The Size Issue

Page 1


SIZE issue

issue five

"Woman "Woman with with slabs slabs of of bacon bacon tied tied to to her her feet feet standing standing in in aa giant giant skillet skillet holding holding an an enormous enormous wooden wooden spatula spatula and and smiles smiles at at the the crowd." crowd."

cont introduction

6 a nose is a nose is a nose

A B C, DDD and (m)E


20 ode to my left breast

28 4


tents incredible shrinking woman

out of the shadows



the curse introduction


behind, the superpower


adding up

get a load of this

mind games



38 bodytalk 5

hello When we were little, we knew almost nothing about it. Everybody was beautiful, everybody was normal, especially ourselves. Then, slowly, we started to understand what everyone was saying. Our mother was going on a diet. The years of guilt from grandma had finally worked. Our brother was comparing biceps with a friend. They’d just joined the gym. Our sister didn’t say much, not after she’d been told no on the boob job. Instead, she stared in the mirror, turning from side to side. Trying to create matter. Shaping. We, on the other hand, learned how to be critical. We became aware of size. Size began to plant seemingly self-evident truths about our bodies into our consciousness. Suddenly, our feet were too small and our waists demanded too much space. One breast looked different than the other, and our nose? Well, you could hardly miss it. We decided to wear more black. Size became the numbers, letters, dimensions and proportions we used to shape what we saw and doubt how we looked. We lost track of what was natural or normal; we just knew it wasn’t us. The Size Issue is about our loss of bodily naïveté and the stories of selfdoubt/reclamation that resulted. From reading about a nose infatuation, to a stubborn left breast, to an incredible shrinking woman, you’ll see that none of our experiences are quite the same. However, our stories converge onto a common narrative: we are born with a body, we hate it sometimes, we love it others but, in the end, it’s all we’ve got. Welcome to BODYTALK. 6


bodytalk 7


wom shrinking




man by candace korasick bodytalk 9


I’m an American woman, so it can be no surprise that I have size issues. But my size issues seem atypical. You see, I am shrinking. I am not losing weight. I am not getting shorter. I am shrinking. I am withering. Quite some time ago, I made peace with the fact that I would never achieve a

waifish figure. I am too short, and I am too broad. Soon after, I agreed to stop fighting my body over what I thought she should look like; I discovered power lifting. I loved it. My body loved it. We finally agreed on her form, and together, we grew. We grew in size. We grew in confidence. We grew in presence. We grew in femininity. We were no longer enemies. At regional competitions, we battled others instead of one another. We were allies. We were friends. Thanks to my new compatriot, I felt competent and safe while negotiating this “man’s world” with a female mind and a female body. I was corporeal. I took up space. I commanded attention. I loved my muscular body. When I stood up, I had to pull my pants off of my quadri-

ceps. Grown men stared at my legs with both envy and lust. My blouses had to have spandex to accommodate my triceps. My husband lovingly called me “Popeye” because my forearms bulged. He would nibble my trapezius while tracing the contours of my lattisimus dorsi. Women in contemporary Western society are expected to be physically small

and somewhat delicate. So to say being heavily muscled makes me feel feminine seems contradictory, but I am not alone in this. In researching how other women who lift construct their gender identities, I was repeatedly told that in sculpting their physiques my respondents developed a positive self-concept. Amid messages that equate fitness to thinness and urge women to be as small as they can, these women associated fitness with muscle density and strove to take up more space. Many of my respondents spoke of their physical strength as empowering and as a source of confidence, despite the stereotypes they battled and the disgusted looks they sometimes received. People who accused them of being mannish were dismissed as uninformed and insecure. Muscularity was not masculine to these women. Women who lift heavily are defying cultural conventions which link femininity to vulnerability, physical weakness and dainty appearances. In my own case, my size and muscularity allowed me to move freely in the world

and to present myself as I saw fit. My breadth and my bearing were always juxtaposed with my perfect manicure, my untamed curls and my plunging neckline. My body and I demanded to be treated with respect, to be recognized for our beauty and to be given a place in the world. Her outer strength and beauty paired well with my desire to tackle the rules about what is and is not feminine. Together, we pounded against the walls of the patriarchy, knocking some down while coming away from others bruised and bloody. Win or lose, we were a force. We were a team. 10


