Society seems to have a definition of what beauty is, what sexiness looks like. The ideal woman has a perfect body. Small waist and a proportional body. She doesn’t have big boobs. Her stomach doesn’t enter the room first then the rest of the body follows. No. Her thighs don’t rub when she is walking, and she barely has any stretchmarks.
We live in a world that has made plus-size women feel as if there is something wrong with them. As if they are less, unworthy, and undeserving because of their size. It's only recently that we have started preaching body positivity empowering curvy women, and even launching miss plus size events. There are jobs like presenter jobs or modeling gigs that chubby people couldn’t get back then.
Growing up, I was a bit bigger than the other children. Every time I played with them, I was called fat and that got into my head. I’d wonder if I ate too much or if I did something wrong to be bigger. Sometimes I refused to eat because I thought food made someone big. I didn't talk to my mum about it because these are not important issues in African families. As long as a parent provides shelter, food, and education, nothing else is important. This is also why we don’t talk about mental health issues. We are not told it's okay to be big or big doesn’t equal ugly. No one boosts your confidence or tells you how to deal with body image issues.
I heard a lady narrate how as a child she wasn’t allowed to ride a friend’s bike because he thought she would give it a puncture or probably break it. And I couldn’t imagine what that did to her esteem. No one is supposed to make someone else feel bad about how they look because we are much more than our weight. But that’s not how society feels. It judges you based on what and how you look like.
The struggles of being plus-size.
The Stigma Associated With Being Big
Most people tend to look down on plus-size women. It starts with the mean comments from friends, family, colleagues, strangers… They think something is wrong with you and you should change that. Live a healthy lifestyle, maybe go to the gym and change your diet. Everyone always has an opinion of what you should or shouldn’t do. ‘Don’t wear these colors they will make you look bigger. ’If you shave your hair your face will look fatter’. Everything is a constant reminder of your size. You are not enough as you are, you do not look good, but if you lose some weight, you will be more beautiful. People will try to build you into something they think you should be. They cannot accept you the way you are. Something needs to change.
This stain will trickle down into relationships because partners will try to fix you. They don’t want to be embarrassed. If you are dating, and you meet someone who is not into plump girls, it will make you look down on yourself. You will think you are the problem. And if you meet someone who will accept you for you it will be hard to trust them because some men will be with you for selfish reasons. “There are men who date us out of fetishes and not because they genuinely like you. Some will want to confirm what others say about us being good in bed or being tight downstairs. And I think that's unfair” says Ann.
If you don’t love yourself enough, it’s easy to find yourself in an unhealthy relationship. Or settle down with someone just because you think no one out there will love you or appreciate you.
In taxis, people will avoid sitting next to you because they think they won’t be comfortable since the whole space is almost occupied.
If You Have Boobs Bigger Than The Size Of Your Head
You cannot afford to go braless. Never. Even when you are going to the shop in the morning, you need to wear one. You don’t want them bouncing all over as if they are on a trampoline. Or as if they are balls someone is juggling beneath a t-shirt. You also don't have the freedom to dress because there are certain dresses that don't flatter you because of the boobs or don't look good with a bra showing and you need to be braless to wear them. It is a nightmare at times.
Getting your size is a struggle because you need a bigger size than the ones available. It has to be perfect, not too big, not too small. At least all the surface area must be covered. The straps need to be thick so they can hold everything together in one place. And it needs to be comfortable too. When I fit my bras, I’m always reminded that when I give birth, they will be twice their normal size and this gives me nightmares. Where will I take them?
It’s Almost Impossible To Find Clothes Your Size
Shopping experiences are never that fun. Most of the clothes even the ones sold in the markets are smaller sizes and cannot fit you. It is not unusual to try most clothes and still get nothing that fits you. They will turn out to be too small or big enough to make you look like an old woman. I envy women who buy stuff and they don’t have to fit. I cannot risk that. I might get home and find that my stomach cannot fit in the jeans and then what do I do?
A few years back, clothing stores didn’t cater to the needs of the curvy woman. There would be jeans for a size 8 but not the same type for a size 18. Things have changed, but the fashion industry still has plus-size problems. The choices are limited and for those that have more trendy options, their products are not of high quality.
Some women find it discriminating for stores to have a different section for chubby women. It’s like they are always saying, fat people this way, please. In other stores, the bigger sizes are more expensive. This scuffle applies to panties too. You have to find something big but comfortable. One that won't show panty lines or squeeze your thighs.
“Someone told me I was fat and ugly and if I ate less maybe my stomach wouldn’t be divided into three parts and look caterpillar-ish. This made me conscious of my body. I’m always hiding in big clothes. Sometimes I wish I would wake up in a different body” says Nina.
Are people like these allowed to be on this planet? These mean comments take time before they leave your mind. We never know the impact our words have on people. Some things may not seem hurtful but they are, and they mess with people’s self-esteem.
I hate it when I attend family gatherings because there is always be an aunty asking you what it is you eat to become that big so they try it too. The sarcasm makes me want to punch them in the face. It hurts. You think you are what people said about you. You think you are those words. And those words are you. Even when you lose weight, you still think you are fat and unattractive.
The Double Standards
If a slim person wears a bikini and goes to the beach, no one will be bothered by that. But if a chubby person does that, she will be accused of showing off too much skin, and not being considerate of her body type. She will be told to have some respect and cover herself, so she doesn’t become a distraction.
We advocate for women to love their bodies and embrace them, but if they do so, it becomes a problem. We want them to be bold and confident in who they are but not very confident that it makes others uncomfortable. We are breaking them in the name of building them.
Of Jeans And Disappointments
Not only will you struggle to find the perfect fitting jeans, but you will also struggle to fit in them. You’ll think the jeans will be kind to you, but because of thighs and friction, they will tear easily. This friction makes it hard to wear a dress or a skirt, especially on a sunny day. The sweat might glue your thighs together, or worse off cause injuries.
You Have To Be Extra Careful
People will judge you because some clothes seem more exposing to us than to petite girls. For example crop tops, minis skirts and dresses, shorts, and strapless tops. Boobs will stretch out your top and expose your cleavage or the space between buttons. You will wear a mid-length dress but it’ll appear shorter because the butt has stretched it. You always have to be mindful of how you look because you never want to send the wrong impression to people.
Most Of The Clothes You Like, You Can't Wear
At times when I'm scrolling through the social media streets, I spot a few petite ladies here and there wearing certain outfits and I find myself wishing I could wear that specific outfit. It could be an off-shoulder top or dress, a bear-back top or dress or even a crop top. The thing is, it possible that I could find the off-shoulder dress or bear-back top in my size, however, my boobs won't just allow me to shine in it. I can't afford to go braless or even wear a strapless bra because my twins just need the support. Without it, they will just be hanging aimlessly. I remember there was that one time that I decided I'd wear a crop top, just for fun you know, and I have never regretted anything in my life like I did that decision. It didn't take long for me to meet someone on the streets who made fun of me. They just decided to compare me to Winnie the Pooh. Yes, that cartoon we used to watch when we were kids. Those words hurt me so bad till this day and I will never forget.
We should learn to embrace people and love them the way they are no matter their shape or their size. We are all different, beautiful, and unique in our way.