Last Sunday, I was moved and inspired by the show, "Embodi(ED), performed by young women in Girl Be Heard. Girl Be Heard is a nonprofit theatre company that brings global issues affecting girls center stage by empowering young women to tell their stories. And their stories asked in Embodie(ED), "When was it planted the first time when you learned that you weren't good enough?" Powerful question! The actress' monologue was about the dangerous influence social media has on the thoughts a young woman has about her body. And how the weight loss industry in this country has spent over $55 billion dollars to persuade Americans to change. It is no wonder that we think we suck. We all know that we have not always felt good about ourselves, but when do we pinpoint the instant where there was confirmation of our failings. We accepted it, but who decried it? The question..., "When was it planted the first time when you learned that you weren't good enough?", left an aching pit in my stomach. It took my breath away.
Concerning weight, it could have been when the girls in ballet class laughed as I adjusted the bra straps under my leotard. I already had large breast at twelve years old. I had hips...and stretch marks. Many young girls don't want a woman's body. At least not in the 80s during the age of Molly Ringwald! I felt shame and embarrassed. How could I ever become a professional dancer with big breasts? Like most things, these situations leave scars, but we move forward...until we are reminded, once again, of our shortcomings. The memory of a negative, firm implantation was when I was fifteen. I had already had misgivings about the gynecologist because I had been given a Paps smear to find out why my periods were so irregular. For a young girl who had never even been kissed by a boy, it was very traumatic. So I was NOT looking forward to going to the same doctor for a checkup. Luckily, she did not do a vaginal examination. I was relieved until she had me step on the scale. I already knew that I was over 100 lbs., but did I need to be reminded!? So imagine the shame I felt when she told me that I was 115 lbs. and that although I was okay, that I should not gain anymore weight. To this day, this was one of the most hurtful things someone had said to me. Mind you, I had been dancing 5 days a week and playing tennis EVERYDAY as first singles on the tennis team. I was the picture of health. I had baby fat on my face, but that was really it. I know these things now, but at fifteen, I was stunned. I just nodded my head, put my shoes back on, and walked out to the car where my father was waiting. Once I sat down, I burst into tears. I was sobbing. My father, who really might have been the most stoic man on earth, gave me a confused look and asked what was wrong. Looking back, he probably was afraid that I was pregnant. Through my sobs, I told him what the doctor said. "She said that I was fat!". Now we all know that she did not say like that, but she did have this concern, yet matter-of-fact look on her face.
Let me just say that as I sit on my bed writing this, I am 14 lbs. heavier and I am 26 years older...so I was never on the path that warranted that advice. Anyway, back to the story. My father was furious. He unbuckled his belt to get out of the car and tell the doctor that women of color have thicker bodies and that my body was just fine. He said that I was all muscle (kind of the truth) and that I was an athlete with strength and power. I begged him to not go in. I was mortified, but in that moment, I let a lot of my body issues go. Maybe it is another story we need to look at. One of which that when a man tells you that your body is fine, that all is okay. Whatever the case, my father pulled out the implantations of self hate I had as a little girl. Yes, I would struggle with the idea of weight again. All women do. Especially this 41-year-old who just had a baby several months ago. But my dad snapped the cord when it came to what "they said".
That is why an organization, like Girl Be Heard is so important. It gives young women between the ages of 18-25 the tools to snap the cord themselves. And the tool to snap the cord is through sharing our stories. We all have them. It is in finding our commonalities that we can discuss our differences and learn from each other. It gives young women the empowered, yet gentle voice to tell that doctor that "I am just fine. Right now, in this instant. I am a healthy girl". That is what I wish I could have said now. But it is okay because I know that young women have the support they need in this $55 billion dollar industry of weight loss. It doesn't matter that I didn't say it then because these strong women are saying it now!
For tickets, http://girlbeheard.org/shows/schedule-tickets/
February 11th through February 21st, 2016, Thursdays through Saturdays at 7pm, Sundays at 2:00pm at HERE 145 6th Avenue, New York, NY 10013-1548
Embodi(ED) is a documentary theatre and dance piece about our country’s feeding frenzy of body dysmorphia. Based on interviews with people of various cultural and human experiences conducted by Girl Be Heard ensemble members, Embodi(ED) reveals the stories of countless people struggling with eating disorders and the dangerous economic investment that teaches us to hate our bodies.