In grade seven Cammie Duggan asked me to a school dance. He was shorter than me, sure. He had feathered hair very much like mine and good lips. Most of my friends were pretty impressed. Tracy F. told me she’d sort of been hoping he might ask her and I am ashamed to admit I smirked. My mom was going to buy me a new dress for the dance, whatever I wanted really. Anything other than stirrup pants. She had the foresight to discourage stirrup pants, another reason she is simply glorious.
Things were going well – Cammie and I ate lunch together most every day. He laughed at the right parts of my stories and I didn’t have to pretend to laugh at his. When Mr. Keane gave us a pop quiz Cammie looked right at me and rolled his eyes. I was the person he looked at first. All was well right up until the Friday afternoon before the dance. When Natasha T. whispered to me in the cloak room, ‘He only likes you for your boobs.’
And there the story ends. Whether Cammie liked me for my boobs (and yes, they were sizeable already at that age) I’ll never know. The poison had been poured in my ear. Nobody could say anything because – as all of you curvy gals probably remember – I didn’t tell anyone. Already I was ashamed of my thighs, my breasts, my belly. Already I knew to keep quiet if I overheard one of the girls laughing at me. Already I was pretending nothing happened.
Of course, this experience set me up for years of ‘Only Because’. When you’re a curvy girl in a linear world, any love you find, any acceptance that comes your way needs an ‘only because’. Once I was in a corner store and a man smiled at me. When my friend saw this he said ‘It’s only because he figures you’re easy because of your weight’. Or if a man shows obvious interest in you on a regular basis, he’s a fetishist. A ‘chubby chaser’. Or he just can’t manage to find someone better. So he’s giving up and choosing you.
I used to believe this bullshit. I swallowed it hook, line and sinker. And then – then I moved to Europe. I think every curvy woman should do this for at least one whole month. Walking down the street to low whistles and once even applause which, let’s face it, should feel offensive but doesn’t really. Lingerie that simply fit better. And so I walked taller, hips swinging wider.
A million little things happened that year. All amounting to one major thing – I stopped believing in ‘only because’. I started taking pleasure – real, dirty pleasure girls – in being a sexy woman with curves. A good kisser (I say with no small amount of pride), an earthy woman who loves food, loves wine and occasionally loves a good man. And when things fall apart with said good man – let’s say, because he lives in another town and is a busy guy and the worlds just sort of clash – she knows it’s not because of her curves. This woman knows it’s just one of those things.
So if you can’t move to Europe any time soon, I will leave you with a quote from a great broad with curves. Which is almost as helpful, I think.
“Sex appeal is fifty percent what you’ve got and fifty percent what people think you’ve got.” Sophia Loren
_____________________________________________________________________________________Jennifer McGuire lives in Ontario, Canada. Her recently released collection of essays, ‘Halfway To Happy’ (Glenmalure Publications) is based on her popular humour column of the same name, which appears in daily newspapers throughout Canada. She has also written for the Canadian parenting magazine ‘Canadian Family’, but has secretly been desperate to write for the American public (don’t tell her Canadian friends). Her short fiction has appeared in ‘Room’ magazine and the anthology ‘Every Second Thursday’. She spends her time with her four sons who she adores, her dog who she tolerates and her friends of whom she generally expects far too much.