Thursday, February 19, 2015

They Don't Even Remember Who I Am

I'm writing this here because no one reads this blog.  No one reads it, and therefore I can throw this out into the world, feel like I've expressed myself, yet remained safely anonymous.
My son is well into his teen years.  All his life, I've been fat.  All his life, I've beaten myself up, struggling to NOT be fat, to lose enough weight to keep my appearance from negatively affecting his social life. You see, I had a grammar school friend with a super-fat mom. She wore shapeless, brightly-colored muu-muus and yelled a lot.  Woman hated me, but that's a different story.  I didn't care about her weight, except that I deeply pitied my friend because of the endless abuse she took from other kids about her mom. Any argument, any fight she found herself in could be ended with one sharp "at least my mom's not a whale!"
Kids love their moms.  Usually, anyway.  And I told myself I would do whatever it took to NOT land my son in that same place. I was not going to put him in a spot where he had to choose between his peer group and his fat mother.  I have agonized, starved, obsessed, and self-hated.  I have crawled deeper and deeper into a hole that keeps me well-separated from the world.  And I have taken to hiding upstairs when his friends are here so I don't embarrass him.  I've only met two of them, and one seemed completely put off by my size.  Kid wouldn't even look at me.  Eyes kept darting away as though I were something dangerous looking to leap at his face.  
I've always been very conscious of my size.  I was a "normal-sized" kid until around second grade, at which time my weight ballooned in a scary fashion.  I went from 48 lbs to 98 in one year.  My parents, rather than take me to, say, an endocrinologist, decided on ridicule and loathing as tools to reverse my expansion.  My mother wasn't so bad--she mostly just groused about my size when it came to clothes shopping (an endeavor I quickly learned to hate).  She'd hold up pretty, NORMAL girl clothes and lament my size.  My father, on the other hand, went nuts with the out-and-out attacks.  While my sister and I were not permitted to choose our serving sizes (food was doled out by mom), and we were admonished to finish everything on our plates (not finishing meant no dessert, and possibly a shouting at, a grounding, or a smacking), we were held accountable for our sizes at a very early age.  I remember being eight years old and my dad shouting "How about we stick a fork in that piggy paw and drop you off at the city dump?"  Followed by pig snorts.  I sometimes agonize over the thought that maybe I have, at some point, said something hurtful enough to my son that he will remember it always.  I hope not.
By the time I hit 10th grade, I was weighing in at 235 lbs.  I know, you're so horrified!  I weigh SO much more than that now!  The social pressure was devastating--boys either laughed or ignored, while girls either pitied or pointed.  Sure, I had some friends--some thin, some about my size, a couple heavier.  I think of the popularity hit my thinner friends took, hanging out with me, and I am forever grateful.  
Middle of tenth grade, it happened.   That triggering event, the catalyst.  My friend had gotten a beautiful black '69 Camaro.  Being, as it was, the coolest car on campus, some of that cool attached itself to me, and I found myself being treated pretty well by kids who normally would have blown me off or openly ridiculed me.  Then came the day.  It was first lunch, which meant the classes in the English wing adjacent to the back parking lot were still in session.  My friend and I were standing next to her car.  Beside it was another car; a black '68 Mustang belonging to one of the football stars, a young man named Jeff.  My friend and I were laughing, talking, and, as she lounged on her own car's hood, I leaned back against the fender of Jeff's Mustang.  It was only a minute or less before he exploded out the back doors of the English wing, shouting at me to get my "fat, ugly ass" off his car.
The laughter around me was uproarious.  And I was devastated.
I left school a few minutes later, walked home.  Sat on my mom's bed for a few hours, her .38 in my hand.  And I made a deal with myself.  I had six months to stop being fat.  If I failed, I would kill myself.  
