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Fat is not a feeling by Eline van Wieren

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I carefully constructed this body. 

It started in my grandmother’s pantry and it wasn’t long until I discovered that all I had to do was say ‘no’ when she asked me if I knew where her bag of chips went.

At home with my mother I bury an empty pack of cookies between the cushions of the couch. A graveyard of candy wrappers.

At night there’s a returning nightmare. It starts like an old movie. Black screen. A little white dot in the middle that keeps growing bigger. In the dot an image appears and when the whole screen is filled, the image starts to move. Sounds are coming from everywhere and they make no sense. I long for the darkness. I long for my feet in the black earth, nothing to be seen. But I’ve already eaten too much chocolate. I am no longer allowed to be at ease in this body.

All fourteen-year-old girls wear t-shirts that say WHO CARES. Mine is black with glittering silver letters and I just cycled 6 km home from school.

My grandmother, who cooks for us on Tuesday evenings, is sitting in our backyard. She’s ripping apart the seams of an old pillowcase. She looks up at me. She says, “You look so good, Eline.”

I wipe my sweaty palms on my jeans and look up to her.

“This black top looks so much better on you than that unflattering floral thing you were wearing last week. A big girl like you really shouldn’t be wearing something like that.”

With a sour face she gives a last tug and the two parts of the pillowcase come apart.

At night, when my grandmother has gone back home, I hang around the couch before going to bed.

My mother peels her eyes away from the TV. “Is something going on?” she asks.

I repeat my grandmothers remark.

She says, ‘oh.’

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I often think: I just have to tell the story. Come on, Eline. Just tell the story.

Everywhere I go, I look for mothers.

I am not open yet, because there’s still things I have to survive. I believe my fat will protect me. I wear my overweight like a winter coat. You can touch me, but not really. What you feel is a synthetic stuffing material. It has nothing to do with skin.

I want to be seen. Can you all come look at me? I undress for this. Comfort me. I want to be vulnerable, but my belly is rock hard. Can somebody please hold this body? Can somebody hold my inner child? The strawberry blonde girl that fits in the palms of two extended hands. Thumb in mouth.

Cover me with a blanket. Don’t drop me, be kind. Build me a house with a rabbit in the backyard. Bake me an egg. Stroke my hair until my belly is soft again.

In the meantime, give me a quote or a mantra. Something to hold on to other than your fingers. I don’t know if I’ll grow much taller. Love me anyways.

I am an eight-year-old girl, wearing a dark blue top with thin straps that reaches to just above my belly button. The bottom of my belly bulges over my jean shorts.

“You’re not allowed to go to the playground like this.”

I don’t get upset. I know that the girls whose mothers allow them to go outside the fences guarding the backyards in cropped tops don’t look like me. Girls who have bodies you can easily lift off the ground and tickle.

I play on the swings in our backyard. I go as high as possible. Hoping for someone on the other side of the fence to get a glimpse of me.

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I just need to learn how to root. I need to learn that I don’t need to be heavy to be grounded. I lay down on the laminate flooring between the couch and dinner table. I set a timer and imagine the roots. They sprout from my heels, finding their way through the foundation of the house until there’s nothing but black earth. Cold and wet.

They grow from my tailbone, elbows, shoulders and crown. The roots are finding their way between the worms.

I float away from the laminate flooring. Away from the house with its windows and electricity. The neighbours and the people who touched me. From my belly button a plant starts to grow. I no longer only grow upwards, but in all directions.

“I think that not only physically, but also mentally everything will be so much lighter if you just lose all that weight,” he says, pouring the last bit of beer from the bottle into his glass. “Then you can leave all that behind and really start living.”

Over the last year, Eline van Wieren worked on a story that started from the question ‘Do I feel at home in my body?’ With a photographer she took photos of the parts of her body that are usually not allowed to be seen. The original piece was written in Dutch. This blogpost is an excerpt of the book translated to English. Based on the text of this piece, Eline is now working with a dancer on making a performance. Follow Eline on Instagram: @elinevw_ . Or visit her website:www.elinevanwieren.nl (that she will definitely give it an update this summer).