Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Girl with the Most Cake: Some Issues with Weight

There were several cover concepts for The Conjurer before we decided on the character Dorothea from the title story. At the end of that story, Dorothea takes her dress off and walks into a field naked while a photographer takes photos of her from behind. I wanted a woman like her: young, but round, with long, brown hair.

The Three (totally fucking fat) Graces
There was a joke that if we couldn't find the right stock photo, or the right model, I would have to put my own ass on the cover. I'm not right for it. I don't have Dorothea's long brown hair, and I'm not as young. She's twenty-six. I'm forty. Her skin has something mine no longer has. An elasticity and shine. But whether or not I was round enough was not up for debate. In fact, someone, in the discussion, used the word Rubenesque.

I went back to my hotel room and googled Rubens paintings. In my head I thought of other ways I  might describe my own body: vintage, pin up, French nude. Rubenesque? I thought. That's fucking fat.

I have weight issues. I've had them a long time, and probably the only thing that predates them are my hair issues, which started at -- no joke -- birth.*

College grad 1995. Not fucking fat.
I've never been really fat. I've also never been really thin, although I've been lean. When I was a
teenager, my parents had me record my weight every day. Because of this careful tracking, I can tell you that I weighed somewhere between 125 and 135 for all of junior high and high school. I'm five foot four. That's not fat. That's pretty average. I stayed under 140 all through college.

Here's what I know about weight. You can try to persuade me otherwise, but it's what I've witnessed. If you've always been thin, never struggled, people like you, and they secretly resent you. If you've been average to plump and have to work at getting thin, and then get thin -- people resent you. In fact, people will tell you things like, Don't
2005. Totally fucking thin.
get too thin!
Or, oh, you're too skinny now. When you gain the weight back, people are secretly happy. Unless they haven't seen you in years. These people remember you as thin, and when they see you, the weight hangs there like a weird cloud. Oh, she's fat now. If you're really heavy, people worry about your health, and don't think at all about your looks, and when you lose weight, they're supportive, and they cheer you on, but not because they ever think you will actually look good.

Harsh? Maybe. People are harsh.

I gained weight after my dad died and I moved to Clinton. Before that, I'd been on the South Beach Diet; I was going to the gym three or more days a week. I weighed somewhere between 125 and 130 at my thinnest, and I had lean muscle. I was thirty-two, and I had youth and metabolism on my side. I didn't gain weight all at once. I gained it slowly -- the way people do when they stop going to the gym as often, when they stop caring about whether or not they have pizza, or a sandwich, or a cookie, when you spend days at a desk, or on a couch, or in a bed, convincing yourself that you can keep going, can keep doing anything at all. 

Probably things stem back to an event. I used to tell people I started drinking when my brother went to jail. I could say that I got fat after my dad died. We moved within days of the funeral. I sent my youngest to kindergarten, and my oldest to middle school, where they knew no one. We didn't have a place to live yet; we stayed with relatives until our apartment was ready. Our house was sold. We lived somewhere else now. It took my five years to gain all this weight. Just like it took me all of my thirties to develop a drinking habit.

What I don't like about  my body isn't its size. I love women's bodies, especially when they are round.
Katya Zharkova
What I'm carrying with me isn't just the weight of fat: it's the weight of grief, or struggle. Stress, anxiety, anger. It doesn't feel like who I am. It holds me back. At my worst, I think it's all people see. At my real worst, it's all I see.

I would like to drop pounds off the side of a bridge, where they would either sink like rocks into the creek, or fly away like sudden sparrows, a dip, and then flight.

I will more likely churn them off, sweating. Trying not to cry.

The first yoga class I took in town (I had done some yoga at home for years), I was in a room full of women, doing really difficult Bikram poses. It was hot, and my muscles felt used, charged, purposeful. When we went into half tortoise pose, I put my head on my mat and burst into tears. What is happening? I thought. Oh my God, don't do this here. It was within weeks of our move. I held it in. I got it together. I stood up, and did some beautiful backbends.**

It's still there. Inside. All that shit I swallowed or didn't exhale, or didn't cry out, or even say to anyone. And now it's gathered around my middle. Where I hate it.

This is not me. I don't know where I went.

*Another blog, another day. I can't get through too many issues at once.
** Turns out, this is a pretty normal reaction during yoga.

1 comment:

  1. Jennifer,
    Your article reminds me of why I've always liked you. You kick a$$, girl. I can relate to this article more than you know. Thanks for sharing this with the world.