Then, we fell victim to a string of minor injuries: pulled Achilles tendon, tennis elbow, plantar fasciitis. These are all soft-tissue injuries. As such, treatment for each is similar: Stretching. Rest. Time. The stretching I could handle. I incorporated it into my daily routine. But I fought both rest and time. Every time my body seemed well enough, I would try a “light” version of one of my workouts, preferably something with a kettle bell. I would feel great at the end of the workout, as if my body and I were friends again. Then she would exact her retribution in the form of pain. Not the dull ache that signifies healthy growth but the intense, localized pain that indicates something has gone wrong. This is where we sometimes go awry. We speak of our experiences as embodied while we position our body as separate from our minds. But the body, as Robert Connell noted, is both actor and object. Our bodies are the means by which we negotiate the world, and yet, they are not mere tools. We are, each of us, more than just our bodies and our bodies are more than just ourselves. Our bodies are us even as they are not us. They bend to our wills but are not completely within our control. They can, and do, defy and betray us. My body no longer seems to understand me. With the exception of these injuries, she is in excellent health. For her, the routine functions go on: inhale, exhale; keep the pulse steady, circulate the oxygen; take in nutrients, eliminate the waste; receive a signal, contract a muscle; sleep. She does not understand that her form matters as well as her health. She knows we both felt better when we were lifting. She even misses the exhilaration of the workout. But she seems not to understand that her muscularity is central to my femininity. As she gets smaller, I wither. In demanding this rest, my body defies my will. I feel betrayed. And yet, did I not betray her first? Weren’t my actions the root causes of each of these injuries? A pulled Achilles tendon because I failed to warm up sufficiently before aerobics class. Tennis elbow from tearing out a floor using the wrong tool. Plantar fasciitis from wearing unsupportive shoes day after day. I mistreated my body. And when I failed to give her the rest she needed to recuperate, she responded with pain, the only protest available to her. So we have come to an uneasy truce. I am resting and stretching. I look longingly at my kettle bells. I crave the feeling of the iron in my fist, but I deny myself even that because I know I cannot pick one up without swinging it. And every day, I feel her grow marginally in health and decrease infinitesimally in size. But I am trying to respect her need for time. Hopefully, when all is healed and she has forgiven me for past abuses, we will join forces once more. Hopefully, we will grow again. In the meantime, I am shrinking, and I worry that I will never again be the woman who loved and was loved by this body. bodytalk 11


shad 12


of the

dows by phoebe c.

bodytalk 13


y legs are big, hairy and beautiful. It took me a while to realize this last part, growing up in a culture that subscribes to a different idea of feminine beauty. From Barbie dolls to magazine models, women are expected to be smooth,

small, thin and tall. There’s a reason Barbie is plastic though. She’s not real. Not along ago, I went through a phase in which I criticized everything

about myself that didn’t match this plastic version of womanhood. I was especially embarrassed about my legs. Mine weren’t like the other girls’ at school, and I lamented their uniqueness. I told a friend once that I had a triple hour-glass figure; I thought my calves were too muscular. Then, one day at track practice, a girl brought my attention to something my critical eyes had missed. Seeing the hairs poking out of my short chubby shadow, she pointed out that my legs were hairier than some of the boys’. My friends snickered; I was mortified. I went home that day and shaved off every last hair from my muscular calves. From then on, I wore baggy pants— never skirts or dresses—to hide my legs. Only when I exercised did I dare wear shorts. Later, without nearly as much pomp and circumstance, I stopped. I was at summer camp and neglected to bring a razor. So I went without and realized how much freedom it gave me. I could shower in half the time, I didn’t have to anticipate scratchy hairs growing in and razor burn was a thing of the past. I don’t miss shaving at all. I love my leg hair and my big calves. I don’t fit into skinny jeans but who the hell cares? They’d look dumb on me anyway. I’m not going to let a plastic image of femininity define what I think is beautiful. Having big, hairy legs doesn’t make me any less female. In fact, they make me a lot more me.





