Being 10 Again

Last Monday, I mentioned to my therapist that I was put on a diet when I was 10.  I was in the 5th grade; and seemingly overnight, our 1970s harvest gold kitchen was transformed — divided by foods that were “mine” and “theirs.”

This was also the year I stopped going to recess.

Instead of going to the “senior” playground at Green Elementary School, I took my “diet lunch” (consisting of melba toast, a measured amount of cheese, and sliced carrots or a piece of fruit) to my 4th grade teacher’s classroom, where I sat alone, correcting papers.

I stopped playing when I was 10.

The story of being forced to diet in fifth grade has deep grooves in the brain. I know it like I know my name.  But, I had never connected it with my ceasing to play with my pals.  Or the understanding that I had become serious — young.  And fast.

As a way of helping me develop compassion for myself, my therapist suggested I look at 10-year-olds this week. 

“They are really little, ” she said.

I didn’t see any until today at dance class.  My teacher’s daughter, Rose.  She looks about 10 to me.  She is small, lithe, boyish –with short dreadlocks.  Adorable.  I watch her wrap her arms around her stepmom’s waist, and around other students.  Her father is away right now, in Africa.

I did not look like that at 10.  I am certain of it.

I look in the mirrored wall of the dance studio and I see my soft arms and my rounded belly.  And I think of Friday.

I am sitting in the cab of my friend Kelly’s truck — in the middle, three across.  The third passenger squeezes in and says, “It’s a really good thing you are skinny, Lesley.  Otherwise we’d never be able to do this.”

I don’t think of myself as thin.  In fact, I’ve always guessed that my Weight Watchers members are thinking, “Yeah….she could lose 5 or 10.”  Or that the reason they like me so much is that I am, ahem, “real.”  And by that I mean, not “too thin.”

I tell the third passenger that he made my day.  He replies, “It isn’t a compliment, Lesley.  Just the truth.”

I want to believe him.  Instead, I think that maybe I should get to know him better.  That maybe he is really nice, rather than a teller of truths.  I call my best girlfriend, Julie and we laugh.  We talk about the word “skinny.”

And I think about 5th grade, and the Sasson jeans my mother bought me when I lost 10 pounds.


About LesleyPearl

I am. A massage therapist. A teacher. A writer. A healer. A dancer. An artist. A bodysherpa. For 10 years I made my living telling other people’s stories — as a reporter, and then, later, as a public relations and marketing professional. Today I help people rewrite their own body stories. Much as I have rewritten mine. My body story read: Fat. Uncoordinated. Sickly, facing a life of respiratory problems. In my 40s, I’ve completed a bike century and sprint triathlon. Hiked the hills of California, Colorado and the South of France. Mountain biked through the Sierra Madre. Snow shoed at Yosemite. And maintained a healthy weight for eight years. Lately, I spend Sunday mornings dancing to West African drumming. I look in the mirror and I like what I see. I believe that when you change how you feel about your body, you change what you can do with your body. And the universe opens with infinite possibilities. As a self-named bodysherpa, I’ve built a practice with the express purpose of helping people to fall in love with their bodies, take care of their bodies and do things they never imagined possible. My blogs are a further exploration of accepting myself for who and how I am at this very moment.
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5 Responses to Being 10 Again

  1. You write beautifully. You ARE beautiful … a beautiful truth teller. You are a nourishing treat, “Skinny REAL girl.”

  2. Kathryn griffith says:

    That really takes me back! My 11year old granddaughter was “thick” just like her grandmother and my daughter handled it perfectly. They began shopping and cooking together and talked about being “healthy”. A good summer and fall of this plus start of period and she slimmed a little, learned to fit clothes on her curvy body and seems to like to swim together at Temescal pool. She feels good about herself. Crisis averted…I hope.

    • bodysherpa says:

      Oh Katherine, your story gives me hope. I love when I hear about families working to be healthier — together. And what a blessing to have a grandmother who understands. Lucky girl!! XXOO

  3. Deb Strahan says:

    I taught 4th grade for 21 years. Fourth graders usually start the year nine years old and end the year ten years old, and are by fifth grade nearly as tall as I am. One thing most of them have in common is that they get thick at that age. Mothers wring their hands and if they can ride out this moment in their children’s lives without putting them on a starvation diet, the kids usually grow taller and the thickness leaves them. It’s like they must bulk up before they can grow up. And most of us child dieters went on diets during the “bulk up” years. It’s hard not to stay stuck in bulk up mode. Thanks for sharing, and the hope your story gives that we don’t have to stay stuck there.

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