Thursday, December 06, 2007

Autobiography of a Belly

In a departure from our regularly scheduled programming, I wanted to do a little show and tell of one of the pieces I've been working on for my memoir class this term (and the reason I've been so distracted this past week). Autobiography of a Belly started out as an assignment to emulate the style of Lucy Grealy's book Autobiography of a Face (hence the title), and grew into something that's more my own. It's obviously pretty different in tone and subject matter from what I usually write about here, but it was so challenging and rewarding to push myself out of my comfort zone. I hope you guys enjoy it (hey--it's a way to waste even more time at work!), and I'll be back tomorrow with more funny fashion!

Autobiography of a Belly

I was a chubby child, but I didn’t know it until fourth grade. Until then, I hadn’t seen anything wrong with my body; it was just a body, my body, and it was soft and smooth and allowed me to do terrifically fun things like play basketball and chase after my three younger brothers. I carried most of my weight in my stomach—still do—but when I was a child it was more pronounced. I had small, short legs upon which balanced my spherical torso (Later in life, a quiz in a women’s magazine would tell me that my body shape was an “apple”). Held up by a thick, stubby neck was my round face, all cheeks framed by thick, blond hair. I had round, dramatic features from my Italian mother, colored light shades of German/Irish from my father: big blue eyes, big pink lips, soft skin the color of unripe peaches. My skin was covered in fine blond hair that made it even more pleasing to touch, and my big belly was a smooth mountain that I’d trace my fingers over at night, in quiet awe of the pronounced and perfect curve.

* * *

The fourth grade teacher at my small rural school, Ms. Howler, was notorious for, well, howling, and I was terrified of her. My third grade classroom was next door to hers, and I often sat upright at my desk, frozen in panic at her shrieking tirades that reverberated through the thin wall. I could barely focus on my studies under my current teacher, Ms. Boyk, an exceedingly kind woman who didn’t hide the fact that I was her favorite student.

Toward the end of third grade, I got word that I had been assigned to Ms. Howler’s class for the following year. I was crippled with panic. I expressed my fear to my parents, and they heartily agreed that I would avoid Ms. Howler by transferring to an even smaller school fifteen miles down the highway.

* * *

Buxton Elementary was actually an ancient barn that stood in the middle of a sprawling field in the miniscule town of Buxton, Oregon. It had been converted into a school in the 1940s, and when I made my debut there, its pupils numbered about 75. Compared to my old school, which held 150 students in the bustling metropolis of Banks (population: 680), Buxton felt like a step back in time, and I fancied myself the civilized outsider, a visitor from the future. “At Banks, we run the mile on a real track, only four laps,” I’d wheeze to the kids next to me as we dodged gopher holes on our fifth circle around the back lawn.

“Only eleven more,” our PE teacher bellowed.

I don’t remember being scared on my first day at this new school. Perhaps I was too overcome with schadenfreude at the thought of my old classmates facing Ms. Howler to consider my own situation; perhaps the waffles my dad made me that morning provided genuine comfort. Either way, I tugged open the front door and strode confidently toward the first classroom on the left, my new teacher, my new life.

Mr. Bair, my new teacher, was a middle-aged man with gray hair. He had a glass eye and a temper, but I was only afraid of him for a few minutes. After introducing himself to the class, he asked if any of us enjoyed reading. I raised my hand, which turned out to be the only hand, and from this moment on I became his pet.

Mr. Bair was a voracious reader. Every week or so he’d get the rest of the class going on some inane project, pull a chair up to my desk and ask, “Read any good books lately?” I’d begin to answer, then hesitate, glancing down at the geography printout on my desk that was waiting to be colored. “Don’t worry about it,” he’d gesture toward the busy work, and, satisfied, I’d set down my crayon and regale him with reviews of The Phantom Tollbooth, Anne of Green Gables, and Walk Two Moons. He gave me recommendations and sometimes loaned me favorites out of his personal library. Years later, I saw Mr. Bair at the supermarket, looking shockingly old, and it was only seconds after our initial hellos that he asked, in a warm, raspy voice, if I’d read any good books lately.

With things going so well with my new teacher right off the bat, I couldn’t believe my luck when I found a seemingly wonderful group of friends as quickly. Melissa, Sara, and Becky adopted me into their group during lunch recess on the very first day of school. Melissa, the leader of the group, told me they’d spent the first recess checking me out, and I seemed cool enough to hang out with them.

