another thousand words

My friend Shannon K is an immensely talented photographer. That doesn’t
mean, however, that she can take photographs that make me look insanely special
and super gorgeous-y. But when we were at our monthly dinner party, just this
past month, I was telling everybody about the project I was putting together–my
life in photographs. No, my body in photographs. The history of my ass. I had
photos coming from my mother, once she figured out the scanner, and I was
gathering together the photos I owned, which were few and far between.
Unsurprisingly, I never did like to have pictures taken of me. And that was why
I had no recent photos. 

"I’ll take pictures of you!" Shannon said. I was
wearing a vintage dress I had unearthed from the back of my closet, and
everyone agreed that this was an excellent opportunity, what with all the
fashion and the gold shoes. Shannon had her camera–she always has her
camera–and we all of us, the entire dinner party, trooped out to the back
garden, to pose me in front of a fence and some rocks and accidentally the
recycling bin. I held my wine in a death grip, and didn’t know what to do with
my hands or my face, or if I was supposed to be smiling or posing, so I just
kind of kept getting distracted and looking around and talking to the others up
on the porch and hoping to god I didn’t look like a big weird lump.

She promised to get them to me when she could and I said
"Thanks!" very brightly, and then tried to forget about them for a
few days, because I had a bad feeling about it. I can have bad feelings about
sunshine and puppies, though, so it wasn’t an especially ominous omen. But
eventually, I got a zip file full of photos, and my friend, being my friend,
said "Cute!" and I did not agree. Before I even opened the files, I
did not agree. It took me a couple of days to open the files. And when I did, it took me a second to open
my eyes. And when I opened my eyes, it took me a moment to breathe again.

All this time, I have been waiting for the outside parts of
me to start matching the inside parts of me, kind of like one of those 3D
pictures that you’re supposed to unfocus your eyes to look at and be amazed at
when it suddenly resolves into something magical and fancy and just inches from
your eyes. No, it certainly hasn’t happened yet. I suspect that no matter what
I look like–and probably, it has nothing to do with my weight or my size–I will
never look to the world the way I want to. Mostly because I have no idea how I
want the world to see me. As little idea as how the world actually does see me.

But if this was how the world sees me, standing in the garden in my red dress,
looking up at my friends standing on the deck, and looking–a little silly, with
a tuft of hair blowing in some gust of wind–then I will be okay. I see flaws,
when I look at the picture. I don’t even have to look closely, and there are
things I hate so much. I won’t point them out to you; I will let you go ahead
and play Hunt the Insecurity on your own.

This is a picture of me now, and it is still so very hard
for me to show it to anyone, and so incredibly difficult to not yank it out
from under your nose and beg you to wipe your mind and pretend you never saw it
and beg you to never speak of it again. This is why there is this big project,
this Fat Girl Retrospective, is filling me with a little bit of dread. It is
something I want to do, it is something I have been in the midst of, sifting
through all these images of me at sizes I don’t remember being and shapes I
don’t remember having. I have found photos of me looking far larger than I
thought I was at the time. I have had my heart broken, looking at pictures of
me, looking ashamed and miserable, thinking I was huge but not realizing I was
wasting my life with all the hating and hiding.

 I want to post these pictures, and talk about what it was
like. I want to post them, and think about how I used to be and consider how I
want to be, in the future. I’ve talked about this before: all those weight loss
bloggers, with their carefully taken progress pictures, they have a thread,
from the person they used to be all the way to the person they’ve become. They
are, I imagine–you are, I imagine–more grounded in your current body. You have
a way to trace the changes and to see that you’ve always been the person you
are now, no matter how dramatic the change. Though the dramatic change, putting
the first picture beside the last, is always the most stunning, the one that
blows you away, it is not enough.

Or it could be enough. Maybe I am wishing for things that I
don’t have, like curly hair and a pug I will name Emperor Pugpatine, which will
not actually make any appreciable difference in my life. Maybe I should just
stop and look at that picture of myself again, in my red dress and remember
that it is proof enough for me, if not anyone else, without a before picture
for reference, that this weight loss is real. It is enough that, for maybe the
first time in my life, I can pull my cards away from my chest, and show you how
I look, and tell you how close it is to how I feel.

20 Replies to “another thousand words”

  1. You look beautiful!!! (Wiping tears away, here.) Sometimes you aggravate the hell out of me with your self-centeredness over all this, but now I see why you’ve been going through all that mental hoo-ha. (I wouldn’t understand anyway, I’ve never had a weight problem, so just ignore me.) Also, after the dentist story I thought your boobs would be like torpedos. But they’re just right.
    And you do have a pretty little waist and pretty hips.

  2. oh crikey anne! i have a wee sniffle every time i read your blog and today is no exception. you are bloody amazing and gorgeous and thanks for articulating the experience for us all. some people will never understand what mindfuck all this is, how the emotions ping pong all over shop. so again, thank you for being so raw and honest throughout it all :) rock ON!

  3. I know how hard it was for you to share this with us, and I thank you.

    I also think I am in love with you, because you’re hot! (What a surprise this news will be to my boyfriend.)

    And I’m not just saying that, the way nice people reassure other nice people of such things, just wanting them to feel ok (and, really, that’s nice and all, the reassurance. It’s nice to be nice).

