Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Shame of Body Acceptance



Last week, a friend posted a tweet that read: 

Reminder: When you congratulate someone on their weight-loss, you may be complimenting them on their eating disorder.

An argument ensued. Basically, women argued that commenting on someone’s weight is never good. I wanted to let it pass by, but I couldn’t. Their logic was that you never know why someone lost weight, so you don’t want to be rude or hurtful. I get that. But then, there was another layer: the idea that we should never comment on looks. The idea that the outside holds too much power and commenting on looks just adds to that stifling domination of society. We should love ourselves as we are.

Okay. Yes. We should love ourselves. Loving ourselves is huge. I’ve always advocated for that. But what does it mean to love ourselves? How can we, on one hand, be proud of our bodies and deny our physicality? Be proud of you, but don’t ever comment on looks. Your body is beautiful, but there is no such thing as beauty. It’s an either/or scenario. Either you are proud of your body as it is, or you are falling into societal expectations. Is it really an OR situation? Can’t you be proud of your body and still want to be appreciated for your looks? Can’t you be proud of your body and change?

As time goes on, I am increasingly uncomfortable with the Body Acceptance Movement. It’s not actually body acceptance; it’s fat as a political statement. It isn’t even fat as beautiful. If it was also about beauty, then why not comment on our looks? Are we only allowed to comment on your beauty if your beauty remains unchanged? Oddly, I think the radical end of the Body Acceptance Movement isn’t just saying that fat is beautiful, which it very much can be, but that fat is the only kind of beauty. It is setting up a mirror-image scenario to society’s obsession with thin.

Little did I know that while I was arguing my way through Facebook that I had accidentally posted on the original poster of the tweet, The Body is Not An Apology: the power of radical self love. How right up my alley! Who better than me to celebrate radical self love?


According to their mission statement:

The Body Is Not An Apology is an international movement committed to cultivating global Radical Self Love and Body Empowerment. We believe that discrimination, social inequality and injustice are manifestations of our inability to make peace with the body, our own and others. Through seminars, retreats, workshops, personal transformation projects, media, art and community building, The Body is Not An Apology fosters global, radical, unapologetic self love which translates to radical human love in action in service toward a more just and compassionate world

I love this idea! Where do I sign up?

I may love the idea, but I quickly learned that they did not love me. Apparently, I had done something in my writing that angered the group: I talked about my weight-loss surgery. After a back and forth with a woman who compared weight-loss surgery to getting a haircut (I won’t even go down that road right now), I explained my own surgery. Eventually, the moderator jumped in:

For folks on this thread we would first ask you to revisit our community agreements. Comments that are insulting/name calling will not be tolerated . TBINAA respects the right of folks to make decisions for their bodies, however we as an organization do not support weight loss surgery as we see it as part of a larger weight loss industry that reinforces the structural violence and body Terrorism of fatphobia. Hence TBINAA is not an appropriate space to promote weight loss surgery or to share comments that propose causality between weight and health. We appreciate you honoring the standards of this digital space.

Let me repeat the important part: 

“we see it [weight-loss surgery] as part of a larger weight loss industry that reinforces the structural violence and body Terrorism of fatphobia.”


Now, I’ll be the first to argue the horrors and bullshit of fatphobia. I’ll be the first to share stories of being invisible and being used and not being able to physically sit comfortably in the world. And is the answer to that phobia to lose weight? No. Being thin isn’t THE answer. Because as with everything else there isn’t one answer. It is so much more complicated and nuanced than that.

However, in their desire to shed the world of the evils of fatphobia, they have created a new kind of shame—the shame of changing your body. The shame of having autonomy over your body. Because if you are forced to remain fat in order to fulfill some ideological stand then you lose autonomy.

Yesterday, a random women stopped me to compliment me on my legs. I wonder if the Body Acceptance Movement thinks I should feel shame for that too? I have these legs so I can stand on my tiptoes and do weird sorts of squats in barre class. Is that shameful? Should I be more proud of my belly that remains my belly? Should I be worried that my butt is now more muscle than fat? Should I be thanking God that my face is still full or the backs of my arms wobbly? Or should I wish my arms still held fat so they'd wobble in a different way? Are my non-scale victories no longer valid either? Instead of breathing a sigh of relief when I fit perfectly inside a booth, should I be angry that it's not accommodating for bigger bodies? When pulling at my now-too-big size large black Old Navy dress, should I be wistful for the XXLs I could not actually fit my large body into? Should I disdain sitting cross-legged? Should I be angry that I'll fit in the roller coaster ride or that I can tie my shoes? Should I miss those long naps because I was so fucking tired all the time? Should I revel in the fact that I know my body still doesn't fit today's standards or that when I walk into barre class, I'm the biggest one in the room? Do they feel better knowing that I don't know what to say when people ask me how much more I want to lose? Or that I'm pretty okay with myself at the moment and losing more seems unbelievable? Are they smirking because I miss my boobs and now feel self-conscious because of them?

When I fight to be good enough, I still don't know what that means or what that looks like.

Goals in barre class are easy to measure. I know what I want my body to be able to do that it can't do now. My outside? Not so much. I scrutinize myself in the mirror far more than I used to. I spend more time wanting to hide from feeling unattractive than I ever did when I was fat. I'm convinced my eyes have gotten smaller and swollen. I am horrified when people are relieved that my tattoos still look good. Where would they have gone?


