other people. I am the only one for whom I feel that I need to hurt to deserve beautiful clothes. I am the only one for whom I think that it's not about dressing for my shape: it's about losing weight to get the perfect shape. I am the only one who will never quite be pretty enough or perfect enough for this fashion. What a special snowflake I am.

    You talk about self-love a lot, Miss Lumpy, and I've always liked the thought and wanted to seek it. I know one thing for sure: if you love someone, you want the best for them. What will I do to myself, taking all these little steps that seem so like I'm helping myself? Exercising more? Eating salads and refusing anything fatty? Feeling so guilty over my love of baking cakes? Drinking glasses and glasses of water before every meal to stop myself eating so much? They all sound so benign. They're the sorts of things that will lead me back down into anorexia.
    Last time, I stopped myself before I could do myself any real damage. It was years in the making but only a few months in the performance, and I caught myself in time. Can I stop myself if it happens again?
    Will I even want to stop myself? Starvation is euphoric. The power of it.

    The worst thing: I write this and it makes me want to be anorexic again. There's a part of me that wants to hurt myself.

  9. Miss Lumpy:

    i will be honest. i always thought you were a gorgeous and amazingly beautiful person/girl/lolita.

    Although i've read most of your articles, none of them really 'sparked' me.

    But after reading this, i can tell you that this was exactly what i needed to hear. i've been hating myself for so long and fighting with my body for years. i felt like there was no end to this battle, that i should just keep losing weight and losing weight...

    But you are absolutely beautiful! And you know what it's like. Yesterday, i looked in the mirror and was surprised because i didn't look bad to myself at all. i can't remember a time when i was so satisfied with my looks. i smiled and i thought "i'm pretty".(And, mind you, i am a 'fatty-chan' battling with acne) i'm so happy. Today i'm going to put on clothes that make me happy. i've decided to accept myself, lumps and all.

    Thank you Aly. From the bottom of my heart.

  10. I actually feel kind of guilty. All these people with eating disorders and sad stories, and here I am: never had much trouble with my body.
    Although I wouldn't mind to lose a little weight, I'm quite happy with my body. I know I will never fit into Victorian Maiden or Mary Magdalene, my favourite brands, but I've just accepted that. My solution to ill-fitting brand is making my own clothes. It fits perfectly and looks exactly like I want it to look, and it's much cheaper! More people should try it~

    I think it's great when you have someone who tells you that you're beautiful, but I want my strenght to come from myself. I am beautiful because *I* think so, not because others tell me. This goes for all lolitas! People will always think we're weird, so we have to believe in ourselves! (still, support is nice and appreciated...)

    I think you're very brave for posting this story. Please continue to be your lovely self, you're a great inspiration to me!

  11. It's kind of sarcastic how I'd always hear some lolitas crying about not being able to lose enough weight to fit brand while there I and my local lolis could never afford it and so we we buy from local shops that (probably) belong to modestes who make their own dress of their own figure. That is (I wonder why) often more of a buxom which creates absolutely the opposite problem for me and half of girls I know: all pretty dresses are too much large and - surprisingly - I can't get to fit in there whatever I do (that is mainly for breast area; I already gave up and concentrate more on my thin bust that is just beautiful - possibly my prettiest feature)... Why, of course, some clothes can be adapted but most can't... Actually, it's startling that those shops seems to not to be interested in market and demand but it's just the way it is.
    Still, even though I am just a girl and I was trying to improve my body to the perfection and not only this I can't really say I have ever had "problem" with this as I am an absolute narcissist... XD (The truth is that it is only for about half a year that I feel completely this way and I can tell, one's a way much happier when he takes things easy - easy, yet seriously (and that means body image, too)...)
    But, also, I have made my diet terrible lately since I've known I can't eat more than half of food ( was just easier to not to eat healthy way). - Of coarse it was NOT really on purpose but I still can't get to start eat normal again (I am kind of starting to realize that I can't eat anything that was not cooked by my biological father whom I hate).
    For all I can say just: it's truth that natural way is always the best... (I direct my life by considering what is more natural for humankind or me or anything and it just works for me. :D - It's strange but I am so happy from time I live like this, so why not, right? XD)I would never ever dare to try those weight-losing diets because it seems obvious that it can't do any good (when you eat less you should automaticaly gain more weight as storing more fats, so why bother?! - I think it's just some special kind of torture!) to me. Any way, whatever happens, it's never nice so when it comes to body torture in the name of beauty I prefer to see girls wearing corsets, if someone really find it necessary.
    It is just not for me but I believe that for some other girls that (your article) must be rally inspiring because I find it somehow moving and it makes me think alot more than that article of Victoria's (though hers was good as always).
    I also adore your will to post your story "into air" like this!
    I already wrote something in the meaning "Um from some weird little country" thus, please, excuse my doubtless HORRIBLY AWFUL self-taught english..! ;)
    PS: I can't almost believe someone like you could ever thought himself to not to be beautiful! I personaly think you are wonderful. o^__^o

  12. I haven't been following your blog very long, but that's only because I've recently come across it. Your writing is very, very nice, and I look forward to all your future blog posts.

    I can't relate with this specific self-hatred (and especially not with the self-love). I actually like a lot of my body. There are even things I love about myself, like my hair. Some people would kill to have thick, curly hair like mine, and I'm one of the only people I know who doesn't straighten their hair every other day. I'm on the smaller size (north american size small for most stores) but I do have some curves. I actually like having some curves. Where I differ from so many girls is that I don't hate my stomach. It's a little bulgy, yes, and I wouldn't hate it if it were flat but I don't obsess over it. I think a little bit of curves is healthy. My role models for beauty are not the size double zero models of today, but the curvy, confident pin up models from decades ago.

    My self-hatred is not aimed at my body. It is completely centered around my face. I can't stand looking at photographs of myself. There is just so much wrong with it. I'm one of those girls who looks good from far away, but is shockingly unattractive upon closer inspection. My biggest issue is with my nose. I feel like I would actually be pretty if it weren't so obvious. If I went through with the nose job I've been thinking about every day since I was 12.

    I feel like if I went through with it, I wouldn't hate myself anymore. I could finally learn to love myself. I have many other things that are unattractive about myself, but I can hide them. Unfortunately, I can't wear a mask all the time. This is the one thing I can't stand, the one thing I would give anything to change.

    Am I horrible for thinking like this? I feel like I am.

    I'm sorry I'm posting a long comment, but I need to get things out. It may not even be read. That's okay though. The point is to get it out to people I don't know. To get it out to people I know can turn out horribly. I broke up with my wonderful boyfriend for a short period of time because of my massive self-hatred, telling him he could do so much better. I still believe he could, but for some reason he thinks I'm beautiful.

    I hate not being able to believe him. Miss Lumpy, I'm so glad it's only taken you six months of your wonderful man telling you you're beautiful for you to start to believe it. I've been with my boyfriend for over 14 months, and I'm still nowhere near believing him.

    I'm one of those people who can see the beauty in everyone, but especially the outer beauty. I can always see past the flaws, and all I see is their most fitting features, the ones that match their beautiful personalities. I wish I could do the same for myself but... there's always the but.

    Sorry again for the long comment D: I'm very happy for you :)



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