Today I went to lunch with E and two of his former co-workers. It was a last-minute thing–our breaks tend not to sync up, but I had some free time and I grabbed it and went running out the door, even though I had just eaten lunch at my desk and was stuffed all the way full. But I did not care, because I was very pleased to get to spend a lunch hour with my fellow, and to get out of the office for a few split seconds because my eyes were crossing from looking at white papers and sell sheets and PowerPoint presentations.
This is important: his two former coworkers were both small women; one is petite and pregnant, and the other is the sort of slim that comes from just having a small build, being lanky and long in the limbs. We went to a wonderful, terrifying-looking old-fashioned burger joint. They ordered burgers, fries, onion rings, diet sodas, a chocolate shake, and I was very jealous. They said, “You’re not eating! Oh my God, I ordered so much food!” and they laughed. They said, “You should order onion rings because you can’t just sit there and watch us eat! You have to have some of my fries, because there’s no way I’m going to finish them all.”
Between gossiping about the old guard at the office, and bites of their
hamburgers they snuck looks at me stealing sips of soda from E’s straw.
They said things like “Oh, this is so much food! I’m so hungry though,
because I ate breakfast hours ago. And I didn’t have much. And this is
a late lunch. But there’s no way I can eat all this. This is so much
food!” The pregnant lady ate her chocolate shake apologetically–have you ever seen someone spoon chocolate ice cream in
an apologetic way? It is kind of amazing. She pushed it away, and said
“I can’t be eating this! I’m so fat!” I told her that she had to, for
the sake of the baby and its healthy bones, and she looked at me
suspiciously. They both left a lot of food on their trays, patted their
stomachs, groaned about how they had overstuffed themselves.
And I wanted to shake them. I wanted to say, are you serious? Are you
totally serious about this? I can understand maybe feeling
self-conscious about eating when someone else isn’t, because that’s
fulfilling a bodily function and everyone gets weird about those. And I
felt bad for sitting there without a tray in front of me, but they were so fervent about it, so outsizedly embarrassed and strange. The apologies and the self-consciousness and
the protestations about the act of ingesting calories, the idea that
wanting lunch, enjoying a burger, ingesting the hell out of a bucket of
onion rings was something that had to be explained–it was hard to sit through.
One of the things I have unconsciously enjoyed about not being fat,
anymore, is the internalized idea that I can eat anything I want in
public and not have to apologize for it, or feel like someone was
judging me. I can put things in my grocery cart without someone going
tsk, tsk, order a hot chocolate and beam at the barista when she
suggests whipped cream instead of hemming and hawing or looking
contrite and conscious of my sinful ways because I was guilty of the
great crime of saying yes to whipped cream while fat.
But they sat across from me apologizing for, I guess, not worrying
enough about staying skinny. Apologizing for not being skinny enough,
when any rational, objective person would call them not just normal-sized but plenty thin.
Apologizing for what? Not being as strong as they thought I was being?
Did they think I was skipping lunch and they sucked for not being a
dieting superstar like me? Were they crazy?
They seemed crazy to me. It made me mad because that is supposed to be
one of the benefits of not having weight enough to make people judge
you. You’re supposed to be floating happily, peacefully, in a
no-judgment zone in which you are invisible and private and free to
carry on as you like, not paranoid about what people think of your
choices, because obviously you’re making the Right Choices if you are
Covetously Skinny, right? They didn’t seem to have gotten the memo when
they were inducted into the Thin Club, membership in which grants you
rank and privilege.
When I said goodbye and headed back to my office, one of them said, “You
have to eat next time! You can’t let me feel so self-conscious!” I
can’t understand how she could feel self-conscious.
Of course I understand how she could have felt self-conscious. I
understand how fucked up we are when it comes to food and body issues
and body image and eating, how hard it is no matter what size you are
and what you look like. I understand completely. I dislike that I’m
embroiled enough in the whole mess, the whole disordered eating
nonsense that seems impossible to escape that no matter how far I think
I’ve come, I still assume thin is a synonym of happy.