We all walk around with feelings of shame. Why would a movement that claims to promote radical self-love shame people for making changes to their body? Why can’t I take my body back? To me, my surgery was the ultimate act of radical self-love.


And yes, my fat came from years of disordered eating and lack of self-care. It was deeply psychological. Does that mean every fat person suffers the same? No! Would I have needed surgery if society said it was okay to be fat? Yes. This isn’t about society. This is about me.

And frankly, if you want to know the truth, despite the fact we preach that your outside and inside have nothing to do with each other, they have everything to do with each other. They are entwined. They are linked. They are one. And when someone comments that I’m the same person inside no matter what I look like on the outside, they are wrong. There has been a fundamental shift inside me.

My body feels sacred in a way I’ve never felt before. I feel more sacred.

Does everyone need to lose weight to feel sacred? No. But, again, this is about my personal experience. This is what I needed to truly get in touch with my body and myself. Does it have consequences that speak to society’s issues with bodies especially bigger bodies? Yes. And I struggle with that. I will always struggle with that. However, just because I struggle with it, just because the world is not perfect, does not mean that I should be shamed. It does not mean that we should be bullied if we want to change our bodies.

We need to accept all bodies at the place where they are. They doesn’t mean they have to change but it doesn’t mean they can’t change.


I changed to honor my body. I changed to honor my inside.

So ask away. Comment. Tell me I look different. My god, you are blind if you haven’t noticed the 
change. And just because you change doesn’t mean the before wasn’t beautiful. It just means the after is beautiful in a different way. It is good to acknowledge. It is good to celebrate.

Friday, June 8, 2018

The Fat Bus




Yesterday was six weeks. I’m slowly trying to consume my very first veggies in two months. Part of me wants to take the tiny bites I’m supposed to take; the rest of me wants to shove the whole plate in my mouth and ask for more. Then it comes on...the pain. It feels like a rock is bouncing from the bottom of my stomach to the middle of my throat and then finding a home right before it decides to expand in all directions. Oddly enough, it isn’t totally different from when I’m hungry. The line between begging for food and running from it is very thin. 


Drinking is its own beast. You have to take little sips spread out over the day. Sip...sip…………..sip. The days are getting hotter. I’m so much more active. And, frankly, sometimes, like all of us, I start getting dehydrated. So, what do I do? I swig. I gulp. I refuse to sip. Sometimes I screamed out, “I’m sorry tiny tummy!” The pain is intense. The pain is overwhelming and it is immediate. I do it at Brew Haha; I do it in bed; I do it at Barre. In Barre, I stare at the ground and pray I won’t throw up. The carpet doesn’t seem equipped for such things. At home, I writhe in pain or worse, in public I run home home, so I can writhe in pain curled up on my bed praying for sleep. Drinking too fast goes away as quickly as it came on. I recover. I move on and I attempt to not repeat my mistakes for at least an hour.


Food is an entirely different story. When it came to the liquid diet and the pureed food, everything was so slow and deliberate that pain from the act of eating was few and far between. I would just get full really quickly, and I’d stop. My stomach was raw and healing, and it wasn’t a mind fuck. And while my stomach will be raw and healing for quite some time, once I hit soft foods, I found it impossible to regulate time. Setting a timer for a half an hour felt absurd, and I started wanting to run out of the house quickly. And, frankly, things started tasting good (which, of course, is a whole other issue), so taking so much time got harder and harder. Food is a guessing game. Somethings work. Somethings don’t. Somethings allow me to walk around pain-free for a few hours, while others trap me in my room for hours. I have to stop everyone’s day because the pain completely overtakes me.


As you all know, in this very short period time (eight weeks, including my pre-op liquid diet), I’ve lost weight and inches. I’ve gained energy. I’ve gained the ability and desire to challenge myself physically which comes with perks: a whole new world of clothing. I’m finally able to walk into any store and not feel filled with shame. Yes, let me say that again: I can walk into any store without feeling shame. I can try clothes on and while not all of them will fit me or look good on me, some will. I went from a 3X to a Large. I’m 5’1,” and I was pushing a size 22. You all know the list of things I could not do. And now, I can do them. I’m going on a plane next week and have to keep reminding myself that I won’t need a seat belt extender. And as much as I remind myself, I won’t believe it until it happens. I will be scared out of my mind until the moment that seat belt clicks.


And this is just the start. I have no idea what will happen next. I have no idea how small I’ll get, but every single moment is a huge victory. Every single moment is worth fighting for. This is all encompassing. This is intense. This is completely and utterly life changing. It’s emotionally invigorating. And it’s exhausting.


But none of this is the really hard part. The hard part kept creeping up in the past week or so, when I was shopping no less. We all know I document everything. God forbid you don’t join me on my shopping trip. I snap pictures. I make comments. And most likely, two hours before or even five minutes before I was writhing in pain. Have I made that clear enough yet? Are you sure? Should I make videos of the pain too or make my bed a Facebook check-in spot, so everyone knows that this shit fucking hurts?


Why am I suddenly getting angry? Why is my tone shifting? Because while I was having the exhilarating experience of shopping in the ladies section at Target and other places, I had the audacity to refer to them as regular or normal sizes. I had the audacity to get excited and feel beautiful in this smaller body. I made the mistake in celebrating my shifting appearance in a new section of the store...the much bigger section of the store that isn’t shoved in the back or hidden up the stairs or worse not there at all. I actually explored the whole second floor of Nordstrom yesterday knowing I could try clothes on if I wanted.


