The Plus Side To Plus Size

” I have a woman’s body and a child’s emotions.” – Elizabeth Taylor


I loved myself at eighteen.

I arrived to the tiny Catholic college sure of my skills, my love of writing, my mind. I was proud of my scholarship. I was proud to have a student parking pass.

Then I took my first sip of freedom, and it tasted like hot Pabst.

That first night I decided I should make friends.Three hours from home I’d need new company in this foreign land of libraries. Within minutes some older boys sauntered up, invited me and my dorm mate to an apartment party. They reeked of dime store collogne and hair gel and the sheen from metallic graphics across one boy’s shirt made me squint like staring at Jesus’s glory halo with mere human eyes. One burped while the other texted. One told me I was “hot enough to hang” while the other crookedly stared at my crotch. These co-ed cassanovas were slobbering drunk and completely against all that I stand for and paying attention to me.Naturally, I was smitten. So I muffled the list of ten reasons “hot enough to hang” was morally and gramattically askew and nodded like a puppy anxiously waiting for a treat. Lead me to your frat friends, Master. I might have wagged my lonely little tail a bit. That was the night I discovered that in this small corner of the world I was considered hot. That was the first night I ever cared.

That year I maintained a flawless GPA. I worked on hugely-funded side projects with impressive professors. I took on twice the number of course loads as the average full-time student. I taught dance part-time to fifth graders and spent spare evenings waiting tables at a barbeque joint. My parents were so proud.

My own pride was doused in glitter and hunch punch. I’d started that first night proving I was “hot enough to hang” and it’d become a social mission every night afterwards. You could find me scantily clad, slamming shots, hollering some Garth Brooks lyrics the loudest across the shoddy bar. I was surrounded by classmates who loved me, celebrated me, desired me. So I kissed everything with a weiner, made each appearance more outrageous than the last, and-for the love of Garb!- I kept my body and makeup in check. Eighteen was a year of fine-tuning abs and picking the right 1/2-yard of hot pink spandex to properly fashion a mini toga. Eighteen was a year I loved myself because a whole host of nameless, frat-hatted faces loved me, too.

I hated myself at nineteen.

That year I was diagnosed with a condition I was too young to understand. I was told I wouldn’t bare children, but I was too busy staring at my hands, blistered and scarred from a freak allergic reaction to IV tape. I was told that my eggs were scrambled, but all I heard was that my steroid-packed perscriptions would most certainly make me gain weight. I spent mornings vomitting from a new ailment, a health hangover with none of the perks of a party the night before. I spent afternoons mourning the loss of my hotness over gallons of ice cream and nights mourning the loss of my place in life. I gained weight. My silly little world ended.

As my waist line expanded, the fawning crowd I’d grown so accustomed to shrunk and withered and, before I knew it, disappeared. A few close girl friends let me cry on their laps. I was suddenly shocked and disgusted by myself. If I was no longer in demand then who was I? Supportive girls told me I was smart and funny, caring and pretty. One mentioned my bright academic future to which I sobbed because “OMG! WTF? You like, so, like, totally don’t even get it”. I was quickly morphing into the cocky quarterback from high school, desperately clinging to his field goal glory days as he reached level 114 on some Ninento game without ever taking a pee break or leaving the futon in his mama’s basement.

Later that year, I went to a party on campus. I’d fretted much about this night, painstakingly picked the perfect tent of a dark dress to best diguise my ballooning figure. An older boy approached and something told me he would not suggest I was hot enough to hang. But I was relieved when he acted excited to see me, even invited me to sit with him and two wide-eyed  freshman newbies. For a minute there his gesture felt like a hug, a reassurance that I was still in some form of “it” crowd, that my puffy cheeks and inability to rock that Scottish school girl costume from last year was ok. I was so happy he would still know me. He rattled off legendary tales of the mystical Tori of yesteryear: Record-breaking beer pong scores and the title of Hook Up Queen I’d impressively earned just a few short months into my career as a sorority slut. The young boys were awestruck, wanting to meet this bewildering, pink-bra-ed Tori he spoke of.

