I’m right here with you.
Remember high school? Thinking you were a fatso when you were 5′ 4” and only weighed 96 pounds? Or maybe you really were fat, and you were one of those kids who wore the (sometimes considered offensive) “I beat anorexia” t-shirts? I thought they were funny. I would have worn one myself, but it wouldn’t have made sense “on me.”
Either way, I feel your pain. I share your struggles. Because apparently, in the eyes of others, I’m morbidly obese. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s true: the people who I come into contact with on a daily basis think that I’ve grown into monstrous proportions.
Here’s the story.
I’ve been working at the local credit union for the past two and a half years, and in general, I enjoy my line of work. I like money, I like handling money, I like talking with people on and off throughout the day, and I enjoy the small amount of autonomy that having a desk job affords: when we’re slow, I’m able to sit in my chair and work on some homework. Read a book. Make a hemp bracelet. Stuff like that..
And people ask, so I’ll tell you — there are some members who can get under your skin. I mean really get under your skin. Like if you saw them in public and you happened to have a paintball gun on you..
But then there are those members who you just love to death. They bring you homemade cookies in the winter time, hand-crafted lacey doilies in the springtime, and remember to ask about how school is going, how your dog is doing, and when you’re expecting your baby.
Yeah. When you’re expecting your baby. Only in my case, it’s an invisible, non-existent, humiliating not-baby fat-bulge.
It’s happened about five times.. in the last month. So I’ve started asking myself – what the hell has happened to me?
Here’s the story of how I went from 104 to 140 in just 3 years time. It’s a short story, very short. You can probably read it all out loud in just one, slow breath!
I was a vegan, skateboarding, waitressing, 18-year-old hooligan who then married, got a desk job, started taking night classes and got way too tired to go outside for daily strolls through the park and visits to the local skatepark (skateboarding became taboo, in fact, because if I fall and break my leg, I’m not living in mom and dad’s house anymore — I’m living in my apartment, and if rent isn’t paid by the third, I’m off to join the hobo crowd). Meals became whatever was easy to cook (and tasty), with less free time on my hands for making salads and casseroles. There’s one other thing, too: I simply grew into being a woman.
At 18, I was thin. Flat. Small. Dainty. Delicate.. and boyish. No curves, no chub whatsoever. I thought that that was attractive; at my high school, the anorexic/ holocaust look seemed to be in (or us girls though it was, anyways). I strived to be active and to eat as little as possible during my high school years: evenings were spent walking around the block or skating at The Innerchange (an indoor, Christian-affiliated skate warehouse). Breakfast consisted of (1) piece of fruit and (1) tiny slice of soy cheese; lunch was one single 6 oz pouch of 100% juicy juice (bought from the school cafeteria, somewhere around 95 cents a pouch); dinner was a big ole’ homemade salad, with fresh, organic greens and colorful vegetables and protein-packed garbanzo beans. Dessert was something I indulged in occasionally, and I mean occasionally; it usually consisted of 1/4 cup of Soy Decadent ice cream with 1-2 organic (or all natural, whatever) peanut butter cookies.
This was during ages 15-18. I looked like I had recently been rescued from a concentration camp.
And still, to this day, even with my new-found knowledge of what men ‘really want,’ I look at old pictures of my young, skateboarding, thin-as-a-rail self and I can’t help but miss it. Being thin gave me an intoxicating sense of control and safety. It’s hard to explain, but if you’re a girl who’s weight-conscious (are any girls really not weight-conscious?), you get it. You feel it, too.
But yeah. Back to my point. I’ve gained a couple (35) pounds over the years.. so what! I’M not thrilled about it (despite my husband’s constant reassurances that my thickness is “awesome” and my curves are “womanly”), and it hurts when other people notice it. And they have.
Like I said, I’ve received about 5 comments just this month on my recent weight gain.
One of the first comments was from a member I like very much. “Ohhhhh!” she gushed one afternoon after work. “You’s EXPECTING?” She sounded surprised.. happy for me, even.
“Noooo,” I smiled the best I could, “I’m.. not.”