This isn’t a commentary about the fashion industry. If you haven’t figured out by now that I find it disgusting that plus-size women can’t simply walk into any store. They need to get with the program. They need to get with the times. They need to get with so much. We all know I feel this way. My brain hasn’t been sucked out of my head along with my fat. I haven’t suddenly become a fat shamer. I haven’t suddenly thrown the body image movement out the window. Are new ideas starting to form in my head? Sure. Of course. Am I ready to talk about them? No, I can’t even articulate them to myself, let alone an audience.


What I don’t understand is the desire to make me have to stand for something right now. The need for every one of my posts about my own very personal, very difficult, very life-changing experience to have to be a commentary on life in general. I am nothing right now. As I keep saying, I’m at the starting line right now. I can’t speak for anyone or anything but myself right now, and half the time I can’t even speak for me.

In my bariatric women’s support group many of the women don’t even share the fact they’ve had surgery. They hide their experience because they are afraid of other people’s judgements. The core of me finds this shocking. How could you keep such a big secret. Aren’t you proud? Don’t you want to sell t-shirts? But, they aren’t me, and I’m not them. This is all so incredibly personal, and when you try to make it some sort of universal political statement it loses its truth and it’s power. Maybe if I knew how to stay quiet for 2.5 seconds than I wouldn’t feel pushed. Maybe if I kept things to myself then I wouldn’t feel like I’m somehow not throwing Fat Shosh under the bus or all the girls I wrote for when i wrote about the importance of body acceptance.

But here’s the thing. I’m not throwing Fat Shosh under the bus. Fat Shosh threw Fat Shosh under the bus for a million different reasons and in a million different ways. Some of which had to do with weight and some of which had to do with other things. I acted out. I made bad choices. I made very strange bedfellows. I spent so much time sleeping. I spent so much time accepting behavior from men because they fucking could. I spent so much time crying. And, yet oddly, I never once looked in the mirror and thought...nope...yuck. And yes, you can tell me a million times over but you were beautiful. But I wasn’t...not at the end. My bad choices were seeping out of my pores. I was 38-years-old and I’d made myself into an easy target for a lot of things.

But Shosh! Shosh! But Shosh nothing. I couldn’t keep living like that. I couldn’t keep making those choices. YES, I’m sorry if this offends your sensibilities, but I could not keep walking around the word squeezing myself into bigger and bigger clothes. I couldn’t keep throwing on make up and dying my hair pink in the hope that no one would notice. It didn’t actually feel good. You get that right? Being the pink-haired girl with the funky plus-size dresses didn’t actually feel good. My tattoos didn’t help me fit on the roller coaster ride, and my cleavage certainly didn’t help guide me into a lasting a positive romantic relationship.

Why not? I can’t say I really have the answer to that. Like I said, it’s only been six weeks. I have so many half thought-out theories. I have so many revelations. I have such higher expectations.

And if I want to walk into a clothing store and revel at the fact I fit into size large shirts, let me revel. I deserve to revel. Everyone deserves to revel.




 






Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Fat Girl

For once in my life, I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m following directions. I’m pleasing people. I’m being a good girl. My intensity for once is understood. Because of my diet, it is forgivable...

However, this morning, I’m scrolling through Facebook, and I come upon Rachel Wiley’s performance of her slam poem, The Fat Joke:

"The old joke goes: patient walks into the doctor’s office, says ‘It hurts when I move my arm like this, what should I do?’ and the doctor says, ‘So don’t move your arm like that,'” Wriley says. “Fat Girl walks into doctor’s office, says ‘Doctor, it hurts when I move my arm like this,’ and the doctor says, ‘Have you considered weight loss surgery?'

It goes on about every experience Fat Girls have at the doctors. It is every experience I’ve had. I remember when I was pregnant with my daughter, I called my OBGYN practice and specifically had to ask for a doctor that wouldn’t use my weight against me during my pregnancy. Otherwise, I would have to, in essence, prove that I was fit to safely grow a baby. It infuriated me. It saddened me. It made me want to fight harder for my right to walk in the world as a Fat Girl.

I’ve been Fat since I was 21. Anyone who’s met me after college, has a tendency to say: 

“Really? You weren’t always...bigger?” 

Which is almost as fun as when people find out my family is thin: 

“Your parents are thin? REALLY?” looking at me with shocked expression. 

Conversely, my 20th high school reunion is coming up at the end of June, and if Facebook wasn’t in existence, they would have certainly noticed the large change in me.

I didn’t know I wasn’t the Fat Girl in high school. I actually spent an entire summer at camp wearing jeans to hide...what? I’m not even sure. Ironically, I wasn’t comfortable in my skin until I was Fat. It was a combination of a lot of things: age, motherhood, and husband who always made me feel beautiful and desired. And also, frankly, rebellion. I’d been told the whole time growing up that I was Fat when I wasn’t actually Fat. So, once I was Fat, it became a big fuck you.

For almost twenty years, I’ve walked in this skin. I’ve gone up and down. Although, when I was married, I basically stayed the same. And, despite all our other problems, I had a husband who always wanted me. I had no reason to think I wasn’t beautiful or desirable. When I was separated, I immediately fell into a relationship, then another one, then back to the first, then a series of many many many dates over the course of a Summer and so-on. And, I realize that confidence comes from more than your ability to get a date, but I never felt unworthy.

