56. Three B

56. Three B

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Curvy & Confident

Three B

The only person who can pull me down is myself, and I’m not going to let myself pull me down anymore.

~C. JoyBell C.

Mama frowned and shook her head. “Just look at those feet. Wouldn’t they look odd hanging at the end of a pair of skinny legs?”

At age twelve, I already wore size 8 shoes. I was on the verge of tears, despondent about being the largest girl in my class. While the boys at school were starting to notice the slim, pretty girls, the only attention I got from them was when they teased me about my size.

I glowered at Mama. “You don’t understand because you’ve never been fat.”

Mama gave me a hug. “You aren’t fat, Betty. You’re just a big girl. You have to learn to love your sturdy, strong body. We all have to take what we’re given in life and make the most of it.”

She stroked my hair. “People usually think of you exactly as you think of yourself. If you continue to go around with your head down and your shoulders slumped you’re telling the world that you aren’t much. But if you stand tall, walk proud, and smile they will see something in you that makes them want to know you.”

Desperate, I tried Mama’s advice. I joined in the games at recess, laughed and pretended to be confident. I learned that if I joked and horsed around, kids were drawn to me. Slowly, I made friends and became one of the popular kids. I was now known as the big girl with the great personality. But it was all a farce. Everything on the outside was a charade while on the inside, I still felt insecure . . . and fat.

Every year I got taller and bigger while most of the other pudgy girls slimmed down. If I voiced my disdain at my body, I’d hear: “But you are so well proportioned. You have such nice curves. You’re not fat, you’re just large.”

Still, nothing they said could make me think I was anything but gawky and fat.

I didn’t date in high school. Teenage boys don’t go for big girls. Mama assured me that the boys in college were more mature and would appreciate my own brand of beauty. Mama was wrong. Oh, the guys thought I was great, hilarious and always ready for a good time. But when it came to romance they reached for the smaller girls.

“Three B is his pet name for you: Big, Beautiful Betty.”

During my last year in college I was late getting to a party. When I pushed through the throng of dancing kids, trying to find my friends, I heard a loud voice call out: “Where is Three B?”

I wondered whom he was referring to when I noticed several heads swivel toward me. “Here she is,” someone said. I forced myself to grin even though my heart fell with a devastated thud. What did Three B mean? Were they making fun me?

I spotted my best friend, Jane, and hurried over to her.

“What does Three B mean?” I asked, whispering.

Jane looked at my pinched face and laughed. “Relax. That is what Joe always calls you. He is crazy about you but hasn’t gotten up the nerve to ask you out. Three B is his pet name for you: Big, Beautiful Betty. Get it? Three B’s.”

Joe approached, blushing and grinning. “You weren’t supposed to hear that, but now that you have, it’s the only thing I will ever call you. Want to dance, Three B?”

Joe and I married after college and true to his word he has never called me anything else.

Through the years since then, I still dreamed of slimming down. I tried dieting and lost weight, but got haggard and tired looking. With every pound I lost, I seemed to lose a bit of spark. I felt better when I was what Mama always said was my natural size. So, for a long time I stopped trying to lose weight. I wasn’t happy with my size but I hid my feelings behind my bubbly personality and laughter.

Then, my niece, Angie, asked me to be the matron of honor in her wedding.

I stood in front of my full-length mirror and cringed at the thought of wedding pictures. I’ll dwarf everyone else. She’ll regret asking me to be in her wedding.

For the first time in years I dieted again. I measured every mouthful of food I ate and walked every evening after dinner. I grew tired and cranky but I was determined to lose weight before the wedding.

During spring break at college, Angie came to visit and show me pictures of the dresses she had chosen for her bridesmaids and me. Her eyes filled with concern when I opened the door. “Aunt Betty, are you sick?” Her eyes scanned my body. “What’s wrong? You’ve lost weight.”

I laughed and led her to the kitchen so we could chat and she could eat the brownies I’d baked for her.

“I’m fine, honey. I’ve been dieting so I’ll look better for your wedding.”

She frowned. “Well, it isn’t working. You look awful.”

“But you don’t want an elephant to stand beside you at your wedding,” I said, trying to laugh. But the sound was forced and hollow as I looked at her disappointed face.

She crossed her arms and gave me a steady gaze.

“Aunt Betty, when I thought my nose was too big, you told me that when I got older and my face finished taking shape, my nose would look just fine. Then, when I fussed about my curly hair and wanted to straighten it, you told me to work with what I had because natural was better. And when I hated being short and tiny, you assured me that many men love petite girls.”

Her eyes narrowed. “I believed every word you said because you always accepted yourself and worked with what you had. But you must not believe it yourself, because here you are trying to mold yourself into something you’re not.”

Tears sprang into her eyes. “I asked Three B to be my matron of honor and she is who I want to stand with me. Did you forget what the name means? I was always proud of Big, Beautiful Betty. My friends at college can’t wait to meet her. But,” she shook her head, “you’re becoming a nervous, washed-out, sick-looking shell of her.”

I grabbed the brownie from Angie’s plate and took a bite. Angie looked shocked for a moment, then laughed.

“I love you just the way you are,” she said, giving me a hug. “Everyone does.”

“I will, too.” I said with conviction. “From this moment on I will.”

And I have.

~Elizabeth Atwater

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