honest to god

This has been something I’ve been wanting to talk about for
a while, now, but I keep, somehow, forgetting to. Avoiding it. Sitting down to
write about it, and then backspacing all the way back to the beginning and
starting a whole new post about shiny things. I am embarrassed to talk about
it, not sure how to say what I want to say. Not wanting to sound like an
asshole. Mostly, not wanting to sound like an asshole. But it’s something I
keep thinking about, and I am going to have to write about it and go ahead and
risk sounding like an asshole–which, really, is something I risk every time I
post, isn’t it.

But this feels like an especially sensitive topic, for some
reason, which is ridiculous. I got
weight-loss surgery with the expectation that I was going to experience the
loss of weight, and in doing so, become a smaller person. Why does the fact
that I’m a smaller person seem like such a charged notion? It makes me
ridiculously, squirmingly uncomfortable to talk about. And it has gotten so
ridiculously complicated, too. Hey! You can be small, and have body issues! You
can be small, and still worry that you are fat, and ugly, and look terrible
when you’re naked and that you’re not desirable. You can be small, and be
terribly, terribly fucked up.

A couple of months ago, I was talking to a friend at work,
who remarked that I had lost so much weight just in the time she had known me.
How did I do it? Always, I am tempted to say "lots of protein! I run! It
is magic! I have cancer!" but instead I said "Weight-loss
surgery!" We had time for the questions–stomach stapling, you mean? When?
How much did you used to weigh? How big were you? How much have you lost?
What’s it been like?

"It’s been so weird," I said, which is my standard
answer. That I grew up obese, and don’t remember ever weighing under two
hundred pounds. I grew up fat, and now suddenly, I’m not fat, and I don’t know
how to deal with that. "I mean, I’m not skinny–" I said.
"No," she interrupted. "But you’re normal!"

And I stopped right there, and realized, suddenly, that she
hurt my feelings. My knee-jerk reactions: What do you mean, I’m not skinny? Does
that mean I’m fat? What the hell’s normal
supposed to mean? And hey, let’s back up here, a second: what do you mean,
I’m not skinny? I realized that I have been thinking of myself as skinny, and
then I was ashamed of that, and embarrassed to have caught myself out being
ridiculous. Skinny, compared to what I used to be? Yes, certainly. Compared to
my heaviest weight, I am petite and wee and barely a wisp. That’s okay to
think, right? But to arrogantly assume that I fit into the skinny end of the
body continuum, where did I get off thinking like that? And what do you mean
I’m not skinny? And Jesus, when did I get so fucked up?

"Right," I said to her. "I’m normal!"
and then I changed the subject. I am left without appropriate definitions,
definitions that don’t make me feel uneasy, or self-important, or unreasonable.
I hate the word skinny, because it is so very loaded and such an ugly word. And
after only wanting to be regular and average and not stick out, to not be a
target anymore–because a woman’s body is the easiest target in the world, when
you want to disparage her–I hate the word normal, all of a sudden. I wasn’t
normal when I was obese? I was a fucking circus freak?

What am I allowed to say about myself? How am I allowed to
feel? I used to be fat. I worked hard to like myself as a fat person. I did,
and I still do believe in size acceptance with all my heart. So does that make
me a hypocrite now, because I like to think of myself as a skinny girl?

Am I rejecting the person I used to be, because it makes me
happy? And it’s true, and this is the
worst and the hardest part, but it is true that it makes me so happy, when
someone calls me skinny, and it makes me so happy, when my pants are falling
off, and I go to the store, and I find out I am down another size, another two
sizes, that I am where I never thought I’d be, in a size 6–it makes me happy to
be small. And I don’t ever want to be
fat again. I thought I was better than that. A better person than that.

When I did this, started this whole process, I was
determined I would never lose sight of the fact that everything I am was
because I grew up fat, I identified as a fat woman. Being fat made me a
stronger person; being fat made me the person I am today. Except the person I
am today is glad she’s not fat. Which feels like an insult to the person I used
to be; it feels like an insult to all the gorgeous people in the world who are
happy with their bodies.

I want to apologize for not being fat anymore. I want
to say please believe me that I don’t think I’m special because I’m not fat
anymore. I want to reassure people that just the act of saying "I am not
fat" seems subversive and unreal, and insensitive and awful to me. I want
to find a way to talk about this without wanting to burst into flames. I want
to find a way to feel okay about it, and to make sure everyone feels okay about
it. It doesn’t feel okay, and that seems so fucked up to me.

