Shrinking Women

December 10, 2013

Have you seen the spoken word poem, “Shrinking Women” by Lily Myers? I just discovered it yesterday and am so glad I did. The video shows her performing her slam poem about body image and disordered eating, and was awarded Best Love Poem at the 2013 College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational. It’s honest, direct, beautiful and true, and I hope you’ll take a moment to watch it (or at the very least, read it below).

Across from me at the kitchen table, my mother smiles over red wine that she drinks out of a measuring glass.
She says she doesn’t deprive herself,
but I’ve learned to find nuance in every movement of her fork.
In every crinkle in her brow as she offers me the uneaten pieces on her plate.
I’ve realized she only eats dinner when I suggest it.
I wonder what she does when I’m not there to do so.

Maybe this is why my house feels bigger each time I return; it’s proportional.
As she shrinks the space around her seems increasingly vast.
She wanes while my father waxes. His stomach has grown round with wine, late nights, oysters, poetry. A new girlfriend who was overweight as a teenager, but my dad reports that now she’s “crazy about fruit.”

It was the same with his parents;
as my grandmother became frail and angular her husband swelled to red round cheeks, rotund stomach
and I wonder if my lineage is one of women shrinking
making space for the entrance of men into their lives
not knowing how to fill it back up once they leave.

I have been taught accommodation.
My brother never thinks before he speaks.
I have been taught to filter.
“How can anyone have a relationship to food?” He asks, laughing, as I eat the black bean soup I chose for its lack of carbs.
I want to tell say: we come from difference, Jonas,
you have been taught to grow out
I have been taught to grow in
you learned from our father how to emit, how to produce, to roll each thought off your tongue with confidence, you used to lose your voice every other week from shouting so much
I learned to absorb
I took lessons from our mother in creating space around myself
I learned to read the knots in her forehead while the guys went out for oysters
and I never meant to replicate her, but
spend enough time sitting across from someone and you pick up their habits

that’s why women in my family have been shrinking for decades.
We all learned it from each other, the way each generation taught the next how to knit
weaving silence in between the threads
which I can still feel as I walk through this ever-growing house,
skin itching,
picking up all the habits my mother has unwittingly dropped like bits of crumpled paper from her pocket on her countless trips from bedroom to kitchen to bedroom again,
Nights I hear her creep down to eat plain yogurt in the dark, a fugitive stealing calories to which she does not feel entitled.
Deciding how many bites is too many
How much space she deserves to occupy.

Watching the struggle I either mimic or hate her,
And I don’t want to do either anymore
but the burden of this house has followed me across the country
I asked five questions in genetics class today and all of them started with the word “sorry”.
I don’t know the requirements for the sociology major because I spent the entire meeting deciding whether or not I could have another piece of pizza
a circular obsession I never wanted but

inheritance is accidental
still staring at me with wine-stained lips from across the kitchen table.

In what ways have you been taught to shrink?

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  • Reply Megan @ Lush to Blush December 10, 2013 at 7:36 pm

    Wow, this is so powerful. I’m so glad I came across it. Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply Natalie Lynn Borton December 11, 2013 at 9:41 am

      Right?!? I’m so glad I found it! So good, so true, so thought-provoking.

  • Reply Tiffany Roney December 11, 2013 at 7:29 am

    wow. thanks.

  • Reply Christina Kwan December 11, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    When I first saw this the other day, I actually cried. I never thought spoken word from a stranger would make me do that, but obviously this hit home. I was taught to shrink my opinion, just like she said – to absorb. As a result, I’m constantly battling whether or not to speak up and voice what I want. It’s an ongoing struggle but women like her, you, and all the other bloggers and entrepreneurs out there are setting better examples for the next generation. :)

    • Reply Natalie Lynn Borton December 12, 2013 at 2:00 pm

      Yes, I agree—this totally struck a chord in me! And it’s totally within our power to change the cycle!

  • Reply Leah December 12, 2013 at 1:30 am

    Brave, gorgeous words that left me teary-eyed!

  • Reply Rachel Franklin December 14, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    Yes, this is just one of the most powerful videos I’ve ever seen – watched it a few months back. Glad you shared it here!

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