see: past, blast from the

L., who I’ve known since college, has spent countless hours telling me how sexy I am. He’s one of those astrology people who, within 13 seconds, can give you your sign and your rising moon child and your setting sunblock and your beautiful cosmic flower or whatever the fuck an astrologer knows as soon as you confess your exact date of birth. He told me I was a Scorpio when I met him, because I was smoldering, and intense, and very possibly the Living Incarnation of Liquid Sex. “Okay!” I said, you fucking liar. “Seriously,” he said. “Despite the weight, you are incredibly sexy. You carry it really well. You’re a lot of woman!” And he beamed at me, and for some reason, I did not punch him in the face.

No, I was totally flattered. He could still tell that I was fat (which, at the time, was my greatest nightmare. You were not supposed to see that I am fat, because I have cleverly hid it with fans and cloths and elaborate dance moves that blur your vision when I egress from the room in a swirl of hypnotic power), but being able to tell that I was fat, that was okay! Because it was practically good fat! I was immensely pleased, and loved him immediately, and I still really have to wonder why I didn’t say, “Really? You’re incredibly short! But you totally forget about that when you’re sitting down.”

We do not hate L., though, because the thing about him is that he is
perfectly sincere and incredibly well-meaning. He really did believe
that I was gorgeous and wanted me to know that as much as I could stand
to hear it, and he really did believe that it was very impressive of me
to do that despite my handicap, which is something I had never
encountered before. It was a direct and honest evaluation of my size,
in his opinion. Up until then, people either disliked me because of my
fat and didn’t find me attractive at all because of my size and aren’t
you lucky that you have a sparkling personality? Or they pretended the
fat didn’t exist, in a way that is so interesting to me now.

I think he was amazed that he could find someone, a big girl, so attractive.
It was a source of endless fascination for him that I was big, but
sexy. Hefty, but hot. Fat, but fabulously do-able, in that
faux-platonic college kind of “we’re totally just friends but maybe
we’ll make out when we’re drunk” kind of way. I never thought about it
as a kid, because I was too busy being thrilled and excited that for
the first time, I really believed a boy when he told me I was
desirable–all because of that leavener, that
bring-you-back-down-to-earth caveat that stuck my feet hard on the
floor and kept me aware of my limitations and the extent to which I
could have any expectations.

At any rate and however you’d like to look at it, I realized recently
that it was one of our main topics of conversation, my weight and
relative attractiveness, and how he worried a lot, a lot, a lot, when I
gained, which I now recognize as not just worry for my health, but
worry for my Beauty. For fuck’s sake. Mostly I remembered, because when
I called him a couple of weeks ago to let him know I’d be in New York,
the first time I had spoken to him in so many years, one of the first
things out of his mouth was “So, have you lost any weight? Or are you
still a whole lot of sexy woman?” in that teasing, va-va-va-voom kind
of voice.

And I did not hang up on him, or ask him if he was still a whole lot of
midget, and had he picked up elevator shoes yet, though for the first
time I was tempted. I realized how much my ideas about bodies, and
weight loss and size acceptance and fat acceptance and prejudice had shifted so, so
radically, and his had never changed, and probably never would. And I
was ashamed to realize that one of the reasons I had gotten back in
touch with him, one of the major secret fantasies way back in the
darkest recesses of my craziest head, I was entertaining the scenes of
our reunion, and his shock and awe and amazement at my transformation,
and how completely fucked up is that? We think we have grown and
changed and escaped the delicate and tragic neuroses we nurse at our
breasts, and then we realize they’ve been clinging like a burr to the
hem of our hairshirts all this time. 

I was silent on the phone for a moment, and he said, “Anne?” and I said,
“Oh yeah.” I hesitated, and said, “I’ve been running.” And he was
thrilled to hear it, and so proud of me and so excited and asking me
questions, and the thing you need to know is that I really do adore
him. I really do love him, and he really does want the best for me, and
I really dislike that I feel I have to make excuses for him. At this
point, it is too late to change the dynamic of our friendship, to go
back and say to myself, Hey, stupid! Maybe this guy, he is saying things that he
shouldn’t be. Maybe it’s not enough to be gorgeous-despite. Maybe you
ought to speak up, because he is still young enough to have his mind
changed.

He is too old to have his mind changed, and he is one of those friends
you love, inevitably and unchangeably, despite. Ironically.

We met up, and he didn’t recognize me. At all. The look on his face was
all astonishment, and amazement, and pride. “Jesus fuck,” he said. “You
look amazing.” All night, he told me how amazing I was, and how
gorgeous and terrific, and Guy sat there saying, “I always thought she
was gorgeous,” and quietly seething, and I kept my hand on his knee and
kept saying thank you, thank you, thank you, a little ashamed to be
enjoying this wonder and amazement on their parts, feeling a little
uncomfortable. “Do people treat you differently?” his wife asked me at
one point. “Of course they do!” L. said. “That must be so great.”

