Weight has been an issue for me literally since birth. I was a whopping three pounds when my mother delivered me, small enough to fit into the palm of her hand. When I was finally released from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) after almost three months, my father vowed that he would fatten me up, and he succeeded. Tasty dishes like cassava leaf and jollof rice from his homeland of Liberia were often prepared in our home, attributing to most of the weight I had gained as a toddler. To this day, my sister often recalls that she thought I would grow up to be on the chunkier side.
As I grew older, I had begun to thin out as kids sometimes do when they get taller. It wasn’t until middle school that the comments about my weight occurred almost on regular basis. Classmates and even some faculty members would call me “skinny” and ask if I was anorexic. My family would playfully tease me about being small as well. As if going through puberty wasn’t bad enough, the breakouts and bleeding every month, I now had to be shamed for my weight! I remember my mother had taken me to doctors who assured us both that there was nothing wrong with me. I could afford to put a little extra jelly on my toast in the morning, (the doctor’s words, not mine) is the only thing I was advised. I thought I looked fine, the doctor told me I was fine, but all everyone else saw was a bag of bones.
In high school, the teasing wasn’t as bad, but it still existed. My mother was always there to reassure me that I, in fact, had a cute little shape and that the weight would come in due time as it did for her. Even now, as an adult, I still face criticism when it comes to my weight. I’ve even inherited the nickname “lil bits” from my co-workers. Just last week, two of them jokingly said that they didn’t ‘like me’ because I was skinny. I emphasized the word ‘jokingly’ because there is a bit of truth behind every joke. Still, I always manage to laugh it off, but I’ll admit it is pretty annoying to constantly be the butt of someone’s ugly joke. Saying that I want to work on my body or even announcing that I’m in the mood for a certain food warrants side-eye stares and comments that you wouldn’t believe. I’m doomed either way. And no, I’m not crying over being skinny. I know we live in a society that has not been very accepting to, nor accommodating of, persons of a bigger size, which is wrong on so many levels. But just as it’s wrong to comment on someone’s weight for being bigger, it’s also wrong to make joking and sarcastic remarks about one’s thinness. No matter how you look at it, it’s still body shaming!
It’s not helpful when there are so many misconceptions about being thin. First, we need to stop assuming that being skinny means healthy. In fact, there are many health conditions that cause people to lose weight, like Hyperthyroidism. Second, stop saying that a person is on drugs just because they are thin. Don’t tell a skinny person they need to eat a cheesesteak (sorry, I’m from Philly),
rice and beans or collard greens, although they are yummy. Third, all skinny people are NOT evil. Side eye to Mo’Nique. Still love you, girl, but please stop comparing skinny people to poles, sticks, or any other object that is straight up and down. In my Bryson Tiller voice, “Don’t.”
My size is not a hindrance, nor is it a joke. I love the person I see when I look in the mirror. I love the way my body looks. God made me just fine, so the next time you call someone ‘too thin’ or comment about their ‘lack of weight,’ take a moment to contemplate your actions. Instead of being caught up on the exterior, what we really should be doing is focusing on what’s on the inside because that’s the only part of a person that should matter.
Written by Zeena Garnett
Zeena Garnett is a Philadelphia-based writer and blogger. She chronicles her life as a graduate student and her love of fashion and travel on her blog - A Black Girl About Town. She is currently pursuing a Master's Degree in Publishing from Drexel University.
Photography by Marcus Harris
Award-winning international traveling photographer/videographer. Scout for talent agencies, manager for actors, models, and musicians. Owner of ReBrand LLC based in Virginia Beach, Virginia.