i know other numbers

(October 2012)

I don’t own a scale. I’m not being self-righteous… truthfully It started because I realized I would rather spend $30 on more clothes than on some appliance in my bathroom. A couple of years ago I considered buying one because it seems like something adults just have, but I stopped myself because I realized how freeing it was to not constantly know exactly how much I weigh. Today I realized the true value of not owning a bathroom scale. A 13 year old I know asked me how much I weigh. She didn’t ask in a harsh way, but with a genuine curiosity only a young girl could have. She’s launched the discussion on weight and body image issues before. She’s told me she’s fatter than her friends (she’s not. She is very athletic). Today when she asked me for my number I was able to honestly say “I don’t know”. She seemed confused so I explained to her that I try not to worry about weight.

—I admit it’s easier for me than most women. I’m 6’1” and have never struggled with weighing too much — I battled the sudden growth spurt and had to make changes like switching to whole milk and eating 4,000 calories per day so I wouldn’t look like a PSA for anorexia, but that’s another issue altogether—

The power of being able to tell a 13 year old that I don’t pay attention to a number like that was awesome. I talked with her about the fact that her friends are growing at different paces. I told her about when I was 15 and I got really tall and suddenly had what I thought were womanly hips. I remember being devastated because my tiny best friend still wore size 00 and I was all the way up to 2… yes, all the way up to 2. I remember thinking it had nothing to do with my bone structure, but that I was getting fat. I was not. I was still, in fact, grossly underweight for a 6ft teenage girl. I talked with her about how girls change at different times but eventually it balances out and women realize that the size and shapes of bodies are a deeply personal thing. Not worth comparing. The number on that scale will drive you crazy. You’ll see it bounce up and down from day to day and think you need to change what you’re eating. Maybe you do need to make adjustments, but what you really need to do is what works for you.

I don’t bother knowing that number. I know other numbers. I know my cholesterol is healthy. I know what size pants and dresses I buy. I know the phone numbers of my family and closest friends. I know the number I put on my check for rent each month. I know the number of games UNC won and lost last year in basketball. I know the number that indicates my personal record in the high jump… and I’m reasonable enough to know that -one- is probably not the number of times I’ll have this conversation with this particular 13 year old. I’m sure it will come up again and for that exact reason I won’t be buying a scale anytime soon.