one hundred million billion words

Weetabix made fun of me when she noticed. "Would you like us to take more pictures of you?" she said, and probably I blushed, even though I had been in the sun, because that is what I do. I had hoped no one else had noticed, because I had only just noticed it in me, my tendency, especially this past weekend in Southern California, to leap in front of cameras and mug as if I were, well, possibly being mugged. To grab a camera and start taking pictures of people and then turn it on myself to deliver upon to the world some sexy angled MySpace photos.

I am suddenly fascinated by pictures of myself. The old pictures of me, where my face looks like it belongs on a completely different head, the topography of my body at all the sizes its been, they are things I study when I come across them, trying to see from the outside what it was I felt like on the inside. But especially now, pictures of me now–they are like mirrors to a parakeet. I stare at them, fascinated, because that can’t possibly be me. I look at them, horrified, not because I think I look horrifying–I hope I don’t–but because the disorientation is, quite frankly, alarming. I don’t know what I look like. Do I look like that? Do I look like this? What the fuck is it that people see? Is it this?

You look different in every picture, at every angle, and I am trying to assemble myself from all these angles, to see if I can figure out what other people see. What the fuck do other people say? You look fantastic, they say, when they see me. So good! But does that mean, "It is so nice you are not fat!"? Do I look empirically fantastic? That is such a stupid question, and an embarrassing one, I know that. How hot am I? Am I totally hot? I don’t think I’m totally hot. I don’t even think I look like me. And was she totally hot? I am going to develop some kind of personality disorder. On top of the ones I’ve already got.

It seems to me that to be vain is the best thing in the world. You are bulletproof when you are vain. You are convinced that you are empirically fantastic, utterly gorgeous, imperviously pretty, and nothing can take that away from you, because there is your mirror, and here you are, and no one will ever get between you and your true love. If I were vain, I would be very happy. If I had a pony and a billion dollars and it rained soup and puppies, I would be very happy. These things are unlikely to happen. Of course, I thought that me running around in a bathing suit was unlikely to happen. I thought that me leaping in front of cameras and willingly examining the result and maybe even, ever so slightly having a positive thought, was unlikely to happen. Some things, however, are more unlikely than others, even in the fullness of time.

That is the thing–no, not the thing. There are a lot of the things about this whole experience, aren’t there? But this is another one of those things. Losing all this weight has changed me in ways I did not anticipate. I am about a foot less wide, and a foot less deep, and I fling myself in front of a lens, and I expect people to treat me if not well, then decently, and it is funny how when you expect that, it tends to happen. I wish I had known that years ago, because I suspect it works no matter what size you are. 

But the amazing thing–the thing, if you will–is the way I have also not changed even a little bit, in this place inside my head where I am going really? No, seriously–really? Really I have to exercise, and really I have to take care of myself, and really, seriously, that is what I look like? I spent my whole life not believing mirrors and cameras, and being uncomfortable in my body. Part of the reason I got this surgery was because I was tired of not believing in mirrors and cameras and being uncomfortable in my body. Most of the time I’ve spent post-surgery has been not believing in mirrors and cameras, and being uncomfortable in my body. Does this ever fucking stop? No, seriously.

Maybe I should spend a couple of hours at home, setting up my camera on the self-timer, and posing for a series of portraits. Here I am the way I look waiting for a train. And here is me thinking deep thoughts, buying a bottle of water, looking for my keys, sharing an amusing anecdote with a coworker, sitting on the toilet, eating a ham. Here is me. And then I can line them all up on my mirror, which lies, and look at them every morning and try to believe that that’s me, and her, and also her, and also the girl sitting by the pool with a flower in her hair, looking maybe a little ridiculous, maybe a little sexy, even. That can’t be my body, and that can’t be me.

8 Replies to “one hundred million billion words”

  1. *What the fuck do other people say? You look fantastic, they say, when they see me. So good! But does that mean, “It is so nice you are not fat!”? Do I look empirically fantastic?*

    It’s not nice or not nice, whether you are fat. It just is. You are not your weight. YOU are fantastic. Period.

    Fat or not, you are, were, always will be, empirically fantastic. You are particularly fantastic with bright, spiky hair and a sweet dress in a delicious raspberry sorbet fabric, and tall, silvery Cinderella shoes.

    And sometimes, it is just fantastic to see you after a long absence. So there.

  2. You look all sorts of fantastic there, Anne!

    When I first lost a huge amount of weight I found myself jumping into camera shots all the time. Friends laughed at me and teased me about developing a big ol’ ego.

    Truly, it wasn’t that. I was just fascinated by my new self, and I was constantly looking and critiquing and examining myself in different pictures and different poses, doing exactly what you describe, trying to figure it all out–often trying to figure out who that girl was in the photos.

    Fundamentally I felt the same inside, at least for the most part, so it was jarring to see myself in a picture or catch sight of myself in a store window and not recognize myself. That was very disorienting, in many ways, to literally do a doubletake at one’s own image. But in some other ways it was also very cool.

  3. How many years have you spent in that other body? And how long have you had this new body? Exactly. It will take time for your head to catch up… :)

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