I succeeded.  I began exercising obsessively--quitting school so I could dedicate hours a day.  I stopped eating.  Period, just stopped (and my periods?  They just stopped, too).  One day a week, I was allowed solid food (and two nights a week I was allowed four "lite" beers).  I started smoking in earnest, jumping from a smoke or two, not inhaled, each afternoon to almost two packs a day.  And the weight fell off me.  Never mind the bleeding gums, the thinning hair, the constant headache, dizziness, and trembling.  I lost 100 lbs in six months, and kept losing.  By the next Christmas, I weighed 103 lbs and my size 1 jeans were too loose.  I remember victory turning to disappointment when I realized that getting my pants in the kids' section meant pants with snaps instead of buttons.
Can you guess what happened when I went back to school?  The girls who'd despised me wanted to buddy up and the boys who'd cracked mean "sex with fat chicks" jokes were suddenly asking me out.  Many of them, I suspect, having no idea I was the same girl.  One of those boys?
Mustang Jeff.  I was hanging in the parking lot, dressed so fine, spiked heels and silk shirt, and here he came.  He leaned on my car, got in real close, and smiled.  And me?  I smiled right back, and said . . . 
"Get your fat, ugly ass off my car."
No, it wasn't my car, technically, but who cares?  At first he was hurt, and then realization hit.  And that was the best, let me tell you.
I continued to be wildly unhealthy for a couple of years, with no periods, a bout with Toxic Shock Syndrome, and a scary first marriage to an abusive ass that began when I was 18 and ended in blood and tears at 19.  My shot self-esteem set me up for that marriage.  Because I may have looked fabulous, but I never stopped feeling like it was an act.  Something I was putting over on folks.  That under the pretty clothes I was a bit jiggly and stretch-marked didn't help.
I actually kept myself under 130 for almost 8 years.  But then the weight started piling back on at a breathtaking rate (think 20+ lbs a month after starting new birth control pills), and the family doctor couldn't/wouldn't do any more than ridicule me for my tight pants and jury-rigged button/zipper. Thanks, Russ.  You were a gem.  A couple of years later, he pretended to not feel a lump in my breast because he thought I was my sister.  Told me he knew I was lying, just to cause my family grief.  Told me he wished I DID have a lump because the world would be a better place without me.  And then he figured out I was ME and not my sister.  THEN he wanted to "have another look at that lump."  
Anyway, back on topic:  the weight came back, and it's been a devastating battle since.  25 years I've been battling this.  I got all the way back down to 135 lbs in 1993.  Just in time to meet my husband.  Does he love me at more than twice that? Yes.  Would he have been at all interested in me at that weight in the beginning?  I can't answer that.  
 So, how do we get from there to the fat, sociophobic mommy who hides in her room?
A bunch of reasons, but I think I can best illustrate with following three events.  I'll put them down in order.
1) Walking through Target's garden section.  Must have been around 1999.  My infant son in the cart in front of me, and I'm shopping for a rosebush for my mother-in-law for Mother's Day.  Two teenage boys, about the age of my son and his friends today, start tailing me.  Snickering.  Whispering.  And then it starts--the loud pig snorting and "soooouuuueeee!"  I stopped, steeled myself, and turned around to look at them.  They burst into laughter and scurried away.  And I stood there, struggling not to cry.  Promising myself I would stop being fat, I would stop being ugly, I would stop being ME before my son was old enough to understand.
2)  Walking through Walmart.  A couple of years later.  By now, I've learned to avoid teenage boys.  Men are bad enough, but their eyes just tend to slide sideways and avoid me entirely, and I guess a refusal to engage or acknowledge is better than flat-out abuse.  As I'm limping along, pushing my cart, my four year old on board, three teenage girls breeze by.  The brand of laughter is unmistakable, And then one casts me a disdainful look and says to her friends, "If I ever look like that, fucking shoot me.  Promise!"  And then all three collapse into giggle fits.  And I'm left standing there, once again pleading with myself to find some way to stop being what I am before my boy is old enough to remember it.
3) The final straw, really.  The one where I cracked and completely lost my grip.  I was walking through the grocery store (you'd think I'd learn to avoid such places) when two men came my way.  I saw the look pass between them and knew, instantly.  At 25 feet out I understood what was coming, but there was nowhere for me to go.  They got within a few feet of me and the games began.  
