Tag Archives: body image

Character Study – Gwen (The Condition by Jennifer Haigh)

I’ve been fairly open about my struggles with Turner Syndrome over the years (you can read my story here), but it still amazes me to see Turner Syndrome – along with certain aspects of myself – depicted in popular culture.  Lately, I’ve been thinking about how those representations influence perception and so much more.  Both well-known depictions of Turner Syndrome, one a “victim” in the Law and Order:  Special Victims Unit titled “Clock” (hint:  turns out she isn’t a victim at all) and the other, Gwen, the protagonist in the popular novel The Condition by Jennifer Haigh, have issues and inaccuracies, and yet, there are certain truths that shine through.  Personally, I have yet to meet a woman or girl with Turner Syndrome who isn’t as stubborn as we are portrayed in popular culture.  It is quite simple, actually:  We have to be.

Even though these images of women and girls with Turner Syndrome, along with their accuracy (or lack thereof), have been analyzed to death in the Turner Syndrome community, that isn’t my intention here.  No.  My intention is to describe my experience of seeing aspects of myself in relation to Turner Syndrome in Gwen in The Condition.  I am discussing my experiences only.

Frankly, while I enjoyed The Condition, it isn’t a book that I would necessarily reread in its entirety.  Yet, there are scenes, plots, and subplots in which I couldn’t help but see myself mirrored in Gwen – not as a woman, but as a woman with Turner Syndrome.  It is those pieces and depictions that have stayed with me for well over a decade at this point.  There are several things Gwen is faced with in the novel that most women will, fortunately, never have to face.

The opening scene still takes my breath away.  In it, Gwen’s father, who later becomes almost obsessed with the fact that she has Turner Syndrome, watches Gwen tag along with her slightly older female cousin at the beach.  He observes them as they run into the ocean.  The difference in their height and body structure is noticeable.  Gwen’s body remains almost childlike while her cousin’s decidedly does not.

Growing up with older female cousins, particularly my cousin Abby (10 months my senior), I couldn’t help but compare my body to theirs.  I always wanted to catch up but never could.  I distinctly remember one December shopping with my aunt, cousins, sister, and mom.  I desperately wanted to be able to finally buy clothes in the misses section (not kids, not juniors …) like my older cousins.  Nope.  Not yet.  Even though I was now in high school, it would have to wait.  In that opening scene of the novel, I could distinctly visualize Abby and I swimming somewhere as preteens.  In my head, I was the one comparing.

Later, Gwen is described as hiding herself away from the world in a job in which she remains in the background.  Now in her late 20s/early 30s, she wears jeans, t-shirts/sweatshirts, and sneakers everyday, all often too big for her.  Given the choice, I’d be right there with her (and am when I can).  Quite simply, it is often difficult to find clothes that fit correctly if you are a woman with Turner Syndrome.

A few years ago, I tried on a top while shopping with my mom.  I loved the color, the style – everything – except the fit that wasn’t quite right.  I came out of the dressing room to ask her opinion.  My mom almost mumbled under her breath:  “Damn Turner’s body!”  I found it hysterical because that is precisely what I was thinking.  I just needed it verified.  As much as I love the button-downed look, I could purchase blouses three sizes up and still suffer from gap-osis.  Sadly, fashion is a struggle at times.

At the end of the novel, I can’t help but root for Gwen.  She is so fed up with her family members’ actions and reactions to the life she has created for herself and the fact that she finally met someone that she runs off to the Caribbean to be with her new boyfriend.  Considering how her family treats her and reacts to different aspects of her life, I can’t say that I blame her.  Her new life in the Caribbean sounds fantastic.

I admit, I am extremely guarded about my personal life as well.  It is just that I’ve always needed space.  Throwing infertility into the mix is never easy.  The idea that someone you love would have to give up having biological children of their own to be with you …  Well, unfortunately, that is reality in many cases.  I pray that it will get better with age, and in some ways, it already has.

