“We’re all like, ‘What’s wrong with the girls? Why aren’t they eating? Why are they worried about their bodies?’ Are you kidding me? Maybe because every message they’ve gotten since they’re born is that in order to be a successful woman, you have to get smaller and quieter until you disappear.” – Glennon Doyle Melton
I am not a physically small person. I’m 5’9″, towering six inches above the world’s average woman. My shoulders are broad and strong, my hips wide, my thighs solid and touching on the inside. I wear a size 10 shoe. They don’t even carry my size in English stores – it was a problem when my flats broke when I was on business in Manchester. I am muscular, dense. Unfeminine?
I am not a mentally small person. I speak with conviction. I am a voracious learner. I am passionate, obstinate, and just a tiny bit outspoken. My ego runs away with itself sometimes. Often. I am aggressive about my integrity and I cannot be convinced to do anything I don’t feel is right. Too much?
I am not a spiritually small person. The universe is my guide; I am its entertainment, but it’s still a fan. It knows I am strong-willed and it allows me to be so, and when it just can’t take my charging in the clearly wrong direction anymore it hits me over the head and brings me back. I am shown my way by energy. I call in my angels when I am in despair. I am protected and loved and sheltered by spirits. Unreachable?
My life is not small. It is tall and wide and broad and far reaching. Every synonym of large so that I can stretch my way into it, taking large steps toward my purpose. It’s what the uniform of yoga pants and flat-soled shoes accommodates – mobility. Agility. Quickness.
And yet, I’ve shrunk myself before – I’ve shrunk myself to better fit alongside men. Under their arms, where it felt nice to burrow. Like I was small. Like I could be hidden. Not because they’ve asked me to. Not because it’s been expected. But because it felt good – it felt feminine – to be small.
Feel physically smaller, next to tall, muscular men.
Feel mentally smaller, next to brusque, commanding men.
Feel spiritually smaller, muting my personal guidance to be guided, instead, by men.
It’s learned. Without even getting to the undertones of the expectation for women to be submissive, it is the expectation that we at least be accommodating. It makes us the cool, laid back girl. That we be attracted to possessiveness. That we wait for him to take a commanding lead. That we want to be shorter, smaller. That’s how men prove they can take care of us, yes? By being bigger in all ways.
Because somehow we all of a sudden can’t take care of ourselves.
I’ve had three involvements in my life that I call full-blown relationships. One with someone my height who I know weighed less. One with someone slightly taller, significantly muscular. One with someone who I could actually wear 4″ heels around and still be shorter (this is a thing. If you’re a tall woman and you’re reading this, you understand its significance). Each man possessing different, complex personalities and characters, with different jobs and motivations in life. Good men. Not one of them asked me to put myself aside.
Same order. One where I maintained my sense of self, my goals, my friendships, my passions. One where I put everything he wanted to do ahead of myself until I barely knew who I was and what I actually liked – I didn’t paint and barely wrote for years. One where I put all of his goals ahead of my own – mine could be done later, his needed to take priority. I enjoyed that work more.
I did that. I did. I take full responsibility for each of my actions. And why did I do it? To feel more feminine in my relationships. To feel more womanly. And the more womanly I felt – the smaller I felt – the more comfortable I was further shrinking myself. How, Sway?
I don’t have a large declaration to end this, but it felt like an important enough realization to share it, because I think so many of us women shrink ourselves, intending to somehow be in service of the men we love, when it does nothing of the sort.
How does it serve anyone at all – ourselves, our loved ones, the world – to prioritize the perceived (and completely fake) comfort of being small?