And I said, “Of course they do! It’s a constant source of amazement to
me, how much better people treat me.” They nodded and smiled, and then
looked flabbergasted when I said, “And it’s not great. It pisses me off.” They
didn’t get it, at all. And I didn’t give a shit, that it was too late
to change their minds, to explain to them, really explain what it was
like, really explain that well-meaningness wasn’t really enough, and do
you really hear how you’re coming across? Because I hear it, now, more
than I ever have, and you can stay right there, because I will be way
over here, so proud of how far I’ve come.

____________________________________________________________________

And hey, by the way, I am loving the introductions happening in yesterday’s comments, and it’s not too late to head over there and say hi. In fact, I’d really like it if you did.

17 Replies to “see: past, blast from the”

  1. “clinging like a burr to the hem of our hairshirts”—oh, Anne, I do truly love you.

    I have friends like that, we try to love them anyway, don’t we, because they really are good and well meaning, although what a shame they’re also fucking clueless about so many things.

    Guy’s a keeper, though!

    And, yeah, the comments on the last post are awesome. Your readers are as cool and witty and wonderful as you!

  2. Awesome, awesome, awesome! I love that you told them how you felt and how shitty it is that fat and thin people are treatly differently. No, it’s not great. I hate how crappy I get treated now at 220 pounds compared with how I was treated at 150 pounds. I even had one therapist who got defensive when I told her that I was treated better when I was thin. I got that she was trying to build my self-esteem regardless of my weight, but acting like I was incorrect for pointing out the differences between then and now was not the way to boost my ego. So, good on ya, girl!

    Anyway, hello, Anne! I’m in San Francisco, too. I started reading your stuff about 3 years ago on “Hello, I am fat.” My best friend found your blog and told me to read it because, “She’s funny AND she’s in San Francisco!” You had just started posting, sporadically, and I thought, “She’ll never last the long haul,” but I was hooked. I kept checking back and kept checking back and sending you positive (if irritated and impatient – is that why you took your time between posts, to teach me a lesson?) energy to submit another post. I now subscribe to you via Google Reader.

    Happy Thursday!

  3. Yep, it pissed me off too. What never fails to rile me up, though, are the bitchy women that say things like “Oh wow, your husband must be all over you now.” NOW. Like he wasn’t before I lost weight? Like it’s acceptable to be sexy now at this weight when it wasn’t before? Similar to these women, but not quite as offensive, are the ones that say “I’ll bet your husband treats you differently now.” NOW. They’re just as perplexed as your friends were when I tell them, “No he doesn’t, and that’s fine with me. I’d be pissed at him if he treated me any differently.”

    Some people just have very rigid definitions of what can and cannot be sexy or beautiful. And some people are just bitches. Tomayto, tomahto.

  4. Ah yes — the lure of such friends (men, especially, if we’re straight) who see us as sexy when we’re fat — and the let-down, lo, these many years later when we’re fat no longer and they betray their own lack of comprehension (and maybe, subtly, issues with our old size after all that they and we didn’t realize at the time???) at how “fabulous” it must be to Be Treated Differently now! And our own ambivalence and head-weirdness as we navigate through ALL of this, then and now.

    Love, frustration, connection, a yawning gulf … they’re all there.

    Makes me want to go eat a giant peanut-butter cookie. But I won’t.

  5. i can’t believe they didn’t get it. i mean, i can: fat is such a moral failing in contemporary america that people assume it’s best to judge. how could people not treat you differently?? it’s like you stopped evading taxes, or performing vivisection for fun, or…

    oh, no, wait. it’s more like you stopped being african american, or maybe just lightened your skin a lot. or lost a limb.

    whichever way you slice the analogy, i agree wholeheartedly that it’s terrible when people who ostensibly love you nevertheless think it acceptable that anyone would treat you differently after a big weight loss.

    oh, and ps: hi! i’m amelia! i read every day and am always, always impressed.

  6. Blargh, such a tetchy situation. On the one hand, they’re paying you a compliment, and that’s all they mean it to be. And yet, GAH, because they just don’t understand how the constant fawning just emphasizes how not great we now realize they thought we looked.

    Good on Guy for pointing out how fucking fabulous you were always, before and now and years from now.

  7. “And I did not hang up on him, or ask him if he was still a whole lot of midget, and had he picked up elevator shoes yet, though for the first time I was tempted.”

    I’m a Libra, but I still think we might have been separated at birth.

