67. When Life Throws You Curves

67. When Life Throws You Curves

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Curvy & Confident

When Life Throws You Curves

Cultivate your curves — they may be dangerous, but they won’t be avoided.

~Mae West

I sat at the bar, nervously peeling the label off the bottle. I checked my phone for the fiftieth time in two minutes.

We agreed on 6:30 P.M. It was now 6:25. I was already worried that he would stand me up.

I hadn’t been on a date in months, and I was the one who suggested it. He seemed like a nice guy on the dating site. He was funny, he texted or called when he said he would, and we had chemistry. But meeting face to face . . . this could make or break our fledgling relationship.

At least he knew I was a size 20. That was a real turn-off for a lot of guys on dating sites, but Chris seemed okay with it. He was on the larger side himself, which was more than fine with me — I preferred dating teddy bears.

Picking imaginary lint off my sweater, I reflected on the times I thought my size would be a barrier to doing the things I wanted.

My mind drifted to my undergraduate days, when a group of French exchange students begged me to go out with them.

“C’mon! Let’s go salsa dancing!”

“Why would I want to do that?” I replied. The only salsa I ever came in contact with was on the nachos I ate. Not to mention, I could barely dance the Hokey Pokey.

“Just come. We promise you’ll have a good time. There will be a lot of guys there.”

My ears perked up. I supposed I could go if boys would be there. I donned my new strapless, formfitting black dress, unsure of what I would encounter.

What I experienced that evening was unlike anything I ever had before. Latin music pulsed all around us: Elvis Crespo, Marc Anthony, and Enrique Iglesias. I had little trouble picking up steps to merengue and salsa. I may have stepped on a few toes and kept my eyes glued to the floor to ensure I had the basic steps correct, but wrapped in the arms of handsome men, swaying my hips, and twirling as they led, I never felt more powerful in my curves than I did that night.

That was the beginning of many nights dancing.

After I graduated college, I secured a position in France teaching English, and it was one of the best years of my life. I fell in love with teaching and worked on building great relationships with my students and fellow English teachers.

But one day I was passing a classroom when I heard one of the teachers, a cynical man named Pierre-Yves, say in a heavy, Franco-British accent, “Be careful not to eat too much fast food. You don’t want to end up fat like Americans. I mean, Miss Kontor is about the size of Godzilla!”

My face burned. I burst through the classroom door and in perfect French, said, “So is my name Miss Kontor or Godzilla? I’m confused.”

His face turned crimson. In English he stammered, “Miss Kontor, of course.”

I shook my head and continued in French: “If you’re going to insult me, you can at least be honest about it.”

“I meant it as a joke,” was his feeble excuse.

“No one’s laughing,” one of the students piped up.

“Yeah, we like Miss Kontor,” said another. And then more spoke up.

“She’s nice to us!”

“Who cares if she is bigger? She treats us better than you.”

I looked Pierre-Yves square in the eyes. “I weigh more than you, but at least I conduct myself like a professional. I don’t insult other teachers in front of students.” I spun around on my heels and marched off, straight to the language department chair to file a complaint. I heard hooting and hollering behind me as the students continued their attack on Pierre-Yves.

After my adventures in Europe, I settled down to the life of an American schoolteacher. I spent over sixty hours a week planning lessons and grading papers. After a couple of years, my body was screaming for rest and rejuvenation. I signed up for yoga classes at a local gym.

I had never taken a yoga class in my life. I looked around at the thinner women and, in awe at the poses they contorted themselves into, I felt woefully inadequate.

But as the weeks progressed, I realized I was just as flexible as the other women, sometimes even more so. I could sit cross-legged with my knees touching the floor. I could arch my body up into a perfect half-circle. I could do headstands — something I could never do in the hundreds of gym classes I was forced to endure as a girl.

As the weeks progressed, I realized I was just as flexible as the other women.

Yoga made me feel strong, centered, and serene — words I had never used to describe myself before. My body was capable of more than I had imagined.

I had always wanted to jog, but I never thought I could because I was too big. But my cousin told me about Couch to 5K, a program that teaches you how to run in nine weeks. You start by running in one-minute bursts, then walking. Eventually, you run longer periods of time until you can run an entire 5K race. Though I hated rising at 5:30 A.M., I loved jogging in the dark, starlit dawns. I lost a dress size in a matter of weeks. Within four months, I ran my first 5K and I’ve run three more since.

Though my time is never fast and I often place last in my age group, I know I lap everyone who’s still sitting on the couch and I’m pushing my body to do something I always wanted to do. I continue to jog to this day.

I snapped out of my daydream and looked toward the door to see Chris, holding a white carnation — the symbol for sweetness. He was way cuter than his picture, and I actually stopped breathing.

As soon as he saw me, his eyes lit up.

“Annie! It’s so nice to finally meet you!” He slid into the seat next to mine and offered me the carnation. No man had ever given me flowers before.

Chris was the real deal. And my curves weren’t about to hold me back!

~Annie Kontor

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