However, after my divorce, my weight moved up little-by-little. And then, after my heart surgery, my surgeon said that she’d be happy if I lost thirty pounds. I deeply respected and adored her, so, without any negative feelings, I agreed. Thirty pounds would in no way make me thin, slender, slightly curvy. Thirty pounds would keep me Fat, curvy, thick, plus-size, chubby, whatever word helps you sleep at night.

What did I do to lose those thirty pounds? What motivated me? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Instead of losing thirty, I gained a little more than thirty. If we’re being honest, I gained thirty-seven. How? Why? When? What? I can’t point you in any direction that might satisfy your curiosity. Fighting for custody of my children, searching for a new job, grieving the loss of my baby, a new psych med, apathy...sure, I suppose.

Yes, when I looked at a picture of myself, I would wince. Yes, I had my moments. But, I continued my body-positivity fight. I continued to feel beautiful and worthy. And, as we all know, it never stopped me from dating. I always wanted others to feel just as worthy.

At least on the outside. As I’ve written before, negative thoughts starting popping into my head. I secretly wanted to lose those thirty pounds, which by now had become...well, you can do the math. Life had become harder for me. Feeling normal became harder for me. And, as we all know, the hard started pulling against my confidence. And, I made this huge decision, a decision that shocked my friends, my therapist. A decision that made my family a little more enthusiastic than I would have liked. And as with all things: pregnancy, grad school, writing, falling in love, I jumped in with both feet. Six months of nutrition counseling, clearances from a pulmonologist, a cardiologist, a psychiatrist, my regular doctor, and of course, the always fun endoscopy. I talked about it constantly. I was confident in my decision. I took people’s support in stride. I lost ten pounds. I was on my way.

Then, BAM, the liquid diet! 

Every single emotional issue I’ve ever had seeped out of my pores. Even my blessed psych meds couldn’t control the intensity. The starvation makes you both angry and high as a kite. Manic really. At least, at first. And, as I saw the numbers on the scale move further and further down, every single moment of starvation, of sadness, of pain, of anger, of obsession felt worth it. I wanted to write it in the sky, so I wrote it in a series of Facebook statuses.

And then, as I said, when I sat on my bed this morning, fighting off anxiety and boredom, I came across The Fate Joke. I felt every single moment of it. Every line. Every sway of emotion. That was me: 

I am the Fat Girl at the doctor’s office. 

I am the Fat girl at the coffee shop. 

I am the Fat Girl with her children. 

I am the Fat Girl trying on clothes. 

I am the Fat Girl on a date.

I know what you may be thinking: 

Yes! Now you don’t have to be The Fat Girl anymore. Hooray!

Hooray!?
Hooray!? 

Fuck you.

Fuck you.

Fuck you.
I am starving myself. I am mutilating my body...poking holes in my belly to pull out 90% of my stomach. 90%. For what? The high blood pressure I don’t have? The diabetes I’m not even close to having? My non-existent high cholesterol? To know that when I’m thinner I don’t actually have a round face?

You ask me a million questions I don’t have the answer to: 

What will you look like when you’re thin? 
What will happen to your tattoos? 
What will it be like when you can date cuter people? 
Do you think you’ll need a tummy tuck. 
And, of course, what will happen to your boobs? 

I have no fucking clue. I do know that I already date attractive people (whatever attractive means). I do know that I’ll just get more tattoos. However... As my favorite poet Sarah Kay says in her poem, The Type:



I am not here to stand for something for you. I am not here to prove that Fat Girls shouldn’t walk around in this world. I’m not here to make you sleep better at night because I’ve finally found the solution to my horrible problem.

I feel a huge amount of guilt. I had coffee with my beautiful friend the other day, who happens to be plus-size. She told me that I made her feel like she could have confidence. It was amazing to hear, but it was also a gut punch. What the fuck am I doing? Part of who I am and what I stand for is body acceptance. And I get it, we should accept all bodies, and I will just have another kind of body. But I want you to accept the Fat Girl. I want you to know she is worthy of your love. That she is worthy of your respect and admiration. I want you to know that she is beautiful. I want you to know her confidence shouldn’t be shocking.

Deep breath.

My best guy friend and I were talking today. He went through his own weight-loss journey. He has to be one of the most thoughtful, measured people I know. I was telling him all of this—going over my fears from every angle—the fat girl joke, my confidence, my new found obsession with my scale, losing weight, not losing weight, people’s comments, people’s silence.

Finally, he said to me that I’ll have to learn that I am the only one with autonomy over my own body. Everyone else’s desires, comments, ideas, feelings, suggestions are just noise. I have to silence it and listen to my own needs, my own wants, my own desires. The silencing and turning inward is almost a spiritual experience. Until I can do that, I’m going to be stuck.

So, for now, my fear will whirl around. My confusion will whirl around me. My anger will whirl around me. My confidence will whirl around me. For now: 

I am still the Fat Girl. 

I am the evolving girl. 

The changing girl. 

The waiting girl. 

And I guess, that’s okay.


Friday, April 20, 2018

Liquid Diet: My Weirdest Fear Incarnate

THE DAY BEFORE:

I’m scared. I want to throw up. I want to put my head between my knees; except, I can’t put my head between my knees. Could I ever? I have no idea. I also want to be able to sit in a chair or on the floor with my knees pulled up to my chest. If I pretzel myself in the right way, I can kinda, sorta, get one knee against my overly ample bosom. I’ve been feeling selfish and annoying writing cute little status updates about my surgery or my impeding liquid diet. Then, I feel unsure about your enthusiasm. The body-celebrating confident plus-size girl wants to know why the fuck you are cheering. Wasn’t I good enough? Aren’t I good enough? Don’t you know I have zero health problems...oh, okay maybe a little sleep apnea that one kind man described as the sound of me drowning.