    No, I’m telling you the truth. I am looking at you, a woman I have never met, and I have no before picture reference, but I see this funky hair and glasses, both of which I covet, this red dress that I absolutely wish was hanging in my closet, a peek at some fabulous tatoos, really cool shoes…and I think to myself, that’s a really attractive woman, someone with great style. Someone I am pretty sure I can sense has a kick-ass attitude too. I only wish she was looking at the camera.

    It actually never got easy for me, looking at the old pictures, comparing them to the new, trying to find the “me” in both of them. Sometimes I can’t readily identify with the me I am now, I still don’t recognize her in the mirror or, even more so, in photos, but then I look at those old pictures and I see someone looking away or averting her eyes or trying to dodge the camera, someone so uncomfortable in her skin that I can still palpably feel it, and I don’t really know her anymore either.

    It’s weird. But as I’ve said before, I wouldn’t trade this, and my experiences (who I was then, who I am now–yes, the same person, and yet…somehow different) for anything.

  4. You know the problem with posting the picture? None of us are going to be able to take you seriously ever again when you write about feeling bad about your body. I love your style, I LOVE your shoes, you have tiny wrists, and a perfect hourglass. No more self-pity, my dear–you are officially a normal, beautiful, stylish chick. Rock on.

  5. Oh, Anne. You look lovely, and totally, absolutely normal – perfectly ordinary, in fact, in a “what a pretty, stylin’ woman!” kind of way. The Anne in the picture has nothing to do with the Anne you see in your head and describe to us except for the fact that both are female. You have a beautifully proportioned build.

    And also? Toooo funny:
    “… you are, I imagine—more grounded in your current body …” Hee. Hee. HEE HEE HEE HEE HEE. Upon what, exactly, do you base that frolicsome notion? I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know that when I see photographs, they NEVER match what’s in my head, whether I’m a size 4 or a size 18 or somewhere in between (like now). I get startled every time I see my full self in a mirror, because it’s not what I expect. And the longer I look at myself in a mirror, the less sense the reflection makes. I can only see parts; there is no integrated whole, and the entire image gets more fragmentary the longer I look at it. I don’t think I could pick myself out of a lineup, if it weren’t for my colouring. The closest I came to recognizing myself was in the “Rose Petals” celebrity picture making the rounds recently. I had a startled reaction of, “That’s my body! Except for the arms, that’s my body!” That’s the only flash of recognition I’ve had of myself in years.

  6. Well I was sniffling at my desk like a goddamn fool. And I have to say maybe I agree with Gretchen. You look fucking smokin’, woman. And you look fucking COOL. Moreover we all know you’re smart as a whip and compassionate and really more talented than any person has a right to be. So meditate on that, if you will. It’s time to try really hard to own the fact that you look great, you are great, and damn, everybody loves you!

  7. Not only are you a fabulous, articulate, moving writer with more honesty and insight and bravery than most of us have in our little fingers, BUT you also seem to attract readers who are themselves very skilled with words and generous with their thoughts (and no, I don’t mean me, for god’s sake).

    The others have expressed so well what I’d have said to you had I gotten here first.

  8. I have to say that your post didn’t make me sad, it made me pissed off about how we as women/formerly fat folks/whatever integrate not only societally imposed images of ourselves but can’t clear our own minds of past pictures of how “awful” we looked.

    Real time, you look great, just as you do in the pictures. What is lacking in all photo images is the third dimension, i.e. not only that which makes the poky bits stand out, and the rounded bits fill out our clothes, but, really, what gives us life.

    Being presented the whole visual enchilada, as it were, may keep us from immediately focusing on “flaws” that we find irritating or unacceptable to the point of wanting to hide. You know, that nasty hedge-like monobrow, three chins, knees so bowed you couldn’t catch a greased pig in a two foot alley, or bizarre shin hair growth. That is, the kinds of things that make a person think that just maybe a chador is a viable photo op strategy.

    But that reduced ability to immediately focus on negative aspects of the subject, also keeps me, for example, from noticing an amazing smile, or great heels or a really classic hip curve. Having so much visual information in 2D keeps me from processing the positive pieces as quickly.

    Just a ramble an attempt to visually understand to why photos bother me as well. More tritely, but still in truth, you have nothing to fear in front of the camera or in front of anyone’s eyes. Period.


  9. That’s funny, because when I look at this photo, all I can see is how bad all those weeds in my yard look! I guess photos can bring out all kinds of insecurities…

  10. woo woo!!

    (that’s a verbal approximation of a wolf whistle)

    You look lovely, shapely, and like you’re a lot of fun to be around. Love the gold shoes with the red dress!

  11. i want to know about the new tattoo on your calf! when did that happen? where the heck have i been?

  12. gorgeous. absolutely gorgeous. and i just LOVE that you chose such a fabulous shade of red.

  13. ( You don’t know me, but…I don’t get teary. Like, ever… but you almost got me with this post.) Why? I see myself in your photo so much, I get your pain. When you’re ready to share the entire experience photographically, just know we’re all ready to see. :)

  14. Wearin’ RED, baby.

    (Oh, and that “body in the pic don’t match the body in the head” thing? Apparently psych docs say it can take up to a year to adjust, for bigger or for smaller. Wish someone had deigned to mention that the FIRST d*** time I gained weight back before loss 2.)

    Emperor Pugpatine. Love.

    To paraphrase: This is how self-esteem rises — to thunderous applause.


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