My mother called me while I was on the bus the other morning, hoping to catch me before work, and I hesitated before picking up. Not just because sometimes you don’t want to talk to your mother before 9 in the morning, and before you’ve acquired a buffer of coffee and staring-off-into-space time–though that’s a little true. What is more true, however, is that I have been feeling guilty. Six months out of surgery, and I still haven’t told her exactly what that surgery entailed.
My brother’s wedding is getting closer, and I am losing more weight, and everyone will know it’s not just vitamins, and she’s going to be so mad I lied, and I am a terrible person, and I picked up the phone and said "Hi, mom."
She was not calling to excoriate me, because she had not plucked out
the lie like a worm from my secret heart, which is like an apple in
this example. She was calling because she’s my mom, who is a nice lady,
who wants to talk to her daughter and make sure everything is well with
her. Of course, that doubled the guilt and added a layer of
self-loathing and despair, with sprinkles of yuck and a cherry made
from hate. Delicious!
We talked for awhile quietly, because I hate people who talk on their
cell phones on the bus, but you see I was in the grip of a mania and I
had no choice, and she asked how I was doing with my diet, because the
story was that I was on a diet to prepare for the wedding, and on the
bus, in front of all the commuters and tourists and freeloaders and
wanderers and the bus driver and God, I said, "Well, mom, I’m not
actually on a diet because I got weight-loss surgery and I’m sorry I
lied and please don’t tell anyone else in the family okay?" I kept my
eyes closed tight and waited.
"Oh," my mother said. "Oh, I knew that."
"Well, you had weight loss surgery books on your wish list. And then you
went for surgery. I wish you had told me, but I figured you’d mention
"Oh," I said. "Okay."
And then we talked about my brother’s wedding, and she signed off, and
I said well, that was a fuck of a thing. As it turns out, my mother
isn’t stupid. Not that I thought she was stupid, of course. Just,
maybe, that I am so smart that I am fully in control of every
situation, and therefore will never be found out, in the way I
rearrange the world to best suit me and my vanity.
Because it is totally vanity, this urge to hide the fact of my surgery
from the world–it begins with not wanting anyone to know that I was
that fat. It continues with not wanting anyone to remember that not
only was I that fat, but I was getting fatter. Not only was I getting
fatter, I couldn’t stop it, and it wouldn’t stop, and I needed help.
Sometimes–most of the time–I can’t shake the feeling that weight-loss
surgery is for someone who is weak, someone who has no will power,
someone who couldn’t make herself put down the donuts and get on a treadmill, like every stupid, hateful fat girl cliché you’ve ever heard.
Except that I know that’s not true. I know I wasn’t eating donuts and
putting my face in pies and having a ham for a midnight snack. I know I
could diet, had dieted, was dieting, and it wasn’t working, and it
wasn’t staying off. And I know–I know damn well that surgery isn’t a
crutch and it isn’t a magic bullet and it is a tool to help take the
weight off and help keep the weight off, but there is no fucking way I
could do this without being on a diet, essentially, every minute of the day.
The difference is, if I eat wrong, I get sick. If I eat too much, I get
sick and it hurts. Despite that, despite the pain and the nausea, I
still have to make conscious choices to not reach for those foods that
are going to kill me, to stick with the lean protein that sometimes
feels like it’s going to kill me, because I am so tired of lean
Here I am, ranting like I’m being argued with. No one is arguing with
me, but I am clearly so scared someone will. I am clearly trying to
convince myself of the truth of my argument. I don’t know why it’s such
a struggle, and why I haven’t been able to entirely come to terms with
it yet. I had to get the surgery; I am glad I got the surgery. I wish I
hadn’t needed to. I guess it goes back to wishing I had lost 100 lbs. back when losing 100 lbs. would have knocked me right
out of the obesity circle and into a normal weight. Coulda, woulda, shoulda.
If I really need to wish for something, it should be just letting it
go. Slowly, I think I am. I have found myself telling people,
compulsively, and not just out of guilt (sorry, mom). I told one of my
coworkers. I told a friend I meet for dinner every week, because I am
sure she was beginning to think it was odd, the way I’d just sit there
and eat a leaf. When I went away on a writing retreat, in the middle of the week, I went and announced it to the group.
The reaction, so far, has been, “Huh! No kidding.” And support, and
happiness for me, that I’ve lost so much weight, and interest in what
the surgery is and how it works and how I live and what I need to do.
Everyone has been kind, and excited and the lack of judgment makes me
suspicious. Why aren’t you judging me? This is–
What is it? A way that I’ve gotten my health and my life back? A thing
I did for myself? A scary procedure that isn’t for everyone, but which
I decided was for me, which has been working out better than I could
have hoped? Yeah. It’s not a sin to have done it. It might have been a
sin to not have done it. I need to stop confessing, cringing
and waiting for judgment. But do I want to tell the whole world how I
lost the weight? I don’t think so. Not yet. But give me time.