How I Had To Overcome "It's-Because-She's-Skinny" Syndrome
So if you’re a real Day 1, then you know all about my obsession with dance.
Especially Latin dancing.
I am usually showing off my salsa and bachata skills on Insta, but at the beginning of last year, I challenged myself to try tango.
Out of all the partnered dance styles I’ve studied, tango was probably the most rigid (but not in a bad way). I actually appreciated how clean and precise the dance is because I think it’s really good for people who have trouble staying in frame, and being connected to their partner (which was definitely me at the time).
While I don’t take tango anymore (it conflicts with a heels class I’ve been taking… more to come on that soon), I had a conversation with a friend the other night that brought me back to a tough moment I had in a tango class many months ago. I thought that it would be relevant for a lot of #ThickGirlNation this week.
My friend and I were casually chatting about how we both had taken tango for a time, but how eventually she dropped it because she felt like it was a “skinny-girl-dance.” She was a fellow thick girl, and I wanted to die laughing because I remember thinking the exact same thing when I was taking it until one particular night that challenged me to see how problematic that thought actually was.
It was probably around this time last year, with only 6 classes under my belt, that I finally got promoted up to the intermediate class. My cheeks tingled from excitement as a huge grin swept across my face from ear to ear. But real talk, I could also feel my toes curling in from nervousness because of knowing how hella complicated the tango footwork was about to get in the next level. And footwork has always been my secret source of insecurity.
On my first night, Jack, the instructor, gave us a warm greeting as he glided across the room, and within seconds, a sharp tango beat pulsated throughout the room.
We went through the warm up, which I always enjoyed. But then once we got started into the actual lesson, I couldn’t help but find myself stumbling over my feet with every step I took. Ever since I got hit by a car when I was 14, and had to have ACL surgery, I’ve always been so insecure about my balance. Knowing where and when to place your weight in tango (and, honestly, any dance) is so important. But this has always been so difficult for me, and I have always been so quick to blame my injury for my problems.
I despise (my $5 word for the day haha) making excuses for myself. Hate just doesn’t even come close to describing how much I’m not here for excuses-- from myself or from those around me. In a lot of ways, I like to believe that I can conquer anything as long as I want it bad enough. So this mentality is literally the only thing that will keep me from running away when things get a little too tough. But I’m also a realist, and I understand that sometimes there are just things that don’t work for you, and that’s totally ok. But in this moment, I knew that this heifer called self-doubt was fucking with my emotions.
Another thing that I can’t stand is comparing myself to other people. There’s not much of a benefit you get out of it (especially in dance) because you have no idea what their dance history is in life, or even with the dance itself. It just makes me feel like a hater. So I always try to just compete and compare with only myself. But on this night in particular, my self-doubt was really goin’ off on a sermon, and I just couldn’t help but look around the room, and see how much better every lady was getting it in comparison to me.
Then my self-doubt really kicked into high gear. As soon as the teacher gracefully whisked one of the girls across the room as a demonstration for what to do next in the routine, I couldn’t help but see the biggest (haha irony at its finest) similarity amongst most of the women in the room; they were skinny.
At this point in my life, I had just discovered that I was around 190-something pounds, and hadn’t been taking the news very well. It was the heaviest I had been since I was 15 years old, and I never thought in my life that I would ever be back at that place again. I think in that moment, I just wanted so badly to believe that my inability to master the steps had to be related to my size. I just wanted the ability to say to myself if you hadn’t gained 40-something pounds last year, you would be able to do the footwork. You would be so much lighter on your feet. But you did, and that’s why you’ll never be able to do the things these skinny girls can do.
However, after a lot of reflecting, I believe that this moment in class was one of the first times I finally attempted to acknowledge the intense amount of shame I felt mounting on my sense of self-worth for gaining back all that weight. And worse, I was using skinny women as a scapegoat for my feelings of shame and inadequacy. I call this mentality “it’s-because-she’s-skinny” syndrome, and I definitely think it is a huge (lol again irony totally unplanned for) problem amongst the thick girl community.
So “health” trolls, right? They LOVE to come for us, and tell us that doing dance at our size is horrible for our knees, or that it’s impossible for us to be good at something physical at our sizes. And don’t get me wrong, I do my absolute best to give it none of my fucks. But real talk... sometimes you can’t always avoid it. And then, what’s even worse is that when you’re going through a rough patch, those negative thoughts are literally all your mind can think about.
As I stood in class, boo-hoo’ing over my weight, and my inability to get the steps, and how worthless my size was suddenly making me feel, wouldn’t you know that the universe pulled me aside and said, “girl, let me give you something real to be boo-hoo’ing over.”
In that moment, Jack pulled this other girl onto the middle of the dance floor who happened to be taller, and a little more thicker than me. Now I hadn’t been watching her dance in class because I was so busy throwing myself a little pity party. But when Jack took her out to test how well she was getting the moves… let me tell y’all… she slayed EVERY. SINGLE. STEP he threw at her--from the swiftness of her ochos, to the sharpness of her boleos… I was just in complete awe and admiration of her grace, her sharpness, and her pure unapologetic fierceness.
She wasn’t sitting there being sorry about her size. She wasn’t letting those “health” trolls dictate what she could or couldn’t do. She wasn’t letting the presence of other skinny women in the class throw her off her game. And in that moment, all I could hear was the universe coming for me, and being like “ now if you gon’ be over here boo-hoo’ing, let it be because this girl just handed you ya life. And not for all the other bullshit you were over here crying about.” And all I could say was “damn universe, you’re a real one.”
And if were being for real, for real, I was actually low key mad at her for a second because seeing her kill it left me with no excuse (not that I should have been looking for one to begin with). She forced me to remember my truth, which is that everything is possible as long as you want it bad enough. After taking a few more classes, I realized that I actually didn’t want it bad enough (LOL), but I’m always so grateful for what this woman allowed me to see in myself. Seeing her that night was not only the thing I needed to confront my dangerous belief, but also the tangible motivation I needed to actively work towards not believing in it.
I think the temptation that we have to start trying to resist more is the idea that skinny women have it much better than us. Skinny women go through their fair share of bullshit from “health” trolls as well. And instead of letting these asshats fuel the “divide and conquer” mentality that has been holding us back as a female community for so long, we, as thick girls, have to learn how to see both our pride, and our insecurities independently of skinny women. So whether or not I’m having a good day about my looks or a bad day about my looks, I should never use skinny women as a way to validate which day I am having.
So I hope that as you go out into the world as your thick, luscious, and fabulous selves, you remember that...
Tango is NOT a “skinny-girl-dance.”
Whether you’re skinny or thick or fat or everything in between, all women are going through some sort of BS when it comes to body acceptance, so let’s try to be a little kinder to each other.
You can achieve whatever it is that you want as long as you want it bad enough.
And finally, “health” trolls ain’t shit.