I have weird fears—fears about not losing weight. Fears about skin. Fears about my tattoos. Fears that I’ll fall in love after this surgery, and I’ll never know if that person would have loved me before.

Yep, That’s my biggest one. That’s the one I should probably keep on the leather couch with the perfectly placed pillows as my pretty southern belle therapist asks me where I think that comes from. We all want to be loved for who we are at this very moment. We want to be good enough. We want our round tummies and big butts and boobs to be admired, maybe even worshiped. And, we all know, I’ve never had a problem dating.

Despite society’s constant stream of messages that I’m not good enough, a good amount of living, breathing, flesh and bone men (and some women), have always thought I was good enough. Good enough share a meal with. Good enough to laugh with. Good enough to sleep with and Good enough to be seen holding my hand in public with. With the exception of one person, I have never felt shame naked in front of someone I’m seeing. And yet, I’m scared.

I’m scared this theoretical person will see before pictures and be utterly thankful for my surgery and good timing. God forbid that they might fall for my confidence or my humor or, deep breath, my mind. God forbid they might fall for whatever positive way this surgery changes me. Because as a good friend reminded me, it will change me. I can’t, at this point, besides the physicality and lack of physical limitation, imagine how. Then again, I can’t imagine seeing my formally sharp chin and cheek bones in the mirror.

DAY 8

Where are days one through seven?  Well, I figured enough Facebook statuses kept you updated on my liquid diet. Every day has been a different feeling. Well, I should say, every day or couple of days has been a different feeling. At first, everything felt intense, so incredibly intense. If you know me in person, you already know that I’m already an intense person. This magnified it by a million. It made me grumpy and angry. It made me want to punch people. It also landed me into the land of huge disappointment...

As I said earlier, I have this fear of falling in love after surgery and never knowing if they would have loved me before I lost all the weight. Everyone knows that I’m constantly dating—sometimes for fun, sometimes for sport, sometimes for loneliness, and sometimes to actually find someone. What I never tell anyone, or hardly anyone, is that I’ve had a crush on the same guy for about four years. Give or take. It usually went away when I was in serious relationships with women or when he moved away for awhile. In all this time, I've never pursued anything with him. I’ve never been shy about such things, but I just didn’t want to go after him. I wanted to leave him there safely in my mind where he couldn’t hurt me or disappoint me as a human being. I kept our relationship strictly, shall we say, professional? Basically, I never wanted to break the fourth wall.

Of course, as with all things, my best friend knew about this crush. Our social circles vaguely cross and it being Delaware...well, everyone knows everyone in Delaware. So, on night two of my liquid diet— the part where grumpy and intense are revving up to destroy the world— we went to one of our favorite spots to watch live bands.

We were sitting at a table near the back next to the stage talking. Then, my best friend gets really quiet, looks at me, smiles, and says, “Isn’t that him?”

I swivel in my chair.
”Where?”

“Outside.”

So, I look (stare, peer, throw my entire body against the glass..whatever)...there he is...standing alone cigarette in hand.

I am cool. I am calm. I am collected. I am hungry. I am intense. I want to hide in the bathroom. I want to scream into the air. Did I mention I was hungry? It’s not that I’ve never broken the fourth wall with him: he’s given me pointed advice on my terrible break-up with my evil ex-girlfriend. We’ve waved to each other at shows. We’ve said hi in public. But an actually real, out of the professional realm conversation? Never. He’s so awesome in my head. Why ruin that?

I try to look cool at my table. I involve myself in conversation with my best friend and the lead singer of the next band up. I drink my seltzer. I play with the straw. Then, I look up again. He’s standing in the middle of the room, still alone, beer in hand swaying ever-so-slightly to the music. I look at my best friend. “I am breathing,” I mouth to her. She laughs and playfully rolls her eyes. I look back at his direction, and he meets my eyes. He nods raising his bottle toward me. I smile and sorta kinda wave. I see this man almost every day, and yet, out of context, I want to hide under the table, which is a little hard when you are sitting at a high top.

“Don’t be ridiculous.” My best friend says. “It’s just hello.”

“She’s right,” I think to myself, “it’s just a smile.”

And then, suddenly, I get a simple and obvious idea in my head...I’m going to buy him a drink.

Now, I need a plan. Because I am about to break that damn fourth wall. I am about to break four years of keeping him in my head. I am, so they say, making a move. Now, I have to watch him without him knowing that I am watching him. (Remember, I am starving at this point, so everything is in intense slow motion). I am 17 all over again (sorry, I’m about to call you out), and Carson is standing at his locker before Social Psychology. Now, the question is: how do I know when he needs a new beer? Do I wait until then? Do I make my way across the room? Does my cleavage look awesome? Have my pink curls become unruly? Why didn’t I wear my red chucks? I am so uncool.

