Today, my first day on the job, I am supposed to be there at 9:30 a.m., sharp and on the dot. To do that, I’d have to get up around 8:00, maybe a little after, be finished getting ready around 8:30-ish, and out the door by no later than 8:45. Last night, I stayed up a little later than I ordinarily would have, partly because of all the millions of hours of sleep I was going to get, seeing as how I didn’t have to be up until practically awesome o’clock and that is so much beauty rest I wouldn’t even need because all the super coolness of my excellently easy commute was already combining forces to make me so gorgeous. It was going to be such a good day!
I got up at 3:00. And then 4:00. And then, 4:10, 4:30, 5:00, and finally I gave up at 6:00 and staggered out of bed, and went down the street to go get a latte and then came back, ready to accomplish important things and face serious issues and make the world such a good place and my house such a clean place, and my outfit for my first day such an excellent outfit, except I fell asleep on the couch until 7:15, and now my latte is all watery and so too are my eyes, and why is it so early in the morning? This is uncool, and my stomach is in knots, and I remember this feeling, from way back in the day, the first-day-of-school feeling where every choice you make will determine your brand new future, because that is what this is–a pause, a breath, at the doorway to the rest of your life. No pressure.
When we moved from New York to Pennsylvania, when I was 11 or 12, there was this very same feeling. I had been having headaches every day, which I was afraid to tell my mother about, because I didn’t want to have cancer or tumors or tumorous cancer, and talking about it would make it happen. But I was convinced that this move would change everything. That my entire life would shift not just physically, but emotionally and in some intangible way I couldn’t put my finger on. Would that be spiritual? It might be. The headaches would go away, anyway, and I would be a happy person, and I wouldn’t be lonely, anymore, and maybe people in Pennsylvania would not mind that I was fat, or I could hide it, somehow, and fool everyone, and then my life would be excellent, this whole brand-new life I would have.
It wasn’t very excellent; I spent a long time lonely, and my mother found out about the headaches (which turned out to be an impacted tooth, I think) and in this way, I was punished for my hopeful thinking. You think everything is going to be okay and great if you just cross your fingers and squeeze your eyes tight, but instead you find yourself in the dentist’s chair getting needles jammed into your gums, or in an assembly reading your book very hard so everyone thinks that you are so occupied that you don’t need to talk to them, because you are so intellectual and not lonely at all, and I must remember to pack a book, today, just in case. A book always makes me feel safer.
There are some differences between today and when I was 11. One or two minor, insignificant differences. For instance: I am not 11. For instance: I know people in this office I am heading to, and they know me, and they like me. For instance: I am not fat any more. That last for instance, it shouldn’t be such a big factor. It shouldn’t be any kind of factor. But I remembered, in the middle of freaking out about my first day of work and meeting new people and having to make small talk and be charming, I remembered, startled, that I am not fat anymore. And then, Oh! I thought, before I could stop myself. I don’t have to worry! Because otherwise they would have poked my fat and laughed at me until I locked myself in the bathroom stall? What did I really think was going to happen, if I was fat and starting work, instead of Passing for Not Fat and starting work?
If I am honest with myself, which I try to be, usually to my great uncomfortable sorrow, I will admit that it does make a difference, a huge difference, and it is all up inside my head. I am glad I am not fat and meeting new people, because I don’t have to worry about my weight being my first impression. I don’t have to stand there and worry that they are thinking whoa, she is fat, and my, she is ugly and wow, how does she leave the house looking like that? All the energy I spent, projecting every hateful thought I’ve ever had about my body onto the person who might be perfectly nice and perfectly willing to be my nice friend and who is probably just thinking, You know, I think I really like vanilla, all that anxiety and fear I can just maybe spend on being friendly and being charming and being, maybe, a little less fucking crazy.
I am relieved of the responsibility of proving that fat people are just as awesome as their less- and non-fat counterparts, that I am just as cool and fun and fabulous and lovely as anyone who puts Abercrombie and Fitch on their asses, and I will admit this to you: it is such an unbelievable, and unbearable, relief.
I have to start getting ready, in a little while, for my first day of work, at my new job, and I am still nervous, and still pinning a lot of hope for my future on this place, and wondering if I could have really done this, a year ago, and being ashamed of myself for wondering that.