I hate being put “on hold.” In the old days of rotary phones, if there was more than one number for the phone, there would be several plastic square buttons lined up underneath the dial. One of those buttons was red, which was the Hold Button. As a red-haired impatient kid, when I was on a mission of whatever I perceived was of GRAND importance - which was pretty much EVERYTHING - being told to, “please hold,” was tantamount to my world screeching to a halt. As I got older, my patience improved in many aspects of my life, but disliking being put on hold was something I never outgrew. If someone did not have the time to deal with me, in that moment, then why didn’t they just NOT ANSWER THE PHONE??!!
Time passed and with it the Hold Button morphed into the Call Waiting Click. New label…same result. I didn’t morph along with it. I was stuck in a time warp still the impatient kid wanting to get something. For someone who has always hated being on hold, it is ironic how much of my life I spent putting MYSELF on hold. It was subtle at first. The weather would start getting warmer and kids would start going to the community pool or the beach (I grew up in New York, not far from the Atlantic Ocean). I would watch enviously as they rode off on bikes loaded with towels headed for a day of splashing and swimming. I made up excuses. “When it gets warmer I’ll go.” When it got warmer I resorted to, “I have a cold, or I get ear aches from swimming.”
Of course, the real reason was how much I dreaded having to wear a bathing suit in public. When I was unable to push the Hold Button on going, I yanked out the big gun, “I’m a redhead and I’ll just get sun burned,” excuse. I wore a giant t-shirt over my hideous, black, one piece bathing suit, explaining, when asked, “It is to protect me or I’ll look like a lobster!”
I tried with all of my might to stay out of sight. I put endless opportunities of having summer fun on hold because of my body-hate.
I was six, I was seven and on into my teens. I almost didn’t graduate high school because of the swimming requirement in Phys. Ed.
Putting my life on hold became part of how I operated in the world. “When I lose weight then I will go to that party. When I lose weight, then I will take that class. When I lose weight then Davey Bernstein will like me. When I lose weight, then I will really live the life I want to live.”
How many kids are putting their lives on hold because they are being consumed by such shame and self-hate they don’t give themselves the opportunities to try things; to let go and dive in?
I think the first time I ever felt completely comfortable wearing a bathing suit was when I was pregnant and I had permission to be a fat woman in a bathing suit. The freedom I experienced was an indescribable joy. I remember at eight months pregnant I could feel my son swimming around inside of me as I was buoyantly bobbing around in the pool, completely un-self-conscious, no big t shirt, just sun screen and a big grin on my face.
I vowed in that moment, to do three things. The first was that whatever traces of negative feelings I still had about my body; I would NOT push my Hold Button. I would allow my kid to experience the joys of being a kid, even if it meant my wearing a bathing suit in public.
Secondly, that whatever body shape, size or type my child would develop, I would love him unconditionally and do what I could to help him foster love and acceptance for his body.
The third and perhaps most challenging commitment, to take an active role in educating others about the damage that size discrimination inflicts on others. Sometimes, ironically enough, this means asking people to HOLD their tongues and open their minds. My son is 19 years old now and I am thrilled to say, that he has never put his life on hold, and I honestly can’t remember the last time I did either.