If you follow Humans of New York (and even if you don’t) you’ve probably seen this. Stella, a young woman who has struggled with weight and been bullied for it all of her life, recently posted a picture of herself in bra and underwear on her tumblr, declaring, “THIS IS MY BODY, DEAL WITH IT”.
She then ran into Brandon from HONY, who did a portrait of her. She told him about her photo on tumblr and he posted it to the HONY Facebook page. As of this writing, it has 316,327 likes, 12,344 shares, and 32,471 comments. Many of them are positive, but, unsurprisingly given the trolls who command the internet, many of them are negative. The poor woman has been through a lot in the last 24 hours.
I don’t want to add to that burden. But I am going to post the picture here because I think it really helps to make the point I’m about to make, and because I know all of you are kind and wonderful people who will say nothing negative about her.
Stella’s picture and her story (she has trouble managing her weight because of PCOS) really touched me. As I got dressed this morning, I thought of Adeline. She sees me naked frequently and I think she can tell that I’m comfortable with my body. But that’s only one side of the equation. What if her body doesn’t end up looking exactly like mine? I still want her to be comfortable with it.
So this morning we sat down together and I showed her Stella’s picture. “Do you think she looks like mama?” I asked. Addie smiled her big smile, opened her eyes wide and said, “Yes!” To be clear, I’m 5’8″ and 125 pounds. Most adults in our culture would see our size differences first and foremost. But we also both have long brown hair, a bit of a sassy smile, and even more basically, two arms, two legs, eyes, ears, mouth and nose.
I had been prepared to talk to Addie about why we were similar even though we looked different, but Addie already thought we looked the same. I told her that Stella was a bit bigger than me, but that she was still beautiful and brave. Addie smiled and said, “Dat’s a girl.” (She’s very into gender right now.)
“She is a girl,” I told her. “Just like mama and just like you.” I tried to explain to her that some people had been mean to Stella because of her appearance, but that was silly because that doesn’t really matter. “Addie, appearance doesn’t matter, ok?” I started to cry a little, remembering the times I’ve been bullied, the times I’ve hated the way I look, thinking with fear of Addie facing the same thing.
“You ok mom?” She asked, her voice concerned. “Does’n madder.”
“That’s right,” I agreed. “It doesn’t matter.”
I don’t know how much she really understood. But we started the conversation. That’s the best I can do. Thank you Stella.