That's when it hit me. Duh. I don't worry about men sexualizing me because I haven't felt sexy in probably 25-30 pounds. I wear a veil of fat. I am invisible. And, if I don't find myself sexy, how would anyone else see me that way?
It is no secret that way too much of my personal identity is tied up in my weight. There is not a single day that goes by that I don't think about weight in some capacity. Whether it is not liking how my clothes fit or counting calories or blaming body pain on the weight I've gained -- my weight is a daily reminder that I don't like myself.
That being said, I don't shy away from throwing on my tiny shorts and dancing around on video or for photos and posting them on Facebook. But I think that's more about thinking that if I force myself to share my large body with others, then it will become more common place and people will think nothing when they see someone with some extra fat on them. But it also doesn't mean that I don't cringe when I see some videos and photos. I was just watching class videos from AJ's class last Saturday. My legs are chunky and I almost waddle when I walk. No, it's not even a waddle. I tip from side to side, much like I think Humpty Dumpty would walk. My bra cuts into my back fat, leaving a crease that cuts around my entire back. I reminded myself to start wearing black tank tops and stop wearing stripes. My thighs jiggle and slap the ground in a grotesque way. My thigh scars give the illusion that every wide-legged move is showing off my labia when it isn't (although if you can't handle a little labia shot, you shouldn't pole dance). I sweat profusely, and am making myself wear a head scarf so I don't drip sweat all over the floor or have to wipe my face every 30 seconds. My face has become soft and my chin now disappears into the rolls in my neck. Nothing. There's nothing I can come up with that I love about my body. AJ has such beautiful choreography too, and I already figure he has probably dumbed it down so I can keep up in the first place. For that, I love him. But I don't love me.
And that's why I know straight men in pole class wouldn't give me a second look. I clearly don't love myself enough so why would they? I'm comfortable saying, "hey dudes can come to my class -- no problem" because I have never felt like anyone is sexualizing me, which might make me uncomfortable or self-conscious (I would like to believe, though, that it would only happen if a guy I actually liked was watching -- dancing for strangers seems much easier to do). I know Twirly Girls is a safe place for me and so almost anyone can come into that environment without ruining that experience.
When I weighed 180 pounds, I found myself at odds with men in general. Suddenly, they were opening doors and smiling at me. I didn't really get that at 350 pounds. And now, at 257 pounds, I feel as fat as 350 pounds and my self-esteem is worse than it was then too. I definitely notice that men don't notice me or jump to open the door for me like they did 80 pounds ago. Is that because I keep my own eyes averted and so they pick up on those cues and don't bother to help me? Or has society told them my large body isn't beautiful and I'm not worth helping? I certainly noticed my first head-turning experience was only shortly after gastric bypass surgery. I couldn't have lost more than 25 pounds, and was easily still close to the 300 pound range. But I was happy as a clam that the weight was dripping off of me. I passed a man in a crosswalk and he almost got whiplash as he turned to take a second look. I have always felt like that was a product of my clear happiness and self-assuredness, not of any weight loss.
There was something I noticed years ago when I dated a very large man. He was 6'5" and well over 350 pounds. The bigger something is, the less people seem to notice it. People would walk into him on the street on almost a daily basis. As if he was so large, they couldn't even see him. I feel that way about my weight sometimes. The bigger I get, the more invisible I feel. Whether that is self-imposed or not, I can't really say.
So, I can't tell you whether I would be uncomfortable with men in the studio if I still weighed 180 pounds. I want to say that I wouldn't have cared then because my self-esteem was high and I was just happy to be alive. It sounds like, for myself, I need to get back to that place mentally. I need to not care whether men, or women, adore me -- not because I'm so fat that I'm hiding in the corner -- but because I'm so confident that it truly doesn't matter.
There you go. That was a whole lot of words to say I don't really know whether straight men in the studio would bother me if I was at a lower weight or in a different place mentally. I know that gay women wouldn't bother me, so why should it matter if a straight man was in her place? They both like chicks, right? So much to ponder and I may never truly know the answer... Food for thought, though... How do YOU feel about men in the studio?
Photo journal of my journey. Note: despite my negative attitude here, I look back fondly on all of these photos and memories. My life really doesn't suck.
|2003: 347 pounds - highest weight|
|2005 (February): 179 pounds - lowest weight|
|Possibly 2006 - probably 215 pounds|
|2006 - post-plastic surgeries, weight 200-215|
|2008 (June) - Climbed Half Dome at 215 pounds|
|2009 (March) - pre-Twirly Girls at a bar - close to 200 pounds|
|2009 (August) - climbing back toward 215|
|2009 - around 225|
|2010 (March) - Twirling for four months, up to probably 230|
|2011 - 240 pounds|
|2012 - 250 pounds|
|2013 - highest post-surgery weight at 263|
|2014 - 257 pounds|