Many years ago I was in Milan coming back from a yoga course and saw a Prada shop. It was the very beginning of globalization and I had never been so close to one of those high-end shops, so I went in out of curiosity and awe.
An immaculately dressed and groomed young man approached me, checked me out from top to (big) bottom, and with a profoundly fake smile asked “are you interested in a bag?” His tone left no room for misinterpretation: the shop contained no clothing in my size.
Join the club
Cut to many years later, in Amsterdam. After years of struggling with my body image (read: trying all diets under the sun, spending hours upon hours exercising and soul searching) and of suffering intensely for being whatever it is that I am, I slowly came to some resemblance of self-acceptance. In what was a huge step for me, I walked into a shop that specialized in bigger sizes. After a few minutes of perusing the garments I was approached by a shop attendant just as immaculately groomed as the one in the Prada store, only much larger. With an icy tone she asked me if she could be of assistance. I said I was looking for a summer dress and her answer was “I don’t think this is the right shop for you”. She told me I was too skinny for them and they did not have anything in my size.
I left this second shop much sadder than I had left the first one. Apparently there are different clubs: one for skinny people, one for fat people. I had spent my whole life desperately trying to be a member of the skinny club, and have come to accept their disdain as natural and justified. Skinny is associated with beautiful, healthy and superior, who doesn’t want to join that club??? I wanted so much to be one of them, and at the same time, deep in my heart, I felt ugly, undeserving and inferior. That was the way of the world, nothing to be done about it.
When I finally stopped trying to join the skinny club I naturally assumed, without even realizing it, that the other club would receive me with open arms. That they would be my brothers and sisters, the people who had gone through similar struggles and pains, and together we would find the self-acceptance, self-love and self-worth we all long for. My sadness was huge when I realized that I wasn’t welcome in either club.
Who makes these clubs?
If we are really honest, we will see that most of us would like to be part of a club of which we feel undeserving, where we feel we don’t belong.
But really, who makes these clubs anyway? The thing is, we all do. We do it every time we allow an external authority decide our worth, and secretly agree with their judgement. We do it every time we mimic this behaviour and judge others harshly as well. I am fatter than a lot of people and skinnier than others. Older than most and younger than many. Whiter/poorer/shorter/smarter than. There are truly infinite ways to compare ourselves to others and yes, we all do that – skinny/rich/smart people included.
The clubs I am interested in are the ones for those who struggle and stumble – I think every being on this planet has a life membership on those. I want to be part of the Club For People Who Want to Be Better Humans – or BeBeHu for short. Or the I Don’t Care What Size You Are As Long As You Are Badass Association. Meeting for yummy meals and snacks at least once a week.
Cover image: @canweallgo