These girls were much different from my old friends. All three were skinny with stringy hair and ratty clothes, and future slumber parties would reveal that they all lived in mobile homes on the hillsides along the Sunset highway. My old friends and I had spent our recesses engaged in lively games of pirate ship on the playground, but these girls ambled in circles around the yellowed grass of the back lawn, singing country songs I didn’t know. Of course I was still delighted to hang out with them, and hummed along with the lyrics I found cloying and clichéd. For weeks, we did this. Becky called me stupid when I kept flubbing a particularly tongue-twisting chorus, so I wrote it down and spent the entire evening practicing. Could ya, would ya, aint ya gonna, if I asked ya would ya wanna be my baby tonight? The next day, I had it down.

Despite my eagerness to please, Becky’s teasing increased in frequency and ferocity. “You’re so dumb,” she would say during class, “You’re such an idiot.” But I knew that I wasn’t dumb; I knew that I was, in fact, quite intelligent, so her words never broke the skin. One day, out on the playground, she tried a different approach. “You’re so fat, Winona,” she hissed, “Your stomach’s huge. It looks like you’re pregnant.” I looked at her, agape, confused. Her small eyes narrowed and a self-satisfied smile crept across her face; she knew she’d hit on something. I ran my hand along the curve of my belly. I’d never thought of it that way before. Maybe it was gross. Maybe I was gross.

Any previous concept of my body had been purely utilitarian; I’d never considered its aesthetic appeal. In that moment on the playground, I learned that bodies can be good or bad, and mine was bad. I didn’t realize the scope of her comment then, but Becky had planted an insecurity that she would lovingly tend to for the next year, watching it grow, taking over my whole being like English ivy.

When my dad picked me up from school that day, I didn’t excitedly recount the past six hours as I usually did. Instead, I sat quietly in the passenger seat as the road hummed by, examining my stomach. My fat separated into two rolls below and above the seatbelt stretched tight across my lap. It was quite disgusting.

I arrived at school the next day feeling like I had a secret, and it was out. I skulked into the classroom and found Becky waiting for me, standing next to my desk, smirking. “Hey tub of lard,” she announced, with the slightly rushed intonation of someone who’d been practicing. My cheeks reddened and I took my seat. Becky walked across the room and took hers. Mr. Bair began a lecture on long division. I hated long division.

At recess, Becky followed me around the playground, repeating “Hey chubby” in my ear. Melissa noticed the pained look on my face and asked what was going on. “She’s calling me chubby,” I murmured, hopeful that our leader would resolve the situation. Melissa paused, looked me up and down in my elastic waist jeans and striped t-shirt. “You are chubby,” she pronounced. Then she pointed to the field. “Let’s go sing.”

A week or so later, I was in the lunch line, loading my tray with celery and carrot sticks (after school, in the safety of my living room, I’d devour chips, cookies, cheese, but here I refused to feed into my fat girl image), when a popular boy rammed into me. As dozens of vegetables fell from my tray onto the filthy linoleum floor, he laughed and said, “Ease up, fatty.” His friends, in line behind him, burst into hysterical laughter, and I hurried over to an empty table with my empty tray, mortified.

What was happening? Suddenly I was the fat girl, the gross girl, the easy target. In bed at night, I still traced my stomach, but I no longer garnered any pleasure from its sloping curve, only stress, rage. Why couldn’t I be like my three friends, skinny as cinnamon sticks, with gaunt faces and long limbs? I fantasized about taking the plastic scissors from the drawer of my bedside table and trimming the fat from my belly, my thighs, my cheeks. I knew that my life would be drastically different, drastically better, if I were thin. I knew that my belly was all that was holding me back.

* * *

After arriving home from a particularly brutal day at school, I walked in the front door and threw my backpack on the kitchen floor. I plodded into the living room, to the soft recliner where my great grandma used to sit every Sunday, and promptly broke down in tears.

I felt better after ten minutes or so, but I purposefully stretched out my breakdown, moaning dramatically, yearning for my mom to notice. I wanted desperately to share my pain with her, but I didn’t know how to tell her. And, although it would have been completely out of character, a part of me was frightened that she might react like Melissa.