a nose is

a nose is

a nose by mr. mcqueen

bodytalk 17

If only

Gertrude Stein’s stream-of-consciousness, avant-garde and esoteric line read like

that. If only she were on the same page that I am currently on. For reasons somewhat unbeknownst to me, I revel in all things nasal. I have an obsession—a truly deep infatuation—with noses, big and small. That’s right. The nose. You know, the thing

projecting above the mouth on the face of a person or animal, containing the nostrils and used for breathing and smelling? The vertebrate olfactory organ? Simply put, they’re my favzies. Looking back, I have always been intrigued by noses. As a child, I wanted to poke my father’s snout, for it was very squishy and large. But it was not until my sophomore year of college, when I lived with my giant-honkered roommate, that my obsession commenced. Suddenly, I craved noses. Today, I crave noses. I want to touch them. I want to touch them all the time. I want to stroke them. I want to take them off of faces and glue them to my walls. I want to turn them into pillows. I want to hold them. I want them to hold me. And the bigger the better. The more cushion a nose possesses, the more pushin’ my finger enjoys. While my love for



noses is not about my lack of sexual experiences (though, it would be pretty swell to stick Gonzo’s nose up my ass), it is about my desire to be touched, to be held and to connect with something that is soft and squishy and cute and loveable and, dare I say, even sassy. Whether fat or narrow, voluptuous or wide-bridged, there is a place in my heart for all noses—for all noses of all sizes. The feeling that overcomes me, when, with an outstretched finger, I touch a nose, is wonderful. It makes me giggle like a little girl. It makes me unnecessarily happy. Perhaps, in my semi-asexual life, noses are substitutions for men, but I am pretty sure that when I am falling for a guy, I will be falling for his nose as well. Separately, both will make me happy. Each human proboscis has so much personality with its nasal fervor; each one can thus stand on its own. Even if James sucks at life, his nose can still be pretty fantastic. So go ahead. Do it. Poke a nose. Poke that giant-ass, facial protuberance. I promise you will think it’s fun, and I hope that it brings you joy. Because for now, I will continue to poke for the love and the connection—the love between my index finger (or any finger for that matter) and what is presumably a squishy, delightful-to-the-touch, spatially-challenged schnoz.

bodytalk 19



a, b, c,

DDD and

(m)e by hahi ban

bodytalk 21

w Women are predisposed to hold their weight somewhere: hips, thighs, stomach,

limbs. For me, it's in my breasts. Currently, I sport an E, depending on which convoluted measuring system you go by. That's E, after A, B, C, D, DD, DDD, and DDDD.

Yeah, I know. It’s as if they were another entity residing on my frame, disconnected

from my body. There is me, and then attached to me, there are my boobs.

It's frustrating, because I feel prominent breasts lend an air of purposeful sexiness

to all my movements—when I'm trying to be anything but. Not only have I come to loathe the male gaze, hardly ever aimed at my face, I have grown equally weary of

the female. The closer I get to female friends, the more I can expect a crack about my hefty rack.

I find myself staring at other girls, trying to understand the anatomy of their chest:

why isn’t my body “normal?” I’ve found it more useful than studying photoshopped

pictures of models or nudes sculpted from the imagination of Renaissance artists, but I’m no less confused. At this point, I find flat-chested girls hot, but judging from the

number of products promising to pump up their bust, I doubt the majority of ladies sporting a smaller pair feel the same.

I don't wear low cut shirts. Not because I don't care to show off my bazoombas

at times, but because, well, they're low. My less than perky pair needs an immense amount of hoisting, and a shirt with a low neckline just isn’t up for the job.



I'm frustrated every time I see a pair of surgically enhanced breasts reaching for the owner's chin. They make me feel like I need a procedure too, despite how scared I am of scalpels and my own blood. In an attempt to shape my body more to my liking, I’ve tried altering my eating habits and taking up running with hopes of losing inches from my bust. Ironically, the most difficult part of the endeavor is strapping my boobs in for each jog. One evening, discussing the Godfather, a friend and I were reflecting on the night of Don Corleone's honeymoon—more specifically, on his new bride's full frontal. We both found it strange how realistic her breasts were: hanging there, not quite full, uneven, like our own. And we realized that for us, the norm had become artificially stuffed, inflated, or pushed up—the breasts we found on beer commercials and in lingerie ads. Seeing a normal pair shocked us, but it also offered a moment of freedom from the perfect impossibilities we were constantly faced with. While some lament the smallness of their chest, others, like myself, hate the size. And no matter what diet, exercise, supplement or accessory I try, I always feel the same looking at myself naked: I should accept my body and love it the way it is, but really, I think I’d just like to have a different one.