"Oooh, there's one for you, Mike!"
"Dude, she'd crush me in my sleep!"
"You'd have to chew your arm off to get away from porky there!"
And I lost all cohesion.  Perhaps telling, I didn't have my son with me this time.  This was around 2003 or so, and my boy was off in another part of the store with his daddy.  And so, with tears springing from my eyes, fists clenched and body trembling, I went completely bonkers.  Asked them where on earth they got the idea that they were, in any way, prizes?  Did they OWN mirrors?  Food slopped down the front of this one's wife beater, tweaker complexion and rotting teeth, who the fuck was HE to start on ME?  At least my clothes were clean and I didn't STINK of meth and armpits.  And what about the other one?  With his beer belly and retreating hairline, with those protuberances above that belly that most would call bitch tits, how DARE he?  At least I HAD a family, I HAD a partner, I HAD a beautiful child still young enough to not see me through their lens.  I didn't have to hang about in grocery stores with my tweaker pal, abusing women who'd done nothing at all to earn it.  And I didn't stop.  One of them muttered "Sorry" and I exploded even further.  Sorry?
SORRY?  Oh, gosh, fuck your sorry, I give zero shits about you and your half-assed apology borne of embarrassment rather than remorse.  
I stalked these guys through the store, shouting, crying, never letting up.  I trailed them to the checkout where, rather than wait in line, they left their goods and fled the store.  And I stood there, gasping and sobbing, while people I didn't know came up and patted me on the shoulder, squeezed my hand, told me I'd done a fine thing. 
But it didn't feel fine.  And I didn't feel strengthened, vindicated, or in any other way improved by the experience.  I felt devastated.  Empty.  Utterly broken.
And I still do.
I lost a gaggle of weight again a couple of years ago.  Of course, each time I lose, I gain back even more, so the 180 pound loss still had me over 200.  And I'm now back over 300.  I don't know how much over because I just can't take it any more.  I've weaned myself off my heart meds (I have an arrhythmia, unrelated to my weight) because I can't take the shaming I get at the doctor's office.  I finally wrote to her, explained why I haven't been in and what's going on, and she told me I don't have to weigh.  So I have an appointment in two days.  And I'm so pitched about it, I fear I might keel over before I ever get in.  Because she's going to ride me about my weight, even if she doesn't weigh me.  Because there's this idea that fat people are, by nature, stupid, lazy, dull, and gluttonous.  I'm not lazy.  I'm not stupid.  Clearly, I eat more than my body will accept, but I don't eat more than my not-fat husband or my not-fat son.  To be talked down to and treated like I don't understand I'm fat?  Is devastating to me.  Believe me, I am aware of my size every day.  Not a day, not an HOUR goes by when I don't find myself nearly in tears (or just flat-out sobbing).  
And the title of this blog entry?  That's easy.  Those boys in Target, those girls in Walmart?  They'd tell you they're nice people.  They're kind people.  They almost certainly have no memory of me whatsoever.  The tweaker pals might remember me solely because I went on the offensive.  Same with Jeff of the Mustang.  But I don't want to be on the offensive, because that just tears me apart and leaves others feeling I deserve the abuse because look at what a rude, loud creature I am.  Because the only thing the world hates more than a fat woman is a fat woman who sticks up for herself.  

A little note for the "how can you give those people such power over you" crowd.  It's easy--I'm broken.  If you don't understand that about me, you don't know me at all.  They didn't just hurt me, they shattered me.  And it wasn't just them, it was my family suddenly inviting me to parties and showing me off to their friends once I was thin.  It was my mom expressing her disappointment when I regained.  It was my dad and his horrified intake of breath after, during a telephone argument over whether or not heavy folks should have to pay "fatty fares" on airlines, I told him how much I weigh.  It was my nephew finding an old wedding picture and saying, with such longing, "You used to be so beautiful.  What happened?"
I'm broken.  And I'm afraid that, at nearly 50, there is no fixing me.

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