This column is part of a summer series that will focus on college-aged men and women’s perceptions of beauty and body image issues.
When I was 7, my pediatrician told my younger brother that he would grow up to be 6 feet tall, very big and strong. Turning to me, the doctor said, “And you will always be tiny! Maybe 5 feet 2.”
This is not what I wanted to hear. I wanted to be big and strong like my brother, who was already a head taller than me. To me, tiny people were only good for squeezing into small places during hide and seek.
In elementary school, I was always the smallest kid in my class and the last to grow out of Gymboree clothes. Adults talked to me as if I were in kindergarten, even though I was a third grade graduate. I was the runt, the shorty, the pipsqueak and I hated it.
I spent my preteen years stuffing my face and trying outrageous lengthening stretches so that I could start wearing cool clothes from teenager stores. (Oh, how I want to tell 12-year-old me, no! Stay away from Aeropostale!) I was all about getting bigger and taller. Nothing worked, and I grew into a tiny adult.
I needed to be 5 inches taller, I needed sexier curves, I needed anything but what I had.
Then I moved to Chapel Hill, where all of the girls seemed to be obsessed with making their bodies as miniscule as possible. I had never seen so many body-conscious girls in one place as I did in my dorm freshman year. I’d be eating late-night Qdoba or Gumby’s with my friends and suddenly I was under attack:
“I can’t believe you just ate all of that.” “I hate you for never going to the gym.” “I’m a house compared to you.”
Once, I was paid a most vicious compliment: “We can’t all have perfect bodies like you.”