“Now, you gotta understand, Tori used to be, like, super hot,” he stated as plain as a weather report. The young boys laughed, coughed on all the awkward in the air, and then just stared. I’d learned to get funny as I got fat. I laughed through a quivering chin, called him the “god damn Girth Gestapo”, realized these kids don’t understand jokes and large words. And that was the night I learned I wasn’t hot anymore. And that was the first night I heard aloud the heavy shame I’d felt for months.

I’d spend many hours over the next years lamenting how I wanted to go back to eighteen. Where did that girl go?  I just wanted life to feel like a touchdown dance again.

Recently I thought about that first year, that time when I was skinny and that’s what mattered. I realize now that eighteen was taut and toned and a total trainweck. She was one spray-tan away from the Jersey Shore. She acted dumb to win the hearts of the dumber. She spent more time doing crunches than research papers. She centered her world around the god damn Girth Gestapo.

They were fools to love me then.

They’d be fools to hate me now.

I love myself at twenty-five.

Today I have a son we made from my scrambled eggs. I feel happy, mostly good, and mostly strong. Today I have the same two eyes, two scarred hands, even the same two feet I had at eighteen. I have a clean bill of health and a husband who celebrates me regardless of brain or boob size. I can see now that in gaining weight I gained a clear perspective. It was the most uncomfortable and image-shattering gift I’ve been handed.  It was a hurtful vision. I thought I made a lot of friends. Turns out I wasn’t letting them really get to know me. Turns out they didn’t really care to. Today I am about the height and weight and waist and bust size I was on the very first night I was hot enough to hang. Today this doesn’t even matter.

Writing Prompt: blessing in disguise

Mama’s Losin’ It

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98 thoughts on “The Plus Side To Plus Size

  1. This deserves a LOVE button. It truly does.

    As a girl who is so far on the plus side of plus size I don’t remember being small, this story speaks to me. And, if I’m being honest, brings a little tear to my eye. Great post!

  2. Oh, that’s just beautiful. This does deserve a love button. I’m actually smaller than I was in HS, but like you, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is the journey it took to realize that it doesn’t matter what my size it. IT matters how I feel about myself and why.

    • I love that you said that. When I visit your site and see your pictures I’ve notice that you are tiny, tiny, tiny, but what I really take note of is that through your pictures and posts you seem so happy.

  3. Dang! Where the heck were you when I was looking for a girlfriend in college?
    O, yeah, right. you were bus not being BORN yet! :D
    So, you look the same way now you did at 18 – super hot. And I look the same way I did at 18 – the fat nerd.
    Glad ONE of us is feeling better! :p
    (I kid, of course. Good for you! Now, where the heck did I put that bottle of Jack? ;) )

    • Yeah, I was all pre-fetal at that point. I’ve never met a fetus who could rock a tube top :) And honestly, you would’ve hated me! I had pretty lipgloss but was THE quintessential drunk sorority airhead.

    • That’s a perfect way to sum it up! About a year ago I lost that weight. I used an online program to help me figure out just what and how much I should be eating for a healthier diet. It asked me to put in my desired weight/ size and I had NO clue what to enter. Mostly I just didn’t care what size pants I wore. I wanted to feel more comfortable, stronger, healthier and that had nothing to do with pants shopping :)

  4. Tori you are gorgeous inside and out. I wish I could look at myself with that same kind of confidence, but sadly I still struggle with the idea that somehow my weight defines me. I know its wrong, but it is a constant battle.

    • It’s not an every day confidence. That’s for sure. I still catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror or see an unflattering photo and think “Well, yuck”. I just understand that the “yuck” feeling doesn’t come close to the “yay” feeling I get from everything else around me. Those are baby steps, I guess :)

  5. So real! Very cool how you’ve come full-circle physically, but gone quite a distance, mentally.

    I was in an accident 3 wks before I started college – moved into my dorm with a broken collarbone and a big scar that resembled a worm on my face. Gained the freshman 15 before I ever set foot on campus, so I can relate to the DISCOMFORT and the lament for a previous, more hot-to-trot version of self. But yes, maybe this is why I buckled down and took college more seriously than those around me….never thought of it that way…

    Thanks for sharing.