My mom was brought up on chicken-fried steak, thick gravies, and wonder bread. It was the menu of an Italian family longing to assimilate into the American middle class, and it gave her a big, round belly. She’d mentioned a few times that the kids at school used to tease her about her weight, and, more horrifying, that her mom did too. I imagined my grandmother, whose three favorite words were “eat, eat, eat,” hissing insults at my mom, telling her to lose weight while serving her more ice cream. My mom had always been so good to me, telling me I was smart and pretty, but Becky had convinced me that I was ugly, fat, and dumb. As I sat in that chair, waiting for my mom to find me, I felt that I was getting ready to confess.

After twenty minutes of sustained whimpering (the feeling of release had long given way to a fake-crying induced headache), she came into the room and noticed my wet, chubby cheeks, my bloodshot eyes.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

I shrugged. I wanted her to work for this.

She sat down on the arm of the chair, brushed a wisp of hair behind my ear. “What’s wrong, Honeygirl?”

I wiped my cheek, took a deep breath, and prepared to give her a full rundown—the cruel taunts, the feelings of isolation, of panic, the sensation of someone pulling the plug on my self-esteem, and watching it run down the drain like dirty bathwater—but something much simpler came out. “Becky called me fat.”

My mom wrapped her arm around me and, in her most soothing voice, told me that we were Italian women, we came from peasant stock, we were built for hard work. She spent a long time explaining how the kids might make fun of me now, but had we lived in Italy in the 19th century, I would have been able to haul buckets of water on my broad shoulders better than any of them.

Maybe this was what my mom told herself when she was my age. Maybe this idea gave her great comfort. She certainly intended it that way for me. In reality, it didn't matter what she said. All I could hear was, "Honeygirl, you are chubby."


Anonymous said...


Heather said...

Wow, this is so good! I found this so engaging and funny and poignant.

I read Walk Two Moons in elementary school, too, btw... it blew my young mind. In fact, I think we both had the same taste in books then... I would have been your friend in elementary school, never mind those bitches!

cate said...

You just made me cry. That was phenomenal, Nona. Huge claps and a hug.

Meg said...

If I wasn't sitting so close to trimet tim, i'd let my tears out too! ohhh winona I love you!

Anna said...

When reading this I recalled being 8, standing in front of the mirror and looking at my round belly. The kids at school called me fat and were always asking about how much I weighed, just to be able to repeat the number with disgust and dismay. I remember thinking that I wished I could weigh less and being able to honestly tell them that I did not weigh more than they did, but at the same time keep my tummy. Because I liked looking like I did and I didn't feel the need to physically smaller. And now, that memory just makes me sad, because it wasn't long after that I fully understood the importance of being skinny and I now realise that was the last time I ever felt good about the way my body looked.

Jessa said...

We all have something we don't like about ourselves and none of us are ever going to be perfect. I think Becky was insecure herself.
I also think you're fantastic the way you are and an amazing writer :) Don't ever change for other people, the people who really love you, love you no matter what you look like.

Sarah said...

As a fellow bookworm chubby girl, I feel your pain. I can't pinpoint the first time anyone called me fat, but I'm pretty sure it was my sister who was stick-thin, which made it all the more difficult for me to understand why I was chubby when she was skinny.

Eli said...

your essay is insightful. exquisitely written, is there more to it?

ONEDIA said...

Winona, it takes a little more body mass to support a brilliant, articulate and witty mind AND the soul of a Bodicea!


Laura V said...

We don't even NEED the media to screw us up. We just need us.

Man's inhumanity to man, and so forth and so on.

amanda said...

What an amazing essay. So beautifully written and poignant.

Sadly enough, I can relate. Then again, I had a mother told me I was too heavy and who encouraged me to diet at 10.

gaby said...

See, that's why I love your blog! You are such an eloquent writer. There's more to you than just high fashion!

LallaLydia said...

Mr. Blair is quite a character, one I’d enjoy meeting on a long plane ride, I think. He should have a minor role in one of the fantastic novels you’re going to write in your mid twenties which will win a Pulitzer…yes, I did forsee all of this in my crystal ball.
I love that you were able to consider country songs cloy and cliché at the tender age of fourth grade…
You are one of the most radiant people I have ever seen and had the pleasure of getting to know. You glow with an inner warmth and joy that is evident to even strangers on the street and for this people love you. But you are also very beautiful. If it makes you feel any better, those skinny girls from 4th grade are probably meth hos by now and look about 63 with scrawny shriveled up limbs.
Now that I’ve gotten my vindictiveness out, this is an excellent piece of writing which I think you should submit to several magazines and my only question is: is there more? Because if so, I want to read ALL of it. Xoxo Lydia

PS: If you want to do more pieces of "out of the comfort zone" writing like this on your blog, I think it's great

Eryn said...

haha! i love you so much, particularly for the use of schadenfreude. didn't mr. bair come to banks? i seem to remember him teaching down at the other end of the school when i was in 4th grade...

