To my friend, who is beautiful,
What can I say? You’re the first friend I ever made at college. You gave me your number and we ate dinners together and eventually, we grew closer. We bonded over music videos and silly YouTube channels at 10:00 at night. We discussed politics and Lana Del Ray and mental illness and our dislike for history classes. And you know what I have never once thought, throughout our whole friendship?
“This girl, she is so fat. I wish she would lose weight.”
When I say it now, it sounds silly, because of course I’d never think those kinds of things about someone I hold in such high regard. So then, why do you think them about yourself?
Do you have any idea how much it’s hurt me to sit across from you in the dining hall and watch you eat salads for every single dinner? How hard it is to listen to you categorize foods as “healthy” and “unhealthy” in big sweeping moves? To watch you look up calories and sodium and describe food as “covered in fat?” To see you run the extra lap, extra two laps, no, three, to keep burning those calories?
It’s an indescribably awful feeling to watch someone you’re close to repeat the mistakes you’ve already made. I’ve been down the road you’re going down. I’ve downloaded and used those calorie tracking apps before. I’ve cut calories and ran the extra mile and pinched the fat on my stomach until it became red. I’ve watched jealously, as you do, the other girls at the gym, shorts and tank top, ponytails pulled tight and perfect. I’ve watched the workout shows and YouTube fitness channels and anything else you can think of to motivate myself to lose weight, when I really didn’t have to.
And I wish I could tell you this in person, to look you in your eyes and speak from the heart, but I’m a writer by nature and thus I’m writing you this letter to say that while all you may see is your body right now, I see so much more than that.
When I look at you, I don’t see a girl with weight to lose. I don’t see a number in front of me, a calculation of how much you weigh or how many calories you’ve eaten that day. I don’t see a girl who has weight to lose.
I see a friend who has made my first year at college amazing and meaningful.
I see a girl who is driven to help others, who looks beyond others’ flaws but defines herself by her own flaws.
I see a psych major who wants to view people complexly, compassionately and sensitively, but beats herself up for eating a quesadilla.
I see a girl who loves music videos that are artfully made, who loves books about mental illnesses, who watches women’s soccer.
I see a proud feminist who advocates for women’s rights.
I see an adventurous person who water skis and camps and is going to travel to Greece.
I see a girl who loves quotes and collects them and references them whenever the situation is relevant.
I see a human being that is truly beautiful.
Friend, I know it’s hard to get yourself out of this cycle. You don’t interact with yourself on a regular basis like I do. You haven’t been on my end of the conversations; you haven’t been the recipient of your own incredible kindness. So I’m asking for a huge favor when I say to please, please, try to see what I see.
There is so much more to you than the width of your shoulders or the flatness of your stomach. Please stop waiting to treat yourself with respect for the day when you will be one hundred percent satisfied with your own body, because I know from experience that that’s never going to happen. There will always be some aspect of your own body that makes you uncomfortable.
But who cares? I’m not friends with you for the food you eat. You’re not my friend because you run three miles every day. You’re not what you eat or how many calories of fat you consume.
You’re my friend because you’ve got heart and courage and kindness in spades. That’s worth more than any diet plan, any day.
Lead Image Credit: Michael Ramey via Unsplash