Ed. Note: This essay is part of the series, Accepting the Self: Latinas on Body Image. To enjoy the full series, please read the introduction.
I have high self-esteem for being a fat chick.
All the credit goes to my father. I can’t remember when I was thin. I know I was. I have the pictures to prove it. But somewhere before Kindergarten I became Chunky.
I was a sick infant and my Cuban parents old school mentality thought that thin meant unhealthy. When I began to recuperate, they gave me appetite “enhancers.” They gave me that Aceite de Higado de Bacalao and Bisti (I still don’t know what that is and just don’t want to know). I was given one raw egg yolk every morning and the potaje de puree was a must. Who knows what other things that I can’t quite remember. But, oh boy, did it all work.
I remember being 8-years-old and on my first diet. Lean Cuisines meals, while everyone else was enjoying un Bistec a Caballo, arroz blanco y papita fritas for dinner. It’s a vicious cycle I’ve dealt with for most of my life.
I can’t lie, there are moments when I say to myself, “Contra, I need to lose some weight!” But I’ve never been one to cry or hate myself over it. That’s just not me.
Throughout my teenage years, I heard it all. From the loving “You are pretty, but you would be much prettier if you lose weight.” And the hurtful, “You will NEVER get a man looking like that.” Those are the most malicious words anyone can say.
My father would lose his top when someone said that to me in his presence. Los ponia como un trompo!
He once sat me down with me in my room and told me, “Eres gorda, y que?! One day the man of your dreams will come into your life and fall in love with you. And it won’t matter if you are fat, skinny, cock-eyed or missing a limb.”
Let me just say I thought he was nuts. Telling me all this to make me feel better. But the speech stuck in my head. And it did happen. Esta Gorda found the man of her dreams, became a wife and a mother. Twelve years and counting without having to lose weight or changing to fit what society wants from me.
Now it’s my turn to raise a daughter. The “Do I look fat in this?” question popped up some years ago after an outing with my female in-laws. And being my father’s daughter, las puse como un trompo!
I sat down with my 7-year-old and gave her the same speech, but with a bit of a change: “Eres flaca y que?!”
Yoly Ovalle is a 30-something Cuban-American Princess from Miami. She is a married stay-at-home mother of 1, who loves cooking, el
chisme, pero no la boberia. She writes the blog, The Barefoot Goddess.