    • The strange thing is, I hear so many older folks speak fondly of the way they looked in their youth. It’s funny that we can’t really appreciate that at the time, don’t see ourselves very clearly until much later. I’ve decided I will take some saggy mom boobs and stretch marks and daily security/happiness over looking and more importantly acting like I did back then :)

  6. Tori: I think this is one of the best things you have ever written. So proud of you. I thought being raped was the worst thing that could have ever happened to me, and then I realized it taught me a kind of empathy that one cannot learn any other way. So proud of you for this.

  7. So much to love about this piece. The honesty here is heartbreaking to see but that same yearning to be loved and accepted by others and the insecurities are something I can definitely relate to, especially during college. Great post!

    • It seems a little mean that during those young, wild, and free days we are also at our most confused and insecure. I know I’m much better equipped to handle youth than I was when I was living it :)

  8. Beautiful! Thanks for sharing this. It’s particularly poignant for me, as I happened to be around during this time and can visualize it clearly. FWIW, I thought you were beautiful (and worth knowing) the whole time!

    • I was and am REALLY glad to know you :) It’s crazy to think how things have changed since Hillwood, right? In the years since college I’ve often thought that what I really needed was a Doc Harper to keep my butt in line at CBU :)

  9. Tori, I liked this! I know, one heck of a comment. But I thought I would stop by and let you know. I often look back and realize that those things that seemed rather horrible and tragic at the time were really blessings in disguise.

    • Don’t you wish you could know this at the time? I have to laugh or cry or both when I think about so many things I thought were nightmares growing up. They are situations/ experiences that I could handle now but couldn’t cope with as a teen!

  10. What an honest and straight forward indictment of a society that cannot look past the “hot” body to something much more valuable; your inner beauty. You have a talent of using picture words that draws the reader to feel your emotions. Keep up your blog, and congratulations on finding love. I too found love and we’re still counting; 28 years and still on our honeymoon.

    • Keeping my fingers crossed that I can enjoy that 28-year honeymoon phase, too :) Retrospect is a little cruel. I wish I could’ve seen so clearly at 18 what I understand today. Those supportive girls who reminded me that I had a brain and a heart and a lot more to offer than a tight butt were so right. They’re my best friends/ bridesmaids/ life long confidants now :)

  11. Honey, hot to hang with at 18 perhaps. But you look smoking hot in that last picture with your dress and your baby. Great post to read first thing in the morning. Gives me strength to go about my day. I’m sorry about what you had to go through at 19, but sheesh hot momma, look at you now. You are gorgeous, inside and out.

    • That’s the great part about it, though. I held onto that weight (and the horrible self-esteem) for years. I didn’t start losing weight until last year and I am glad it worked out that way. This time around I exercised and ate better only for myself, only to feel healthier and stronger. I can be this or any other size today and be content because I’m happy with the rest of myself :)

  12. Oh, Tori, this is a fabulous post! As someone whose medication has caused her to gain weight, I know a bit about this. Now add age to the equation and the skinny me is long gone. You are gorgeous, my friend. So happy you can see that now.
    Hugs,
    Kathy

    • I felt ridiculous writing this. I know a “chubby” phase isn’t something most people would count on as a blessing, but I was glad I had that year. I was becoming so focused on my shell- the looks, the size, the reflection- that I think I desperately needed something to shake me from it. Gaining 30 lbs. and losing some “friends” did the trick.

  13. Anyone who writes this powerfully is always hot enough to hang.
    Not that I’m at liberty to proclaim that sort of thing
    (I spent the majority of my college years hiding under my mattress). :)

    • I’m right there with you, dude. Not under your college mattress. Things just got creepy, eh? No, I have NO clue what hot is anymore. I’m horrified to learn that for todays teens I think it involves crotch skimming spandex dresses and eyeliner.

