Over the course of the week in New York, I felt swollen, sticky and unbearably hot. I went ahead and associated the big and swollen with the hot and unbearable, until I noticed my clothes starting to fit me a little funny. Huh, I thought. That’s weird. And not cool at all. I chose to ignore it, because I was in New York, and considering the possibility that I was gaining weight eating delicious foods and drinking delicious cocktails was not an option, because then the happiness would have to end, wouldn’t it? The happiness was not allowed to end.
I got home, and collapsed. Then the next day, I got up, pulled the scale out, hopped on, and found I had gained five pounds. That’s it? Only five pounds? Five pounds is a drop in the goddamn bucket. How can five pounds make me feel this big and ungainly? I used to think my friend Jen was crazy when she complained about having gained five pounds, because it seemed unfathomable that an amount that small could actually register on your body. It’s only a bag of flour! Granted, I was at least 2.5 times her size, and I have spent my whole life gaining five pounds in the space of ten minutes, or losing five pounds over the long and agonizing course of a month, and never noticing a single, solitary difference either way.
Suddenly, five pounds is a meaningful measure of weight, and that is so bizarre to me. More than anything, that fact has started to get the idea into my thick skull (which will never, ever lose weight, more’s the pity) that I am not necessarily fat any more. I am possibly only overweight. Wait. Holy god. According to the BMI calculator I am only overweight? I have gone from super morbidly obese to just overweight, and I think I am about to burst into tears.
I almost burst into tears in those dressing rooms I have spent way too much time waiting in line for. I am exactly as average as the average American woman (if you go by that statistic, because no one seems to when they’re designing seats or lines of clothing). An average size 14, if you go ahead and believe my friend and yours, The Gap Inc. conglomerate of stores. I’m practically normal, and maybe, unless you are a nasty frat boy who likes his ladies pink, plastic, nine feet tall and three inches wide, you wouldn’t pick me out of a crowd as having a weight problem, and when the fuck did that happen?
This is the hilarious thing to me–I have become so sharply attuned to my body, and yet it’s still completely impossible for me to entirely believe in my size, and how I might appear to other people. I have never quite understood how I appear to the outside world, and it was a merciful blessing when I was larger, and fragile, and feeling attractive, being found attractive, but still feeling so vulnerable and completely unbearably exposed to those people who take fat personally, who seem to hate and resent your existence and the fact that you breathe in and out and maybe will eat all their ham when their backs are turned. I could not have functioned if I had spent all my time convinced that the world saw me as seven feet wide and a lumbering heap.
I spent a lot of time detached from my body as I got larger, because I didn’t want to think about what it was doing to my health and I didn’t want to think about how it made me feel–so exhausted, lugging myself up stairs and down the block to the bus stop. My body was my enemy in a way I had never experienced before–in all my life of being chubby, overweight, obese, in all my stages of hating my body and then accepting and embracing my body. I wanted to stop at the neck. I wanted to be a head in a jar.
This surgery has been all about my body. You are opened up, and twisted around, and your body comes rushing back to you, demanding all-new things, needing all-new care, from the day of surgery onward. From that day, I have spent endless minutes and hours monitoring my body–how do I feel? Am I okay? Am I hungry? How hungry? Should I eat? Okay, I’ll eat. How much have I eaten, and when should I stop, should I stop here? Am I satiated? How do I feel? Am I okay? It forces you to look inward, to think about how you’re feeling. "You" has changed–it’s not just the inside of your head; it’s the whole of you.
My various clothing crises–I have not even told you about my second public pantsing episode, because it makes me very sad–have caused me to spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about how my body shape is changing, how I am getting smaller and where I’m getting smaller. (Can we all please say a prayer for my breasts? I like my breasts. Oh god, I want to keep them.) One week pants will be loose in the waist and then suddenly I’m noticing that they are loose in the belly, too. Does that mean my stomach is actually getting smaller? My god, my stomach is getting smaller. It’s like a Christmas miracle, and as it turns out, it is so hard to believe in miracles. I do not feel average, or small, or only overweight.
For all that I talk about being connected, necessarily, to my body, I feel as if it is a rotten little kid I am babysitting, who will go home any minute now and leave me with a handful of singles and a living room in shambles. I feel like I’m in that dream you have about being back in high school, and you’re pantsless, and you’re late for your final and there’s a bomb in the basement and it’s all your fault. I feel like my brakes have gone out and I’m racing down the side of a mountain. I feel fat, and strange, and broken.