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Friday, June 7, 2013

A Weighty Subject

I will admit it freely. I am a woman of substance. I don't mean that I am rolling in wealth; rolling in about fifteen dollars for the next two weeks is more like it. What I mean, and this should be fairly plain from my profile picture, is that my clothing size contains two digits. The first digit is a one, and that is all that you need to know. Over the years I have lost and gained more pounds than I really want to think about. When I have really decided to lose weight, I have done so pretty effectively. Being stubborn seems to help. I have bullied myself into eating small portions and not eating sweets. I have even gone long periods of time without eating anything at all between early evening and mid-morning.

Even though there are many people out there who are much larger than I am, I know I am often judged by my size. I can only imagine what it must be like for morbidly obese people when they are out and about. Just recently I had an interesting experience while out shopping. A girl of about thirteen years of age was shopping with either her sister or friend, and her father. Every time we ended up in the same aisle, she openly and hatefully stared at me. I didn't know what it was that made her hate me on first sight, but I sure was curious. Did she think that since my hair is short-ish that I was a guy? Was it because she thought I was fat and disgusting? Was she woefully uneducated and therefore offended that someone my size was wearing a shirt that said Budapest, Hungary, and maybe she thought it said hungry? I'll never know. Maybe that is a good thing. I don't need to carry around the angry, judgemental attitude it takes to instantly hate other people without knowing them.

Does carrying extra weight mean that I am automatically considered a stupid, lazy, overeating pig of a person? I don't think I am any of those things. I have given the issue of my weight a lot of thought over the years. For me, I think there are a few different contributing factors. I spent my early years hungry. No, I wasn't starving, but we certainly didn't have a lot of food in our home. During the years I spent with my parents (until shortly after I turned seven), a standard breakfast for me and my siblings was milky coffee. And not too much milk at that. We had to save the milk for papa so that he could be strong and work hard to put a little food on the table, and a lot of beer and cigarettes and liquor in his body. I finally have the ability to eat when I want and what I want, within the bounds of reason and budget, of course. Food comforts me. At times in my life when I felt unloved or unhappy, there was always food to turn to. When the people I lived with didn't give affection, they still gave me food. In some ways the food helped temporarily fill the hollow places inside. And then there was always the next meal. It protects me. I have the misfortune to be "the smart one" among my siblings. What most folks don't get is that I am smart enough to know, and be hurt by, the fact that I am not pretty or beautiful, or whatever word you want to use. Given the chance to change, I'd stick with smart, but that doesn't mean it's easy. Maybe having extra weight on my body heads people off at the pass so that I can't see their disappointment when they see that I am not a visually stunning person.

I am fully aware that many people today feel entitled to openly mock or even harass people based on their weight. They'll go straight up to a stranger and tell them that their life would be better if they would just have some restraint around food, or get up off their lazy butts and exercise. How is this acceptable? We don't treat people that way when they have cancer or emphysema, for example. We try to say it's okay because the cancer is not their fault. But then again, it might be. You never know. And that's why you keep your mouth shut.

Yesterday we saw a few women who represent another side of our body-obsessed society. They were all extremely thin, which seems to be society's ideal of the moment. To make it easier to get an idea of their size, I'll tell you what made me realize how thin theses ladies were. One of them was walking into the store with her daughter, who was a slender seven or eight year old. And this child had a bigger waist than her mommy. It made me sad. Heck, it made we want to bring her home and feed her some dinner. Our societal idea of worth is tied up in a size-zero, never-aging, pretty package. Is this supposed to be more healthy than my extra weight? What happened to women that look like women? If Marilyn Monroe showed up in Hollywood today, she'd be told to lose thirty or forty pounds and have her breasts enlarged. And if she had a baby, she'd be expected to be back to her pre-pregnancy weight in less than a month. It seems that no matter what we look like, it just isn't going to fit all of the parts of the ideal. Maybe that's really what is going on with me. Maybe I have just given up on trying to master this weighty subject.