On Loving Your Own Height, Weight, and Self

Category:  Opinions
Wednesday, February 24th, 2016 at 10:23 PM
On Loving Your Own Height, Weight, and Self by Melanie Overturf
Being of an unusual height or size posits many questions about self identity.

I’ve offered a couple descriptions of myself in past articles, but what I’ve never addressed before is my size. I stand at about 5 feet 11 inches, which for a woman, is relatively tall. And width-wise? Well, to put it simply, my shoulders are about as wide as your average bathroom stall. Even on my good days, where my disability isn’t causing me immense pain, I try to use the handicapped stall in the bathrooms. It’s really hard to pee comfortably when your shoulders are touching either side of the stall.

Growing up, my size was always a problem. I don’t mean that I was clumsy because my limbs were too long (I was, though); I mean that my size was the source of many of my body-image issues. I was bigger than every other girl, and I was bigger than most of the guys my age, too. In fact, I was bigger than almost everyone I knew. I spent most of my teen years, and even a few of my adult years, wishing I was small and petite like other girls. I couldn’t wear the same super cute clothes other girls could. Well, I still can’t, what am I talking about? If they fit me size-wise, they were too short. So I was left wearing either “itty-bitty, too-tight tops,” or giant frumpy ones. As an adult, I’m comfortable wearing both of those things now, but it wasn’t always like that.

I never felt comfortable in a dress, they showed too much leg and looked silly on my wide shoulders. Lipstick? No thanks, it didn’t fit the rest of my body. I spent most of my time looking for ways to make myself appear smaller, both in stature and weight. My friends were praised for being tiny. In films, the attractive girls were always tiny. And then John Greene made it big, and his manic-pixie-dream -girls were all tiny, too. Girls like me didn’t fit in with the perfect image of what a girl was supposed to be. My personality always seemed to match my size, too. Too loud, too vulgar, too demanding of attention.

Looking back on it, I really don’t understand why any of it was ever a problem. We teach our daughters and our sisters and our friends to take up as much space as they can, because being a woman in a man’s world is tough. And it is, but this advice still sort of plays into the “tiny, pixie, quiet” standard for women. I’m not tiny or pixie like, and if you’ve ever heard me really get going, I’m really not quiet, either.

I embrace everything about my size, and it took me way too long to do so. More years than I can count were spent trying to make myself slighter, thinner, and all around more wispy. I’m 21 now, and I take pride on being (usually) the biggest thing in the room. I still won’t wear high heels, since an extra four inches puts me at about 6 feet 4 inches and I don’t know how to compensate my body weight to balance at that height. I wear dresses and I wear lipstick when the mood suits me. I don’t care if I’m taller than most men, and I don’t care if my personality is so big it makes you uncomfortable. You get to a certain size and it just gets hard to hide things.

“But, Melanie, you shouldn’t have to hide!” Well, that’s the point, isn’t it? I shouldn’t have to make myself smaller to make other people comfortable. I’ve been hit on at bars and concerts by pushy men who get aggressive when I turn them away, only to watch them slink away when I stand up, towering over them with an impressive shoulder width. Why should I not hold my size on a pedestal? My height is beautiful, it commands attention, it demands I have my own space. In fact, that’s one of my favorite things about my size. Crowded bus, concert, or bar, people will part like the sea, they’ll shrink into themselves. I’m no longer something in their space, but they’re in mine, because I treat it as mine.

It took a lot of work and several hours of “Game of Thrones” to get me to be okay with myself. Why Game of Thrones? The majestic Brienne of Tarth, played but the stunning Gwendoline Christie. She’s about 6 feet 3 inches, barefoot, and she still wears dresses and heels and lipstick. If the world can embrace her as a strong, large woman, then there’s no reason they cannot embrace me.

So don’t ever let anyone tell you that you’re too tall, or you aren’t built right and you should change. Especially so if it’s someone you care about. You aren’t occupying too much space in their life, they’re occupying too much space in yours.

Melanie Overturf is a Staff Writer for The Spectator.

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