Zenobiah said...

Bravo, more please!

I was at the other end of the spectrum, stick-thin and being teased for that too. My best friend was considered the fat girl in my class. Oh yeah, the Laurel and Hardy jokes were rampant.

Anne-Marie said...

When I was 12 my "friends" used to boast about weighing 4 stone! I was 7 stone at the time and thought I was huge until a taller skinnier girl told me she weighed more than me. A year later when I moved to secondary school and my boobs had just started growing this girl with big boobs used to bash me in the chest with hers and call me fat! She was twice the size of me and still is!

Girls are bitches.

Mandy said...

This was beautifully written. I remember feeling the same way, especially when I developed earlier than the other girls. I did the same thing with imagining just how I could cut my fat off too. It's so hard when you're young and feel different because of your shape. Would love to read more entries like this!

cocco-latte said...

excellent and it's so great that you put it here, more please...

Life's a Wardrobe said...

Really great post! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, very well written, but I hope you don't feel that way now!

Candid Cool said...

brilliantly written. when u become a pulitzer winning author, i can say a read Daddy Likey when.

can I have your autograph?

Princess Poochie said...

I also hoped there would be more to the story. I'm sure there is or else how could you have gotten from there to here.

And, I feel your pain. I didn't get many comments from schoolmates, but I had them in my head, so who needs anyone else to say it?


A Mature Lady Who Knows said...

Okay, if we are all bearing our souls here. I WAS FAT in school, my mother made most of my clothes and it was the 60's. So picture this. Black fishnet stockings, clunky shoes, short short geometric print black/brown/orange skirt wit appropriate rediculous blouse on my 180 lb figure with cat's eye glasses.

Top it off with being NOt rich, Not popular, Smart, No social skills, and just a mess. The only guy who asked me out was just to creepy to talk about.

NOW, 20 odd years later, curvy figure, NO glases, great surprise backless dress that showed off the figure tastefully, blonde soft curled hair, and very successful and had escaped the stagnant small town most of them were still in --at the 20th reunion. (the one and only one I attended) VOTED Woman who had changed the most (and it wasn't just outside) and one acceptable guy came up to me and told me he had had such a crush on me back then. Who knew.

That expiated all the pent up rage and hurt You can bet on that!

Point is -- We really do outgrow our child hood selves. The most difficult part is to let go of it and just live as the wonderful persons we can be.

Winona, you are brilliant and beautiful and I haven't even met you. You will never be able to walk into a room without having heads turn and women envying you because of you are so COOOOOOOL!

selinaoolala said...

very powerful and moving, an amazing read. i think everyone who reads it will think back to the first time they questioned their insecurities, i'm sure you'll get a great mark, i hope there's more to the story!

Henry said...

From the overweight, oversized, under-shape kid who could never climb the rope in gym, thank you.

Nora said...

Hey! That was a cute essay. I loved your teacher in it, how he reached out to you about reading. At first I just felt really sad for you after it. After a little while, I started thinking about how kids are often so mean. I remember a girl who would laugh at me for wearing fake Keds. I'm sure she would never remember that now. At the time, it was devastating, and my cheeks still burn thinking about the shame. I bet Becky will never know how much you still think about her mean words.

Emma said...

Oh, WINONA! Thanks so much for this.
I would have been your non-evil friend in fourth grade! And I wouldn't have made you sing James Michael Montgomery songs either.
We've all had a Becky. They're horrible.

Anonymous said...

Whoa! Story of my life. It hurts so much at the time. I kind of grew out of my chubby phase (though not accidently mind you) and I recently ran into my Becky who is now massive. Man that moment was sweet...

Lindsay said...

oh winona, really thank you so much. i think so many, including me, had similar experiences. meg told me about this tonight and i was anxious to read this. you are such an incredible writer. and not to mention one of the most beautiful people i know. and not in that girl complimentary way but in a whole sincere way. i'm so glad i'm invited into your relationship.

daddylikeyblog said...