When I finished The Condition all those years ago, my immediate reaction was one of wonder.  Did Jennifer Haigh have Turner Syndrome herself?  Did her best friend?  Who did she interview to get into our heads so well – or at least my head?  I loved the title of the book.  One may think that “the condition” references Turner Syndrome, but in reality, in the book, each member of Gwen’s family battles demons of their own, even without a diagnosis.

I am a firm believer that everyone has something – some huge hurdle he or she needs to overcome in life.  Everyone has a story.  As The Condition lingered in my mind, I couldn’t help but feel “seen” in a way I’ve never experienced in a book.  As a teacher, it reinforces the need to expose students to as many diverse books as possible. Unfortunately, when we talk about diversity in literature, we too often just focus on race, religion, and sexuality.  The reality is that there are so many other stories out there and so many other ways to view diversity. This is one reason why I wish everyone would share their story in some way, shape, or form.  No one is ever truly alone.

By the way, if you happen to be the parent of a girl with Turner Syndrome, I can’t recommend the National Turner Syndrome Camp enough.  I attended two years, and it allowed me to meet others with Turner Syndrome for the first time.  It also boosted my confidence in a way that nothing else ever has.

The Clash


I’ve been meaning to write a post about infertility since this past fall – September, in fact.  On a perfect September Monday evening the stars aligned, and I had the greatest time catching up with an old friend over dinner.  This particular friend and I are almost exactly the same age, and frankly, we are old enough to have been through some serious garbage.  Even though she is married and has a wonderful young daughter, she still knows exactly what it is like to struggle with infertility. Over dinner, the conversation naturally turned to foster care, adoption, and infertility.  I will never forget what she made me realize that evening.

First, know that I’ve known that there is virtually no way I’ll ever become pregnant since I was 10 years old.  I am not going to be one of those women who adopts and then miraculously wakes up pregnant one day. In fact, that is another topic I will discuss shortly.  What I failed to realize, and what my friend made clear so eloquently, is that having a biological child doesn’t automatically “heal” infertility or change everything.  It made me realize just how many women I know who don’t quite have the families they envisioned. My friend’s daughter is an only child, and that was not the plan. Another good friend has two beautiful little girls and wanted a third child.  I could go on.

I once read that no one ever quite gets over infertility.  It is a process – and there is no end. One day he or she may be fine, and the next, it all comes flooding back.  In fact, you can read my response and the original article here.  So true.  So very true.

Somewhere along the line, I think society makes this expectation that infertility is somehow “fixed” once a person adopts or becomes a foster parent.  “You can always adopt.” I am not exactly sure where that comes from, but it is completely inaccurate. Women who struggle with infertility and have a biological child (or even children) don’t even register.  Yet, they struggle just as much as the rest of us for whom biological children won’t happen.

There is hardly a day that goes by that I don’t wonder where I went wrong or what I could have done differently.  Maybe if I had been more clear with my ex, he would have been more open to adoption – or I would have moved on much earlier.  For the record, I told him before we ever really dated (we were friends first), so none of it should have ever come as a surprise.  Maybe if I had done x, y, or z, i would have adopted by now. Frankly, I need to stop beating myself up. But I also need to acknowledge that not a day goes by that these thoughts run through my head.  They are at the heart of what keeps me going and keeps me fighting for the family that I want so badly.

Unfortunately, our society and even some well-meaning people do not help.  I am tired of being told that “it will happen” one day when he or she knows nothing about my medical history. Nosey, but usually well-meaning, people seem to ask the most intimate of questions. As I have said before, not being asked when I will get married and/or have kids is one of the absolute best things about being single.  I am tired and frustrated by assumptions that seem to be everywhere. All of us need to be more careful. Unless we know the details, we have no idea what a person is truly going through at the moment.

