The goings-on inside the head and heart of a woman held hostage by a scale...

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Driving under the influence

I once wrecked a car reaching for a Cheez-it. I am not proud of this. In fact, I’ve never admitted it out loud. If I was reaching for the radio, my purse, change for the toll? Those are all shame-free events. But Cheez-its? They weren’t even white cheddar.
I often hear men at social gatherings telling stories about wild partying days when they were in their teens or twenties. At a small neighborhood gathering the other night, I heard a man tell a story about reaching into the back seat for a beer and ending up on the railroad tracks with a train coming. He wasn’t embarrassed. Actually, he seemed quite proud of the story. The six or seven people listening all leaned in to hear how he got out of this scrape. They laughed, then sighed and looked at him with admiration for turning himself into such an upstanding citizen after those wild and crazy times. I couldn’t help but wonder how my Cheez-it story would have gone over.
I’ve heard people admit to driving drunk, using drugs, stealing from department stores, charging up a spouse’s credit card, infidelity and tax evasion. It all gets a laugh at a party. I’ve never heard anyone admit to bingeing on stale chips in the middle of the night or waking up with melted chocolate on their chest from eating ice cream until they fell asleep. (I’ve done both of these) I know women who would tell a roomful of people the number of sex partners they’ve had rather than disclose their weight. Admitting you had six vodka and tonics and then woke up beside a stranger will elicit nods of commiseration, winks and “I’ve been there’s”. Admit you ate an entire sleeve of Ritz crackers and then went to bed with Ben and Jerry is like farting at a funeral.
A few weeks ago, before the start of a Red Sox game, I was in line at the 7-11 trying to buy a bottle of water to smuggle into Fenway. (fyi-this is acceptable party chitchat) The young guy in front of me tells the clerk he wants two burritos and points to the glass case beside the register where various salted meats all dressed up in oily buns are rolling over and over trying to tempt on-lookers. There is a miscommunication of sorts and the clerk behind the counter keeps asking for clarification, causing a delay in the line which is growing exponentially.
“Which one do you want?” “Do you want the extra hot?” “Do you want the one with sauce?”
He turns to me and says, “Hey, I’m just a chubby guy looking for a snack.”
I laugh. Everyone laughs. I turn around and see a very overweight woman, her eyes overted, not laughing. I know that look. That’s the “please don’t see me and notice that I’m fat” look. I can’t help but wonder if she were holding up the line buying Cheez-its if we would think it was funny. I don’t mean to imply that the weight shame game is a woman’s only sport. I know many men insecure about their weight and tied to the scale. But I think we’re a little harder on women. I wonder if later on that night, during cocktails with her friends or dinner with her boyfriend and another couple, if she’d say, “I held up the entire line buying Cheez-its only to crash my car into a fire hydrant trying to open the F*%$#@ ing things.” I doubt it.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Couldn’t sleep. Jones-ing all night for the white stuff. I actually had hunger pains although I know from the calorie counter app on my phone, that I had more than enough calories. Considerably more than enough calories. The hunger was in my head and heart. My stomach was along for the ride, much like a designated driver.
The physical hunger is just the beginning. All these random memories of pain brought on by way weight keep surfacing and I have nothing to push them down with since I can’t eat bread. Nothing like a baguette to force a bad tasting memory down your throat. Nothing like a binge and then a nice full belly to bring on a little amnesia, because as far back as my memory goes, I am fat. And even if my body wasn’t fat, I was inside. I’ve always been fat inside.
And, yes, I say fat like it’s a bad thing. And it was for me. I was the fat filling between a skinny sibling sandwich made by a narcissistic mother. There had always been something inherently missing, a sense that there was something terribly wrong with me and since I was fat, I figured that was the problem. But we lived near a library and it was open after school and during the summer so I sat in a corner of my house, with books and snacks on my lap, while the other kids played outside. There wasn’t anyone around to tell me to go outside and get some fresh air so I breathed in pages of books instead. The stories took away the loneliness and I became someone other than a fat girl. What I loved about books and stories back then, and even now, is there always that moment that changes everything. Every story has its climax where the character gets what she wants or deserves. In the story I wrote for myself, the lonely little girl loses weight, her father comes back, her mother stops taking pills and going to sleep for weeks at a time, the kids stop picking on her, the debilitated triple decker they live in is magically turned into a castle and, of course, they live happily ever after. But it all had to start with losing weight. I still do that, I realized this morning. My happiness hinges on the scale and it’s been that way for as far back as I can remember. I realized this morning that that little girl blamed her weight for all that was wrong, and there was plenty wrong. I realized this morning that the woman I’ve become is still harboring that little girl’s feelings. I realized this morning that I don’t want to do that anymore.