I don’t remember the year or the date, and I’m not entirely certain of the month, but I remember this: I was about 200 pounds when I met E. That was the first time I had ever weighed that little—it was the first time I was anywhere near what all those charts call a normal weight. Me and Oprah, we were the same weight! I was delighted by the idea.
And I was starting to accept the idea of being a normal weight, and a normal girl, and person who fit in the world, quite literally: in chairs and bus seats and roller coaster rides and clown cars, through turnstiles and down narrow aisles on the plane, on the way to Chicago, where I’d meet him.
It was still an uncomfortable feeling. A strangeness. Not just that I wasn’t over-the-moon thrilled, which clearly I ought to have been, ungrateful girl, but because it felt like the world had transformed just for me into something beautiful and reachable. I didn’t know what to do with that idea—I was the one who was supposed to have changed. To have emerged from my cocoon of fat with a set of instructions and directions, and then go charging off into the sunset, off to do whatever normal people who weren’t afraid of the world were supposed to do next.
When E and I met and he smiled at me, I thought, “Oh. Oh, this is what I’ve been missing all these years.”
It was a sense of power, a sense of agency, a sense of understanding that I could affect someone physically, emotionally. That I could move someone, and be moved so thoroughly in return. That someone would look at me and want to touch me—that was astonishing. My god, was it a miracle. Everyone I had dated before—never had I been really deep-down convinced that they wanted me. I had never been completely sure that it could be true until he kissed me. And it was something that changed my life.
It wasn’t the only turning point, the single emotional touchstone, the catalyst that changed everything for all time amen. Those had been happening for awhile, a series of tiny spark-bright epiphanies about myself and my place in the world—physically, emotionally. But it’s the one I remember most clearly, the one that burns the brightest. Because it was the first time I accepted that other people would look at me, and they would see me, and that didn’t have to be a terrible, raw-rubbed feeling. It didn’t have to be a moment of panic and hoping they’d like me despite my size or my shape. I didn’t have to hide because it had just never stopped hurting when I saw someone clearly, unmistakably dismiss me after a glance. Not just romantically, not only sexually. But as a person, wiped away.
We dated. We fell in love. I moved to Utah, and fell in love with Utah too. And years passed and we were happy, I think. I became more myself, when I was with him. But somehow, I fell back asleep. We both fell asleep. We forgot to be in the world, and we forgot how to be together. We loved each other but—oh, clichés, you are so useful—sometimes it turns out that’s really not enough.
So one Saturday morning we woke up and instead of going and getting pancakes, we had a long, quiet conversation, and we agreed. And it was the hardest decision we had ever made. He kissed me goodbye, and we were done.
Now, now I’m back to figuring out how I fit in the world and where I want to go and be. He helped change the whole of my life. He brought me so much closer to being the person I think I want to be. I hope I did the same for him, because that would be rude, otherwise. Because that’s what I want for him.
I’m just as scared as I was five years ago, but here’s the thing: I’m a whole hell of a lot stronger. Slightly smarter. Just as socially awkward and dopey, but with better shoes. I think—I can’t swear to this, but I think I’ll be okay.