Ain’t no thing but a chicken wing.
As mindless as it might sound, that quirky phrase has helped me cope with many insignificant situations I often over-complicated.
Except this time, I was actually dealing with a chicken wing. I told myself not to overthink it, but the plate of wings sitting in front of me renewed a recurring problem I had yet to confront.
I can’t remember the moment it started, but from a young age I struggled with self-esteem, specifically self-image. The mirror was never an accurate depiction of the person staring back at me. I thought the compliments I received from friends and family were given out of pity, not from a place of love or admiration. I wished the jeans I pulled over my legs each morning were a size smaller, perhaps the same size each mannequin was wearing in the local department store window.
The self-deprecating jokes made in public and the even harsher thoughts running through my mind in private made for a lethal combination. I began to pick apart my every move and action. Every flaw became a defining factor of who I was and who I was going to be. I firmly believed beauty was something I would never achieve.
Before the chicken wing, there was the birthday cake.
A hot summer day and Fudgie the Whale seemed like the perfect pair for any 10-year-old, but for me, it was another situation for others to judge my habits and appearance. The piece of cake sitting in front of me was a question I did not know the answer to, no matter how many attempts I took or angles I approached it from.
While everyone else got up for seconds, I watched as my first and only slice of cake melted under the heat, and I felt a wave of relief. I could finally stop questioning whether the piece of cake was too large or too small, or whether the people around me were scrutinizing how much or how little I was eating. I watched the ice cream slowly drip onto the grass and ignored the empty feeling in my stomach and heart.
Like many girls, I grew up thinking a specific number on a scale was necessary to maintain a certain standard of beauty. I silently celebrated when my pants felt a little looser, while I should have been giving my body the nutrients it needed to support a growing adolescent. I made excuses for why I wouldn’t be home for dinner, while I should have enjoyed a meal with my family and reflected on my day.
Occasions meant for celebration were spent counting calories and worrying about things that did not warrant any thought in the first place. That’s what brings me to the chicken wing.
On Super Bowl Sunday, the editorial staff decided to get chicken wings to make press night a little more enjoyable during the big game. Each of us was to send our order in a group message, but I hesitated, afraid others would think the number was too high. Once again, I was boiling my self-worth down to a numerical value, from my weight and size of my clothes, to the number…