And then there is religion.  For years, my cynical nature made me skeptical of anything having to do with organized religion.  By the way, I am completely comfortable separating organized religion from my personal belief in God and Jesus Christ.  I am not angry with God; I know He has a plan. I am angry with how insensitively we treat anyone in the church who isn’t a part of a traditional family unit.  My views toward organized religion may have changed somewhat, but the church can and should do better. It doesn’t have to be related to infertility, although that is what I will discuss here.

Again, well-meaning Christians may tell those struggling with infertility that he or she is praying or that “miracles happen all the time.”  Both are absolutely well-intentioned; however, what if she doesn’t get her miracle? What about cases of infertility that cannot be remedied by current medical science?  What about the woman who is alone and plans to adopt on her own? What about the woman who is still struggling after she and her husband do have their miracle baby? What about men who struggle with infertility?  I could go on. Instead, we just need to try not to jump to conclusions. Yet, it is so easy to do.

I finally decided to discuss infertility yet again thanks to a jaw-dropping blog post that discusses the clash between infertility and foster care.  With the exception of the author’s discussion of her daughter Lil Red, I could have written this article, especially regarding pregnancy.  I expect that once I do adopt, I will feel much the same way she does towards her daughter.  Her post touched me in a way that I can’t fully explain. You can read it here.  I am so glad that I live in a time where women can truly express how they feel towards topics such as infertility, loss, pregnancy, etc.  I can’t imagine not being able to express all of this.

I am not other.  I am not sick.  I am definitely not less-than.

Waiting for Baby Bird – Infertility and Foster Care:  The Clash of Both Worlds

A Different Perspective:  Is This Why We Don’t Talk About Infertility?

Ramblings of a Misguided Blonde:  The Lessons of Infertility



makeup.jpgI can’t say I’ve ever been much of a rebel, but I did rebel in certain ways.  Most teenage girls rebel by wearing makeup; I rebelled by not wearing makeup – or at least little. Growing up, my mom would not leave the house without full makeup. It didn’t matter where she was going, she had to have makeup.  It is still very much a part of who she is. I decided that I never wanted to be that attached to a product or process.

Somewhere along the way, something changed.

For the longest time, I could not teach without makeup.  I’m not even sure how it happened. It became a part of the process of getting ready for the school day.  Then, over Christmas, I left my makeup bag at my aunt and uncle’s house by accident. They’ve been in Florida ever since.  The thing is that I don’t even own much makeup. It all happened to be in that one bag. I didn’t even replace any of it until recently.  Somehow, I survived over two months without any makeup at all.


Now, I am left confused.  Do I need to wear it everyday or not?  The answer is: I can wear it whenever I’d like.  I love the fact that I proved to myself that I could go months without wearing makeup.  It turns out that I am not necessarily addicted after all.

With makeup, that was biggest concern:  That somehow I would not feel like myself if I wasn’t wearing any.  I watched my mom feel that way my entire life, and I wanted something different.  I adore my mom, but that was one instance in which I did not want to emulate her.

For me, it goes to a larger issue though:  confidence. I have to admit that I do feel slightly more confident when I do wear makeup.  It also makes me think of the labels we give ourselves as girls. There are the tomboys and the girly-girls.  I grew up with characteristics of both. I considered myself both and neither depending on the time of day. I am equally comfortable in the woods and in the city.  I grew up loving dolls and Legos and wore both jeans and skirts religiously. More than anything, I love the fact that I share that with my mom.

Lipstick Saying

Body and Other Four Letter Words Revisited


Body 2

Body and Other Four Letter Words

Due to a variety of circumstances over the last few weeks, this subject continues to be in my thoughts.  It is so disturbing to me how it is permissible in our society to treat others so differently based on something so arbitrary as height and weight.  Why is this acceptable?  I am so sick and tired of people not realizing that there are many complicated factors that play into eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, and obesity.  There isn’t a quick fix.  Food can be an addiction just as powerful as drugs, sex, alcohol, or gambling.  Bullying just makes things infinitely worse.

