Normal: I Never Thought I Would Be Here

In a country where divorce has become an inevitability, it’s no surprise that, as a society, we’re pretty damned reluctant to admit how much it screws us all up. As a divorcee, with divorced parents, I’m not throwing stones, here. My childhood, though, like that of half of North America, is split into two points: before the divorce and after the divorce.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I have no illusions that my life would have been improved by my parents staying together. Those two… it was like if Archie Bunker of All in the Family had married Annie Wilkes from Stephen King’s Misery. Sure, there were times when they were good together… or more accurately good separately, but zetus lapetus, all I remember after age seven was hate and insanity. The most obnoxious thread in any divorce discussion is the erroneous claim that these marriages shouldn’t have ended. Had my parents not been allowed to part, I’d have been orphaned in a murder/suicide by age twelve. I’m not really exaggerating. Despite divorce sometimes being the best option, however, that doesn’t mean those involved aren’t damaged from it.

3ed6673b748b2e9208e960af20a81decI literally cannot watch this movie, because she reminds me of my mother.

Before my parents divorced, I was… normal, for lack of a better word. I was ornery and a bit bossier than the other kids in my class, but I didn’t get in a lot of trouble at school or home. I never wore the cutest clothes or the most complicated hairstyles, but I was dressed in clean and matching outfits and I fit in with the other kids, well enough. Then, everything changed and I was too young to understand why. The other kids didn’t like me, because no one was making sure I was bathing or brushing my teeth. I was putting on weight, so I grew defensive and mean. I got in trouble constantly, because I acted out in class, wishing more than anything that I could be the petite teacher’s pet or the cute blonde girl who was good at sports. I was the smelly, chubby kid, who was always sitting out at recess for one reason or another. Of course, at age eight, I didn’t understand that this was the direct result of my parents’ distraction during their divorce. I thought something was wrong with me.

131753-katy-perry-geek-video-gif-imgu-te1h

I get it, y’all. I don’t hold a grudge for any of this. If anyone understands the consequences of choosing the wrong person, it’s me. My parents tried… mostly… sometimes? Regardless, I still had my Gramma, food in the fridge, and plenty of material wants provided by said Gramma. I’m not typing this while weeping over Sarah McLachlan’s Angel (or I wasn’t until I got the craving to listen to that song… fucking emotions). What I didn’t have, however, what affected me most deeply, was the sense of normalcy I enjoyed for the first seven years of my life. I’m not being dramatic when I tell you that I never got that sense of belonging back, even after the dust settled.

I started showering, wearing deodorant, brushing my hair… but those formative years of being outcast and bullied, set a precedent. If I wasn’t going to fit in, it would be because I chose exclusion. I eventually made friends, many of whom were equally defensive, and gained a sense of inclusion from the refusal to conform, but it wasn’t the same as feeling truly accepted, even if my friends or those looking in saw no difference. With a still unstable home life, it’s no surprise that I clung to a true outcast, mistaking him for a kindred spirit, instead of a man who was being rejected for having no good in him. I married him at 19 and I have never felt more alone. If being chubby and unwashed and bad at sports made me feel excluded at age 10, being morbidly obese and plain and married to a sociopath at age 20 made me feel like Will Smith in I am Legend. Like, literally, I had the dog. That’s it.

the_20omega_20gif4

Y’all, I never thought I would be here. After Gail’s and my shockingly similar divorces, I was pretty convinced that all of the “happy” people were… lying. I don’t mean that in some catty way, mocking the Facebook statuses and family newsletters, so much as I mean that I never witnessed true happiness. I assumed the people complaining about their relationships on Facebook were being tacky and the ones who weren’t just knew better than to air their dirty laundry in public. I didn’t want everyone to be miserable, but of course they were. 

