Monday, June 16, 2008

Body Image...Puertorican style.

So, I moved here in 1989. I was young and skinny.

Now, I am a little less young and a lot less skinny.

I remember, growing up, how the woman in my family were all concerned with weight. How I would hear, "Oh, be careful; with your genes, you are prone to become fat!". And all kind of comments of the like. I was little, but before long, when I started to approach puberty, and the hormones dictated that now fat was to be stored, the comments were then directed at me. I am surprised that no more woman I knew from that generation did not develop some kind of eating disorder. In high school, I remember my friends and I trying all sort of crazy diets, diet pills, and the like. Did not work one bit. Welcome to womanhood! Our body was to rearrange itself time and again. My mother was always slightly self-concious about her figure. She did not have, according to her, the figure most puertoricans would consider "perfect". And, by God, she had to transfer her insecurities to me. She did not want me to gain weight, as my body would not look "good enough" because of the shape I had. My shape, apparently, did not conform what somebody thought was the ideal figure either. The ideal puertorican figure...

It took many years to realize that my body is beautiful in its unique way. No, I did not have the "rear" or hips people there think I should have. I do have, though, pretty legs, the kind THEY like!

It wasn't until I moved here that my self-esteem regarding my body improved considerably. It alreay had improved, but the next kick came here. I get to this part of the world and I discover, first, that most men here had a different expectation from women's bodies. Also, I learned that I moved to a place ranked high when it comes to number of obese people, and is alarming, healthwise. But that put things into perspective for me. I used to work at this place, and my boss and his wife both insisted I was way too skinny. They were a little older. But one day, his previous administrative assistant came in to pick up some papers, and when she left, I said to him, "Now I understand why you people bug me so much about being so skinny...". Frankly, I meant no disrespect for the woman. Simply, it was what crossed my head, how everything is a matter of perception. I was NEVER called skinny in Puerto Rico...well, probably the last time, I was in 7th grade, and I already felt a little chubby because of my mother's obsession with weight. So my neighbors laughed when they saw me with a full leotard because I was going to exercise to lose weight...they laughed so hard! But after hitting puberty, no one ever listed "skinny" in their list of adjectives about me...until landing in Wisconsin.

Now, almost 19 years later, I am, we could say, satisfied with my body. Could I be in better shape? Perhaps. Could use losing a few post-pregnancy pounds...post-pregnancy almost 3 years later? Come on!

But yes, I could use losing them and also exercise more, more for health reasons than appearance.

And that is the message I want for my children and all young woman outthere killing themselves to be thin...in the Midwest, in Puerto Rico, in the whole world. Healthy does not mean stick thin. It means fit, toned, with good cardiovascular health. I don't know how the eating disorders are in Puerto Rico today...and, sadly, I would not be surprised if the statistics were even higher than here...

1 comment:

Joy said...

I found you through the blogher network....

Body image is such an issue for women, but we somehow think we're the only one with "issues" don't we? Then we see a bigger picture, and realize how prevalent it is.

Kudos to you, for being you, and being proud!