How I Finally Killed the Thin Person Inside Me Trying to Escape

Cyndy Etler | Teen Coach | Author
12 min readAug 10, 2021

It only took four decades.

Confident plump girl wearing ripped jeans and crop top sits amongst trees.
Photo by Meital Anlen on Unsplash

In Connecticut, where I grew up, the advertising wasn’t subtle. It was stitched onto throw pillows, displayed in place of pride: “You Can Never Be Too Rich or Too Thin.”

The rich part I had no say in. I was a free lunch kid. I shared a bedroom with my stepsister and my stepbrother. I rocked Woolworth kicks — and we’re talking hand-me-down Woolworth kicks. Yeah, I got my ass a paper route when I was nine, but no paper route pays the vig for designer jeans and leather Nikes. I was broke and I looked it.

That left me with option B: get thin.

It was clear from the start I wasn’t about that life. My mother, who earned her paltry living as a church organist-slash-Aerobics in Motion teacher, worshipped at the alter of skinny. Sundays she sat at the feet of a hollow-cheeked Jesus, hanging sadly from his crisscrossed sticks. Weekdays she put her own feet on a scale before each class, confirming her weight remained low enough to teach A.I.M. dance classes. The formula: 100 pounds plus five pounds allowed for every inch over five feet. My mother maxed out at 110; an ounce over that and she got canned. Lord, how she grinned and sang when the scale brought good news. One-oh-four! One-oh-four! How I love thee one-oh-four! One-oh days were rare good ones in my childhood home.

My bio-sister, too, caught the skinny gene. A demoralized member of the itty bitty titty committee, she at least had big girl jobs that kept her in Jordache: cashier at the Fotomat; desk clerk at the dry cleaners.

Damn. Poor folks sure do work a lot.

Anyway. When my sister was at work and I wasn’t, I’d sneak into her room and try to cram my young self into her miniature Jordache jeans, the ones that made her pretty and popular. The best I ever got was the waistband up to my hips. That’s when I heard the telltale rrr, the opening bar of rrripp! Talk about demoralized. I pulled those suckers off and read her diary, instead.

I never had it in me to be less large than I was. Prenatal Cyndy was a fat and lazy fetus. My emaciated mother repeatedly told me how I’d kept her in labor for 24 hours, refusing to come out. The two baby pictures I’ve seen of myself show…

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Cyndy Etler | Teen Coach | Author

Locked up & homeless as a teen. Now teaching resiliency & hope with my YA memoirs & teen coaching. Seen on CNN, HuffPost, NPR, CBS, ABC. www.cyndyetler.com