Why I am NOT “all about that bass”

I’m sure you’ve heard the song. You have, haven’t you? “All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor? It was released about 5 months ago, has been performed live on several late night TV shows and was actually just performed at the CMA Awards 2 days ago along with country music star, Miranda Lambert (I do not personally watch the CMA’s, but the Trainor-Lambert performance is circulating like wildfire on the interwebs right now; you couldn’t really miss it).

If you haven’t already heard the song, you can just type in the word “all” on YouTube and it is the first thing to pop up. Anyways — I am not all about that bass, and now, I am going to explain why.

In the past 5 years, I have been both super skinny and a little fat. Pudgy — I actually prefer the term pudgy. Wait, no I don’t; pudgy sounds awful. How about overweight? That sounds like a more clinical term, so we’ll just go with that: I have been overweight as well as super skinny, and when I was super skinny (aka ages 14-19), I was approached about it constantly. And I mean constantly.

In the 7th grade, a girl who I will call Sadie stated, in front of the entire math class (and me) one afternoon, “Amber is bulimic. She throws up after she eats.” I will comment, here, that Sadie was healthily sized – neither fat nor skinny – and I did look pretty emaciated.

But upon hearing what she said, I was indignant. And shocked. I do NOT,” was all I could muster to get out. Class began and I remained frozen in my seat, not exactly mortified – what she had said really wasn’t true – but disturbed that she thought that I would do that, and that now, other people would think so, too. Eat lunch and then force myself to vomit afterwards. Seriously? I cry each time I become genuinely ill and vomit; why on earth would I voluntarily bring such a tragedy upon myself? And beyond that, I had EARNED my emaciated appearance, thank you very much; for 2 years, every single day, I would portion out a small cube of organic cheese for breakfast, sip on a single, grape-flavored Juicy Juice pouch for lunch, and then eat a freshly prepared salad for dinner with 1/4 of a cup of soy vanilla ice cream and – if we’re really splurging here – 2 bite-sized and sugar-free Back To Nature cookies for dessert (and that is if dessert was permitted.. by myself). That was what I ate, every single day, and along with this self-imposed “meal plan”, I would skateboard for hours each evening and spend the bulk of my weekends outdoors, also skateboarding or, otherwise, hiking through the neighborhood with my beloved school friend, Kayla.

I threw up one time, when I was 15. It was on a weekend day when I had just eaten more lunch than I deemed necessary. Sadie’s comment, from the year before, floated back across my mind. “I could try throwing up, I guess.. maybe it works.”

It did work, and kneeling on the cold, beige tile floor in the bathroom with my head hanging over a toilet bowl was easily one of the most humiliating moments of my life. I was more ashamed, then, of having forced myself to throw up than I had been ten minutes before for what I had called “overeating.” I never did it again. Force myself to throw up, that is.. I have certainly overeaten since then. 

But I was slightly anorexic — for years. There were fasts that I would take regularly for “religious purposes” that were really taken to eliminate an extra pound or two that had crept up on me. I would visit the local public library on the weekends and check out books – sometimes memoirs, other times, fiction novels – about other anorexic girls, and I loved being able to identify with how they thought, felt, and viewed themselves. I even wrote a research paper on body dysmorphic disorder when I was in the 8th grade and it is, to this day, one of my best accomplishments in writing ever. I have a copy lying around the house somewhere..

When I began working at Publix (just a few weeks after I turned 16), I would take my required lunch break half-way through my shift and walk down the street to a gas station. Once inside, I would always purchase the exact same thing: a french vanilla-flavored Slim Fast drink. The first 2 or 3 times, the kind, middle-eastern man behind the counter would just nod his head in greeting, ring me up and wave me out the door, but by trip 4, he seemed.. almost bothered by my visits. Irritated, even.

I smiled and set my french vanilla diet drink onto the counter late one afternoon and he just sat there, on his stool, without picking it up. After a few seconds, with his arms crossed against his chest, he finally spoke: “You don’t need to be buying this. Drinking this each day. It’s no good for you.”

I was taken back. “Oh.. well, I really just like how it tastes!” I thought I sounded pretty sincere. Convincing.

He frowned, shook his head, and proceeded to ring up my order. He would say the same thing to me each time that I returned to his store; you do not need to be doing this. It is not good for you.

Life continued — skateboarding in the evenings, working at Publix on the weekends and, eventually, waitressing, which kept my weight off even more. From ages 14-17, my weight averaged between 91-95 pounds. Then, all of the sudden, I turned 18, left home, got married and began working at a desk job. My skateboarding days were behind me and meals became more and more about convenience — as time progressed, I would put less and less thought into portioning and calorie counting as my focus meandered off into other things; like how many hours I’d worked that week and whether or not I could afford driving to Target and buying some cute things for the apartment that weekend. Eating also became more fun; Chris (my husband) and I would text each other in the mornings from our separate workplaces: “So what do you want for supper tonight? Burritos? Pizza? Mashed potatoes and pizza?” “Yeahhhhh — mashed potatoes AND pizza! And make sure that you remember to pick up a mango key lime pie from Publix on your way home tonight, too — that will be deeeeelicious. How about burritos tomorrow night?”

For 3 years, we had a great time with food. A really great time. I gained, literally, 35 pounds (and in case you didn’t do the math, that is an average of 11.68 pounds each year; nearly a pound a month). And it happened so slowly that I didn’t even notice what was happening.

At age 20, I made a rare visit to the doctor; if I can recall correctly, I was there because of a pesky throat infection that just wouldn’t go away on its own and that I had failed at treating homeopathically. “Step onto the scale please, ma’am.”

I smiled, slipped off my shoes and obliged the nurse that was standing in front of me by stepping onto the scale. After about 8 seconds, I stepped off and bent down to retrieve my shoes from the floor.

