By Sarah Floyd
I’ve always had a weight problem, genetics has not been kind to the women in my family. I was born in 1966, spent the 1970’s in elementary school and the glorious 80’s in high school.
“Fatty Fatty two by four, can’t fit through the bathroom door!” was what I was greeted with when I was in the lower grades. This was always followed by my braided hair getting pulled by the little shits that were teasing me. I would get mad and start to cry; but would always say something smart back to them or sometimes whack the kid teasing me.
I remember thinking during my pre-teen years in middle school, “If I can just stay at 135lbs like I am now, I’ll get older and be the same size as everyone else.” Great plan! Didn’t work worth a damn. I got into high school and ballooned up to 185lbs. Although I was still teased a bit, it wasn’t as vocal as it had been in the elementary and middle schools.
I wasn’t beautiful, but I cleaned up o.k. I learned what Aqua Net was and how to rat my hair and managed to “almost” blend in. My sophomore year found me with my first love. A boy who was shy, played on the JV football team and for what ever reason saw something in me, he thought was worth spending time with.
I don’t remember why we broke up, but he always stayed my friend. After graduation, we all got busy with adulthood and lost touch with each other . In 1994, that shy boy committed suicide. He had hung himself in his garage and one of his kids had found his body. My first love was dead and I was heartbroken.
In the late 1970’s, we had a “JC Penny’s Catalog Store” in our town. These stores were actually tiny little shops. You went in and stood at a counter with a Penny’s catalog. When you picked out what you wanted the attendant would place your order for you and when it came in, you’d get a call to come into the store and pick the item up. I know… I can’t imagine shopping that way anymore either, especially with endless shopping on the internet right there, from the comfort of your home. AND you don’t have to get dressed in your good clothes to go the other room and do your online shopping. In the 1970’s, it meant you changed out of your play clothes, got dressed in your good, clean clothes and went to town.
I always hated shopping for clothes. My mom usually made our clothes for us. She used a lot of that gawd awful bullet proof polyester that was so popular then, but I didn’t ever see a size, nor did I get looked up and down by an uppity catalog store clerk. At the Penny’s catalog store, the lady took my measurements, in front of everyone in the whole damn store, and told my mother in a condescending tone “Well, she’s just going to be a ‘Chubby’ size. She’s not into women’s sizes, but it’s close.” Mom shot her a look and we continued to look at blouses in the catalog. I found a dark green velour v-neck blouse and it was with-in the amount my mom had told us to stay under.
As my mom was placing my order, the uppity clerk commented on the style of blouse, she told my mom the length was not long enough to hide my being on the chubby side. She shot her another look, this time a bit more stern with almost squinting eyes. She was silently warning her “Back off, or you’ll get a mouthful of filth.” I pretended not to hear what the attendant had said. We finished at the store, headed home, I got changed back into my play clothes and went about messing around in my tree fort.
I think during all of those years I got hardened to the way people would look at me, or speak to me; not really engaging in conversation with me, but instead saying enough to be polite and then heading off to somewhere or someone more interesting.
As odd as this sounds, I started to become secure with my obesity. I’ve lost and gained at least 200lbs and every time I become a thinner version of myself, people start telling me how good I look. “Wow! Look how pretty you are!”, “You are looking SO good!”, “How much have you lost?”. My thoughts every time someone makes an exclamation of how wonderful I look, instantly go to, “Holy Shit! How awful did I look before?! ”
I do get that nano second of “way-to-go” thoughts, but then I go back to feeling that insecure feeling that comes every time I lose weight. People start talking to me more, they seem more interested in talking to me. It’s an uncomfortable feeling and my mind starts to obsess with thoughts of “why is this person taking the time with me now that I’ve dropped a couple pounds when before I lost weight, they wouldn’t give me the time of day!”.
It kind of turns into a never ending cycle. Gaining weight and becoming someone who is looked “past”; seen, but not really seen. Then losing the weight and realizing people start to pay attention. Getting older, for me, has helped quite a bit as far as people being judgemental. It seems with age comes acceptance. I have had the pleasure of meeting people who have been accepting of me at different times during my life. I truly appreciated each and every one of those people.
Now, in my 50’s, I’m losing weight again. The same feelings of a “Sunken-in” sensation when I wake up and start to move around. The feeling of my clothes loosening. Seeing the expression on people’s faces as though I look different, but they can’t put their finger on what that difference is.
For me, my security starts to take a dive. I know I’ll have to start talking more to people. I’ll look different and will get “those” comments from kindhearted, well meaning people who have no clue how their words of congratulations are actually affecting me. The sudden positive comments coming from what seems like every direction can be very overwhelming for me.
This is why I often think of my fat as being my “Security”. It protects me from over-stimulation from the people around me, from strangers who now “see” me instead of looking through me.
I have a great personality and, as my late father would say, I was “vaccinated with a phonograph needle”, meaning I could talk a blue streak. I don’t think I’ve ever met a stranger; I can strike up a conversation with most anyone who is interested. The funny thing is, as soon as I start losing weight, I don’t “look” for those people who are interested in talking. It’s not as easy for me, it’s as though I don’t want the attention drawn to myself.
So here I go again; on my way down to whatever weight I end up at this time. Usually my goal weight is one that allows me greater ease of movement, a healthier and more energized version of me. My doc will be tickled pink and my psychologist will look at me with her little sideways grin and squinting eyes, telling me how interesting I am. She’ll tell me with the wave of her one of her little bamboo and paper type fans how she has never had anyone have that issue before. I’ll giggle at her and grab a burger on the way home. I’ll think about how good I feel and how if I ate that burger I would feel awful from all the grease and gluten I’ll be eating. That thought lasts about a minute. I happily bite into my burger, enjoy the juiciness of this heart attack on a bun. I can worry about the outcome later. Maybe the real reason I give in and have the burger is the thought it will make me safe as I have one after another and begin to gain my weight back.
I wonder sometimes why people don’t ever say “Wow! Look how good you look with a few extra pounds”, “It’s nice to see you’re back into your plus sizes.”. Maybe people don’t make comments like this as it’s not polite. Maybe they feel they would be encouraging a defeat; one in which the person who has gained the weight back is suffering due, to the fact the pounds are packing back on.
I guess it’s a double edge sword, like many things in our lives can often be. We each deal with them differently than most people would. But those differences are what make each of us unique.
The next time you see a friend or family member who has lost weight, try to be a bit less excited for them. Tell them quietly how you feel. Let it be a private moment between the 2 of you. No matter what, love that person unconditionally and let them know it. Big or small, let them know you love them.