Ooohhhh thank you all SO much for your kind words and for sharing your own stories! I was a little scared to post this, just cuz it's so different from what I usually write here, but you've obviously put those fears to rest and I'll be sure to post more of my nonfiction as it comes.
To answer a couple questions that came up:
There's not any more to this particular story at the moment. My attention span dictates that most of my writing tops out at around seven pages. I'm considering extending it, but that would take motivation and work ethic, and right now I'm really into eating chocolate and watching MXC.
And finally, rest assured, I'm not a quivering pile of insecurity anymore. As my friend Laila said so eloquently, "Life's too short to worry about people who treat us like shit." Amen.

Jeda21 said...

The "pretty people" have diseased innards and they end up on the wrong path anyway with cheerleader pregnancies and jock itch. Never let anyone tell you who or what you are, their standards are far too low for you to even pay attention to their words.

Anonymous said...

Wow that is a beautiful piece of writing. I am very glad that there's more where it came from.


Anonymous said...

you are an amazing writer.

and, by the way, those were 3 of my favorite books in elementary school. and i was so chubby i looked pregnant too. i'll always remember the day on the junglegym i flipped upside down and the big sweatshirt i always wore accidentally flipped over. and everyone laughed and my best friend said sarcastically "looks like SOMEONE needs to lose some weight! fatty!"

your story was so well written and so easy to relate to. youre awesomeeee

HLW said...

Why do mean girls always seem to be named Becky?

That was an awesome piece and I can't wait to read more. I think every girl has experienced something similar growing up, obviously with all of these comments. I remember coming home in middle school everyday after class and crying uncontrollably because of all the mean things that had happened during the day. I eventually regained my self esteem, but it took forever. I don't know why kids are so mean in school, but I have to believe it is only due to their own insecurities. Of course, that doesn't help to soothe the hurt you have when you are little and so confused as to why the people you are nice to seem to hate you so much.

queenzelda said...

Long time reader, first time caller.

That was a beautiful story. I'm glad you don't feel like that anymore, because I'd rather read one story like that have all the skinny in the world!

Lady Language said...

Wicked writing and so honest - absolutely loved it. Kids can be so cruel (and many of them without knowing it). Then hopefully we all grow up at some point.

Iheartfashion said...

Great essay...I want to read your memoir. I loved Lucy Greely's Autobiography of a Face as well as Ann Patchett's take on the friendship in Truth and Beauty.

Marin said...

I liked this. It was different from what you usually post, but not completely humorless (I thought the track conversation was funny).

I always thought that the peasant stock thing was something my mom came up with to make me feel better (and I had about the same reaction to it as you did). Now I see that it must be a mom thing.

Kaume'alani said...

Buxton, hahaha, I have been there so many times, why why why is it such a different place than Banks? Oh well. Excellent story, very well written. MXC kicks ass, I love watching that show. Distraction is hilarious too.

Krista said...

Oh Winona, I have always loved your writing. I secretely got very excited when you were going to read something you wrote out loud in class, like in Mrs. Hundley's room. I didn't know you left Banks to go to Buxton because of Mrs. Howler (wasn't her name actually spelled Haller??) Anyway, she could definitely howl, as I was one of the kids who had her. Too bad you didn't stay at Banks because we could have made it through her class together. I was afraid of her at first, too, but grew to like her because she also loved books and did fantastically loud readings for us. It probably also helped that I was one of her favorite students. Plus, when we finished an in-class assignment and she corrected it and everything was right, she gave as treats of animal crackers or licorice or something of the sort. Totally awesome. Oh, and Rachel and I used to have reading contests in the back of the room after we finished our work to see who could read the fastest. It was pretty ridiculous. We would pick a page out of a "chapter book," and see who got done reading it first. Other classmates would gather around us as this happened. I'm pretty sured both of us cheated. Ah, those were the days. Anyway, I just keep babbling on. Your story just made all these memories flood back into my brain. I'm surprised we weren't better friends when we were younger. Although I was lucky enough to not have weight issues, I also didn't notice them in other people and was confused when kids made fun of other kids. You could have been a part of mine and Rachel's speed reading contests!! :)

RED said...

