I Won’t Hate This Body…Even If You Think I Should

Dear Lord,

Whatever you do, please don’t make me flat chested

-a very selfish prayer from seven-year-old Ramona.

When I was a wee little thing, I asked Heavenly Father to bless me with big boobs. Greatly influenced by watching soap operas during the entire summer vacation, I discovered that the women on television who seemed to get the most attention seemed to be blessed with large chests and tiny waists.

During my childhood years (before age 10), I had already grown used to the jabs about my size. Although there was nothing wrong with my body as I nursed the same baby fat that others experienced before puberty, people around me seemed more interested in giving a child problems about her weight.

I thank my mom now as an adult for her constant guidance during these formative years of development. There was no topic too taboo that couldn’t be discussed as my body started to change. Patiently and lovingly, she listened to each silly question, slowly preparing me for a world that would throw a label at me in hopes that it would stick. In one such instance while in primary (elementary) school, I asked my mom if HIV was contracted by dancing on boys.

We recall this story fondly now. A year or so later, I would start puberty at age 9 1/2. Holding back her laughter, my mom dismissed the school ground rumor and set me straight.

Whether I ate a salad or something super unhealthy, I realized early on that it didn’t matter at all. I was big and I needed to do something about it.

With childish naivety, I returned to school with the new knowledge that unless I engaged in sexual activity with boys, there would be zero chance that I would contract a sexually transmitted disease. Looking back now, I recognize that this silly rumor was likely introduced by an older adult seeking to prevent their child from behaving *wuffless at the school dance*. Boldly and proudly, I shared what my mother had said with the rest of my class and danced the day away.

Still, criticism of my body and what I choose to do with it followed. At age 11, I had shapely hips and a well-developed bust. While many of the girls were yet to discover the joys and horrors of puberty, I began in elementary school and was somewhat in an expert in the changes occurring in my body.

As I got older, I recognized that society labeled my body differently. While my friends developed late in their teens, by age fourteen I was already an expert on my developing body. I handled each change in stride, never backing down from the rapid changes that seemed to be happening. I filled out with curves, a larger cup size each year and little to no height increase.

In high school, I fell under the radar of those who told me my body was all wrong. After each summer break, one teacher would tell me how big I had gotten over the break. I shrugged off the insults presented under the guise of concern at first. As far as teenage Ramona was concerned, my body and whatever changes happened to it were my business alone.

Things got bad when I joined the local Red Cross Youth Link. While a member, the instructor at every opportunity would remind me of my fatness, drilling it into my head that I needed to do something about myself and my ever-changing body.

At first, I responded with polite nods, then as time went on, I grew tired of his jeering even when I had graduated secondary (high) school. So, as disrespectfully as I could, I resorted to swearing at him whenever I could.

As a Christian, my outbursts betrayed the calm and collected person I aspired to be. Still, I resorted to angry insults as the years of passivity boiled over like an angry kettle shrilling its disdain.

I eventually phased away from my high school group of friends and the organization that bound us all together.  Still, the insults followed as I went through life and eventually joined the church. In my dating journey, I was seen as too curvy to be seen as beautiful. I was relegated to the girl who would take whatever was presented in hopes that a small glimmer of attention from the opposite sex. Still relatively new in a gospel that sometimes values the opinion of men more than women, I kept silent in fear that my outspokenness would rock the boat.

For years, I hated my body. I refused to take full-body photos and instead limited my social media photos to selfies and headshots. Since entering the thirties club, a part of me thinks that it’s about time that I stop being ashamed of the body that has kept me throughout these years on the earth.

In a church that values appearances over personality, I decided to be a cheerleader for myself as the Word of Wisdom was brandished each time I was rejected as a romantic interest. I’ve seen the ugly side of the Word of Wisdom, coming face to face with young women tearing their bodies apart for the sake of perfection which doesn’t exist. I’ve seen the damaging dysmorphic thoughts associated with being skinny.

