Dear Ms. E,
I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a sunny day during 6th and I went to the nurses office for something trivial, perhaps an ice pack or a bandage. I had on a deep orange Aeropostale shirt with navy blue trim with cute little monkey’s on it; it had been my favorite shirt. The nurse proceeded to ask me if I was wearing a bra, why wasn’t I wearing a bra and if I had any looser shirts. With a huge smile on her face she told me this one was rather tight, I was a growing girl and needed to wear more appropriate clothing including wearing a bra every day. I wore a 36C at the time. She said she’d bring me some shirts and as promise the next day I was called to her office where I was greeted with a yellow ShopRite bag filled with t-shirts. Most of them were tie dye, from a camp that if my memory serves me correctly her child had gone to. I took the shirts home but never wore them because I couldn’t explain to my mother why the nurse gave me a bag of shirts.
In June of my 7th grade year I visited the nurse yet again for something minor when she asked me to step on the scale. It read 196lbs. As I stood there she went into the filing cabinet to pull out my chart and read aloud that just a few months ago in October I had weighed 122lbs asking “What happened?” The nurse told me she’d call my mother to ask her about my weight gain and sent me back to class; again I felt as though I had done something terribly wrong.
My body was never a problem until it was made into a problem by several external factors – one of the biggest being that school nurse. That school nurse Ms. E, was you. You were the person to give me those t-shirts because mine was too tight, you let me know that wearing a bra was necessity even though most of my grade did not and that my weight gain was such a problem it warranted a call home with even telling me why.
You introduced me to my first real sense of public shame around my body that has lasted years well into adulthood. My large breasts were inevitably going to come to my attention but did it have to come as a problem? You may have thought you were helping but you weren’t; you only laid the foundation of embarrassment and pain around my body image. My “tight” shirt was my favorite shirt, it was a shirt with monkeys, it was a shirt that celebrated my innocence, the last years of my childhood. It was a shirt ended up in the trash can, along with my carefree image of myself. It was replaced by boring over sized t-shirts and a sense that I was a problem that needed to be hid.
What you did was for the comfort of the other students (or maybe even adult, perhaps even yourself). The sexualization of girls is a huge problem and I hate to break it to you but thats what you did to me. Sexualizalization is defined as “to make sexual” or “endow with a sexual character or cast”. If this wasn’t done, I would’ve just been a 12 year old with breast that were a bit larger than her peers but no – it was more than that. I will never know exactly why my shirt was “too tight” or why I should’ve worn a bra. Maybe your sexualization of my body made it become something of a distraction or source of discomfort. I really don’t know. Maybe that phone call to my mother about my weight gain came from a place of “concern” but my advice is talk to a student next time you act out of concern . Ask me about my eating, my exercise, my emotions, my life – talk to me before you perform an action that made me feel like I had done something wrong.
The years have gone by and I’ve become rather successful given my history during middle school. I’ve graduated from college with my B.A., will further my education by obtaining my M.A. , maybe even a doctoral degree and do some really amazing things. I cannot successfully help anyone before I help myself and in order to effectively do that I must clear up some things in my past. I forgive you for hurting me then, for sending the message that my body was a problem to be solved and for guiding me down the path of a poor body image. You are forgiven and I hope that any other young girls that you may have done similar to find it in their hearts and realize it to be beneficial to their healing that they forgive you as well.