It’s ballerina season again at the university I work for. Every summer, bus loads of tiny teenage and
pre-teen ballerinas appear in the cafeteria, and every summer, I experience
that twinge which is more accurately described as a kick in the gut.
The first time I ever saw them–probably five years ago,
now–I was supposed to be actively on a diet, in the cafeteria, browsing the
fairly limited food selection (pastry, or more pastry? Oh, I know–pastry!),
trying to find something healthy and nutritious and delicious that would fill
me up and keep me satisfied and from wanting to cry. I was so tired of oatmeal and busy being resentful that I couldn’t eat anything I want, any time I
want and slathered in mayonnaise and life was so goddamn unfair. And of course,
that’s when the tiny ballerina appears in front of me, and I want to pop her
tiny ballerina head off.
She is so small, and lithe, and lovely even when she’s
chawing at a big wad of gum and yakking at her other tiny best friends, and I
hate her a lot, for being so tiny and lovely. Knee-jerk, automatically, I hate
her. She selects a banana, and she’s got a cup of tea, and she heads to the
line at the same time I do. I breathe in, and out, and I think well, there you go, Anne. She is small and
skinny and beautiful, and she works out for nine hours a day, and she eats a
banana. There’s the reason, okay? There’s a lesson here, right? And I felt better, because maybe life is a little
more fair than I give life credit for.
Then her tiny friend comes up behind her, and she says,
"Hold my spot!" and she bounces away, and returns with a giant bacon,
egg and cheese croissant, and then decides she needs a muffin, also, and I want
to bury my face in a pile of breakfast sausage and cry for the next hundred
years, because it is not only unfair, life, it is so unfair.
I was tired, then, of counting points and watching portions
and listening to a program instead of what my body wanted. I was tired of
listening to my body, and finding out it was whispering psst! more candy! in a voice that it was hard to ignore, instead of
"More broccoli! Only a spoonful of mashed potatoes! Mustard, schmustard!
What you need is more mayonnaise!" Why couldn’t I have a body into which I
could put anything I wanted? Why didn’t I come with a metabolism like the
metabolisms of everyone, it felt like, in the whole wide world except me? If my
body had to be slow and stupid, why couldn’t I be blessed with an instinct
toward health and whole-wheat soy deliciousness? What is up with this sugar
Sometimes, I hated myself, and hated my body, not for being
fat, but for not being easier. For
not being something I didn’t have to think about all the time, and worry about
and obsess about and worry some more. If I wanted to be thinner, I would have
to worry about food and plan and think and consider and be careful every
fucking day of my life. Hell, if I wanted to just not gain any more weight, I
had to worry and watch. I was so tired of it, and my body, and food being so
complicated and loaded, and I wanted it to stop. My whole life, I think, I
always had this vague feeling of unfairness, and wanting to run away, and leave
my head behind to live a simple life on a beach somewhere, sipping margaritas
and biting the ankles of cabana boys.
So of course, what do I do? I get a surgery that means every
single day, I have to think about food, and my body, and making good choices,
and planning and preparing. And of course, I am sick of it. I am entirely sick
of it, sometimes. The major difference: it has led to tangible results, and
you can wipe your tiny golden tears with those. It is frustrating and tiresome
sometimes, and it makes me think about that lovely white-sand tropical beach,
but it is not unfair, because of course I did this to myself. I made this
choice, and food has become less complicated, for sure, and it gets tiresome;
but in the end, I am going to run a 5K.
I think what’s bothering me now is that I get so sick of it.
I am sick of thinking about my ass, and talking about my ass, and writing about
my ass and discussing my ass. You don’t get tired of being told you look good,
no. It’s nice, it’s wonderful, it is so great. But you get sick of yourself
after the fourth iteration of "Well, you know. Lean protein and oh man,
I’ve been running! I love running! About a year, I think? It was just time. One
hundred thirty, ish? Yes, I feel good. Oh, thank you! Oh, that’s so nice of
you. Oh, please let me stop talking about this now, please?"
It’s partly feeling embarrassed about it–about what? Having
been so heavy? Having gotten weight-loss surgery? Being looked at? I will never
be totally comfortable being looked at or seen or thought about or discussed or
glanced at or maybe existing. I don’t know. And it’s partly that I’ve been
doing this so long inside my head, thinking and discussing my body and my
choices, and it just feels exhausting that it’s spilled out, become external, something
everyone shares. It takes a village, all of a sudden, and wasn’t it tiresome
enough when it was just me?
It’s ballerina season, and that’s why I’m thinking about it.
I’ll get over it, and people will keep asking me about lean proteins, and the
ballerinas will keep eating bacon, egg and cheese croissants, and in that way
the world will keep going around, as it does.