  11 comments for “honest to god

  1. anon
    February 5, 2008 at 11:28 am

    Oh I’ve missed these discussions! I mean, thrilled to talk about writing and moving and love and Mormons and all, but this is where we all began, isn’t it, talking about this. And I think we’ve had some damn good conversations. Keep it up, this is important.

    You won’t be surprised by what I have to say; I’ve said it all here before, when you started your journey and we talked about it every step of the way.

    It has been eight years since I’ve been fat. I struggle still, and if I’m being honest I’ll tell you that I struggle daily, with varying feelings involving weight.

    Sometimes I feel fat, sometimes I feel thin, sometimes I hate that I was fat, sometimes I hate that I felt such a need to get thin. I feel a lot of things, different things, sometimes in the course of the same day. I don’t think it ever goes away, Anne. Is it bad that I tell you that? Does it sound negative? I’m sorry.

    I know not everyone finds all of this so self-defining. I mean, I know all about fat acceptance and I’m thrilled people live their lives without apology and without deferral, but my life WAS affected by being so overweight for so many years (even though I did still live and I wouldn’t say it was a bad life at all), and today my life IS STILL affected, even though I no longer carry the physical fat anymore.

    And my life is better now and I’m sorry to say that, sorry to all the people who will hate me for saying that. But it’s also still the same, if that makes any sense. The weight loss totally changed me, and yet I’m totally the same person inside. I know, contradiction, but that is my life.

    I think it’s really beneficial to have these discussions and I welcome what others have to share.

  2. Ellen
    February 5, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    I think a size 6 is pretty darn skinny, dear. Our culture is warped by skinny=anorexic models in magazines and on TV.

    I’ve lost 85 lbs with RNY and I’m in a 12-14. I have never been and will never be built to fit into a size 6 or 8. It’s just not in the bone structure.

    However, I’m running a 5k on March 1 and I’m in pretty darn good shape!

  3. A. Non
    February 5, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    I can identify. In a way my whole “old” life was about being fat, and in a way it wasn’t. I am “normal” sized now (although, like you, I like to be called skinny, and sometimes panic that I am not skinny enough), and when I tell my partner, who has only known me at a lower weight, about all the cool things I did when I was younger, the experiences I had, the people I met, I feel as if I’m being deceitful by not mentioning “but – I was fat then!”, as if that should change his whole perspective on the events. It feels a little like a different person was living those memories. So much of my mind was constantly, 24/7, wrapped up in fatfatfatfat that it informed everything I did and said. Now that it doesn’t, I really do feel as though I’m no longer “myself” or, rather, not the self I was then. Honestly I think that now I am more myself, since I can focus more clearly on my real flaws and goals without the FATFATFATFAT on the brain getting in the way.

    Just my two cents. I didn’t lose nearly what you did (and my highest weight was 190, so I never experienced society’s reaction to a truly obese person), and not nearly as fast, either. But I think the general mechanics of the mental gymnastics that go on after major weight loss are pretty similar across the board.

  4. February 5, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    Two years after weight loss surgery, when my sister or best friend refer to me as “skinny”, it feels like they’re making fun of me (though I know they’re not) – and wearing around a size 12, I’m not skinny.

    Having been overweight for the first 30something years of my life, I’m finding it hard not identify myself as 300+ pounds still. I feel like I’m a fat woman in disguise. My mother, who has spent her entire almost-65 years dieting the same 15 pounds off, gaining it, dieting it off, and obsessing about every bite she eats, now approves of me, and it chafes. I don’t know that I want her approval just because I lost weight. It pisses me off, to be honest, that I wasn’t approval-worthy before.

  5. February 5, 2008 at 5:43 pm

    I am one of those people who called you skinny, and I feel like maybe I should apologize, but you do look thin, and lovely. But I thought you looked lovely before, too, because I think you are a lovely, friendly, outgoing person, and I find that awesome.

    I suppose I am going through the opposite of what you are going through – being thin my whole life, I feel like I have to apologize for being fat, for taking up space, for fucking up and committing the crime of eating with abandon and looking like a real woman for the first time in my life. Hell, I feel like I have to do more than apologize. I feel like I have to PAY.

    So in a way, I can sort of understand where you’re coming from. Any sort of drastic change is kind of threatening to our sense of selves, I think.

    I hope you work it out. I hope I do, too. But I really hope you don’t berate yourself, because you seem to my limited knowledge to be the same great girl, fat or thin.