bodytalk 23

the curse

by jen vaughn



bodytalk 25



power by kristin noe






I’m 5’1”. I weigh 112 pounds. I’m 23 years old and wear a size 5.5 shoe. I buy children-sized socks, shoes and gloves when I can because they just fit me better. My life is full of stepladders. I’m petite; however, there’s one part of my body that is anything but, pun intended. My butt is the type of body part that gets noticed—by everyone. And in reality, it’s just your average, everyday bubble butt, but for some reason, it gets a lot of attention. My sisters have lovingly teased me for years. For some reason, I was the only one of the three of us that got the genetic concoction which resulted in a disproportionately large behind. A female co-worker once told me she had a dream where I turned away from her to reveal an absolutely enormous rear end and innocently asked, “Do these pants make me look fat?” Don’t get me started on the male opinions. I think one guy actually described my ass as Kryptonite, which by no means made him Superman. I don’t really know who put big butts on the map or whether or not I should thank them. I am all about people embracing their shape, which, believe me, is much easier to do when you are bootylicious instead of a fat ass. But, I can’t help but wonder if my rear is the first thing people notice about me because my ass is all anyone seems to talk about anymore. When I’m being defensive, I make jokes. I talk about how I can (sort of ) balance things on it, how it’s good for sitting on during long road trips and how I’ll luckily never be one of those adult women with a flat ass. However, the best one-liner I’ve come up with is this: “Well, I was born breach, so I came out the gate with a swollen rear, and the swelling just never went down.” But the older I get, the more comfortable I am with it. I guess I’m like a fine wine in that regard. I know where to buy “curvy” pants, what type of underwear will leave me wedgie-less and how to dress it up so that I feel flattered, not fatter. I recognize that I couldn’t have reached this point without some help, though. I thank Beyoncé for making me bootylicious. I thank Levi’s for announcing to the world that “All asses are not created equal.” And finally, I thank Sir Mix-a-lot for the candid and catchy confession—at least I know you, and many other men, like big butts and cannot lie. bodytalk 27



ode to my

left breast by sarah handelman

bodytalk 29


ou. Oh fleshy, mountain with a glanded mind outside of my control. You sway at your own pace, arguing with my ensembles, persuading my movements to go your way. I don't understand your pride. Why must you be the loud one, who always looks back when my body moves forward. Even

when you're strapped in, you stubbornly float away from me, freely bobbing to the beat of your own cup-size.

In a reflection, you are all I see. Stubborn one, engulfing the other side of my chest,

you steal the show. He tells me he doesn't notice the difference. "You're perfect," he says as he squeezes you and squeezes me. I don't believe him. You can't believe your luck. Because of you, I missed the string bikinis and tube tops, not that I wanted to wear them anyway. But every time I put on that leotard, a battle royale ensues— tugging, squishing, scooting. You resist my coaxes to join the other, to appear for just one night to be slightly more symmetrical; to behave a little more like Right. Impetuous Left Breast, I feel your weight. Yours is an outlook not like the other's. Though you exhibit signs of right-breasted perkiness, you are weary from years of underwire. You are sore. You hold a chip on your side. Young tit, your sag is exaggerated in my eyes, but you realistically project a future less-nubile. Of the pair, you were the pea-sized pain I felt first. Always inching eastward from my physical compass, you are slow to follow; no training bra could tame you. You now runneth over my C-cups. Sometimes, though, you surprise me and look better than I think you can. In a silk shirt, you can be demure. In a buttoned cardigan, you fit just right. Swelling and shrinking throughout each month, you are a living part of me — a recorder of my internal rhythm. I feel my pulse through you. I say I'd like to change you, but I won't. I promise. Invisible to the rest and yet so apparent to me, your unintentional faults are forgiven because you protect my heart.



