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!


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.