  6. February 5, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    I am one of those people who called you skinny, and I feel like maybe I should apologize, but you do look thin, and lovely. But I thought you looked lovely before, too, because I think you are a lovely, friendly, outgoing person, and I find that awesome.

    I suppose I am going through the opposite of what you are going through – being thin my whole life, I feel like I have to apologize for being fat, for taking up space, for fucking up and committing the crime of eating with abandon and looking like a real woman for the first time in my life. Hell, I feel like I have to do more than apologize. I feel like I have to PAY.

    So in a way, I can sort of understand where you’re coming from. Any sort of drastic change is kind of threatening to our sense of selves, I think.

    I hope you work it out. I hope I do, too. But I really hope you don’t berate yourself, because you seem to my limited knowledge to be the same great girl, fat or thin.

  7. February 5, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    my comments always repeat, damn. I meant to add to that, that I completely understand what it is like to be thin and have body image issues. Not everyone who is thin wakes up and believes she looks like a perfect pretty princess. I think that that majority of women have lumps and bumps and stretch marks and weird asses and saggy boobs and what have you, and for some reason if you’re a size six you’re supposed to just shut your mouth and thank Jesus you’re not a size eighteen. This is a load of crap. I’ll shut up now. Take care.

  8. February 5, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    Hammer, hit nail. Right on the head. This is exactly how I feel many days.

  9. Jo
    February 6, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    This is my first time posting but I read this blog daily and have read every word on it at least once.

    I am fat and have been since forever and I don’t find it the least bit offensive that you were miffed at not being called skinny. It doesn’t make you bad or wrong or shallow (at least, not based on your writing here). As long as you are continuing to question your inner motives, I don’t think you should ever worry about that.

    I just wonder this: it seems to me, in your post and in a few of the comments here, that for some reason the label of ‘skinny’ can only be applied by the outside world and not by your own self. Is that true? And is that really how you want it to be? I mean, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my time online it’s that no matter how fit or lovely I think a woman is, there is always going to be some person who calls her fat or ugly or some other hateful term.

    And I can’t help but wonder what body issues Anne’s co-worker was dealing with during that conversation. Perhaps she was feeling jealous of Anne, or threatened by her continued weight-loss, and the comment about Anne not being skinny was a (sub)conscious dig to try and make herself feel better.

    I mean, we just don’t know, do we? So why do these outside forces get to make determinations like whether or not Anne is skinny?

    I used to smoke. I smoked for 20 years, and quitting was incredibly hard. But I did it, and now I get to call myself a non-smoker. I used to be agoraphobic and have debilitating panic attacks, but I worked my ass off to overcome them and now live panic-free. I don’t have to wait for anyone else to tell me that I did these things. I know I did them and no one can say anything to me to make me doubt myself.

    So, isn’t there a point where all of you women who worked so hard to lose weight get to say that you are skinny and not have that be something that an unkind or thoughtless comment can change on a day-to-day basis?

    Maybe I’ve oversimplified things here, and it isn’t actually that cut and dried. I am fat and my sister is gaunt and skeletal (due to a long illness, not an eating disorder) and we look at Anne’s picture and see someone who looks fit and healthy.

    I wonder if it isn’t as simple as a small twist in your focus. Maybe you could each decide what *your* definition of skinny is, and then when you reach that, start calling yourself skinny. I mean, it’s okay to call yourself tall or short, right? So why not skinny?

    I guess I sound preachy here, and I’m sorry for that. I’m not asking these question rhetorically, if that makes any difference. I’ve never been good with grey areas; maybe I’m missing something.

  10. February 7, 2008 at 10:45 am

    I think you get to define what skinny and normal are for you. Size 12 to me would be skinny because it’s so much less than where I am now. Size 6 is very skinny.

    But you’ve come from the Planet of Fat (to quote Frances Kuffel) and our definitions are different than “normal people” who haven’t had the kind of history and journey that you have.

    You get to pick. But also maybe learn that skinny for you is someone else’s normal.

    Me, I’m fat.

  11. February 11, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    Hmmm…. If it makes you feel any better, I’ll admit something I’m ashamed of too! I’m jealous that you get to be a size 6 seemingly magically (I know, I know, there are ugly health things and gas, and hard work and all of that, but I only see a tiny snippet of your life via this blog, so bear with me!) and yet, I’ve been chubby my whole freakin’ life and other than starvation and extreme exercise, there seems to be no ‘magic’ path to being a size 6 for me. And I often think I love my body as-is, and I want to, but I’m reminded that I’m not there yet when I feel these jealous pangs over your successful surgery.

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