I think many adults can do better in their relations with youth. I think many adults need to learn that “You do not have to make us feel bad or feel ashamed about something for us to be motivated to change it.” I also think that if adults wouldn’t treat each other disrespectfully, then they shouldn’t treat younger people likewise.
Thursday, 9:27 pm – Excerpt from a WhatsApp Rant.
This is probably not where and to whom I should be ranting to but ranting here makes me feel better. I am usually the ‘no one can tell me sh*t about my fat belly person.’ I laugh about it. I joke about it. I write funny blog posts about it, but this week alone, I have looked up three ways of dieting. I bought a plan for one – The Keto Diet. I only ate out once or twice. I ate fruits. I drank water and took lots of 0% fat yogurt. I signed up for personal training at the gym. I cut down my access to junks and only ate nuts for snacks. And today, I was feeling sexy, so I wore a short red dress and boots. I did ‘intermittent fasting’ – something I saw from the diet plan, and when I was hungry, I only took a smoothie for breakfast and a cup of yogurt for lunch. And then, someone, an older person in a professional setting, poked my belly and said, ‘what’s this bulge?’
I smiled lightly and brushed it off, saying, I didn’t want to lose it – referring to my fat belly and walked away trying not to be concerned, but plenty things in me wanted to walk back to that moment and say something equally offensive.
When close friends do this, I don’t mind. When close family members do this, it usually doesn’t hurt my feelings. But that, that right there broke my spirit. It reminded me of my body so shamefully, and I was more disappointed in myself for not speaking up immediately or at all. I never thought I'd be thinking or writing of disliking or hating my body so soon. About two years ago, I never thought that I'd be the type to walk past the mirror more than five times a day, then stop, naked, or clothed, just imagining how I would look if my belly were flatter.
When people do things like what happened on Thursday, they ask or talk as though I am ignorant of my own body. I want to scream back and say, “I KNOW I HAVE A BELLY BULGE” the same way I am aware that my eyes are dysfunctional and there is acne on my face.
Every time I walk into Old Navy to buy a new pair of jeans and intentionally pick one size bigger, it is because I know I have a belly bulge. When I choose to wear a loose sweater over a well-fitted top, it is because I know I have a belly bulge even when I haven’t eaten all day. It is also because I know my belly will pop out more unashamedly when I dare to take a sip of water. When I wear a full suit to church or choose to leave my shirt tucked out of my skirt, it is because I know I have a belly bulge. I am conscious of it, and I am becoming slightly unhappy, not about my fat belly but about the fact that I am becoming aware of it this way.
However, whenever, I dare to consider some weight loss nonsense or suffocating in a waist trainer, I think of my grandmother and how in high school, she would fry stew with chicken and bring it to the dormitory for me because I wouldn’t eat what the school cafeteria served. I think of how many holidays I spent at her house with the excitement that I would gain a little weight before leaving. I think of how she made it her mission to ensure that I gain weight at any slightest chance she found. I think of how she would be happy that “ikun e tie yo die – her stomach is even slightly out” when next she sees me.
I thought about this Thursday situation all through my one hour plus ride home than evening and replayed the scenario in my head. I thought about all the shady responses I wish I said. I thought about the 28 days Keto diet plan I purchased, but haven’t started and how guilty that made me feel. I felt much more guilty and undeserving to eat when I wanted to eat dinner that night and breakfast, the next morning. I was unhappy about eating even when I tried a new restaurant on Friday to compensate myself for a good grade. I thought about my face, the acne on it that left too many dark spots recently, and how that looks worse and more obvious than my little bulging belly. I also thought about how I want my next book to be a collection of personal essays glamorously titled THE BULGE as vengeance.
I pride myself on many things, one of which is being strong-minded and emotionally intelligent. Not that things don’t get to me, they do. They break my heart, and I cry, write, and vent to my friends about it. On some days, when venting isn’t enough, I see a shrink. Then, I pick myself up, dust my shoulder, and move forward.
I also pride myself on choosing to remain respectful, especially when I experience disrespect from older people. However, I think many adults can do better in their relations with youth. I think many adults need to learn that “You do not have to make us feel bad or feel ashamed about something for us to be motivated to change it.” I also think that if adults wouldn’t treat each other disrespectfully, then they shouldn’t treat younger people likewise.
Not many young people dare to eloquently voice their feelings when an adult they expect would do the right thing disrespects them. It is more frustrating and challenging for youth to express themselves when we come from communities with highly held cultural values that predict “adults are always right or can never be wrong.” I think this needs to change. I have heard, read, and written stories that started with an adult disrespecting a youth or offending them in a way that hurt them deeply, and they can now express only by working hard to succeed at other things. I wish to read more positive stories of adults saying less of the wrong things and respecting us as full human beings just as they hope we respect them.
In my relationships with people younger than myself, more often than not, I try to not be like many adults I have experienced. I am learning to apologize when I am wrong to them and respect them enough to not need to apologize. If you are an adult reading this post, I dare you to ask the younger people around you “How have I offended you?” and apologize.
This weekend, I ruminated on the other adults in that setting who have bulging bellies and how the same person who poked my stomach wouldn’t do such to them. I also thought of how if this person were to be one with a fat belly, how out of just sheer human respect, I wouldn’t do what she did or even consider her body something worth pointing at so shamefully.
Tonight, I am just wondering how my day and weekend would have been better if she commented on the red short dress I wore and how it matched well with my boots.
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© Oyindamola Shoola 2020