bodytalk 31




UP written by an auditor

It started out as just a number. A number used to find a pair of pants, a number the doctor wrote down on my exam sheet, a number notched into the door frame with my name beside it. The numbers were organizers—they were purely functional systems, quietly serving their mechanical purposes throughout my daily life. But somewhere along the line these numbers took on sizeable roles; they wanted to be known, to mean something, so they became a part of my life rather than waiting on the sidelines. I know that I let them do this, but I honestly can’t remember deciding to. Suddenly they were there, fluttering around in my mind day after day, instead of staying in their places on scales and measuring tapes. bodytalk 33

The numbers on my jeans dropped off me, their weight replaced by smaller and smaller digits, which, too, became loose baggage in time. It was light, it was easy, it was something I could manage—it was thin. Time passed quickly with them in tow. Different homes and schools, new friends, and changing families, but the numbers were always right there beside me. They were something I knew how to manage; they were stable and I could count on them to remain the same. It was easy to think about numbers, much easier than thinking about anything else. But these diminutive figures soon revealed they had a weighty presence. Once dainty and endearing, they had become a dominating force as they judged and taunted and intimidated—and eventually overtook. The numbers defined me, and I had forgotten why or how I didn’t define me anymore. They picked fights with my friends and family over who cared about me more. They drew stares and whispers from strangers. They decided what I ate, and more often what I did not, and they were disappointed in me when I challenged those choices. They were well versed in giving me the guilt trip. They were exhausting. Unlike how it started, I know exactly how it ended. There were too many doctors’ appointments to count. The uncomfortable moments of silence while the scale was leveled had become almost routine. There were endless conversations with family and strong hugs from friends, sometimes meaningful but more often too taxing to grasp. Finally, from what seemed to be a perpetual language of doubt and confusion, a new dialogue arose. The numbers weren’t discussed anymore—I was discussed—and that made all the difference. They slowly began to fade, slipping away from me rather than off of me. They became weak, and I became wholly uninterested in their pettiness. They weren’t worth adding up anymore. So after years of torment and calculation, back to the measuring tapes and scales they went. Where I can’t be bothered to think about them at all. I’ve never been good with numbers anyway. 34


bodytalk 35






get a

LOAD of this

by el scorcho




didn't know what semen looked like until I was thirteen or fourteen. Until then, I thought it was something like "sex piss" or some Nickelodeon-game-show gooey substance, or a comically white, pasty ooze. I was pretty sure it came from the balls, definitely the balls, but maybe the

penis, the penis was always my second guess. And as far as the amount went? Completely up to anyone's guess at that point. I'm a man of numbers, so the tablespoon per jizzload ratio was the only way I could conceptualize it. Two tablespoons seemed rational, but, of course, that depended on the person. Regardless, I didn't know what it was like until I had my first, frightening foray into Google searches and, inevitably, porn. And holy shit was I wrong. The consistency and color of semen was not surprising, but the amounts were terrifying. I've never been to Yellowstone National Park, but the cumshot moment was always some kind of seismographic moment of extreme liquid propulsion. How the hell did someone do that? And the amounts? Also alarming. Tablespoon measurements went out the window, and the source of it was always so aggressive. Why did it have to be on some poor man's face? Why did it have to be all over his body? It seemed so invasive, it seemed so one-sided. Stimulated by curiosity and a need for self-exploration, I went at it myself. I followed the solo videos to a T, and then it happened to me. But in a completely humane way that didn’t even leave a scratch on a seismograph. Granted, it was a grandiose experience (as anyone’s first time is) but it was just me in my room. It was not in a lavish estate with low-budget synths in the background. It was not comical in volume or propulsion. It was average, but in a good way. Six years later, it's evident to me that porn exaggerates all sexual experiences, makes them something so much more uncomfortable and marketable than mine ever will be. The size of your semen load means nothing, even to those of you for whom the substance might carry a reproductive purpose. However, I doubt that will stop urban myths and theatrical loads from spreading, leaving a new generation of the naive only to guess as to what lies ahead. bodytalk 37