As a big time lurker, I had to comment. I'm not sure what I want to say, I could share my own experience, but most important, I want to thank you. Opening up, at any age, is difficult.
Thank you. So well written. said...

You made me cry mama. That was very similar to what I went through at the same exact age. Hadn't thought about that in awhile. Not only was I fat from my grandma feeling sorry for me about my shitty home situation, I also had buck teeth, and we were poor so I didn't have the nice clothes all the other kids had. Unfortunately for me I grew up in a "rich kid town". Kids can be so cruel.
On the light side, I bet they aren't going to college and are probably knocked up with their third kid each by now.
Congrats on the Onion opportunity! Keep on rockin like a love van and merry xmas!

Cambridge Renegade said...

how did i miss this post first time around? i love your blog but have never commented before, but i feel i really need to on this. this piece is brilliant, it actually made me cry. i feel like it gave me a rare glimpse into the experience of my younger sister who was chubby as a child and was bullied for it at school. perhaps unsurprisingly, i have just discovered that she is now anorexic. it breaks my heart that if i have daughters, they will have to grow up in this bizarrely twisted world where women are given so many ambivalent expectations for the body and sexuality that it drives some to such drastic measures to cope with it.

Meredith said...

Wow, I just found your blog for the first time and I am so moved by this piece.
I still remember one of the most defining moments of my life being when I looked in the mirror for the first time and actually saw how I looked. Me. Not the disney princess I imagined I looked like when I made up stories in my head, but the real me. And how depressed I was.
As a fellow little italian girl who had more books than friends, I used to blame my family, my mother and grandmother for not being skinny, for not giving me good genetics, a good metabolism.
I was so frustrated by the fact that I ate the EXACT same amount as everyone else, but grew twice as much, no matter how much i danced, or ran, or worked out.
But then in high school I suppose, I saw a picture of my great grandmother, who emigrated from Italy when she was 15.
She was probably almost as wide as she was tall, and wearing a big, almost mrs. Trunchbull like belt. (I know you will get the reference.)
But she looked like she could stop a speeding truck in its path, just with a glare. She wasn't fat, she was big, and strong, and italian, and had gone through so much.
And if being skinny means that I wouldn't be related to her, or to my mother or grandmother, I'm not sure its worth that much.

Thank you so much for sharing, from a 21 year-old college student in PA.

Anonymous said...

You are a talented writer! Keep up the great work!

Anonymous said...

that was great! i can still remember feeling miserable about my banana sticky out tummy kid shape...then that soon turned into even more misery concerning my completley flat chest that never grew! even now, fully grown and skinny i still get the odd pang of doubt about my non existent breasts and "unwomanly" frame- it seems like if magazines aren't abusing people for being too big, its for being too small - apparently no men will ever be attracted to a figure like mine...

Anonymous said...

So I'm sitting here in Germany, where I have spent the last three months away from my family, friends, boyfriend, basically everyone who actually really cares about me, in complete awe of your essay.
Having noticed the changes big helpings of German food and complete lack of normal exercise have made to my body, going out and shopping has become even more of a self-loathing torture trip, which is really not fair because I'm in Europe for Chrissakes, I saved up for two years, I should go shopping.
And after reading that piece of writing, so beautifully told, and so poignant, I really think that maybe I should get around to spending some of that 2000€ I have hanging around in the last three weeks I have left here.
Thank you.
I've read your blog for a while and you've been an inspiration, but this essay really hit me.
And for what it's worth, I think you're absolutely gorgeous!

PS West Coast rules! I myself am a Canehdian, from Vancouver (you know, when I'm not over here, hanging out in Frankfurt.)

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness! My heart broke for you while reading this.

I can remember the exact date and location when a friend asked me if I stuffed myself into all my clothes then called me fat. It was the last day I ever felt that I was pretty. I was ten years old. After that I became excruciatingly aware just like you did that some bodies were good and some were bad and mine was bad. And I just wish that I'd known at the time that other girls were going through the same thing as me.

Thanks for this post.

Rosethorn said...

I remember that same moment... I think I was about 10, when I realised I was bigger than every other girl in my grade. To top it off I also had terrible glasses, and awful gappy teeth, which were then made worse later on by braces. It took until I was 17 to actually feel I could look pretty, let alone beautiful. And although I'm still a big girl (peasant stock as well.... although scottish pig famer's wife in my ancestry!) I've learned that life is too short to give too much of a damn what other people think.

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