between the lines

Back before there were bloggers and blogs and The New Media,
there were things called online journals. Way back in the mid-1990s, I’m
talking about, when dinosaurs roamed the Internet. Online journals were a new and exciting kind
of personal Web page. They were a few steps above "Here is a Web page about my
cat, and here are some nice animated .gifs!" Some would argue that they
were a one the one steps above.

When you wrote an online journal, you were part of an online
journaling community, and you could go to very small conferences and win awards
and were a tiny blip in the vast wilderness of the Internet, but you could
achieve a certain amount of fame in the online journaling world, and it seemed
like everyone knew each other, and everyone tried to be all honest about
themselves and deep, because that is what an online journal was. I had one of
those, in which I wrote under my real name (well, my real first name), and I
was never not once in anyway anything resembling honest in the seven-ish years I kept
that journal.

I talked about my relationship and my cats and my hair and
how I hated my job and sometimes my life and how I wanted to be a writer when I
grew up and my hopes and dreams and aspirations and fears and worries and
anxieties and I posted pictures of myself; but every single one of those
pictures was from the chin up, or the neck up, or the shoulders, up–from what
the kids these days call MySpace angles, with the blown-out contrast and the
flattering angles and the big eyes and pouty lips. You had pictures of me,
pictures of the inside of my head, and you’d think you almost knew me and that
we were totally best friends and we could talk about anything at all.

Only recently–going through old files, transferring stuff
from the old laptop to the new–did I realize that not once did I ever talk
about my body in any real way. I never mentioned the words overweight, heavy, chubby, obese. Not once
did I ever say "fat." I had hinted that I wasn’t in the greatest
shape, and may have made noises about wanting to drop a couple of pounds, but
you’d read my journal and never once think that the worry about my body,
the self-consciousness about my weight, a coming to terms with the fact of my fat
was the consuming passion and anxiety of my life. If I was coming to
terms with it, why was I hiding it?

I think I would have said I wasn’t hiding it–it just wasn’t important, okay? No one needs to hear
about how I looked upon my mighty ass and despaired. No one cares what I really
look like, and it’s not important, but of course it was. It was arguably one of
the most important fact about me. Not my fat, necessarily, but the
embarrassment, the deep-down shame of my fat. And maybe, in fact, my fat
itself. I have said before, and I will always believe that I would not be
anything like this person I am now, this person I like and who I am proud to
be, unless I had grown up fat. But in the late ’90s, I was still growing up
fat, I think.

I had taken so many great strides, had stopped hiding in
giant sweatshirts, had worked hard to believe that interest in me was not a
cruel joke, and found myself pleasantly surprised, over and over again. But I
was still uncomfortable with the idea of identifying as a fat woman–hoping,
still, it was just a phase, hoping still that no one would notice, still
thinking I had to work extra hard to make up for being offensive to the eyes.
Thinking that if people were reading my online journal and liking what I wrote,
liking the person behind the words, then they would stop liking me once they
found out the truth of me. Once you tore down the wall I had written myself
behind, you’d find that my words were worth much less coming from a fat girl
than the normal one they may have pictured.

You met other journalers when you were an online
journaler–as I understand those crazy blogger kids do–and sometimes, there was
a fallen face or a look of surprise, but mostly, I lucked out. I found people
who liked me despite my size (large) and shape (pear), and I found people who both
liked my size and shape, and I just found good people, some of whom I am so
lucky to still have in my life. But I could never get over the habit of hiding
the fact that I was fat, online. If I talked about losing weight, it would be
in the vaguest of terms, about "getting healthy" and
"vitaminizing" and pants getting too big but I never, ever said the
word "fat."

It took a pseudonym to let me talk about fat online–being
fat, and living as a fat woman. Being so fat I needed surgery. Feeling so fat I
felt ashamed. I’ve had to hide behind my middle name, my mother’s maiden name,
before I could stop hiding this facet of myself that has loomed so large in my
life and I am ignoring that pun. It still makes me a little sad; that I hid it
so long, that I have never really come out of hiding.

Of course, it’s easier to talk about being fat now. It’s
easier to talk about my body, bring up my flaws in a non-deprecating way; to
say, "Oh, I have about 60 more pounds to lose," because that’s all I have to lose.
When I had 160 pounds to lose, that’s when I should have talked about it.
That’s when I should have acknowledged it as a part of me, a part of my life
and my personality. That’s when I should have claimed my body, for better and
for worse. That’s when it would have meant something.

3 Replies to “between the lines”

  1. Done is done. It’s not an easy thing to talk about in our society and you are in excellent company. Please don’t beat yourself up about it.

  2. It can feel very embarassing to admit you are in a painful place, when you are in it. That you feel desparate, empty, totally lost, unable to “fix” whatever ails you. That all-consuming, hurting place is hard to talk about when you are inside it. It is easier from afar, always easier from afar.

  3. hey there anne. it’s really such a treat to get to read your writing even more often :) i actually had a wee tear reading this one i have had the same old school internet experiences which is why i came up with this whole anon Dietgirl persona in the first place. it’s only been the past couple of years i finally “came out”, it seems amusing now but was so bloody traumatic back in the day!

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