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.