mind by xanthia hallisey

games 38




Recently I was sitting on a bench along the river Thames with a friend, indulging in the kind of nostalgic conversation you can only have whilst looking across a stretch of water. We were sat in the shade, having tried to dodge it all day. Close by in the sunshine, a group of school children were playing, tagging each other and laughing with abandonment. We looked on jealously, in the way you do when noticing how much fun other people are having. My friend asked, “How can children have that much energy?” My response was quick and surprised me: “Because they don’t think about it.” Away from the bench and the water, I find myself reflecting on this conversation in relation to body image. It strikes me that as a child, I would have thought nothing of running around outside, but as my body has changed, so has my attitude towards it. I now regard running as a serious activity. It requires the preparation of suitable clothing, supportive trainers, a meal gap, and afterwards, a warm down and a shower. Children break into a run at the spur of a moment, running shoes on or not (aren’t all children’s shoes running shoes?). As an adult, it takes a concerted effort. It seems that what is seen as appropriate for children and adults alters; at what point does running become exercise and not simply a fun activity? We literally grow out of playing certain games and, regrettably, start to think. bodytalk 39

As a 22-year-old I visited Bristol Zoo, and after pointing at the animals, my older brother and I wandered off to find further amusement. We stopped at a short racing track that was set up to measure the speed of a runner compared to a cheetah. My brother, one of those people who has not acquired a self-conscious attitude towards anything, was thrilled at this opportunity and set off running the track over and over, trying to improve his time. I, however, stood on, arms folded, wondering if I should take a turn. And as is typical in a moment of hesitation, a crowd began to gather. Occasionally someone would join in on the adjacent track setting up a race, mostly young boys encouraged by their parents to let off some steam. I began to grow conscious that now people were watching me. I told myself I couldn’t do it, dwelling on the fact that I was wearing black boots. From Clarks. Stiff leather. Eventually I stopped thinking about the on-lookers, probably out of the boredom of standing and waiting to leave. I didn’t want to be a prisoner in my own shoes. My armcrossing held me back. I walked to the track, looked straight ahead and ran. At 6 feet, 2 inches, my brother was the easy winner of every race, so it wasn’t a surprise when he beat me. But by then, it didn’t matter. Post-race, my only concern was how easy it had been to tell myself I couldn’t run on a 100-metre track because I had an audience. As an adult I am aware of my body in a way that I wasn’t as a child. From experience, I know that running will cause my face to get hot and red, I’ll break into a sweat, my hair will flick out and part in the wind. I will also, probably, lose the race. Thinking about the physical outcomes hinders my ability to move. However, common sense tells me that no one cares about these things apart from me, and that I will never improve unless I practice. Mine is a mental barrier I can run straight through. Maybe one day I will be seen from a bench, running around Southbank, playing tag and laughing with abandonment. For now, I’ll remember that day at the zoo and how fast I could run compared to a cheetah. In a way, it’s nice to know. 40


bodytalk 41



bodytalk 43

submit to bodytalk

BEING THE THOUGHTFUL, IMAGINATIVE CREATURES THAT WE ARE, THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN REALITY AND FANTASY IS SOMETIMES UNCLEAR. We dream up perfect partners, convincing ourselves that they exist. We sabotage good relationships with insecurities; we mask failing ones with delusions of love. We design new us’s, ready to adapt to anyone, anywhere; ready to erase whom we might have been. But no matter what, reality is exactly what we make it. We just have to believe. In BODYTALK’s next issue, we want to explore how reality and fantasy function in our sexual, romantic and/or bodily experiences. How does what we think shape what we see, hear and feel? How does our imagination save us? How does it betray us? When do our fantasies become realities? Tell us! Submit to The Reality/Fantasy Issue at by Friday, March 11. We hope to hear from you, your friends and your alter egos soon. <3 [If you need an anonymous address to send from, use, password: talktalktalk.]



The BodyTalk Art Department would like to thank the following contributing illustrators: Christopher John Bostwick - page 42-43 Josh Checkley - page 16, 18-19 www. Tom Loughlin - pages 4-5, 7, 36, 38, 40 Marcos Romรกn - page 20, 32-34 Emma Trithart - page 28 46 bodytalk Jen Vaughn - page 25

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