“117,” the nurse murmured out loud, scribbling the digits onto her note pad.

Excuse me?” I stopped her, my left shoe frozen in mid-air. “117? That can’t possibly be right — the last time I weighed myself I was like 107.” The last time that I had even bothered to weigh myself had also been months before. She laughed, like I was making a joke, and left the room. What the hell?

And then non-medical professionals began picking up on my weight gain also. As well as pointing it out.

I was working behind the counter at work one day, counting cash out to a regular member, when I reached for an envelope and caught the woman smiling at me knowingly.  “What?” I prodded her quietly, smiling back at her.

“How far along are you, sweetie?”

I paused. “I’m sorry?” I laughed, still smiling and genuinely confused — I had never been asked that question before and didn’t really know what she meant by it.

“How along are you,” she nodded encouragingly.. her eyes lowering to my belly. “Your baby!”

My jaw dropped before I could even stop to think about it and I could hear my coworker suck in a breath beside me.

“Oh.. I’m not pregnant,” I stammered sadly, finally. “Just fat.”

I was mortified. Truly mortified.

I went home that evening and examined myself in the mirror, horror-stricken.

“How did I not NOTICE THIS? WHY has no one TOLD ME?”

As a result, I have spent the past year and a half trying to lose weight and have officially – as of today, actually – shed an extra 20 pounds that I just did not need. You will recall that, when I married, I told you that I gained 35 pounds; I am keeping the other 15. I needed those. I feel comfortable now, with my size, and it is honestly a humungous relief to feel so happy and at ease in my own skin.

And that is my personal story of going from super skinny to a little overweight and then finally reaching a happy medium, all within a 5-year time frame. NOW; after all of that, you’re asking — “but wasn’t this originally about.. bass? like, a bass player? or something? Actually, maybe it was Meghan Trainor and the CMA Awards — I don’t know, something like that.”

Yes. Yes, it was about bass and Meghan Trainor, who performed at the CMA Awards this past week, and now, I will address all of that.

The song “All About That Bass” is actually a pretty catchy tune. My husband’s coworker actually suggested, about a month ago,  that our band do a cover of the song (we play weekly at various pubs in the Birmingham area). The very day that she recommended the song, I pulled it up on YouTube; a cathy song, indeed! After watching the music video, I pulled up another video of the song that contained all of the lyrics. It was then that I became disturbed.

Most of the song is super positive; the basic message is this: don’t try to squeeze into a size that doesn’t fit you and don’t ever hate on your body — love your size and remember that men appreciate thick women. That is, essentially, what the song is conveying. And all of that is pretty awesome.

But in verse 2, Trainor breaks out with phrases like “I’m bringing booty back/Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches that” as well as “You know I won’t be no stick figure silicone Barbie doll/So if that’s what you’re into then go ahead and move along.”

On the one hand, I can definitely appreciate her self-confidence as well as her subtle implication to live naturally (I also do not want to have silicone infused into any part of my body). However.

Calling thin women “skinny bitches” is not nice. And branding women who do choose to embrace silicone into their bodies – for whatever reason, necessity or desire – “stick figure Barbie dolls” is also not nice.

Coupling these statements with the multitude of graphic memes that I’ve seen circulating over the years — most with a thick, bodacious woman pictured and sultry text that reads “dogs like bones; REAL MEN love curves” strewn across the image — is beginning to make me think that we no longer live in a society that is solely plagued with fat-shaming; it seems, more than ever, that we have now adopted a policy of skinny-shaming also.

And that is wrong. Both of those practices are wrong. But making a blanket statement that “real men love curves” — the word “all” missing but just, you know, understood — is completely and totally and blatantly negating the beauty and appeal of skinny women. And guess what? There are TONS of men out there who do prefer skinny women. That may come as a painful statement to someone who is overweight, but wouldn’t you agree, also, that a skinny person who is, perhaps, unable to gain weight (or who just LIKES keeping their weight at a lower level) would probably take offense to the statement that their lack of curves makes them unattractive and inferior? Yeah.. definitely. Tough stuff, isn’t it? It’s hard to accept, but different people have different tastes, and being skinny OR being thick can easily knock you off of someone’s dating list. That is just life. (And while it’s on my mind, have you ever even heard a song where a thin chick is bad-mouthing “heavy” girls? I haven’t. But please let me know if you have or do and I’ll be sure to write a blog post on it also.)

The best way of nipping this issue in the bud is to just stop making these statements and these memes and these stupid freaking songs. If you are going to create a meme that is intended to be uplifting and encouraging, try to leave out the part about degrading other body types, and if you do want to make a song about loving your own fantastically unique body, I am seriously all for it — but don’t call out the “skinny bitches”, because that’s shameful. Downright shameful.

I can see that a thick and curvy woman is beautiful just as well as I can see that a thin woman is beautiful; we all have different looks and body shapes, and our individual bodies even have their own preferred “comfort” weights where they seem to want to stay at. That is called diversity and that is awesome.

Do love your body; don’t try to change what isn’t wrong.. and do not be harmful to others by your words and actions. Putting someone else down shouldn’t be the means of raising your own spirits or your personal thoughts and feelings regarding your own body-image. If you are unhappy with your appearance for any reason – if you think that excess weight or lack of weight is detracting from your beauty or, more importantly, from your health – do something to change it. But don’t wish that you were something other than what you are. It is, 99% of the time (unless you have unlimited monetary resources and no fear of knives, silicone/other foreign objects and lasers), wasted energy and without purpose. Whatever end of the spectrum you happen to find yourself on, be healthy and be happy. And be nice.

So no; I’m not all about that bass.. OR all about that treble.

I’m all about that bass and treble.

Aun Aqui

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