all apologies

I generally am able to fit together enough strips of self-esteem and self-worth to fashion myself a nearly impervious coat of I Am Awesome, lined on the inside with satiny "don’t look too closely, though!" Well, not really. But I keep it together, generally, and that’s all you can really ask for, isn’t it? That you go through life feeling all your bits are, more or less, in order? You might need a little defragging, here and there, and maybe a disc scan wouldn’t hurt anyone, but you are still practically state-of-the-art, top-of-the-line, a bargain at twice the price.

Lately, that feels like the major battle I’m fighting, here. Besides the daily battle to remember to take care of myself, to eat properly–to eat enough, as it turns out, and of the right things–what I am constantly trying to figure out is how to generally be happy with the now of my body, and not the five minutes from now, not the 10, 20, 30 pounds from now, not the now that will start to happen once I get the plastic surgery or the miracle cream that will shrink the skin and perk up the boobs and make me the goddamn supermodel I deserve to be, by god.

There’s the problem–what I feel like I deserve. More accurately, what I feel like I wished I really deserved. I needed surgical intervention in order to lose weight. If there was a god, and that god were fair, I wouldn’t have needed to do that. I wouldn’t have been fat in the first place, thank you so much. I would have had an athlete’s body, with an extra-large heart, and would have won triathlons all over the world. That’s logic.

However, failing that, in the face of an illogical god or if I were destined to be fat–well then, I would have been able to exercise, to eat right, to make the right choices over and over and over again for the rest of my life and to have let the weight come off slowly, naturally. Properly, in a way that Star Jones wouldn’t have been embarrassed to talk about. People, I understand why Star Jones didn’t want to talk about it. Because it feels like an admission of failure. It feels likes saying you know what? This diet thing isn’t working, and I cannot do this any more. I can imagine that it might have felt like publicly calling yourself too fat, and too stupid to lose weight. When I tell people I have gotten weight loss surgery, so often it feels like I am saying, "I wanted to be healthy!" but they are hearing exactly that "too stupid" subtext.

It has nothing to do with being too stupid to lose weight. It is so much more complicated than that. And this complicated, insane issue that is so much more than "it is a crazy motherfucking solution for stupid, lazy people" is being boiled down to exactly that. Being soundbit into "whatever happened to eating less and exercising more, Star Jones, you giant dumbass?"

I work with a sea of beautiful blondes, all of them not normal, or average–I am not going to call them "above average," because that is what we will call bullshit. I will call them outside the range of statistically normal body size in the United States. They are not 12s and 14s in my office, they are in the single digits, down to the naughts. They are skinny, and some of them are very beautiful, and they are all perfectly friendly.

But somehow, I leave the house feeling sassy and cute in my little pants and my sexy heels and I walk into the building and ride the elevator up with a gaggle of tiny girls, and even next to the ones who are not particularly attractive, I can feel the very fact of their smallness working on me. My ass starts expanding, my fat rolls begin popping and expanding like they’re being freshly baked, the buttons on my coat exploding outward one by one as all the adipose tissue in my body swells with shame and self-loathing.

And I want to tell them all, "Look, I used to be way fatter than this. This is nothing. I am normal, okay? But I’m going to be on the other side of normal, any day now. I will be down there with you, and skinny, and I can’t tell you why or how because it might be that I’m even more ashamed of that than I might have been at my heaviest and most uncomfortable weight." As if my weight is their business, as if my size is important, as if I weren’t over-the-moon happy with the things my body can do, right up until I am next to a small person and I begin to think they are small because that is what they deserve, and I was fat because that is what I deserved, and I had to get surgery, because that is what someone like me deserves.

I couldn’t do it like you, I want to tell them. And I want to apologize. I’m sorry I couldn’t do it like you, who give up dessert and must go to the gym for hours every day and work hard to be so blonde and have such a toned and flabless body. I’m sorry I’m not as strong as you have to be every day to do that. I want to apologize to everyone in the world who is broiling skinless chicken breasts, and struggling with Weight Watchers and the South Beach induction week and all the fucking butter-fried meat on Atkins and whatever other diets they’re doing, and I did those too and I understand, really I do, and I’m so sorry I left you alone to struggle like that.

I want to say I’m sorry I couldn’t do that any more, and I’m sorry you think I copped out and that I couldn’t hack it the proper way and the right way. I want to say, please believe me when I tell you that it really has been hard. It really has been a struggle. That it really isn’t as easy as giving up on the traditional good and true way of losing weight–it’s not giving up. It’s taking on a whole new set of battles, which don’t seem like battles at all, I’m sure, from the outside. Because we are lucky in that there is a dramatic, visible outside result. And we are very aware of how lucky we are. And we wish you wouldn’t think we were quitters. And I still wish everyone I worked with wasn’t so skinny, because nobody deserves that.

12 Replies to “all apologies”

  1. Ah, this one choked me up a bit.

    I feel the need to remind you that you don’t have to worry about any of that here because we all get it and no one thinks those things. But I do understand that you’re not talking to Us, you’re talking to Them.

    I wish you didn’t feel the apologies bubbling up, didn’t feel you have to explain or justify. What you’ve gone through and continue to go through with this surgery has levels and layers of difficult that many people could never even imagine. If they think that you took an easy way out, fuck ’em.

    I say that we all sometimes have a tendency to look at others (like you on the elevator with the bevy of beautiful blondes) (wow, that was some nice alliteration, eh?) and assume things about them–like I always assumed the cheerleaders in my high school were as happy and beautiful and confident on the inside as they appeared on the outside.

