Ed. Note: These essays are part of the series, Accepting the Self: Latinas on Body Image. To enjoy the full series, please read the introduction.
A Mother and Daughter on being Flacas
I was raised in a community where voluptuous women were the norm.
For many years I struggled with my weight, not weight loss, but weight gain. “Too flaca?”, “Do you eat?”, “Oh my Gosh! are you anorexic?”
These were some one the whispers I would hear. I allowed the ridicule and taunts to affect me during my youth. However, overtime, I learned to mute the voices.
By the time I was in middle school I was towering over all my family members. A “very tall and very skinny” girl, or at least that’s what I was told. In high school I started participating in sports and extracurricular activities and noticed that exercise gave me muscles. I was still very skinny, but finally I had some tiny muscles and hooray! I had some nalgas!
I remember looking at the girls in High School, one of them particularly curvy and saying to myself, when I grow up I’m going to have boobs and curves. But, unfortunately, the boob train skipped my room during High School and during college and also during my young adult life. Onwards to college which was more of the same. I remember looking into a mirror, I wondered is this it? Will I have to be skinny all my life. Oh well, I guess I’m always going to be flaca. As a young adult, I kept working out to maintain my muscles, but never managed to develop into a curvy or voluptuous woman.
When I was pregnant with my daughter I didn’t gain very much weight. I actually looked like a filled out woman – - sort of the way I wanted to look. After the pregnancy I lost all the weight and all the muscles and found my self at a lower weight then when I was pregnant. What happened?! Stress was plaguing my life. In an instant I realized that my skinny body was normal for me and that I needed to embrace it.
Are you flaca?
Yes, I am. Thank you.
Are you anorexic?
No I am not, Thank you.
Soon the whispers stopped.
Today, I am still a flaca… and I finally have some curves. Not the curves of my youth that I wished for, but the curves that were made for just for me.
If you are a flaca, this story is for you. Embrace it!
There is nothing more awkward than puberty.
Characterized by glasses, curly hair, and unsightly braces. Middle school pictures were dreaded for most of us and high school didn’t lighten the situation. These were the years when girls finally received their “mangoes” in flattering proportions. But some of us didn’t receive our mangoes at all.
I was one of those ugly ducklings with long arms, bony legs, and no curves. When would my mangoes come?
I was 11-years-old when I first began getting teased for my appearance. During these years I was called “anorexic” as if it was my first name. I had a very small figure but by no means was this forced or induced. I was genetically thin. And although I had a big appetite my weight would not budge. Boys at my school would gang up on me, teasing me during lunch and on the bus. I quickly grew to be defensive and while I did not understand the teasing I understood at a young age that it was important to stand up for myself.
When I had entered high school the teasing and taunting did not lessen. The comments became more obscene and crude. I had honestly thought by this age I would receive mangoes, or at least plums, but I had not. My body was still transitioning.
During this time I was never completely comfortable with my appearance. I questioned myself a great deal and felt as if I was an easy target for disrespect. I began to double up my pants by wearing a pair of sweats under my jeans to thicken the sight of my legs. I did this everyday. I drank nutritional supplements in hopes that it would add on a few pounds, but they only made me sick. I hid my figure in large sweaters and coats, and never drew attention to my shape. I just wanted to get through high school as discretely as possible.
It is important to equip our young girls with self esteem and acceptance. Girls of all ages are teased because of their appearance. Whether it is because of weight, style, or physical features. High school can be a brutal experience for many and if our girls do not have our support and encouragement they will become victim to that bullying and cattiness. I have my mother to thank because she enabled me with strength and she restored my confidence by reminding me of how beautiful I was everyday.
There are countless definitions of beauty, and each are has valuable as the next. Remind your loved ones to embrace who they are, and to accept themselves just as they were created.
I finally received my mangoes, but more importantly I receive the love of my mother and family who instill in me the importance of appreciating all body types and images.
Diversity is a beautiful thing and we are all beautiful women.
Denise Mitchell is a College studying English who lives in Southern California. She blogs at Denise’s Blog.