  8. I just wanted to tell you how amazing you and your writing is. I’ve never read anyone who can put into words so eloquently what we’re all going though with the ups and downs of our weight adventures. Keep up the awesome job! You’re awesome!

  9. I hear ya. I’m halfway through a large weight loss, and whenever a certain person compliments me, I want to ask, “Oh? Am I acceptable to you now?” Not sure why her comments bother me when other folks’ do not… must reflect.

    I’m babs. Started reading shortly before you moved from Hello, I am Fat. Like others, thrilled that I now get a daily dose of Anne! When’s your book coming out?
    : )

  10. sorry that L guy rubbed you the wrong way. lots of times reuinting with old friends can leave much to be desired, though. good luck with the rest of your life!

    oh, and by the way, you write like a GODDESS.

  11. Still pisses me off – though not as much as this fucking poison oak on my hands.

    I remember the last time I lost weight about 20 years ago and was having a very rough time with my ex – long distance, different emotional wavelengths, etc. I had a very gorgeous, sexy classmate who worked the night board in Chicago. Every so often, I’d drive down and meet him for an evening of running around and general fun when the Tokyo board closed and when I didn’t have to teach the next morning.

    He always saw my sexiness, but I was never clear on it until, on night, when I crossed my legs, and he looked me in the face – after checking out my legs- and told me I was utterly devastating. I still remember how flattered, but mostly, gobsmacked I was, sitting in his little kitchen in Lincoln Village. He traced the outline of my stocking with his hands, kissed my forehead and went off to one of his many gfs, returning quietly to bed sometime before six.

    For me, that was an immensely erotic, desirous and utterly safe moment. I’ve always loved him for the way he made me feel that night- if for no other reason. It was the beginning for me of not being afraid to express not only my dignity – think posture plus! – but also my sensuality, without being afraid.

    For what it’s worth, now that I think about it, the guy in question is probably shorter than I am – as you may remember I am the worst at guessing heights – but great things come in smaller packages – and he gave me a great treasure.

    *S*

  12. Great post, and totally understand about “beautiful even though you’re…”

    You know what it is about this guy, though? Just from what you’ve said, it sounds like he is (or at least has been) incredibly insecure about his height. He has to tell you you’re “beautiful even though…” because he wants to believe he’s “handsome even though…” (And I’m sure he is, but we can’t always see these things about ourselves.) And that “even though” is about him not about you. Seriously. And if he really can’t change, that’s because he can’t change the way he looks at himself. Which is OK, but it’s really in no way about you.

    As I’ve lost weight, as I’ve thought about what it means, it’s become clearer to me that *so many* people hate their bodies. I thought it was unique to me, as a fat girl, but no. No one would ever criticise someone else’s body if they did not, on some level, hate their own.

  13. Yeah, as everyone else says, wow. Great writing. I really connected with this. My weight issues are at a lower bmi number, but they “feel” like you write. I’ve lost 35 pounds from my all-time high, 7 bmi points. I’ve always “felt fat” and let people judge my fatness. So I hated the love-you-but comments from my bf of the height of the weight. And I love-hate watching his reaction as he sees my weight loss and the jealousy he exhibits when other guys hit on me now.

    Back then, I agreed with him, let him judge my fatness, let him love me despite. I maybe wanted to lose weight to get him back: Even though I broke up with him, he had done the breaking up in act before that. (Irony: a lot of the dating of this guy was counter-productive to the weight loss efforts.)

    And I find it hard to know how not to love others despite. How not to see people as a bundle of strengths and weaknesses, perfections and flaws. Do I have to love the “weaknesses?” or should I fail to notice them? Point being that it’s great that you didn’t respond about his height issues – don’t reduce yourself to his level.

    And reiterate what others said: jealous of Guy.

  14. It is very odd, this weight loss thing. I was in a car accident, followed by a bad case of the flu, during which I was nursing my son. Needless to say the weight dropped off. Now I was not overweight at the time, so I was particularly horrified by the increase in compliments and appreciative stares. I was sick, people, and that was attractive. Only my father, bless his heart, was horrified. He would buy takeout chinese food and drop it off at my house. I just wanted to scream everytime someone told me how great I looked and asked “how did you do it?”. And my mother wonders why I have food issues. Because I just had it hammered home that even though I thought I looked fine, it wasn’t thin enough. Only sick, frail, and weak is thin enough. And that is how the “man” keeps us down. Sorry for the rant.

  15. “Because I just had it hammered home that even though I thought I looked fine, it wasn’t thin enough. Only sick, frail, and weak is thin enough. And that is how the “man” keeps us down. Sorry for the rant.”

    Personally, I don’t think either Victoria or Anne should feel sorry for the rant.

    We’re the SAME PERSON we were. It blows my mind on the daily that people don’t get it.

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