You know those kids who always got picked last to be on a team in schoolyard games? Well - that was me, in elementary school. The time would come to pick players on a team and the numbers would dwindle down till it was just me - the shortest girl in the class - and most often, the shortest boy next to me. Don't ask me where this came from but there seemed to be this stigma surrounding height that meant that the shorter you were, the lower down on the team picking totem pole you wound up.
So I never tried out for the track and field teams, and never considered myself an athlete, despite my involvement in a wide range of recreational sports lessons - including swimming, gymnastics, soccer, karate or skating lessons from as early as I remember. In fact there came a point where my parents told me I had to choose - because although I wanted to do it all, I couldn't.
Then, on to high school, where I tried out for the volleyball team, once. I wasn't picked - and still I believed it was because I was too short to reach the net and block (little did I know that some volleyball players are picked precisely because they are short and powerful). But the next year, I joined the dance troupe and signed up for dance as a credit. For some reason, it didn't matter that I was short - I had a natural connection to music and rhythm, and movement came naturally to me.
Being small also meant that I could be tossed around and lifted by some of the boys in the group, so I was chosen for some of the lead roles in our rendition of Cats, jumping backwards into the arms of a boy I liked from the back of a ladder. As a gymnast, I was small, strong and powerful - although terribly afraid of heights and not exactly talented.
But in dance class and in the recreational competitive gymnastics club I joined, no matter how short I was, I was never small enough. For a couple of months, we had a dancer from the National Ballet come to class and teach us. There I was at the bar, sucking in my butt and stomach as far as I could, but it never failed - each day, the teacher yelled at me - "Christine, rentre ton derrière!"
It didn't help that the required uniform for dancers and gymnasts was skin-tight leotards, so that each roll and bump showed through. I remember being mortified to have to dance in a silver unitard in front of the whole high school, feeling like every imperfection was on display.
Soon, I was minimizing the food I was taking in, not exactly counting calories but developing a distaste for food. And the amount of time I spent working out increased, drastically, trying to burn off the calories and look fit. Dance each day for an hour, then aerobics at lunch, then either gymnastics for another couple of hours and/or track running/weights and swimming. I wouldn't say I was anorexic. But the possibility was there, at the back of my mind. It became an obsession (I once estimated that I was probably working out more than 20 hours a week, and I was by no means a professional athlete).
And still, I was never small enough.
In university, I joined the competitive dance team. I loved going to practice each week, learning new routines. I loved performing and competing.
As a team, everyone got along well - we spent so many hours together and traveled to Florida for an international competition. But secretly, we were all watching each other, measuring ourselves against the others. I'll never forget the day I overheard one of the girls from the group - who also happened to be an Ottawa Roughrider cheerleader - commenting on the curve of my back and how it created horizontal folds in my back. I weighed 113 pounds - those lines were always going to be there, no matter what I weighed, but seeing the cheerleader's scrutiny hurt, and only served to fuel my insecurities.
It's no secret that dancers and gymnasts have unhealthy relationships to food and their body image - let alone most women I know. Looking back, I see that I was just one more young girl who fell prey to these effects.
I'd like to say that I've healed. With time, I've come to like my curves, although I still never quite feel small enough. I'm at a healthy weight now, but I'd still like to lose 10 pounds. I know what my ideal weight is, but I don't know if I'll ever be there. I watch "How to Look Good Naked," and I wonder if my brain is adding on invisible pounds that no one else can see.
It's obvious that negative body image doggs me still, even though in my mind I know that I'm in pretty good shape and not overweight. And I now know that my height has nothing to do with whether I can be an athlete or run fast.
So when I hear of Chip Wilson saying that some women can't wear his pants because their thighs rub together, I get angry. I'll admit it - I've bought products from Lulu Lemon. I've paid exorbitant amounts for running tights and yoga tops, because they are durable and good quality, because it was a Canadian company and because I'll be honest - I was inspired by the company's ethos of healthy and active living. I've even reviewed some of their products here.
But a couple of years ago, an article by Slate magazine about the right-leaning messages behind the "Who is John Galt?" bags caught my attention. I didn't boycott the company altogether, but I wondered whether there was a disconnect between the company's manifesto and its owner's personal ethos.
And then this week, this report that Chip Wilson claims that some women should not wear his yoga pants because their thighs rub got my attention. Actually, it got me angry.
Really, Chip? How does this contribute to helping women develop a positive body image through active living? Not only does this do exactly the opposite, but it perpetuates the unhealthy behaviours I and so many women have struggled with all our lives.
And you know what, Chip? I'm five feet and 120 pounds, and active - working out 1-2 or even 3 hours a day about five times a week. I think I'm a size four or six in your store. My thighs touch. Even at my lightest, most active (back in my crazy high school workout days), my thighs touched.
Maybe that makes me ineligible to wear your pants, but maybe...It makes your brand ineligible to be worn by me.
Unfortunately, I now find myself with several articles of Lulu clothing that are part of my workout regime - not because of the brand but because I just can't affort to throw them out and buy new ones. I'm not sure what I'm going to do about that, but I'm seriously thinking that I will not be returning to a store that will only serve to foster my insecurities further.
In the end, that probably means I'll end up saving quite a bit of money buying clothes that aren't as ridiculously priced. So thanks for that, Chip. Really.
How do you feel about all of this, readers? I want to know!