Then… I lost 90 pounds, graduated with my master’s degree, started my career, and life was good. Things were really working out. I was headed in the right direction. I had great friends and coworkers. I felt like I actually fit into society, for the first time in nearly 20 years. Sure, I hadn’t met a good man, but… how many of those were really out there? Why would they want me with all my mouthiness and baggage? Still, I prayed. I asked God to help me to get over myself so I’d see a good man when I found one. I asked for a man of strong character to love me and take care of me and let me love and take care of him. I prayed for someone who would bring out the best in me and for whom I could do the same. I wanted a good father for my children and even bargained, promising it would be okay if I couldn’t get a full time job, if I could just get him; because more than anything, I still yearned for the traditional family unit comprised of a husband, wife, and kids… “normal.” I knew many women who were fulfilled and happy without these, but I would never be one of them. I followed up said prayers with bad date after bad date, often crying to Gail about how it was “never going to happen,” while making self-actualized blog posts about why people wouldn’t want to date me… and along came Jake.

Just shy of one year ago, I headed out on what would undoubtedly be just another funny blog post. Instead, I met a guy who more or less looked like his picture, opened the door for me, paid for an actual date, laughed at my jokes (even the unintentionally offensive ones), and was charismatic and fun. I left to take my Gramma a birthday present and told her it wasn’t love at first sight, but I liked him, he seemed to like me, and I’d go on a second date if I ever heard from him again.

One year later, I make no exaggeration when I say that Jake is everything I never knew I needed and wanted. He’s responsible, independent, adventurous, funny, intelligent, unbearably obstinate, considerate, attentive, generous, affectionate, impossible to offend, driven, hardworking, charismatic, rational, even-tempered, and good to his core. He both tells me and shows me that he loves me. He makes me strive to be a better person, while encouraging my passions and relationships. He gives me a sense of stability I never knew I was missing. He has strong, healthy friendships with good people and so much love for his own family, that I know that being with him will never make me feel excluded, isolated, or worst of all damned. I still don’t believe in soulmates, but I do believe in answered prayers. Is it sappy to say all this? Does this completely defy all of my claims that emotions belong with the last Horcrux and feelings are for the inside? Sure. But sometimes that’s what gratitude looks like.

post-49541-thumper-twitterpated-gif-imgur-jztn

Advertisements

Formerly Fat

In August of 2010, I weighed 260 pounds. I had miscarried and Gail’s little girl had died in the last year. I was starting graduate school and working two jobs even then. I had a husband who wouldn’t get a job and constantly stole from me, refusing to get the hell out of my house even though I’d asked him to leave a hundred times. I couldn’t afford to buy healthy food, when I could afford to buy food at all, I didn’t have time to work out, and it wasn’t really a huge concern of mine considering the debilitating depression I experienced as my life crumbled around me and I kept it from everyone. While I’d been overweight most of my life, I was officially morbidly obese.

image

Today, I weigh 172 pounds, up from 160, the lowest I got before I wrecked my back in February. I’d like to get down to 150, but I’m still pretty danged content. I don’t know if I mean for this to be motivating for people trying to lose weight this New Year (my weight loss was not a New Year’s resolution) or if this is just me being grateful that my whole world is different, but here are my favorite things about being “average”.

image

The Clothes
I own fucking jeggings. I’m wearing them right now. They’re a size medium, but when I wear my normal jeans, they’re an 8. At 160, I comfortably wore a 6. A 6! That’s fat Anne Hathaway according to The Devil Wears Prada! You know what looks good on me now? An electric blue zebra print tankini. I own that! I also own several adorable sundresses and sweater dresses and I wear them all the time. Dresses rock! They’re like nightgowns, but sexy.

image

I should probably take down the Christmas tree, though.

The Cheap Clothes
These jeggings cost me $20. Lane Bryant jeans cost $60. My size 6 skirt from Goodwill cost $3 and looks brand new. The last plus-sized skirt I had was $50. It’s impossibly easy to find super cheap clothes that look adorable on me, because I’m tiny by comparison to my 260 pounds self. I can even find cute Wal-Mart outfits. When I was bigger, Wal-Mart clothes looked terrible on me. They aren’t shaped, they’re just large. Now I can buy $9 jean shorts and they look great. Since my thighs don’t rub together like those of a cricket in spring, they last forever, too. Since my boobs aren’t enormous, I can wear $20 36C bras. My 40DD bra cost me $40. It was on sale.

