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….

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