    What I learn as I get older is that despite the existence of the judgemental people (and of course they do exist, the bastards), MOST people are too wrapped up in their own mind games, dealing with their own insecurities and dramas, to be spending much time assessing and evaluating others.

    I take comfort in that. I have to remind myself that we humans? All a little crazy, you know? Even if you don’t see it as much in some as in others, I think it’s there, in all of us. Thank god.

  2. I don’t think WLS is quitting.
    It is like… a DIFFERENT diet plan.

    Some people don’t eat fat.
    Some don’t eat sugar.

    YOU eat less and higher quality food. That is nothing you should feel shame for – as you are doing what works for *you*.

    that is all

  3. I can feel the tangle of emotions that must feel suffocating to you, and it makes me sad. Not for you, but with you. There’s despair and shame evident in this post that doesn’t slip between the cracks of your carefully polished facade often, but it’s refreshing, and it’s real, and I can almost physically feel your pain. Almost, but never as completely as you must feel it everyday. It’s a shame that something that produces such positive results on the inside must bring about such dark results on the inside, but take heart that there are plenty of people (us!) out there not thinking that you are a quitter, or that you took some easy way out. There are lots of people (us!) who are proud of how far you’re coming, and of how self-aware you are, and who root you on everyday, and care enough to come back here and read about your daily travails, and even care enough to give you a chuck to that pretty chin, and remind you to keep it up.

    I don’t know anyone who has had WLS, but I thank you for sharing your experience with me.

  4. i don’t really know that much about WLS – i am following a liquid and partial food diet with my nutritionist. the weight comes off pretty quickly as well – but at some point and it usually seems to be around weighing 150-170 things get hard – they get hard like everyone else when you have to drop that last 20 lbs or so. like lots of exercise and no desserts and i hate it cause it all seemed so easy to a point and then the real work comes knocking at the door and then of course there is maintenance and that is by far the hardest longest endeavor i will have to face. do the effects of WLS just drop you right to your goal weight or will it require more persistance when you get within a 20-30lb range? i really admire that you have shared what you have gone through to get here to this point and hope that working in the valley of the dolls doesn’t undermine everything you got going on.

  5. STOP COMPARING. It is poison. Take yourself on your own terms, not the terms you’re project onto other people, like the smaller blondes. They may be fighting their own battles, their own pains — different from yours, but just as real. And perhaps they don’t have your humor, grace, and wit, your writing skills, your fierce and inspiring ability to examine your life so honestly, so beautifully.

    Remember, this process — it’s all about finding out who we are, determining our own definition of being the best we can be. We’re all in the midst of it. Take pride in who you are and what you’ve accomplished. Anyone who tells you anything that doesn’t reduce to “You’re awesome” needs to shut it — and that includes your own little peon inner critic.

  6. I agree. I don’t ever think that people who had WLS took the “easy way out” — to me, it takes a lot of courage to have a major operation, lose weight and change your physical appearance so drastically. I can’t (at this point at least) do that — I’m too chicken to have an operation.

    I don’t think I’m superior to anyone now that I’ve lost weight. I can remember only time feeling something that wasn’t very nice and that was when someone who was terribly overweight asked me how I did it and wished she could do it while munching away on a gigantic bag of potato chips. But that’s her disconnect, not mine. I may have said something similar to someone when I was at my heaviest.

    You’ve accomplished a lot and it’s not just losing weight. Your writing for one thing — what a gift.

    I feel like a fraud myself because honestly I can’t remember that really bad days (okay, I could go back and reread certain days in my blog) but it seems so, far away and less painful in the rear view mirror.

    It’s funny that we see ourselves so harshly and subjectively. My dinner date said to me as an aside (we were discussing the jerk that said “no fat chicks” on CL), “but that doesn’t apply to you, you’re not fat.” (I wanted to say, “helloooo, have you tried to pick me up?”). I guess I feel way less fat than I used to but depending on the circumstances and who I’m standing next to, other days I feel okay. That IS an improvement to feel just okay. :-)

  7. What the fuck is so hard for people to understand about a diversity of healthy weights? We seem to get it in the height department, but, damn, that better not spread to the thighs, upper arms, waist. Check out Dick Cavett’s stupid op-ed piece in the NYT Select to see what I mean about clueless.

    In the meantime, try going to a Y and attending a regular swim class or hanging out in the steamroom. I was just saying this last night at our swimming class, that you really see a broad variety of healthy size- and some outliers on either end, to be honest.

  8. I’m in the single digits. If you worked in my office, and you cared to tell me how it was that you were losing weight, and how much you had weighed before, it would not cause me to think less of you.
    Get to know the tiny blondes in your office. The ones who are not assholes will think not one bit less of you because you decided to have WLS. They may be curious, if they don’t have other friends who have been through it, but they will not think condemnatory thoughts unless they are jerks. They will have nothing more than mild and passing curiosity about someone else’s body.
    The ones who -are- assholes? They don’t need to know.

  9. That was a great post. That’s how I feel about getting surgery – I want to, and yet I feel that it is a cop-out and if I was a better person, a stronger person, a more capable person, I would be able to lose weight on my own. I would stop eating cheeseburgers and subsist on lettuce leaves and diet Coke and spend hours at the gym instead of on the internet. I wouldn’t be me, because me is fat, sloppy, lazy.

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