Then, he turns and walks toward the front door, which is blocked from my view. He is going outside for another cigarette. Perfect. I can see him from the window (nothing creepy-stalker about that...in fact, nothing creepy stalker about any of this). I wait. I try really hard not to stare. After a few minutes, I make my way towards the bar. I look down at my cleavage for the millionth time (my safety blanket) and sorta stand somewhere between the front door and the bar. I pretend to pay attention to the music.  Because when you are in my heightened state of starvation or just a typical Friday night in my head, everyone seems to be staring at me...waiting for me to make a fool of myself. Finally, he comes back in walking that casual laid-back walk of his. I quickly move closer to the bar. I am next to him. “Hey,” I say.

“Hey. How’s it going?”

“It’s good. Enjoying the band?”

“Sorta...the musicians are good. But…” He trails off.

“The lead singer kinda sucks.” I finish his sentence.

“Yes. Exactly.” He laughs

“Get some voice lessons dude.”

“Yeah, it’s like he really wanted to start a band, so he got all his talented friends together, but forgot to bring his talent to the table.”

I laugh. “ They do have some lit suspenders.” (did I just say lit? What am I? 13?)

“They sure do.”

There is a pause in the conversation. He moves a little closer to the bar.

“Hey,” I say before he moves any closer.

“Yeah?”

“Can I buy you a drink?”

“Wow, sure.”

“What are you drinking,”

He shows he bottle to me. Either he flashes it too quickly or I can’t think hard enough. “I’ve never tried it before. It’s good. I think I’ll get it again.”

“Cool, lead the way.” I follow him. He orders his drink. I get another seltzer and I pay.

At this point, he could have thanked me and walked away. He could have thanked me and stayed for a few minutes, and then taken any excuse in the world to find a better place to stand. But he didn’t. He stayed with me. We bantered; we talked; we had real conversation. It’s hard to explain when the person you’ve had a crush on for years turns out to be….well, an actual worthwhile, intelligent, funny, thoughtful person. It’s hard to explain when the person you’ve had a crush on for years laughs at your jokes and doesn’t move away ever-so-slightly when you touch his hand. It’s hard to explain when they lean in closer to make a snide remark about the bored looking bassist in the last band or the odd choice of cover songs. It’s hard to explain when you’re starving in so many ways and detoxing. It’s hard to explain when every feeling you’ve ever had about yourself, your life, your history is just starting to bubble up to the surface on this crazy path you’ve chosen to take. Intensity.

So, combine my intensity with the intoxicating experience of feeling like the person you kept yourself away from for so long because they could never live up to your expectations actually lives up to your expectations.

We all have a list of what we want in another person. I’ve probably shared that list a million times. It was like with every turn of our conversation, I could check off another item on my list. And no, I was not checking off my list in the moment, but when I played it back in my head, I certainly did.

Usually, I never follow the damn list. The last guy was not an intellectual, but I tried to stick it out because he was a nice guy. And as my favorite new quote basically says, describing someone as a nice guy is like saying the restaurant was good because it didn’t make you sick. The guy before him showed his narcissistic colors almost immediately, but I gave him one too many chances because he was so damn smart, and when he wasn’t being mean, was actually funny. Plus...he promised to custom build my kid a BMX bike. I’m not proud of that one.  I’ve at least learned to put the kibosh on conservatives immediately (with the exception of the gorgeous Latino who wore cuff links to work, who ended up breaking it off with me when he noticed the pink pussy hat in my bedroom).
But, there I was, completely, unexpectedly finding myself in a night-long conversation with a man who fit.

Fuck.

When the night was over, we left at the same time—our cars parked less than half a block away from each other. We stood around outside talking with my best friend and her boyfriend and probably a few other people I can’t picture. He kept saying he was leaving. I said I was leaving, but he hadn’t made a move to actually leave yet. So, this is when my brain went from being fully present to questioning. Do I just leave? Do I wait for him? Do I walk with him to his car? Do I find a way for him to stop at my car? I don’t really want him to stop in front of my car because everyone else is still standing outside the bar, and that would be awkward. It happened much faster than I can get all these thoughts down. I got to my car. He walked to his car.

I screamed, “Hey, I had lots of fun. We should hang out.”

“Sure!” He yells back

And then, because I can’t freaking help myself, I scream back, “Of course, don’t feel obligated.”
Who says that? Why would I say that? Can I not be weird for three seconds?

“I wouldn’t,” he yells back...then we get in our cars.


What a lovely story! Wow Shosh! That’s so awesome. You must be so excited. See, the universe dropped him in your lap at the perfect time, so you’d never have to question whether or not he would have liked you before your surgery. Yeah Universe!


Ah yes, can I not be weird for three seconds? Can I not be starving and dizzy and grumpy and angry and….intense….very very very intense?

Because normal girl might listen to her best friend and just wait it out.

A normal girl might not Facebook message him the next afternoon telling him that I had fun that night.

And a normal girl might not have brought her daughter into his work the next day so he could make her the only tea that makes her feel less shitty.

A normal girl might not have asked him what he was doing on Sunday night.

A normal girl might not have gone back the next day with her daughter in tow (after he messaged her that said daughter left a toy at the shop). Maybe Miss. Normal wouldn’t have asked again about that night.

But the thing is, I did. And when I went in Sunday afternoon, he said that he was working on some band “stuff” online, and he might go out drinking after.

I, of course, jumped right in, “Hey, if you need a sober drinking buddy…”

He laughs (he laughs a lot),” Yeah, sure, if I go out, I’ll write you.”

“Yep, you know how to reach me.”

I smile sweetly, take my daughter, and walk out the door.

