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Hanne, 38

As a child, I was tall for my age and on the higher end of the weight scale. I got breasts when I was 11. Boys and men of all ages took interest in them. Many people really got under my skin, some were happy just commenting.

Because of this constant sexual harassment, I’ve spent lots of time and energy on trying to hide my appearance. For a long time I thought that the best thing would be to look normal and be normal-weight, so I could disappear into the masses. So I wouldn’t always stand out and attract attention.

Even my childhood dream professions stems from this thought. For example, I thought I could become a journalist, so I wouldn’t have to be in the spotlight myself. Nowadays I’m a family social worker. I try to make myself kind and easy to approach also through the way I look. I wear comfortable clothes that I don’t need to worry about while I crawl on the floor on all fours.

A few years ago I broke up from a long relationship. My former partner’s dream was that I would lose weight and get back to the size I was when we met. The fact that I didn’t want to lose weight and exercise was one reason for our break-up. The ending of the relationship brought self-loathing. I thought I was awful and ugly and that no one would ever want me. When I started dating again I came to realize it wasn’t true.

During the past years I’ve been working on accepting myself. One of the first things I got for my new home was a full-body mirror. Every morning I stand in front of it and tell myself I’m beautiful. Some mornings I manage to believe it.

I don’t know how much I weigh, but if you ask healthcare professionals, it’s always too much. I don’t have this thought that if I lost five or twenty kilos I would be happy. I’m entitled to happiness now, as I am.

I’ve started wearing colorful clothes and skirts. I used to avoid such things for years. Black was my protective color. I also go to the pool these days. Sometimes children exclaim: “look how big that lady’s boobs are”, or ask their mom if the lady is carrying a baby in her belly. Of course it’s annoying, but I think that it’s my duty in a way to go there and show that there are many kinds of bodies in the world.

One thing I’ve discovered in recent years is burlesque. It’s really made an impression on me how the different kinds of people of varying sizes value their looks and play with it. You can’t do burlesque if you’re not at ease with yourself. You can’t go on stage to apologize for yourself. I’m dreaming of being able to perform myself one day and learn to enjoy my body in that way. I’ve already signed up for a burlesque class at the adult education centre.