I’ve discussed it before, but I was relentlessly bullied about my weight and height early in elementary school – grades K-3 – particularly in gym class and at recess.  At age 5, classmates commented daily on how short, fat, and ugly I was.  The funny thing is that while I may have been a stocky child, I was not fat at the time.  At some point, I started to believe them.  How was I ever supposed to feel good about my body?

Later in elementary school, I learned that I would never have children naturally.  I refuse to say children of my own.  When I do adopt, my child (or children) will most certainly be mine.  At age 10, it devastated me.  To make matters worse, one boy in my class found out about my diagnosis of Turner Syndrome and what it meant.  He proceeded to call me a deeply disturbing name as a result, making it clear to me that he knew what I perceived at the time to be private.

It changed me.  I vividly remember balling as soon as I came home, refusing for a time to even tell my parents what had happened it upset me so badly.  Today, looking back at what he called me, it is almost funny – at least from an adult perspective.  After that incident, I owned the fact that I had Turner Syndrome.  While I didn’t go around telling everyone, I did explain when asked what it meant.  I didn’t hide from it anymore, even though I had only recently learned of the diagnosis myself.  Unfortunately, it reinforced the shame I felt towards my body.

As an adult, I find it difficult to deal with my body image issues while dealing with the emotions that come with infertility as well.  I can’t deny it:  I don’t know when I will ever be at peace with my body when, in my mind, it has fundamentally failed me in what should be a basic function.  Somehow, I will have to come to terms with it.  I just don’t know how.

In the meantime, I am done.  I am done trying to please anyone other than myself.  I continue to refuse to play the games society demands of women young and old.  There are way too many young girls today who feel as if they are not enough, that their worth is determined by their weight (and/or height).  That is why I am sharing something so deeply personal.  I want anyone struggling with body image to know that he or she is not alone.  Weight and diet are not as simple as we make them out to be.

It breaks my heart to see my Facebook feed full of beautiful women struggling with body image and eating disorders and mothers at a loss on how to help their child rebuild self-esteem through bullying.  I see it daily.  Frankly, this topic scares me the most about parenthood.Body 1

Bring Pretty Back

If you haven’t checked out Bring Pretty Back yet, you need to do so now.  Kristen is such a positive person, and her message of encouragement for all women is what we all need.  You can find episodes of Pretty Coffee with Kristen here.

The reason I wanted to talk about Bring Pretty Back today is because I can relate.  I know exactly what it feels like to feel ugly and to lose self-confidence.  I’ve struggled with self-confidence my entire life.  I have never felt beautiful or felt that society has ever accepted the way that I look.  When Kristen talks about feeling pretty, I understand what she is trying to say, but I can’t help wondering when I ever felt beautiful.  I would love to provide an example, but I truly can’t think of one.

My entire life I’ve found it difficult to find clothes that fit correctly thanks to my short stature and my Turners body.  There is a reason why women with Turner Syndrome joke about starting their own clothing lines.  The fact that women with bodies like mine are not normally represented anywhere in popular culture just adds to the feeling that my body is and always will be “wrong.”

I’ve struggled with my weight my entire life, but even when I was within 15 lbs. of what I “should” weigh, I still felt fat and ugly.  Looking back at that time, I was pretty, or at least cute.  Even then, I couldn’t enjoy it because all I could still see were my imperfections.  With those imperfections, according to popular culture and my childhood peers, I was unworthy of notice.


Thinking Outloud

There is no other quote that could better sum up what I am doing here at Ramblings of a Misguided Blonde. I need to think aloud. If what I have to say helps someone, wonderful. This is where I come to make the connections I need to continue to grow as a reader and a writer. Maybe, just maybe, I will be able to bring my random thoughts into some kind of order. I admire people who say what they are thinking without regard to how others will perceive their ideas. It takes guts.

Lately the entire idea of body image keeps coming up. It is one thing I have struggled with for most of my life. I write about my experiences and thoughts here. I can’t believe that I am actually quoting Gloria Steinem, but this quote is worth it, even if I disagree with her on a wide variety of issues (read as in almost everything else).

