Lately I’ve been thinking about invisibility. Not the superpower that would allow you to sneak into places you shouldn’t frequent, but the more attainable kind I’ve always craved – to take up as little space as possible.
It started when I was very young. I was tall, taller than everyone at school, even some teachers. Being teased for my height, I wanted so desperately to be petite and delicate. Instead of a fern, I was a giant redwood.
I stayed silent, subconsciously believing my lack of voice would shrink my physical size. Perhaps then I would go unnoticed, one of the crowd, no longer teased.
But I always stood out, a solid color against the patterned wallpaper of human interaction.
Later, as I grew older, it became clear to me that invisibility was what society demanded of women – at least, women in the circles in which I ran. Shrink back, let the menfolk do the talking. I silenced my opinions, my intellect, and let life happen to me for many wasted years.
This invisibility of course translated to physical weight as I grew older and carried more baggage, so to speak. I wanted my body to shrink, to take up as little space as possible. Dainty, feminine – to be invisible, this is an ideal in our culture for women. Tiny sparrow-thin arms, fragile collar bones, ribs sticking through silky blouses, this was the definition of ideal femininity enveloping my culture.
However, I am none of these. I take up space. I am weighty, even substantive. My ideas and my body take up space, muscular and fleshy. I am re-training my mind to no longer think of this as a negative trait. My solid legs support me as I do yoga; my strong arms lift heavy items on my own without assistance; my voice gives rise to three-dimensional opinions no longer shaped by others’ expectations of me.
I may never be lithe, but now I see that I’d rather be solid than invisible.
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