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.
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.