The Thrill is proud to feature personal narratives courtesy of Project Open Voices, a coalition of students providing a platform for open dialogue on campus. Today’s essay is titled “Here Is A Story About My Body” and was authored anonymously. POV is always accepting new submissions, so if you want to share your story, email email@example.com. If you would like to remain anonymous, you can submit by signing into a second email account: firstname.lastname@example.org (password: kenyoncollege). POV meets Saturdays at 4pm in the Bemis music room in Peirce; new faces are always welcome.
Kenyon was the first campus I visited. Immediately, I had a sense that I could find my own place here. No other school gave me that gut reaction; it felt like fate had handed me my choice.
I carried a lot of things with me on the plane as I flew back home. I had a vision of my future, a mixture of excitement for college and ennui for high school, and small, hidden behind everything else, a nagging feeling that I wasn’t going to fit in. On my visit, I had noticed a few things about Kenyon students: they were smart, outgoing, creative and fashionable, but most of all, they were skinny.
These worries nagged at me as I finished school and slogged through the boring, stretched-out summer before college. They poked my belly as I met my first roommate, as I went out to my first party, every time I spoke in class. They wrapped their fingers around my wrists as I made it successfully through my first year, into the summer, up to the present day. They squeeze my lungs and my heart as I write this.
At Kenyon, I take up too much space. I sit folded into my chair during class, crossing my legs like pretzels or pulling my knees up to my chin. In the Peirce servery, I can gaze over tops of heads. Were people back home this small? I notice myself rolling my shoulders, hunching, softening, trying to make myself small and malleable, trying not to stand out. I don’t know if I could stand up straight if I tried. I’m uncomfortable with how it feels.
This year, at the age of 19, I told my friends for the first time that I have bought and worn plus-sized clothing. It was just one line I added to a casual conversation, nothing like a coming-out, but I was surprised to feel adrenaline pump through my body.
I notice myself rolling my shoulders, hunching, softening, trying to make myself small and malleable, trying not to stand out.
I never stop thinking about my body. It’s always in the way, preventing me from reaching my potential, preventing people from loving me, stopping them from seeing who I really am. If you asked me to describe myself, I would tell you about my appearance before my character or my personality. But only now have I begun the process of growing into my identity as a person who has been plus-size since a very young age.
I want so badly to be able to talk about my body in a factual way without feeling the need to constantly demean myself. I want to be to say that yes, this is the way I am shaped, and yes, it has affected my experiences every single day. Sometimes I want to be able to say that I don’t like the way we talk about health! Or about other people’s bodies and appearances! And yes, these things bother me in particular because I have been ashamed of my body for as long as I can remember! And I still am.
I guess in some way I was convinced that I was hiding myself by never talking about it, that the minute I spoke honestly about my body you would all wake up from this blissful illusion and run away screaming from the reality that I take up a little more space than the average person. But now I am telling you, because I want you to hear this. I want to be acknowledged. I don’t want to feel guilty about my existence.