fairness, shmairness

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.

10 Replies to “fairness, shmairness”

  1. but have you checked out their gnarled little bloody broken ballerina feet? …not for all the bacon sandwiches in the world…

  2. I so relate to you on this. Only now can I see that they can eat that way because they work out 9 hours a day, and are 14 years old. I also lived my entire life with the wholly untrue notion that all thin people are like that naturally and because of their awesome bumble-bee-like metabolisms can ingest any and all things and never think about it again. It is a lie…a lie told to me by my mom and perpetuated by other women throughout my childhood and adolescence. (“Honey, we have slower metabolism than most people – it just runs in our family.” Hmm. Interesting. Looking back it seems that sitting on our butts was the only thing that ran in our family.) In reality, thin people are thin because they eat the same number of calories that they burn in a day – generally due to healthy portion-size and regular exercise, not due to a magic spell or special genetics. I was able to ignore that my “naturally thin” friends rode their bikes everywhere, swam competitively, or played tennis 4 times a week. I have FINALLY absorbed that it is truly all about calories in and calories out, and that age does have something to do with it, too. It feels better to know that I am actually in control of my body and how it looks and feels, and not at the mercy of my freakishly-slow metabolism (Newsflash: there is nothing wrong with my metabolism). :-)

  3. Not to mention, a lot of dancers (not all, but some) have eating disorders, and Ms. Bacon Egg and Cheese could have been puking it up in the bathroom 10 minutes later.

    However, my initial reaction would probably be the same as yours.

  4. Love your blog, your writing, your stories. I was wondering if you could a bit on how you paid for the surgery? Did insurance cover it? Did you have to fight them tooth and nail? Or not? Did you self-pay? Just wondering. For many of us, that seems to be the bigger fight.

    Thanks again,


  5. Yes, yes, YES! I have felt this off and on forever. Some friends don’t need to workout or watch what they eat like a hawk to maintain a size 8 figure. Me? Yeah, I have to sweat my guts out for an hour a day and commit to the lean protien mantra you mentioned. Its NOT fair. I don’t 100% buy the calories in/calories out theory, I think people are more than a math formula and its harder for some, easier for others. But I’ve accepted this unfairness (gulp) and remind myself that I’m thankful I’m not a heroin addict, or plagued with some other harder-to-manage problem. It could be worse! I’d rather take my 1600 cals/day and my nice muscles and learn to limit myself to two slices of pizza or 1/2 cup of ice cream than deal with the variety of other monkeys that could be on my back. So, yeah, I got the short end of the stick in the ‘fast metabolism’ category, but whatever, I’ve gotten the long end of the stick in many others.

  6. AKA “SuperAbsorber”. Rivkehleh, perhaps your body works on a simple math equation, but mine is stuck somewhere in New Math hell. Calories in are equal to calories stored and working out means some fraction of calories spent. It works out more evenly post-op but it’s still not a straight one hour for 50 calories. And I come from the snowball women who work and dance their everlovin’ big asses off, in theory only.

  7. The weight loss battle is so tiring…and the worst part about it, it never ends!

    The best part, feeling good, looking good, being healthy :)

    So I guess in the end the pro’s definitely outweigh the cons!

  8. Yes, we have incoming students for orientation, tennis camp, swim camp, lax camp and all kinds of tiny, little people of varying ages and sizes. I can’t wait for cheerleader camp (yes, we have one and they take over the gym). It is frustrating to see them. I think back when I was their age and how fat I felt (and compared to them, I was). Who knows if they feel fat, or like GoingLoopy said, have an eating disorder.

    To be fair, I sat next to a woman at a dinner who was tiny at a pasta potluck fundraiser. She had about 10 different pastas on her plate. She ate some, mingled (she’s a politician), came back, ate some more, got up, mingled, and repeated this. The upshoot is that she had about 3/4 of it left on her plate when she was “done.”

    OTOH, I have seen some incoming first year students look very plump with bellies and rears and they’re not hiding it like I do. It’s a very interesting crowd here some days.

  9. Yes. I long for a reality where I would not have to think about what I eat–not have to worry about it, and I too, fantasize that most thin or “average sized” people don’t have to think about what they eat or worry about their weight.

    obviously, this can’t really be true in our culture, because even if they physically could do those things, esp. if they are women, they are probably worrying about food and fat anyway. that’s the screwed-up nature of the world we live in.

    I just got my surgery date for RNY, and I still occasionally think I shouldn’t get it, just because I don’t want to have to think about what I eat every single meal of every day for the rest of my life. I want to be able to eat what I want!

    However, the trade off would be (as it has been for years) that instead of worrying about what I’m eating, I’m worrying about living in a body that’s too big to do the things I want to do and have the life I want, and I’m praying thatthose things will be better than food ever was.

    Thanks for your writing, your’s is one of the most well-written blogs I read, and it’s so helpful as I prepare for my surgery.

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