I’m one of those folks who has the “tendency.” Meaning that somewhere beneath this sleek façade of semi-chubbiness, there’s a true fatty waiting to let loose on the world, wobbles and all.
Oh, there are many like me in the world, and life with us is all about fluctuation. Now, when I say fluctuation, you probably imagine I’m talking about gaining and losing pounds. But that’s not what I mean.
What I really mean by fluctuation is that our sense of caring what we look like goes on and off. The kicker is that, the older we get, the less we care.
This is where I have to get off the “we” thing and go right back to the singular “me” thing, as I don’t want to get in trouble by pretending I know what anyone else on the planet does or thinks, especially when it comes to weight, eating, dieting, and self-image.
When you’re a semi-to-full-on fatty, you bounce between being very sensitive on the subject of weight to being an iron wall of apathy. And when I’m in a particularly apathetic state of mind, I’m actually in a place of great self-esteem.
That’s the funny part. When I don’t show drastic and obsessive concern for what my weight actually looks like to others, I’m at my happiest.
Those are the moments when my own personal happiness conflicts with the judgments of those who aren’t me, which constitutes every person on Earth, I suppose.
For example, I walked into my mother’s house the other day after having not seen her in a year or so. After a round of affection, she, in her skinny-bodied way, says, “So, still on that diet?” (Cue trombone music for failure.)
Clearly, I didn’t have an answer for this, due to the fact that I’m shocked that my size still concerns her.
I could’ve said, “No. No more dieting,” and heard the molecules of her disappointment start to gather into a barely hidden smirk. Or I could’ve said, “Yes,” and watched those very same molecules gather into the same smirk.
Either way, if I didn’t manage to somehow turn into someone I’ve never been and never will be, I always merit the same response, which essentially says, “Your weight is disturbing my world.”
So, I said, “Is my fat ruining your day again, Mom? Because I must tell you, if my fat has to go to war with your judgment, it’s going to end in a stalemate, ’cause my fat isn’t going away too soon. And from what I can see, neither is your judgment.”
The weird thing is, by fat standards, I’m not even there. But I’m just chubby enough to inconvenience the lives of people like my mother.
She, a naturally slender beauty, could never quite accept me as a not naturally slender beauty. But it’s not just her — there’s a conveyor belt of disapproving people just waiting to tear ol’ fatty down. At least my mom is honest about her disgust over my body.
What makes me wail with laughter is when someone pulls the “I’m concerned for your health,” routine. Oh god, please! What’s the concern about? Is that how you make it OK to disapprove — by putting the stamp of concern on top of your inability to live and let live?
Where do you go with that concern if I tell you I’m as healthy as a horse? Do you start praying for diabetes to kick in so you can finally say, “I told you so”?
Back off, man. This is what I’m working with.
I remember a time when I’d just given birth to my glorious and perfect baby girl. My little newborn was all snuggled on my chest and I was rocking her. It was summer and I was dressed in a cute little sun dress, reclining on a porch.
My dad beamed at the baby and said to me, while looking at my legs, “But what are you going to do about those?” Those? You mean my legs? What should I DO about them? Cut them off? Trade them in? Rent new ones until I can afford a permanent pair of acceptable ones? WHAT?
And I remember thinking that all that I am, all I do, all I create, the good person I am, the talented artist I am, the BABY I just created — all of this takes a backseat to the fact that my legs aren’t nice looking and my dad looks like he’s going to puke at the sight of them. Wow.
I told this story to my mother the other day, during the “Are you still on that diet?” visit, and she stared at me in horror, as if she’d just heard the most disgusting thing she’d ever heard. I just looked at her in her pressurized innocence and internally giggled over just how blind people are to their own destructive behavior.
How many times had I heard her call me “fat ass”? There isn’t even a number that’s high enough. Had she forgotten — or did she simply give herself over to a lie that had her believing she was always a staunch supporter of her daughter’s less-than-perfect image?
My fat has been ruining people’s days for decades now, most especially my parents. I always wonder what kind of person I would’ve turned out to be had I been told I was perfect “as is,” instead of never physically good enough.
Because the funny thing is, I’ve always loved myself, but I’ve never loved the way I look.
I have a lovely working relationship with this ol’ bod-o-mine. She’s fabulous, this chubby chick I live inside. She got me through cancer and chemo; she got me through childbirth; her hands do these wonderful things with art, and her brain is just outstanding. She even looks good to some people. Not my parents, but some people.
And if I had the chance to do it all again with another body — a skinny body — I’d say no a thousand times and again.
Because this body is the house in which I live and experience my wonderful and amazing life— only this body, not a skinny one, not a model body, not a body with great legs. Just my body.
At the end of my visit, my mother said to me, “You look good. Your skin is great, you look young.” And I said, “Do you know why I look young or why my skin looks great? It’s because I’m chubby! My skin is full and youthful because I’m at my correct weight. If I lost the kind of weight you wish I’d lose, I’d look like a bag of skin and wrinkles. My flesh would be hanging off me and I’d look like an ancient relic. I look good, Mom, because I’m fat.”
I’m just a chubby girl. If it ruins your day, move along. Next window. My caring what you think is no longer relevant to my own happiness or self-esteem.
So, please, can the concern, keep your diabetes dreams to yourself, and project your endless disappointments into the mirror, which is where I’m quite sure it all starts anyway.