I’ve always had a interesting relationship with my body. You know the type of relationship that’s just sort of like meh.
Growing up and a little too many fast food meals in between, I quickly diverged from the skinny Asian female mold and was constantly reminded of that. Being a chubby kid was okay, but still being a chubby kid past the fifth grade started to be not okay because it wasn’t “cute” anymore. I wasn’t very active, mostly because P.E for some reason filled me with anxiety. I think it had to do with fact that I was just not good at team sports and that I was not good because I was too self conscious of my chubby little self.
I am a naturally broad person. My mom always said that I was just “big boned” but then I would somehow hear on tv that big boned just meant fat. I have broad shoulders and would be jokingly told that I would be a great football player! But as a young girl, football player is not exactly what you what to be when you grow up. My calves are also naturally muscular but I had them referred to “turnip legs” in Chinese because yanno they weren’t straight like a stick, they looked like well a turnip. I would often think if there was a way to surgically reduce that protruding piece of flesh wouldn’t that be so cool? During my sporadic “workout” phases during my teenage years I would pick out which body part needed improving. Chunky legs so I could wear shorts? Flabby arms so I could wear a tank? Or stomach so maybe one day I could wear a two-piece swimsuit? I never felt confident wearing clothing that exposed too much skin because I thought a body like mine shouldn’t be shown so openly.
I was often told (more than once by different people) that I would be a lot prettier if I lost 10-20 pounds. I was in my early 20s and working as an intern at a fancy fashion company when my co-worker intern told me straight up the exact same things I had heard growing up as a kid. Deja vu indeed. But I hated the idea of diets mostly because I loved food too much and going to the gym seemed more like a chore.
So I was always kinda the chubby but not quite fat fat type of gal. Because I was “broad” and muscular, I wasn’t skinny – I just looked big and that is what society tells to be the opposite of. I would have on and off again negative emotions towards my body. As I got older the feelings started to subside, not because I started to love my body but because I started caring a little less.
And then I started pole dancing.
At first it was somewhat intimidating. Having to be in barely clothed in a room full of barely clothed people while watching yourself move in the mirror was a little nerve wracking to say the least. I knew that functionally less clothing meant more grip on the pole but I clung onto my tank tops and “long” shorts for as long as I could. I admired the ladies who would just “take it off” without hesitation when class started. But I got bit by the pole bug. I was obsessed with how much fun I was having and how cool it felt to accomplish these gravity defying moves.
Once I started to advance I knew the shirt had to come off. And when it came off it didn’t feel so scary. I didn’t feel like I had to hide or make myself seem smaller. No one was there to judge you on how you looked in a bra and shorts, we were there for the love of pole dancing! All around me I saw bodies of different sizes and shapes, imperfectly perfect in every way and my body was one of them. The parts of my body that I once felt uncomfortable with were now assets. Girls at the studio wouldn’t describe my shoulders as football player shoulders or call my legs “turnips”, but comment on how amazing they are and that they wish they had those same features. Why didn’t I think of my body like that for so many years?
I appreciate the beauty of strength, the beauty of my own strong body. My broad shoulders and meaty calves no longer make me feel fat. They make me feel accomplished and beautiful. They make me feel thankful for all the new movement I am now able to experience and love.