Wednesday, August 12, 2009


I really, really want to believe people mean well. I do. Not the vast majority, because I haven't been wrapped in cotton my whole life--I know what people are like. I will never cease to be surprised, even pleased, by unexpected, spontaneous kindness from strangers--and I spend some of my time aspiring to practice unexpected, spontaneous kindness myself. (Not in a fake way, but if someone is a great waitress, I've been known to leave a note to that effect with my tip. I'll tell someone I love their hat if I love their hat. I ask the cashier how HE is. And so on.)

When it comes to this surgery, most people have been kind--at least to my face. People who have known me at all well and for any length of time have inevitably observed my lifelong struggle with weight, and some of them also know about my other medical issues, history of bulimia, abuse history, blahblahblahm***f***ingblah.

I did start writing in this blog, at least in part, to educate people in my life as to this surgery and what might motivate someone like myself--someone who was formerly a vocal opponent of said surgery--to surrender to the possibility that it could help me. The friends I know who read the blog have indicated that it has served its purpose in that way. It has helped me to process things, and it has gotten me to write, which I need to be doing more of, all the time. These are all positive things.

My favorite people in the world are the ones who don't bring my weight up at all--because it just isn't important to them. I don't see how questions like "Have you lost/gained weight?" are even relevant to any friendly conversation. Just having someone ask me that ruins my day for awhile. Oh, THAT again. (Probably because the most blatant offenders ask that before they even ask how I am.) Frankly, I find this not only offensive, but disheartening. I lose both respect and regard for the asker immediately; somewhere in my subconscious, a box gets checked, and the result is this: I know this is someone who focuses on the least important thing that makes me me. The end result: I think less of them. Fact of life.

I have a hard enough time trusting people. The fact is, I'm never going to be able to trust anyone who asks me that question--ever--because they care too much about how I look and not who I am. It also makes me question their motivation--as in, why do they care (am I going to be graded on this? WTF?) Do they ask their average-size friends if they've lost or gained weight when they see them, too? I seriously doubt it. Any apparent outward acceptance of me they seem to exhibit is immediately determined to be, at best, conditional, and at worst, an outright lie. If they're just projecting their own body issues onto me--and yes, Virginia, this happens quite frequently, and I am perceptive enough to spot it at twenty paces--it actually bothers me slightly less because I make note of their obvious Achilles heel; I'm still irritated, but we can all just hang with our various preexisting neuroses.

Recently, I have found myself feeling hurt--at least in passing--by things people have said or done. The most toxic family member that I still communicate with, THE DAY I GOT HOME FROM THE HOSPITAL, the first thing out of her mouth was, "Do you feel any lighter?" I was all doped up, in pain, barely conscious really; I know not to expect any better from her, but you know what? I just didn't need this bullshit. She then chuckled and said, "Of course, I had to ask you that." My mental response (thank you, Demerol, for keeping me silent) was, "Really? Really, you had to? Well, aren't you the clever one. Have a nice day. Buh-bye." Or the shorter, direct version, because I am a fan of brevity: "Bitch, PLEASE."

Yesterday, during a benign back-and-forth on Facebook about life in general between several people, an old friend said, in reference to me, "Just call her Slim." I felt like screaming. Are we passing notes? What grade are we in? I replied from the heart (that's how I roll) with something along the lines of "I'd kick you in the stones for that if you were close enough to reach." I added that my goal was basically to be average. Average, my friends, this is what I fantasize about. His response: "I meant it as a compliment. You're going to do great." Well, okay. Fantastic. Could he have just said I was going to do great? Yes, he could have. Another friend of mine--someone who has had her own weight struggles--called me today after having read that exchange and asked if she could be mad at him for that. I sighed and just said, "You could, but you know, he doesn't get it." If I said anything to him, he would probably think I was just oversensitive. It's pointless.

Also yesterday, I received an otherwise nice note with a gift that included, inexplicably, my head Photoshopped onto a body wearing a bikini--a body thinner than mine was at the age of twelve, a body that does not exist in nature on anyone over the age of sixteen. I said to Mr. Salted, "Yeah. This is a very generous gift, but this graphic kind of bothers me. WTF?" He made a pained face--it came from someone in his family--and said, "Yeah, it is weird. I'm sorry, sweetie."

