Thursday, November 15, 2012

Because I Don't Cry Enough

Came across this today on Facebook.  It's a meaningful piece, a worthwhile piece, and, maybe, even a true piece.  For you.

For me?  It's beyond me.  I am broken. 

I have never felt beautiful.  Not since I was a little girl in toe shoes in Ft. Lee, Virginia--that was the last time I felt pretty. 

Me, Beautiful

My weight shot up when I was seven years old or so, and that was the end of me and beauty. I tried.  I did, I worked and worked.  I tried every diet, every exercise scheme, but my weight was beyond me.  My parents sent me such mixed messages--when they weren't ridiculing me for trying to diet, they were ridiculing me for being overweight.

When I was in fourth grade, my father, after making my life hell because I wasn't grasping the nuances of long division, told me that there are few "truly ugly people" in the world, and that, sadly, I was one of them. He said that I needed to work on my brain, I needed to be smarter than smart, because no man was ever going to want me for the way I looked. Considering this was the guy who handed me a fork, snorted at me, and offered to take my "fat ass" to the dump so I could have all the food I wanted, you'd think I'd have given his opinion a little less weight. But, hey, how could I? I was a kid. This was my dad.

Me, at around my "take a fork
 and feast at the dump" stage

Me at 13 years old

When I was 15, I'd had enough.  Enough of having the Jeff Abbots of the world tell me to get my "lard ass" off his Mustang.  Enough of being the girl who winds up alone while her friends find dates.  Enough of wearing shapeless, ugly clothing and being called names like "garbage gut" and "fat-ass."  I stopped eating.  Just stopped.  Told myself I had six months to get thin or end myself.  I dropped 135 lbs in six months. 

No kidding.

And was I beautiful then?

No.  No, I thought my legs were short, my knees and thighs were chunky, my rib cage broad.  Even in size one jeans, I felt I was awful.  I had stretch marks and crinkly skin and I saw myself as just horrible.  My dream of looking like the pretty brunette in the Playboy college layout? 


Me, at 17

Again at 17

I kept that weight off for almost eight years, but I spent every moment feeling like a fraud.  Like I was just a hanger for clothing, a canvas for makeup, but if anyone could see beneath those things, they'd know how ugly I really was.  Then the pounds came piling viciously back on when I was 23.  I gained it all back, plus another 30-40 lbs. 

28 years old, after the second big weight loss
And then, at 27, I lost that weight, too. 

Only kept it off for a year before it came back again.  With 60 or so of its friends.

And I never did find "beautiful."

The devastating thing?  Sorting through old photos when packing to move, I came across two pictures of myself.  From early college days, when I had first met my ex-husband.  I was sitting at about 120 lbs, hated myself for being "fat."  Hated my "hawk" nose and my "crossed" eyes.  One problem?

None of those things were true.  I was beautiful.  I mean really beautiful.  I was lovely.  Lovely in a way my 47-year-old self can never hope to be again.  My skin was gorgeous, my hair was thick and natural.  But I had no idea.  I focused on every little flaw, every speck of "ugly," and never got past those things.  Until it was far too late.  I pored over those photos and I cried.

Note the "please don't
take my picture" expression.

21 or 22 years old, with 2nd husband

When I was 18, my first husband rode me about my weight--see, I'd gained enough weight to go from a size ONE to a size THREE, and, as far as he was concerned, that made me a tub of lard, and he never let me forget it.

My second husband?

He told me I was beautiful.  He told me that all the time.  He gave me cards and wrote me letters telling me I was gorgeous, I was everything he'd ever wanted.  And I never once believed he meant it.  I look back now, and I know he did mean it.  But even now, I see it as a temporary thing--I was okay for a minute, and then I was fat again.  Plus, it's always been easy for me to discount his opinion because--well, because he was emotionally dependent, adoring, and his views could hardly be called "objective."  Of course, it could be argued that objectivity and beauty are mutually exclusive.  It could also be argued that I want to discount his opinion because that makes my opinion of myself easier to reconcile.

I hate the mixed messages I've sent my son.  On the one hand, I tell him to never judge people based upon their appearance, to never base a relationship on the size or shape of the woman.  It's a good message, it's a right message.  But then he sees me cry, he sees my eyes dart away from the mirror, sees me dodge that camera.  Hears me say how awful I am, how ugly I am, how fat I am.  Those messages are absolutely contradictory.  And worse, it's got to hurt him to see me cry and down myself.  I try to do it while he's asleep these days.  Usually I succeed.  Sometimes I fail. 

When I was a kid, there was a family across the street, the mom was pretty heavy (not as heavy as me, though!).  She wore brightly flowered "muumuus" and would shout at those kids at the top of her lungs.  The children in the neighborhood were merciless, tormented those kids cruelly about their "fat" mom.  Believe me, that has been in my mind every step of my boy's childhood.  Am *I* that mom?  Have the kids in his world talked about ME the way those kids talked about HER?  Have I done that to my child?

How can I possibly love me?

Close to my heaviest, 2010 or so

My boy has always said that I'm beautiful.  And maybe, to him, I am.  I don't know.  I don't think so--not this far down the line, not at his age.  What I do know is that the way I look inspires people to cruelty.  Ever been followed through a garden center by teenage boys snorting and grunting at you?  I have.  That, and a dozen experiences like that. 

What would I say to anyone else who'd experienced that?  Don't put your self-worth into the crap opinions of others.  Don't let others determine your sense of who you are.  Don't value the opinions of people who are so obviously pieces of trash.  That's what I'd say.

But I don't know how to do that.  I don't know how to not hate myself for the way I look.  I don't know how to be kind to myself.  I never learned how, because no one ever showed me. I've had a couple of friends who've told me I'm beautiful, but that's what friends are supposed to do.  Fact is, nobody's going to look at me like I am today and say, "Wow, you're beautiful."  Sure, the occasional pictures I post on Facebook look okay--of course, they're the results of major posing, makeup application, and are selected from dozens of shots I discard because they're awful. For every picture I post, there are at least two dozen I toss.

And yet this article suggests that *I* should look at myself, as I am, and say, "I'm beautiful." 

See, I just typed that and started to cry. 

No one is ever going to stroke my thinning hair and tell me that I'm beautiful.  No one.  Because I'm not.  But sometimes I wish for it so hard.  And I know how messed up that is, I know that it's stupid and it's shallow and that, even now, at 47, I'm looking outside myself for approval.  Or comfort.  Or whatever the hell it is. 

No purpose to this.  None at all.  Just writing because that's how I get this stuff out of my head. Don't look to me for rational guidance on the issue of self-esteem.  Obviously, I'm a mess.  I hope you're doing better. 

I hope you can see that you're beautiful.  I hope you can see better than I. 

2012, but about 30 lbs down from now.

Oh, and, because I'm not mooching for compliments (!) and I don't even think this is going to stay up for long, I won't be publishing comments.  I'm sorry.

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