    • No part of me feels 25. Seriously. I’ve asked my parents for documented proof that I’m not 86. Then they’re all “But we’re only in our 50’s, dummy” and I’m like “LIARS! CONSPIRACY! EARLY BIRD SPECIAL & ARTHRITIS!”. I sat down to write this post thinking it would be so difficult, as this happened “ages” ago. Or 6 dog years :)

  14. Beautiful.
    Love your scrambled eggs ;)

    I was told at 19 that I’d have difficulty having children – WTF telling me at 19? Talk about unwanted stress. Then, when it came time to actually TRY for children – BAM – First try, twins. Take THAT, Doctors ;p

    • Ahhh. Please tell me you sent holiday cards to those silly doctors that year… featuring your TWO “Never Gonna Happen” babies on the front. Getting that news at such a young age is too much. Like I said in the post, my brain was wired to worry about the weight gain and scars and superficial side effects. I remember almost a YEAR later suddenly crying about the big things: my health, the kids I would “never” have, etc. It took that long for my young self to grasp the magnitude of it.

  15. Tori, you’re always hot enough to hang. Practically on fire!
    Great post :) it’s always nice to be able to look back on past you and think, “Yup, changed for the better.” instead of looking back with regret.

  16. This is the most illuminating and absurdly well-written post I’ve read in ages. You are a phenomenal writer and have somehow managed to encapsulate a lot of what us women go through on our journey from our teens to twenties. My daughter is going through that now but thankfully with a more mature head on her shoulders than I had. The goal is to be comfortable in our own skin. She already is but for most of us it takes a little longer. I’m only just getting there in my forties but it’s liberating when it happens.

    • It definitely feels like a burden lifted. I (like a lot of young women) spent an awful lot of time trying to impress, please, win over people only to slowly figure out I needed to like myself before worrying about a room of strangers. SO glad your daughter is approaching that notoriously insecure time gracefully! Thanks so much for such a thoughtful comment :)

  17. You know what’s a double blessing in disguise? That you learned this lesson at a young age. I know women twice your age who still haven’t gotten the message.

    Happy weekend! You’re hot enough to hang at any size in my book!

    • Oh man. I couldn’t imagine feeling that bad about myself for one minute longer than I did. Makes me want to hug a lot of ladies who’ve felt this way for years and years. I was lucky. That was (more or less) a couple years of my life and I really feel like I’m past it now.

    • I don’t know about inspiration! That feels like a big word I don’t deserve! The best thing about sharing all my junk, the embarrassing/ dark/ icky/ messy bits of my life is that I’m realizing more and more how many people have been there, too. The response to this post is proof. Just about made me cry to read how many of us have felt like we’re not good enough.

    • Isn’t my age stupid? No part of me feels 25. I always feel a little ridiculous telling people my age. I’m sure they’re looking at my grey hairs and wrinkle eyes like “Oh, that’s sweet. You keep telling yourself ’25’, honey.”. It’s like that decade my friend’s mom was 39. We all played along, mostly out of pity!

  18. Wow! What an amazing lesson to learn the crappiest way possible. So glad things have come together…especially that little guy made from scrambled eggs. What a sweetheart!

  19. Gorgeous post, Tori. I know you mentioned earlier that writing about weight issues felt a little silly, but honestly? I think the majority of people in today’s western society are preoccupied with weight to some extent, so it’s a topic that is pretty easy to relate to.

    I envy you for being so put together mentally/emotionally at 25. I’m not a whole lot older than you are, but when I read such a profound post like this, it feels like I have a long way to go still. :) Most days I’m body confident, then other days I’m totally, 100% not. What gives?

    • Ew girl, I’m still a hot mess. Almost daily I cringe at the sight of my body. It’s looser and stretched and altogether less “fine” than it used to be. Really the only change for me is that I finally get that it’s not the end of the world. The thought of not having a six-pack used to terrorize me. Now, a six-pack would be great… but I’ve got other things that are better!

