At Jen Wade’s housewarming party the other night, I spotted her boyfriend Iggy wearing The Greatest Hat of All Time. Truly, a hat of pointy magnificence and wooly grandeur. It was cone-shaped, and had earflaps and a tiny brim, and was pointy, and me and that hat were meant to be together for all time and in all ways, except for the dirty ones.
I put the hat on with his very kind blessing and lo, I was happy. Mo Pie materialized with a camera, and I did not hesitate. I stood, and I posed in the I’m A Big Dorky Dork fashion that tries for the self-protective ironic distance that makes it okay when you look like an asshole in a photograph. And then, at some point there, or possibly a few glasses of wine into the future, I demanded that Pie take a picture of my butt with the party’s sole Republican attendee.
So it was a good party. But also, this is possibly a spectacular new development in the long and neurotically checkered history of my weight-loss surgery. I not only do not care if my photo is taken, I am pleased to present myself as a subject. I am not only pleased to be a subject, but eager, and here is my butt, hooray! This could be a side effect of the drunkenness, yes, I know. But also it can suggest an important step forward in my evolution as a person who is comfortable with her body, which is all I ever wanted to be. Comfortable with my body, and drunk.
Pictures have always been my great and unpleasant nemesis, the fuckers. It was easier to live in a body I wasn’t comfortable with if I didn’t know exactly what it looked like. I pulled a lot of amazing and astonishing contortions and tricks to either avoid appearing in pictures or, when it was inevitable, to avoid looking–well, exactly what I was, which was fat. And at the time, that was so not okay. Sometimes I would beg to not be in photos. But sometimes, my guard would drop when I was feeling cute, and I would pose saucily for the camera. Then, looking at the result, I would immediately wish for the power of magnets to erase the memory card both in the camera and in my own head.
I am writing this longhand, on the train home from work, and I can feel the tension in my wrist, how tightly I am gripping the pen. My jaw is clenched. The power of these pictures–to still unsettle me, to make me uncomfortable and itchy, to make me feel shame where none should exist. Great, swell, I am glad I like my body now; but I want so badly to extend that compassion and kindness to the girl I used to be. This ache in my shoulders tells me it is going to be hard.
One of the things we talked about doing for this site was a Before and After feature–a tour through the history of my weight. I may have even mentioned it at one point. Lots of pictures? All of me? All through history? Even the unflattering ones? Especially those? Okay! I babbled. I can do that! I gibbered. My brain did not kick in.
I wrangled pictures from my mom, baby pictures and school pictures. I dug through my boxes and my hard drives. I sent out e-mails to friends with cameras, when it turned out that I don’t actually like to keep pictures of me around the house, go figure.
Photo by photo, I went through them, intending to append humorous captions, context, history, stories. But I sat there and watched myself go by, my changing face and changing body, the way I went from a freewheeling kid to the awkwardness and vulnerability of the suddenly-fat pre-teen. That uncertain smile. How I didn’t know how to hold my hands or where to look, or how to dress this body that I wore like I was only borrowing it for a minute and couldn’t wait to give it back. That one awful picture of me in pink tights, spooning pudding into my face.
I couldn’t do it. I could not put myself up on the web. For some reason, this vulnerability, these snapshots of the flavor of crazy I am at any given moment that I splash out every day in long run-on sentences seems perfectly normal and ordinary and kind of hilarious in retrospect; the idea of having these pictures up gave–gives–me the willies.
But so many of you do it. Not just before and after pictures, because how can you pick a point that was before, and when is there ever truly a place you stop and say hey, here is the after and here is where it all freezes in time? Because that doesn’t happen. And maybe you aren’t even on a diet, or food plan or life program, and maybe you are just living your life and being comfortable and beautiful in your body, and you post honest photographs of yourself, in your life. Pictures of who you are and how you are and where you are, in your life. That is a great deal of bravery and it is beautiful, it really is.
Send me your pictures, please. I can’t do it–not right now. But you can. You are confident, and lovely, and you are inspiring. I want to post your pictures here, and share the story of your butt and your hips and your heart and your lungs and you. Show me how it’s done, and how to do it right, and maybe I can do it, too.
For serious. I am figuring out the details now. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to participate–and I hope you will.