“There is no ideal. … Beauty isn’t about how we look. It’s about trying to get us to do what society wants us to do, and once we realize that, it helps, I think, to honor ourselves as individuals and the uniqueness and the specialness and the greatness of our own bodies.” – Gloria Steinem

Read more: Oprah.com

A Cracking of The Heart: The Life of Sarah Horowitz

A Cracking of the Heart

Goodreads Review – A Cracking of the Heart by David Horowitz

Where do I even begin?  First, A Cracking of the Heart is first physical book I’ve read in quite some time.  Lately I’ve only been reading Kindle version of books.  I mention this because I collect physical books, and frankly, I can’t stand when people bend pages to mark a page.  Well, there were so many passages that I want to remember and revisit that my hardcover version of the book is hopelessly dog-eared.  I will be rereading this particular book, possibly more than once.

It goes well beyond the fact that Sarah, the woman’s whose life is the subject of the book, and I share the diagnosis of Turner Syndrome.  Sadly, Sarah dealt with many more issues and complications than I ever have.  What strikes me most about Sarah’s journal entries and inner dialog in the book is that the struggles she discussed most are the same ones that I have battled most of my life.  It is stated that Sarah never adopted due to her concerns about her financial stability.  This is the reason why I am working so hard to achieve that financial stability.  Everything that I am currently doing in my life will eventually put me in a position to finally create the family I’ve always wanted – hopefully.  There is no other way.  I refuse to believe that I am not meant to have a family of my own.

One passage that deeply disturbed me is the detailed description of Sarah’s failed attempts at finding love.  She did fall in love.  That same man loved her.  However, it didn’t end in marriage.  Instead of choosing to marry Sarah and accepting her for who she was, Joel married another woman.  In the book he admits that he made a mistake, that at the time he was drawn to the physical, and that his resulting marriage only lasted a few years.  He implies that he should have married Sarah.  This is my worst fear writ large.  No matter what I do, no matter how much I love, and no matter what I achieve in life, men will not be able to look past my physical characteristics.  I have yet to be proven wrong.


If the truth be told, everyone let Sarah down – society in particular.  In her short life, she continually fought to be taken seriously, fought for her independence, and fought to achieve in spite of the physical obstacles she faced.  Her father, famous political commentator David Horowitz, implies that he regrets certain aspects of his relationship with his daughter.  Father and daughter happened to disagree politically.  Frankly, my personal political beliefs are more aligned with David’s; however, he makes a compelling case against Sarah being naïve or easily manipulated in her convictions.  Even though we may have been in serious disagreement politically, I like to believe that Sarah and I would have had a lot to share if we had ever met.  I love the fact that she, like so many women with Turner Syndrome, was stubborn to a fault.

There is so much in her life to which I can relate.  For example, I share her love of words.  She struggled to find her voice and found it difficult to write about her personal life.  Same here.  In the last decade of her life, she found solace in her Jewish faith.  I am just now discovering that organized religion might have something to offer after all.  It goes on and on.  I like to think that her faith offered her some sort of solace in all of the adversity she faced just to complete daily tasks that most of us take for granted.  It will be a long time before I read another book that touches me on such a deep emotional level.

You can read more about Sarah’s life and the book here.

chapter book

Turner Syndrome: My Story


Those who know me may or may not know that I have Turner Syndrome.  While I am open about Turner Syndrome, it isn’t something that comes up all that often.  I’ve struggled for years to put into words just what Turner Syndrome has meant in my life.  While I certainly wouldn’t be the same person I am today if I did not have Turner Syndrome, it has not defined me.  I admit, Turners has made certain things, such as motherhood, more challenging, but for every young girl with TS reading this, I want to make this as clear as possible:  Turner Syndrome has yet to stop me from achieving anything.  As tomorrow marks the beginning of Turner Syndrome awareness month, I am sharing my story.