A lot of people just don't get it. And you know, bully for them that they don't have to. Everyone has obstacles in life--everyone. But fat is clearly visible to every sighted person within range, and adds an inevitable wrinkle to the wearer's life--instant and constant prejudgment. Your body is public domain when you are fat. It's an extremely distasteful reality. Some people assume that you are lazy and stuffing Big Macs or Ho-Hos into your mouth whenever you pause for an intake of breath. Some wonder if it's your glands. Some act as though you are invisible/blind/deaf/stupid and speculate or editorialize aloud to their heart's content. Fat in and of itself isn't a disability, but I will hypothesize that fat people are viewed largely the way many disabled or disfigured people are--with the fear of difference, the barely restrained curiosity ("how did they get that way?") or even flat-out repulsion. When people go so far as to be visibly or audibly repulsed, I know damn well they were either a fat kid; had a fat relative and so becoming fat themselves is their biggest fear in life; or some other knee-jerk, projecting bullshit. None of that excuses their rude behavior. Even when someone's little kid is screaming out how fat you are in a public place, someone will (usually) shush the kid, but everyone knows--especially the fat person--that most people within earshot are thinking, "Well, too bad. The kid's right. How did she let herself get that big in the first place?" I've been asked that very question more than once, and by people who purported to love me. There is not one iota of love anywhere in that question. Conjugate it any way you like: it remains insulting, demeaning, and borders on accusatory. That and many other weight-related barbs that I've received and addressed in this blog over the past few months are, sadly, only the tip of the iceberg. 40 years is a relatively long time on the planet, particularly when you're paying attention.

"Slim" sounded to me like something a teenage boy would say to a fat girl, thinking himself hilarious. It also seems to presuppose that I finally caved and had this surgery for the sake of vanity. No, for the 5,036,678th time, I am trying to improve the quality of my life. I have watched that quality deteriorate, with no small degree of alarm, over the past ten years due to numerous health problems. I finally chose to undergo a risky, permanent, radical medical procedure in an attempt to facilitate the lifestyle changes I have been making for the last several years to eat well and exercise actually pay off with some results that might cure my high cholesterol, type II diabetes and sleep apnea, never mind what the number on the scale is. I have tried to achieve similar results all these years without any type of medication and not one bit of it made any difference for any length of time. I have been torturing myself about my weight, with the world as my Greek chorus, since I was a freshman in high school. People have been telling me I was fat since I was three years old, but I'll be generous about that fact just this once and only count the last twenty-five years of my life--more than half--where I have not been allowed one day, not one blessed day, where I didn't think about how fat (disgusting, repulsive, ugly, etc.) I am at least once. Not when I graduated from college. Not when I got married. NEVER.

I acknowledge that I chose a thankless--but I hope not pointless--battle to fight a long time ago.I want it not to matter. The outside world, the general public, the people I don't know, even the doctors--I don't really care about them. They can get under my skin a bit, but their digs don't cut to the quick. The battle I'm talking about involves people I love, or like--people I call my friends, family, sometimes colleagues; people I have some personal regard for. Whether you like me, and find me in some way valuable, or if you hate my guts and burn me in effigy--I want it to be because of WHO I AM. Because I can assure you, whether I weigh 520 pounds or 120, I am the same person I always was, good and bad.

Do I hope I reach an average weight, or even a slim one? Sure. I'd love to actually know what it was like to feel pretty--after all, I'm a female human being who grew up in shallow America and got bombarded with all the same pressures and images as every other female human being who grew up in shallow America. I'd love to have more physical energy. I'd love to do a whole bunch of things I'm too self-conscious to do now. But I don't know what is going to happen. I may lose a bunch of weight and gain some back. I may never get below a certain weight. I may fail miserably altogether. I don't expect these things to happen, not at all; I completely expect, and am working toward, a positive outcome. But my point is, if you know me, if I mean something to you, but you still insist on judging me--for God's sake, make your judgment on the basis of some other factor that is deeper than the average mud puddle. I am the same person I always was. I will always be that person.

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Seattle, WA, United States
This blog focuses largely on a personal journey to and through weight-loss surgery. It's also about reading, writing, animals, photography, love, humor, music, thinking out loud, and memes. In other
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