  20. This was a great memoir and well written. It’s so true – how we can get caught up when we’re young in all of that phony attention. Now we just try to earn some respect or attention with out blogs ;) But at least it comes from the inner workings of our minds, not the outer workings of our abs. Which, still, I want to get back myself.

  21. That was a really enjoyable read. It highlights so much about the culture of university and how it influences us at a time when we’re just figuring out who we are and how we fit in.

    • That is the cruel part of youth, I guess. When you have the body and brain and energy to do so much you also have the insecurity that keeps you from knowing how worthy and good you are.

  22. Tori, this is a wonderful post — it should be pasted on dorm elevators all around the world.

    And I’m not just saying that because I”m on the treadmill …

  23. Holy heck, this was a really awesome post. It means a lot to me to see this, to read your story. I just love the way you told it, it’s important. A similar thing happened to my roommate, who had cancer at 19, and she changed so much from when she was 18.
    I love you ’cause you’re hot.
    And cause you’re funny and caring and talented and a freakin’ amazing woman.

    • Hahaha. The closest I get to hot is my chronic hot-mess-ness, but thanks :) That really is such a tough age to be when going through a major change. I can look back on it now and see exactly how to handle everything, what to pay attention to, what to let slide, how to feel about myself. Nothing was that clear to me at the time, though.

  24. Takes a lot to admit something like this! I was a complete loser in college, hence dropped out after 4 months. Worse decision I ever made. Everything after that is a blur. At least you had brains and focus. I was just a loose nut falling off the screw. But I think we all go through these trials and tribulations in our earlier years. Eventually, we just say the hell with it and just try to enjoy life and those who have accepted our little quirks.

    • See, I felt like a loose nut. I was focused in the sense that I made good grades, turned in those god awful papers, but the overall feeling I took from those years was falling without a place to land.

      • Hey, how many other college students are handing in god awful papers!? You do what you have to do to pass for one thing. I was focused on ‘where’s the next party?’. I had a boyfriend at home, hormones raging, and like you, so important to be accepted and have friends. I already had 12 years of education, it was time to enjoy the freedom of non-parental supervision! But too immature and naive. The rest is downhill! At least you had the brains to graduate. It’s all in the past, we must move on. It’s hard though, make you wonder what would have been if you didn’t have the health issue and if I was focused and actually gave it a shot.

      • Hindsight is always so clear and that’s not always a good thing. Most of my reflecting on former versions of myself include many “Ugh. You should kick your own ass” :)

  25. Tori, this post was truly amazing. You have such a way with words that draws everyone in. I wish that I was as confident (or at least be able to appear as confident) as you are. I’m still in that phase where I’m working on it, but I hope some day to have it figured out. Thank you for sharing something so personal and inspiring.

    • Michele, don’t be fooled. I still have those moments when I squint at the mirror and pinch a spare, fatty piece, and say beggy prayers for painfully unimportant things like whiter teeth. I think that’s the human way. I’m a little easier on myself now, realize I traded off hotness to gain bigger, less visible things: the family, the happiness, the comfort of being accepted regardless of looks. It’s progress but it’s slow moving and you can almost forget it’s happenning :)

    • That’s some Life Irony right there. When we get to be hot and young and free and gorgeous we are so darn dumb. Things start sagging and waistlines grow and eyes wrinkle but suddenly we get our wits about us. It’s a trade off I guess. A world of brilliant hotties would get dangerous.

  26. Wowza I’m glad I came over to your blog today. This is an amazing post and a wonderful look back in time. I too am 25 and such a different person than I was at 18. You are an amazing writer and a beautiful person.

    • Thanks for reading, Lily! It’s funny now that I’m older a few years here and there don’t seem too significant. I can pretty much say I’ll be who I am today this time next year. But THOSE years, that awkward, fumbling time between being a little girl and being a grownup, they seemed too small a time to hold all that change.

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