My name is Lindsey Russell, and I was diagnosed with Turner Syndrome at 3 years old.  At that age, I fell off the growth charts, and I was fortunate enough to have a concerned pediatrician, Dr. Wright, who had previous experience with Turner Syndrome.  The fact that I have Turner Syndrome was then confirmed by an endocrinologist at Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan Medical Center.  Even though I attempted to find out if I have classic Turner Syndrome (the entire X chromosome is missing) or mosaic Turner Syndrome (only part of the X chromosome is missing) in my 20s, I never received those copies of my medical records.  Throughout my early childhood, I had yearly check-ups in Ann Abor.  Even though I didn’t know I have Turner Syndrome until I was 10 years old, I could sense that I was somehow different.

Fortunately, I do not have the more serious heart and kidney issues associated with Turner Syndrome.  I do have a large number of moles, short stature, and infertility.  I also had issues with reoccurring ear infections as young child, which resulted in several sets of tubes (I couldn’t even tell you how many) and slight hearing loss.  In fact, I hated seeing the ENT (ear, nose, and throat) specialist, Dr. Stoddard, because I dreaded getting another set of tubes.  For the record, Dr. Stoddard was one of the nicest doctors I ever had, and I feel terrible that I hated him so much as a child.  My fear of tubes stemmed from my memory of my last set of tubes at age four (I think).  I remember throwing up due to the anesthesia, and I was terrified I was going to have to go through that again.  For the record, I have yet to meet a girl or woman with Turner Syndrome who did not have several sets of tubes as a child.

When I was ten years old, everything changed.  In the early 1990s, HGH (human growth hormone) came into use for “treatment” of Turner Syndrome.  In fact, in later years, I met girls slightly older than me who participated in the clinical trials.  At age ten, I started daily injections of HGH.  I stayed on those shots until I was 15 years old.  In fact, the development of HGH treatment for girls with Turner Syndrome is how I found out I have TS.  In order to be considered for HGH treatment, I had to spend a night in the hospital for hourly blood tests.  As I was not sick, my parents were put in a position where they had to explain that I have Turner Syndrome.  I am deeply grateful to my parents for their honesty and their insistence that I could achieve whatever I desired.

Today, I have mixed feelings about the use of HGH for the treatment of Turner Syndrome.  I don’t believe that short stature should be treated as a disease.  It is that simple and that complex.  I completely understand why my parents decided to put me on HGH.  They simply wanted the best for me.  What I do not understand is the medical profession’s singular focus on height in girls with Turner Syndrome.  During my adolescence, there was little if any discussion of infertility, possible learning issues, or anything else.  The focus was almost exclusively on HGH, the timing of puberty and hormone replacement therapy (again, related to height), and, of course, final height.  I felt like a freak of nature.

Adolescence and puberty are hard enough; now imagine it planned, measured, and discussed at length.  Like any other adolescent girl, I just wanted to fit in.  I didn’t, and I never would.  At age 14, I had the opportunity to attend a camp exclusively for girls with Turner Syndrome.  It changed my life.  For the first time in my life, I met other girls with Turner Syndrome.  I finally met others who shared similar body and social issues.  I had the opportunity to travel halfway across the country on my own.  I attended two years, and I credit camp for giving me the confidence to study abroad repeatedly during my years at Michigan State.  By having the opportunity to meet others with TS, I realized that I am not a freak, and I am certainly not alone.

Today, after having earned degrees in supply chain management and Spanish from Michigan State University, I am going back to school to teach Spanish and/or social studies at the middle school and/or high school level.  Once I am established in my new career, I hope to adopt.  Even though the pain of infertility never fully goes away, I do believe that I am meant to adopt.  I am looking forward to the next chapter in my life.

Women and girls with Turner Syndrome face a wide variety of physical, emotional, and social challenges.  They also happen to be one of the most highly educated and determined group of women and girls I have ever met.  Never let a label define you or let anyone underestimate your ability.


