personal history

At the gym, there is an older lady who takes the morning water aerobics class. I’d say that she is in her late fifties, at the very latest. She looks ordinary in her street clothes, and then when she takes them off, she looks as if someone reached out and gently let all the air out of her. Her skin is very white, and drapes down from her shoulders and elbows, the tops and sides of her thighs, in soft folds. She is covered, all over, in sheets of loose and striated skin. And she is absolutely at ease in her body, comfortable with how she looks and happy with who she is, I think–her chin is up, her bearing is straight, she moves confidently across the pool room and through the locker room wearing less than I would ever want to be seen in, in public. I’ve never talked to her, but I kind of love her.

I want to talk to her–all that skin, it speaks to me of rapid weight loss after decades and decades of morbid obesity. She looks very much like the pictures I used to see, the before and afters you sometimes run into, when people blog about their weight-loss surgery. I thought, when I first saw her, that I recognized the shape of her body and her skin, and I wanted to go up to her and ask, “Did you get weight-loss surgery?” I revised that in my head: “I know this is a terribly personal question…” No. “I know this is a rude question, but…” No, how about, “Can I ask you a very personal question, and you can tell me to go to hell if you want, but I wanted to know…” No.

It’s a terribly rude question, and I just want to know. I don’t need to know, or have to know. It is not vital to national security that I discover why, exactly, her skin is like it is and whether she is okay with it and how she really does feel in her body and how wonderful it is to see her exercising her ass off every time I am here. That is none of my business, any of it. Her body and its history is none of my business. But I wanted to talk to her, and I wanted it to be weight-loss surgery, and I wanted to be able to talk about weight-loss surgery with someone who has gone through with it and whose life has been changed however it was changed by it. I wanted to talk shop. I wanted to have a conversation with someone who maybe can tell me what I need to know–sometimes I feel like they forgot to give me the manual, and there’s so much I need to know.

This incredible, powerful urge to talk to her was so different from my usual urge to talk about my surgery, which springs from my usual sense that I have to apologize for having gone from a fat person to a skinny one, from having experienced a “results not typical” kind of weight-loss transformation like you read about in ads in the backs of gossip rags. I get positive feedback for my appearance in a way and a quantity that I have not previously experienced as a fat girl–I was hot when I was fat, but it turns out that fewer people in the world think that fat girls can in fact be hot. So I get this attention I’m not used to, which embarrasses me, and I feel like I need to qualify it and to test it, even. Well, yes, but surgery, and fatness, and do you still think I’m hot even though I am, in actuality, a fat girl lurking? She could burst through a brick wall like the Kool-Aid man, dude. Watch your back.

Confessing, all the time, asking for absolution. Talking to this woman wouldn’t be a confession, but a me too, hey, I recognize you. A statement of fact instead of an admission of guilt. I’ve never spoken to her though, and I probably never will. She is entitled to her personal history, to not be required and called upon to testify. To have me mind my own business while she minds hers. And with my luck, if I did talk to her it would turn out she has some kind of rare skin disease and I am even ruder than I thought.

5 Replies to “personal history”

  1. Wow, that lady’s awesome. My friend recently asked me to join a burlesque group, but I said “Uh-uh” because I like to keep my loose skin under my clothes. I am pushing for the return of the full-body bathing suit.

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