Strong is the new skinny. What the hell does that even mean?
The terms are so diametrically opposed as to seem at odds when juxtaposed in such a way, and yet, there’s more to it than that. The adjectives may be oppositional, but they are in no way mutually exclusive, as the saying suggests.
I have been both, I am both, if we’re using loose definitions of each, and I know that one does not negate or displace the other, and that one is not and will never be better than the other, because they are inherently incomparable.
Who has the final word on how thin you need to be before you’re skinny’? And who is standing by to give you a badge that acknowledges when you have finally achieved the muscle capacity to be “strong”? A person may be strong and skinny or one or the other, just as a person may be short or tall, or somewhere in the between.
Unbidden words I’ve received from strangers at various points in my life:
“You are too skinny.”
“Your arms are huge.”
“You look like you don’t eat anything.”
“Do you plan on getting any bigger?”
Thank you for your comment, but my body belongs to me, my strength or thinness is my own. I don’t squat so you can look at my ass, I don’t train every day to look good in skimpy clothes, my eating habits are in no way related to your presumptions.
This was not for You.
It used to be for You.
You used to matter. Your teasing and laughter still echo around my memory, shaking the tiny sliver of my confidence. You determined my worth, the standards by which I measured myself and my confidence, or total lack thereof. You told me what was best, for the best, so I worked towards that. You said what size to be, what to weigh, what to wear, what to say, what to do. You were a constant, conscious presence in my life, in the world. What choice did I have but to listen to You?
So I ran laps for You. I starved myself for You, I purged myself for You, loathed myself for You, cried for You, changed for You. And in doing so, I lost me. You and me cannot exist together. I let You take over. I looked your part, acted your part, I did everything You wanted.
You never mentioned that it would come on so gradually, deftly, quietly stealing my soul. You never mentioned the horrible triumph that comes with overcoming hunger, or the savage pleasure of throwing up something that should never have been consumed.
You never mentioned that I’d push away everyone else to avoid their questions and judgement; You never mentioned the perpetual cold, the enveloping darkness.
But where were You? Where were You when I stood on the scale sobbing? Where were You when I sat up all night crying, unable to sleep from hunger? Where were You when my hair and teeth started falling out? When my organs started failing, when my skin lost all its color and my mind faded? Where were You while I dug myself ever deeper into a pit of self loathing, so far down that no one could hear my cries from its depths?
You were gone, would never be, there was only me. And so I had to make the choice to climb, then make my own way out. The pit was deep and the walls were steep. I stumbled, took a step only to slide back down, I was battered, bruised, constantly on the verge of giving up. My skin got tough, my muscles grew, every day I trained my body to be stronger, and my soul followed.
You came back. Oh yes. Of course, pushing me back down, stalling my progress. But I learned to fight back. The battle is constant, but I’m holding tight to my lead, teetering on the edge of the abyss, but standing my ground.
You will never win.
Who are You? You should know, You do know. I’m talking to You. It’s me versus You—now and forever. Until I can believe, and say to myself: You, are so beautiful, to Me.
Author: Gabriella Sweezey
Apprentice Editor: Keeley Milne/Editor: Travis May