“Ohhh,” her face changed immediately, “well you look GOOD, girl.. your face looks good!”
Yeah.. here’s your receipt. Bye.
Then, another day, another member. We’ll call him Mr. Fishing Hat (his most distinguishing characteristic).
“You’re looking good, Rose.. putting on some.. it looks good, your face is lookin’ good.”
“..thanks! You’re very.. kind. Can I help you with anything else?”
And after a few more similar comments, I received one final blow.
A woman walked in last week – dressed in all white, a hair net stretched from one side of her head to the other. She’s a big lady and had just finished her school-day shift on cafeteria duty. She walked up to me with her face all scrunched up.
“You put some on?”
I looked up from filling out her withdrawal slip for her. “I’m sorry?”
She repeated her question, her face still in a scowl.
“You mean did I gain WEIGHT?” I clarified, snatching her receipt as it fell, hot and fresh, from the printer.” Yes, yes I did.. I’m getting fat. Now what else can I help you with today, Madea?”
….I said it as sweetly as humanly possible. I was actually nicer than I’m portraying here (a little nicer..) but I mean, the other offenders — okay — they rudely pointed out my pudge, but they did it in a pleasant sort of way. Like “hey! you look better!” or “awww, you’re having a little baby boobahhhh, thereeee’s a biscuit-in-the-ovennnn..” It’s hard to be mad at that.
BUT THIS frickin psychopath just looked over at me like I had mutated from being a simple bean pole into a blubbery, beached whale. It pissed me off.
So then, I did what all “fat” girls do. I inwardly resolved to never eat again.
But then.. about four minutes later.. I remembered that Chris and I had planned on making baked potatoes and chili for supper, so I amended the resolution so that it read something more like “as of TOMORROW I will NEVER eat again,” and then the next day I was starving by lunch time (because breakfast had been so skimpy) and when I drove home on my lunch break the pot of water sitting on the stove just started boiling on its own and I found my plump, puppet hands involuntarily dumping a bag of organic Whole Foods ravioli into its roaring sea..
(as a side note, I don’t think my hands are ACTUALLY chubby. It’s mostly my southern region)
So, in conclusion.. yeah, it’s hard. Getting older sucks in many, many different ways: you have less freedom (to pursue interests, and hobbies, and enjoy the rain and sunshine), more responsibility (=more stress), less to look forward to and weight gain to adjust to. Gaining weight sucks; the raging red “tiger marks” on either side of my hips are an outward manifestation of my body’s anger towards and abhorrence of the quick, incoming masses of fat molecules.
But through the painful and slightly awkward process of growing and transitioning from being a girl into a woman, I have discovered a few things about myself.
I’m happy with my body. At the end of the day, I’m very comfortable in my own skin. While gaining weight might have put a little much in some areas, it helped to enhance certain other female assets. Gaining weight did make my face “fuller”, but most people seem to think that it looks better than the skinny, gaunt face I used to smile with.
I work out now… yoga, occasional gym visits. I’m gaining muscle (and my honest estimate is that 20 of those 40 “new” pounds are muscle pounds!). I feel healthier (even though I’m heavier) and I feel happy (even though cellulite and spider veins rear their ugly heads every once in a while). I’m taking time to make salads, I’m exercising more, and I still enjoy the occasional dessert (about 1-2 times a day.. yes, my greatest down fall). There is the eternally wonderful ice cream, the simple magic of cookies, and the magnetic pull I feel towards the homemade brownies that warm my heart AND make the house smell delicious.. yes. I love it all.
I’m finding a balance. And I’m embracing this curvy, non-teenaged body. Every day, I’m growing more and more comfortable in my own skin, and I’m able to focus on more important things, like doing my homework, making fun, memorable weekends with my loves and cooking the most delicious vegetarian dinners ever. I am defined by many words: wife, daughter, sister, cousin, writer, musician, photographer, weirdo, lefty, bunny, student, teller, goofball..
“fat” isn’t one of those words.
AND NEITHER IS “PREGNANT.”
Try back in ten, fifteen years.