The Enemy Within


The Trouble With Bright Girls – Psychology Today

Undoubtedly, I am my own worst enemy.  I continually underestimate my capability, and no matter what I’ve achieved, it is never enough.  I am a perfectionist, and it rears its ugly head just when I need it the least.  The sad thing is, this article left me wondering what I would have accomplished if I felt I could try new things as a child, particularly when it came to sports and anything physical.  Once I entered kindergarten, students went out of their way to never let me forget that my body was different.  Always the last chosen for teams in gym class, I soon stopped caring or trying.  It saddens me that every day, children are told that they are not enough, that they shouldn’t even try.

Right now, I need more courage than ever.  I know I have it within me to create the life I am meant to live.  The issue becomes how to get out of my own way.  I am my own worst enemy, and it needs to stop.  Now.  Those voices of those classmates, so intent on pointing out every single physical flaw, still play in a constant loop in my head from time to time.  It is the nagging little voice that tells me that I am not pretty enough, that if it involves anything physical, I will fail.  It tells me that I am unworthy of love.  It never ends.  I have to constantly prove my own worth to myself.  Enough is enough.

Body and Other Four Letter Words

This is one of the final – and best – blog posts I shared on my old site.  This is still a topic that I think about and struggle with every day.

There are many reasons why I haven’t blogged in well over a year, but today I’m going to address one of the main reasons.  One of the main reasons I decided to blog in the first place was simply to address issues most important to me, and with the issues of body image and infertility, I’ve failed to do just that.  How do you address something that affects every single aspect of your life?  How do you address something so overwhelming that no one, not even those who love you the most, wants to hear it?  The thing is that the longer I let these thoughts fester, let these words go unsaid, the longer I wonder if there is something I could’ve done for girls and women dealing with the same issues.

As a child, I can precisely pinpoint the moment when I was told my body wasn’t good enough; it was the day I entered kindergarten.  Prior to kindergarten, no one called me fat or felt the need to constantly remind me just how short I was.  Sure, I was a “stocky” kid, but I was also active.  I played outside constantly with my little sister, cousins, etc.  I never felt self-conscious in a bathing suit; I was having too much fun swimming.  I never felt the need to compare myself to anyone else.  Did I envy my older cousins?  Of course I did!  I looked up to all four of them (all female), but even as a small child I knew that to compare myself to someone so much older simply didn’t make sense.

Everything changed in kindergarten.  In gym, I was always picked last for teams.  When we had to line up by height (again, in gym), I was inevitably last or next to last.  Sadly, I was compared to a little girl who was much larger than me.  I just remember the anger and outrage of such an unjust comparison, and yet, I felt empathy for the other girl.  Was that really how other kids saw me?  As time wore on, kids started making rhymes about my body.  25 years later, and I still remember it all: “Short, fat, and squatty; got no face, got no body.”

In some ways things got better in junior high.  I went from being bullied to being mostly ignored.  As others paired off and experimented, I just threw myself into my school work and books.  Sports were never much of an option for me, and unfortunately, sports at the junior high/high school I attended were the key to popularity, especially if you were a girl.  I wasted my time on crushes who couldn’t be bothered to even talk to me, much less date me.  Once my little sister joined me at the same school, I was bombarded with comments such as: “I can’t believe you two are sisters! Your sister is so pretty and popular!”  The implication, of course, being that I was the exact opposite: ugly and unpopular.

As an adolescent, I would’ve given anything to look like my Mom and sister, both of whom I considered relatively thin (though they would both fight me on that one), beautiful, and popular.  At the time, I wanted blonde hair and blue eyes if it meant acceptance.  I remember driving with my Mom in her new red Grand Prix as a young teenager.  GM had completely redesigned the Grand Prix, and my Mom had one of the first redesigned models in the area.  My Mom had lost a lot of weight, and frankly, looked great.  Every time I went somewhere with my Mom, it seemed as though we would get stares, mainly from men.  I couldn’t help but wish I was the one making heads turn, not my Mom.  Despite all of the disparaging remarks my Mom would make about her own weight, I never saw her as anything but beautiful.

