The skinny

I am sure it was this way before I left, but maybe I didn’t notice it as much. Maybe I’ve been gone too long and now see everything against the reflection of what I’ve left and learned, and will return to. New Yorkers have stopped eating. I have passed so many women that have yanked words out of my mouth, as if their bones ached to be heard and latched onto my tongue, forcing forward my thoughts that echoed their own fear of dissipation.

“My God! You need to eat,” is what I scream.

When was it that Ally McBeal was on? That was the start, was it not? Even with the backlash, suddenly women began shrinking, as if we became afraid of our own substance.

When my husband and I moved to Uganda, I was at my lowest weight. Not deliberate, but as a byproduct of being an undergrad, far from 18, and struggling. Still, I was absolutely a product of the culture and led proudly with my hipbones. I had also fed from the troth of sun evasion and had diligently shielded my skin from the horror of it, so that I shined as white as the refrigerator I had no time to visit.

A year later I was 10 pounds heavier and sun kissed all over. Oh, I tried to avoid it, but trying to avoid the sun in East Africa is like trying to avoid swimming when someone throws you in the water. At some point you just have to live.

And here’s where it gets funny. My gorgeous English friend, who’s married to a French hottie, tells me after this weight gain and tanning that her husband is so relieved I am not sick anymore. He was always concerned for her “pale, skinny friend.”

My husband dealt with this as well. He was on the receiving end of many a pitied look from Ugandans that his wife was so, well, hollow.

So words are pulled out of me, heard or not heard, as I watch a city of bones, happily ensconced in a little bit of the weight of a bigger life.

9 thoughts on “The skinny

  1. Colorado has recently been named the “least obese state in America” and I’ve been wondering about this. First of all, I didn’t need a study to tell me that everyone who lives near me is a size 0 and probably judging me because I am not. Am I to be proud that we fixate on weight issues more than any other state? In my own struggle for physical acceptance and body-image-contentment, I hear the counter-messages loud and clear. Recently, I went to a conference out of state where there were only three other people from Colorado, and I felt totally normal, accepted and fine. Was this my imagination? I’ve felt it before, going out of state and finding I’m a little cuter. Glad you’ve commented on this; here in the country of plenty and overabundance, our physical status symbols are how much we can slim down, enhance, and alter how we might normally appear.

  2. You know i read these comments and Sabrina it comes all down to this,people want to be accepted,people want to be like someone they are not,they seek the wrong things in life,and they loose joy in the process,and who’s fault is it?No other than those who are trying to sell them dream,so they sell these dreams through the media in all forms,and well some unfortunately go to far thinking it will mean success for them,either in business,or even in popularity,and others as far as love and joy of life,and in some extremes they think that being thin means being healthy,and they go to far with the process,so we can blame only 2,the media,and the ones that fall prey to those selling this insane way of life that lead many looking like walking skeletons,its a shame that some people mostly women fall prey for such a way of life,now i hope this comment is going to stick around longer than the last one i made lol,at least i hope it follows the train of thought you try to evoke in people to share their thoughts if not well at least im trying,sincerely yours Joe Lewis have a nice day everyone

    1. Thanks, Joe, for your thoughts. I’m glad to have found this discussion. The original post resonated because I’ve seen the same in Manhattan, which I visit enough, as well as at home, where many I-banker Manhattanites land because of Wall Street ties.

      It goes beyond diet: Here, women and men run, swim, bike, aerobicize, and yogafy themselves into hollowed — I like that description — selves. (Here, yoga studios on every corner defy the ancient practice’s creation; today, it is sport, led by drill-sergeant yogis, sprinkling Zen comments in between counting scissor sit-ups.)

      Here, SUV’s sport “26.2;” “13.1;” and “70.3” bumper stickers, decalling the mileage of their ordeals.

      (I’m generalizing, which isn’t fair. My wife is a half-dedicated half-triathlete. We exercise, strive to eat well. I mountain bike and hike with my three sons. Yet I get a little blue when my pants tighten, feel a little lighter when the slacks hang slack. I imagine this is a pattern of thought many go through.)

      I’m responding because I wonder if “what it all comes down to” can be further reduced. Perhaps what it all comes down to is fear. Fear of stasis, of too much, of not enough, of losing something, of not getting something. You touch on this nicely. So, maybe anything taken beyond the middle way might be propelled by fear?

      The notion of blame is interesting. So many internal and external factors influence my choices, behaviors, mindsets that isolating a couple raises questions for me. I’m not certain of much; however, I think of the blogger’s journey from her hip-leading, fridge-colored-skin days to where she is now, and I’m certain that — were I here — I’d see that path as the only possible route to my present. In my own wanderings, I’m letting go of blame at various turning points. How? Through plenty of blaming.

      I’ll close with this: A couple weeks ago at a swim meet, my wife and I stood beside a woman we know — one of the “driven.” She’s our age (early 40’s), fit and beyond, and attractive. But her physical lustre fades when she bursts into stories of training, races past, races upcoming, her children’s athleticism, a new bike, a good trainer, the reason her husband’s national triathlete ranking is falling.

      This night: “I mean, I almost totally lost it. I had my first panic attack DURING the race, during the swim. But you know what got me going again? My kids. I said to myself, ‘You LOSER. What are you going to tell your kids? That you quit because of fear?’ No way. I finished with my personal best!”

      Shortly after, her son climbed out of the water having beaten the field, including our son. He came to her. She said, “Oh, honey. How are you ever going to beat your time with a dive like that?”

      My heart aches for her, and for her son. Why is she so afraid? And why, at times, am I?

  3. i noticed this too. at first i thought it was from the sheer amount of walking that goes on in nyc. but with the amount of fabulous places to eat there (and every restaurant and bar has customers, i don’t know how losing weight happens.

    i am giggling about the cultural diffences in africa, i’ve had the same thing happen there and on some of the pacific islands (samoa, fiji…) where perceived undernourishment is looked upon with what feels like distrust.

    i enjoyed reading this sabrina, you are a talented writer.

  4. I’ve been living in Tanzania for several months and of course have noticed this too. When I got home a few weeks ago, during the first few days I heard two different women express actual guilt about something they were just about to eat while we were in a restaurant. Guilt! As if they were doing something really bad. Maybe I wouldn’t have even noticed it if I had been here all along.

  5. Great post. I’ve never been boney, but have been thin. Not any more. I’m not exactly fat, but I’m a bit plumper than I was. Some of it comes naturally with age; some comes from cooking for my husband & eating too much! Have fun in NYC!

  6. I’ve been bad at reading, worse at commenting. I loved this outlook on NYC’s skinnies, beautifully written. Here in Africa, we often lose the healthy outlook of our people and still aim for the “gaunt” look. Your sun-kissed, slightly plumper look sounds deliciously healthy. I hope you’re enjoying your stay x

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