Of course, after he texted about the toy the day before, I texted back. He texted back. Then I texted back with my overabundant wordiness. One text about my daughter’s excitement over his name. Then a subsequent text about the failures of auto-correct.  Another text a few hours later, connecting something I saw to our conversation the night before. And then a third text on Sunday evening, asking how his music stuff was going.

Guess how many of those texts he read? I know you’re waiting with baited breath. ZERO. After telling me my daughter left her toy in the store, he never read another text from me.

Guess how awesome my Sunday night not drinking with him was? Yep, never happened. He never read my texts. He never texted me to say he was going out….fuck, he never even texted me to say he wasn’t going out.

It was a whole lot of nothing.

Was I overly-excited? Was I too intense? Did I come on too strong? I have no idea. I have gone over this from every angle with any friend who will even pretend to listen. Of course.

I am completely raw right now. I feel like every nerve is exposed. I did the one thing that, for once in my life, I had actually stuck to NOT doing. Me, of all people. The girl with no shame. The one who goes after whatever with full intensity and intent. I held back for all those years. But, I was hungry, and I couldn’t fucking help myself. And I’m still hungry. The world is still intense. I’m still battling every demon that brought me to the point where I have to starve and then mutilate my body in order to gain some semblance of control.

Even now, I refuse to find another place to do work, so a week after that night, I’m back sitting at a table in my coffee shop with him behind the counter. He made me my tea just the way I like. We bantered. I made him laugh. There is no sign that any of this mattered to him.

My friends, of course, have lots of theories. He’s got other things on his plate. He’s not attracted to me chubby but might come around when I’m thinner (that’s a whole other post for another day). Or he’s simply not attracted to me.

I am pretty sure that it’s simply not that deep.  Just that he’s a good guy who happens to possess many of the qualities I have on my list, who was just being nice and social to a long-time customer who bought him a drink. Yes, he didn’t have to stick by my side all night. Yes, it didn’t feel one-sided. However, what do I know? What does anyone know?

I do know that I lost my stable fantasy that never hurt me for a reality that doesn’t seem to care either way. That sucks. And either way, I’m hungry and I’m so fucking hurt.


Friday, August 4, 2017

My Body and the Great List of Why

I’ve been the first one in line for the body positivity movement. I’ve walked around in a world obsessed with thin, proud of my plus-size body. I felt like I was an example of how you didn’t have to follow society’s standards of beauty. My makeup, my clothes, my numerous dates were a big fuck you. My low blood pressure, lack of diabetes and  low cholesterol have also been a big fuck you.

But, there’s always a but, isn’t there?  I don’t know when it started. It’s not like I never thought about losing weight. I’ve tried it all. My follow-through sucks. But it doesn’t always suck for the reasons one might assume.  I get it in my head that I’m perfectly content with myself. That I can can continue on my own path.  And for a really long time, this was true.

But then secretly, despite all my rhetoric, something changed. What felt like minor inconveniences became embarrassments. It wasn’t simply being unhappy with myself in pictures (which I am). It wasn’t simply the way I seem to have lost my neck (which also didn’t help).

It was the fact that my body was getting in the way of itself.

Little things like crossing my legs to bigger things like holding my daughter in my lap or sitting in a booth to much bigger things like not being able to buckle up on an airplane. Yes folks, it’s gotten to that point. I’m that person who takes up the kind of space that threatens people. Although, I’m not one to shrink into the corner even if I am taking up space.


Two incidences happened almost exactly a year apart. Last summer, I was at Six Flags with my girlfriend, her sister and my son. We spent the day riding roller coasters. Then we got to the big wooden coaster I’d been waiting to ride all day. We waited in line, got to the front, climbed into the seats, and buckled our seatbelts….well, she buckled her seatbelt. I attempted to buckle mine….over and over again. It simply didn’t reach across my body. In front of everyone, I had to climb out of the seat (luckily my girlfriend also climbed out) and go down the exit stairs. When I got down the stairs, I burst out crying. I was horrified. I was lucky to have my girlfriend there. She was so kind and non-judgmental. She held me until the worst passed.


This summer, I went to a punk show in Philly with my best friend. It was 90 degrees outside. We got there too early, so we decided to get something to eat. He chose a cheesesteak place half a mile away. Big deal. Right? Wrong. My body no longer wants to walk half a mile with any semblance of self-respect. I am slow. My hips and butt hurt when I walk. But, I sucked it up. As we walked, he walked ahead of me, I pretended I was just taking my time staring through the windows of the funky Fishtown shops. When in reality, I was forcing one foot in front of the other as I sweated in the oppressive July heat.  

Then it happened. We were crossing the street and I looked down. My bright pink converse was untied. UNTIED. I literally had no idea how I was going to tie my shoe. We got across the street and stopped in front of a bank. Best friend waited for me as I stared down at my shoes. Fuck. I was hot, wearing a dress, and tying my shoes had become a difficult endeavor even under the best of circumstances. So, I finagled my body into some strange shape, tried to bend over and half-attempted to tie my shoe with little success. I stood back up and we started walking again. Of course, two blocks later, I had to do it again.

Once we reached the cheesesteak place, I was relieved to see that it was sit-down. However, now that my shoes were somewhat properly tied,  I was faced with yet another challenge: sitting in a booth. My body hates booths. My stomach shoves up against them uncomfortably, embarrassingly. A friend told me to sit sideways in the booth. Works like magic until I think about the fact that I have to sit sideways in a booth. Once we walked the half mile back to the show, in the heat, the room was crowded and unconditioned.