The Food and Drinks
Thanksgiving Day of 2010, I tearfully told Gail how bad things had gotten in my marriage and that he was finally leaving the next day. Then I drank 8 Long Island Ice Teas, her drink, and our friend’s drink and ate a full meal. The bar tab was $75. Today, after 3 Long Island Ice Teas, I’m too drunk to want another, even if I’m crying.  I can’t even imagine racking up a $75 bar tab at my current size. Meals that would have once been satisfying are now to-go box material. I spend $50 a week on my groceries and it’s plenty. In fact, I’m quite the food hoarder, because I once couldn’t afford it, and have about 6 pounds of meat in my freezer right now.

The Way I Move
Alright. No one who hasn’t been overweight is going to get this one at all. When you’re big, you can’t do that thing where you pull your legs up into the chair and put your chin on them. It’s not an option, because your belly gets in the way. You can’t cross your legs, because you have too much thigh. Running up the stairs or bolting to the mailbox because it’s cold and you were too lazy to put on shoes, causes dry heaving because you can’t breathe. It is physically uncomfortable to be heavy. One of the best parts of being smaller is that I can actually curl up. I bought a papasan chair for myself for my birthday and I spend most hours at home curled up in that chair like a fucking embryo. It. Is. Awesome. They should put that in the Jenny Craig commercial.

image
My skinny nest.

I Can Look At Myself Naked
I used to stand in front of the mirror and think the most degrading things. They were usually funny, but still incredibly negative.

“I look like a shaved gorilla.”

Sometimes, they were just depressing.

“I don’t even feel like a woman anymore. If I leave him, no one will want me again.”

I’ve taken 3 baths this week. If you’ve ever been unhappy with your body, you know that taking a bath isn’t relaxing at all. It’s staring at your wet body, thinking “ew” and calculating how much weight you have to lose to no longer be obese. It’s picturing what you look like sitting in said bathtub and analyzing the water level compared to your weight. I actually do things naked now. I mean, I’m not joining a nudist colony, but it’s not humiliating to be alone in a room without clothes on any longer. If I want to do the dishes naked, so I don’t get water on my clothes, I’m okay with doing that. I don’t remember why but I once vacuumed my whole apartment naked. Seriously, not a nudist.

The Self-Confidence
Guess what. I am almost never the fattest person in the room anymore. It’s so rare that I am, that I don’t even check now. It used to be automatic. The hits to my self-esteem still occur, of course. Did he not call me because I’m fat? But now I actually question that. It’s not just a given. When I substitute, the students call me Velma, because I have short hair and sometimes wear my black-rimmed glasses. Occasionally, it’s meant as an insult. You know what, though? They never call me the fat sub. Ever. And that’s terrific.

The Sleep Shirts
At 260, I wore a size 2xl t-shirt. So, working at the movie theater, I had to take the adult large Ice Age promotional shirt and stretch it out and wear an undershirt beneath it. It was humiliating. Today, that is my favorite sleep shirt and one of many.

I Know Who Loves Me
When you’re fat, you think people treat you differently because of it. You’re in line at the grocery store, they open a new register, and there’s a choice between you and a thinner person. They motion for the thinner person. People who’ve never been there would say you’re being paranoid. You’re not. They did subconsciously choose the more attractive person. People are friendlier to me than they ever were when I was 90 pounds larger. That sucks, but that’s the way it is. That’s why the people who loved me at 260 get so much credit for it.

When I met my guys, I was married, miserable, 250 or so pounds, had hair halfway down my back I only wore in a ponytail or pigtails, never wore makeup, and didn’t own anything that wasn’t a t-shirt and jeans. It was at this weight that I became “not a girl, Belle”, invited out to dinner and New Year’s Eve with “just the guys.” They never cared that I was bigger and didn’t dress like a girl. They liked my sense of humor and loyalty. At 160 pounds, they didn’t treat me any different. I got the same jokes and inclusion. Additionally, Gail’s seen me fluctuate from my high school 190 to my college 260 to my lowest 160 and my present 172 and has never treated me any different in ten years. When someone checks me out, I know they wouldn’t have been interested 2 years ago and that’s okay. But it’s always comforting to know that there are people who feel the same no matter your appearance.

So… maybe I was just broken and damaged and never ate or slept when I lost that first 30 pounds and insanely determined when I lost the next 60, but it’s been so awesome to be normal sized for the first time in my life. Just thinking about it encourages me to stay this way, because even in hindsight, being overweight sucked. Happy Resolutioning!