Body dysmorphic thoughts seem to be second nature in LDS culture yet there is no scripture that screams for us to hate our bodies. Yet, its so hard to cut out the harmful narratives which have continued for far too long

In Utah this culture is especially prevalent which I saw firsthand as mothers and daughters shame their daughters into losing weight at the sight of one ounce of jiggle. I remember sitting next to a friend as she was berated for getting a little thicker post-mission. She was in no way fat but under the guise of the Word of Wisdom, a little jiggle deemed her unworthy to marry.

Eventually, when I got my own patriarchal blessing, I would hear mention of my weight as if it was my only defining feature. The mention of my body does little to soothe my mind since I’ve grown in nuance. Due to this, I have slowly begun reading it less.

In time, I found the voice to dismiss the revolving wheel of toxic positivity I had placed around myself as an act of self-preservation as a fledging member of the church.

My body which has seen disease, self-harm, and the stresses of mental and physical stress has been good to me…even if others deem it not to be.

I am a woman whose worth has been shaped by the ancestors, their curves and bodies mirroring mine long after their passing. In some ways, the thing people assume to be wrong and so horribly flawed, connects me to my ancestors in a way that no family history work has done.

And the lesson I take away from this ordeal is that if someone else has to define my worth that that worth is simply a projection of their own insecurity.

I love this body regardless. I love this body forevermore.

*Wuffless/Wutless (Bajan slang)- good-for-nothing, promiscuous, troublesome worthless, terrible, no good

*Wukking up/wuk up- a dance done by gyrating one’s waistline, with heavy emphasis on the forward and backward motions

*School dances in Barbados are usually where boys and girls dance together in extremely close contact by wukking up(usually on each other.

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5 Responses

  1. nicolesbitani says:

    I love your story of self-love and body positivity in the face of a church culture that is anything but most of the time. And I’m appalled that a comment on your weight was part of your patriarchal blessing! How uninspired! There’s no good reason to comment on someone else’s body size or shape.

  2. Nancy Ross says:

    “I’ve seen the ugly side of the Word of Wisdom, coming face to face with young women tearing their bodies apart for the sake of perfection which doesn’t exist.” Thank you for writing about this!

  3. Bryn Brody says:

    I love this so much. Thank you for voicing what so many of us have experienced.

  4. JC says:

    I, too am appalled that your weight was mentioned in your patriarchal blessing. That is not okay under **any** circumstance. I’m sorry that what should’ve been a sacred moment for you was ruined by an insipid, uninspired comment about your size.

    The manner in which church culture and its members fixate so much on outside appearances and the physical is disgusting. Utah and other areas with large LDS populations are littered with billboards advertising cosmetic surgery, lifestyle p*rn continues to run rampant on all the social media apps, sister missionaries are pressured to look like Kardashians and are constantly lectured about their weight (never mind that the missionary schedule leaves no room for adequate meal breaks, exercise, or sufficient time for personal grooming – men **really** underestimate how long it takes for hair and make-up to be done), single women are reproached from the pulpit by church apostles for not wearing lipstick, and single women carrying extra weight are told they need to quit school and/or their jobs in order to get in shape (talk about inappropriate). I attended college in a heavily populated LDS area and was horrified upon learning from a former professor of mine that girls as young as **9** were being referred to to the eating disorder clinic in the area.

    Something is wrong with all of this. Thank you, Ramona, for pushing back against these toxic messages church culture and its members are so obsessed with.

  5. Ziff says:

    Wow, Ramona. Thank you for sharing this. I’m sorry that you got so many body shaming messages from so many sources. Especially your patriarchal blessing! That’s just horrifying! I hate so much that patriarchs have the chance to take their random prejudices and put them in the mouth of God.

    I’m glad that it sounds like you’re in a more welcoming place with yourself relating to your body now. I appreciate you calling out how bad this policing of body size and shape is, and how it’s so often amplified in the Church. It’s sad that we often gesture at the idea in 1 Samuel 16:7 that God doesn’t judge like we judge, based on outward appearance, but then we turn right around and spend tons of time and energy pretending that God is super concerned with how everyone looks, especially women. It’s just such a poisonous idea!

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