I didn’t want to admit to my best friend that his favorite activity was making me miserable.

Or really, I was miserable while standing in the middle of the show. The show would have been fun if I attended it in a different body.


Since the first incident, I made a secret plan for myself. Either I lose the weight by the time I’m 40, or I’ll look into bariatric surgery. A year went by, I tried my normal routine of walking, eating better, weight loss protein shakes, staring at my old Weight Watchers app, stopping, starting, stopping, not caring, not thinking about it...round and round and round.  

When you’re a body positive chubby girl who feels pressure to be the ultimate chubby girl role model, it’s hard to look in the mirror and give yourself permission to dislike your body.

But, if I’m honest, I don’t recognize myself anymore. There have always been things that I don’t like, but I’ve never been utterly displeased when I look in the mirror.


A couple weeks after the show, I had a conversation on the phone with my sister. I can’t remember the exact conversation. But I do know that we talked about body image. And for the first time, I said it out loud. “I think about getting bariatric surgery.”  While I’m sure she’s not surprised that it might be a good option for me, she certainly never thought it was a road I would want to go down.  But that night, unable to sleep with Best Friend snoring next to me, I thought, “What am I waiting for? Why 40? Why not now?” And in that moment, I knew for sure that what I wanted and what I needed.  


It’s oddly empowering to be so honest with myself. To come to this realization without anyone else’s opinion.The world I grew up in and the world I live in have always told me that my body wasn’t good enough and that my self-confidence was an anomaly. In turn, the voices in my head remind me how self-confident I am as if I’m failing my confidence if I give into the outside world, I’ll be turning my back on my true self.

But this is my true self. This is the body I have to exist in-- not the body others look at, think about, react to or judge.


So now, I start the process.  I already spoken to friends who’ve had it, got approved by my cardiologist, signed up for my informational session, and had my surgery consult. This is far from an easy fix. This is the hardest choice in fact. But I’m strong. I’ve powered through two c-sections and recovered from two open heart surgeries. I can do this….


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Receiver of the Slain


She stares up the stairs. He looks down at her with his cold blue eyes, well, at least they feel cold to her. She wouldn’t even know if his body felt warm. Standing on the landing, he stops, covers his mouth and coughs. His eyes widen, his hand full of blood. It drips from his mouth, slides down his chin and onto his stiff white collar shirt. Isabel stands frozen at the bottom of the stairs.

“Thor,” she manages to whisper.

And then he tumbles down the steep steps his large athletic body limp, blood trailing. Life suddenly moves in slow motion. Somehow she dials 911. Somehow she kneels down over his body. What do you do when someone you hate is lying on the floor bleeding? Isabel wants a flicker of love and hope to course through her veins, but she is numb. She isn’t a monster. She helps. She opens the door for the EMTs. She watches as they wipe away the blood to administer CPR. She is in the ambulance. At the hospital.

She is listening to a doctor. She wonders if she should fall to her knees. She has blood on her hands. She feels like Lady MacBeth. Except Lady Macbeth felt guilt. A blood clot, they tell her, filled his lungs.

"He must have had symptoms, Mrs. Erickson."

"Dr. Erickson-Fink," she wants to correct him with his white coat and sympathetic face.

“I’m sorry. There was nothing we could do.”

Thor and his light eyes and blond hair and broad shoulders is dead. His anger is dead. His silence is dead. His cold unforgiving stares- dead. His late night texting with god knows who- dead. And relief washes over her-- blood still covering her hands and her clothes. Tears flow down her face as she sinks to the ground. A nurse reaches out to comfort her. Isabel cringes. Isabel feels like sin. Isabel feels lightened and guilty. Someone takes her arm, lifts her up.

“Do you want to see him?”

Does she want to see him? She closes her eyes and tries to remember what it was like to love him. She tries to remember when his breath on her neck felt like heaven. Instead her brain shifts to the phrase she’s uttered over and over again in her head all these years, “I wish he would just hit me, and then maybe he’d feel bad.” And now he’s dead and they expect her to view his lifeless body. Hasn’t his body always been lifeless? Or maybe just loveless. She wants to scream and run and tell someone the confused tangled thoughts invading her mind. She puts her hand over her eyes. She knows she looks like grief.

“Do you want to call someone. His parents, perhaps?”

Isabel looks up, wanting to laugh. Thor was alone in America. She used to believe he was alone because his family was heartless. Now she knew that he was heartless. "Was that too dramatic," Isabel wonders. "Does shock bring drama?"

Soon, she is whisked into his hospital room. The room is cold and white. He is cold and white. She sucks in her breath. For a moment Isabel wants to touch him to take her husband in her arms and breath life back into him. He was already almost not her husband anymore. And now, she is a widow.

A nurse interrupts her thoughts. "Mrs. Erickson?"
“Isabel.”

“Isabel, you can spend as much time as you need dear."

And then what?” This isn’t a movie where people know what to do. Where people have plans. She is unprepared. His body still lies there. “Cover him up!” she wants to scream. “Leave me alone. Leave me alone. Leave me alone!" Thor. I worked so hard to be brave enough to leave you. I almost worked up the courage. Thor, I can’t remember loving you. I want to feel love right now. I want to feel horror that another human being has dropped dead in front of me.

She slumps to the floor again. Isabel doesn’t want to see him again. She wants him to be taken away.

She wants to be alone.

She is totally alone.

She is free.