Adolescence is hard, but it is even harder if you are short and fat.  At the time, I thought I was huge, and that there was no chance I’d ever lose the weight.  Today, I’d love to weigh what I did in high school.  In college, I proved myself wrong and lost a lot of weight due to walking Michigan State’s campus and walking all over Spain during my semester there.  What I wasn’t prepared for was how I would be treated differently.  People were interested in me, in my life – even a few men.

After college, after moving to Houston, Texas for my first “real” job, things changed.  I took all of the stress of that job, the joy of being in a relationship, and the loneliness I felt before Brian joined me in Houston, and I did what I do best: I used it as a license to eat.  The desk job didn’t help either.  Not only did I gain back all of the weight I lost, I kept gaining more too.  It got to the point that my Dad and Grandma were shocked when I returned to Michigan.  They couldn’t even hide it as I’d gained that much weight.

Today I’m at a point in my life where I’d love to lose the weight again.  I’m single, and frankly, happier than I’ve been in a very long time.  The thing is that I’d be kidding myself if I didn’t admit that I’m scared: I’m scared of all of the attention I’d receive if I did lose the weight.  The experience of having lived through that once left me angry.  Am I really that much more of an interesting person if I am relatively thin?  As I thought through all of that, I realized that losing weight would only be temporary (again) if I didn’t deal with my own body issues.  I’m left wondering how I am supposed to do that when everything in our society states, quite bluntly, that my body, even at its best, will never be good enough on account of my height alone.

If there is anything I want girls and women to take from this, it is this: 

We should not feel we have to be a certain weight to feel loved and accepted for who we are, society be damned.  Never let anyone tell you differently.

We as a society need to come to accept the simple fact that people come in all shapes, sizes, and colors.  Words hurt much more than most people realize.

girl 2

Is this what we want for girls?

Through all of this over-thinking of body image as of late, I came to realize that I’ve never truly even liked my body, and much of the reason stems from infertility.  The first thing I ever remember wanting out of life was to be a mom.  At no point in my life did I ever not want a family of my own.  Unfortunately, biologically, it just isn’t going to happen.  Fortunately, I came to terms with the fact adoption is a wonderful alternative a long time ago.  And yet, I’ve never quite forgiven my body for so fundamentally betraying me.

If I resemble anyone on either side of my family, it would be my Great-Grandma Suszko, my Dad’s maternal grandmother. At nineteen, I was working with my Grandma (her daughter) when she opened a package from a niece containing her parents’ wedding photo, newly redone.  My Grandma kept staring at the photo and then back at me.  It was clear she thought I looked like her Mom, although the fact that I was the same age as the girl in the photograph probably helped.  As someone deeply interested in family history, I have a copy of Great-Grandma Suszko’s naturalization papers.  Her physical description could fit me perfectly, with one exception: she was two inches taller than I am.  My Great-Grandma Suszko had ten children, all but one of whom lived well into their 70s.  Add in the fact that my Mom has four sisters, and I came up with one conclusion: My body should be built to bear children.  It just isn’t.

What people who don’t have infertility fail to realize is that dealing with it is an on-going process, not a one-time deal.  Just when you feel you are fine with it, accepted it fully, and have moved on, something happens that forces you to deal with it all over again.  For me, one of the hardest things to deal with was the day I realized that I fully met the medical definition of infertile (I’ll spare you the details).  There just wasn’t anyone I could share that deep sense of loss with at the time, even my boyfriend.  I’ve talked a lot about my experiences with body image, but it just wasn’t complete without discussing infertility as well.  There was a time in my life that dealing with infertility was so painful that I downplayed my desire for a family of my own.  I downplayed it to the point that my own sister never realized that I wanted children.  It saddens me that those I love most can never fully understand due to the simple fact that they are parents.

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