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.

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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”.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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A Chronicle of My First Failure Since the Driver’s Test

When I failed the driver’s test at 16, I cried for hours.I couldn’t even talk about it for months afterward. Two months ago, I wept because I made a 98.5% on an assignment. I felt it deserved a 100%. I was heartbroken. I was also a complete pain in the ass to anyone who would listen to my “woe is me, I”m 1.5% less than perfect” rant. So… take that and imagine my reaction when I “did not pass” my End of Program Assessment for graduate school yesterday. “Fail” is too negative a term for graduate students, which I swear have some of the most delicate selves-esteem in regards to their intelligence. Ironic huh? Following is a dramatic retelling of yesterday’s ordeal.

The committee sat with bated-breath, awaiting a presentation on the depth of my learning experience during my last two years in graduate school.

I entered and promptly presented to them… an orange.

A Chronicle of My First Failure Since the Driver's Test
… but it was an awesome damned orange.

That’s pretty much exactly what happened. I had the complete wrong idea of what was expected of me. My original advisor was a woman constantly being encouraged to retire. She rarely responded to e-mails and gave me a pat on the back and a thumbs up each time I presented her with what I’d accomplished for my portfolio. Then she retired without telling me and I had to acquire a new advisor the summer before presenting. My new advisor is kind and gentle… too gentle. She didn’t tell me that what I had sucked… and was a fruit. So, as I started speaking and saw the committee member’s faces, I knew I had it wrong. I was presenting an overview of what I thought would make me a good librarian, not an in-depth presentation of my learning experiences in relation to YALSA approved standards and objectives. I’m talking about how working circulation has helped me to put a smile on my face when this guy’s acting like a dick, and they’re wanting to hear about the Public Relations tactics I’ve learned in my Public Relations course. I knew I was screwed and just became more and more flustered to the point that, when asked what the purpose of a Reference Collection was, I actually said “I don’t know.” No. Fucking. Joke.

As I stood waiting while they convened, I began to think up other possible careers. I texted Gail and told her it was all over. She told me to relax, I probably did fine. I didn’t respond, knowing very well this was bad. I was going to have to change the name of my blog. “I don’t know.” What the fuck? I do, too, know! A Reference Collection houses Almanacs and Encyclopedias. I just didn’t know I would be asked that or that I’d show up to the singing competition with my prized dancing mule.

A Chronicle of My First Failure Since the Driver's Test
Mildred. You expected a boy, didn’t you?

I sat down as they opened the door, shocked that I was intuitive enough to recognize the body language and energy of someone who was about to announce that I had cancer and had taken a shit all over the presentation podium.

“We’re disappointed.”

My first thought was “But can you pass me anyway?”

I pretty much just heard a roar of white noise in my ears after that. I remember blaming my advisor situation and then trying to simultaneously say that I wasn’t trying to blame my advisor situation and telling them that I just didn’t understand the portfolio requirements. I truly didn’t. I’m not going to lie. There a lot of readings I didn’t do. There were times when I zoned out during lectures or participated minimally during discussions and that is why I couldn’t talk about these things at the drop of a term. Call it a curse of online learning, but you don’t actually have to know what anyone is talking about when you can just Google the term to remind yourself before responding. However, had I understood the requirements of the portfolio, I’d have brushed up. I’d have known the term and realized that when I was asked how my searching techniques now differ from when I began the program, they weren’t talking about my ability to use the word “and” in the search box. They wanted to know what I’d learned in my Knowledge Management course.

At this point, I’m pretty much just proud that I didn’t beg them to pass me or burst into tears about how “I do, too, know what a Reference Collection is! I promise! IT’S BOOKS! IT’S ALL BOOKS!” and then run out of the room crying. I kept my big girl panties on and I asked questions while three people told me how much I sucked. I made arrangements with my advisor for the 2 hour Directed Reading course that will help me focus on my revision and re-presentation of my portfolio in March. I walked to my car and called my Gramma and assured her that I was not joking, I had actually failed. I called my dad and told him that I was the slow child and I was sorry I’d disappointed him. He told me I was being ridiculous. I went out with Gail and I wallowed and made jokes about how they kicked me out of college and made me ride the short bus home. I talked about how if I fail again and I don’t get my masters degree, I’m going to have to build a rich life in the World of Warcraft, because my life here is over. She laughed and told me that at least I’m still funny. I went home and I cried. I canceled work for today (substitute teaching, which can actually be canceled the night before and no one cares) and slept restlessly. My prayers last night were along these lines.

“Thank you Lord for all you’ve given me and please help me to move forward. [tearfully] Please, please let me pass next time and give me the motivation to work for it. I’m so sorry. Please forgive me for my sins. Thank you. Amen.”

In the night, my pain eased. As I tossed and turned, I’d wake up with a little less heartache, the pit in my stomach a little softer. I woke at 7:00 and knew that I could still accept a sub job, but decided I’d rather pout. Thirty minutes later, I got out of bed and grabbed my textbook for my current class. I began to read from page one, highlighting for notes. I ordered the textbook from the last class I breezed through as well. I messaged my advisor telling her the times we could meet and that I was rereading my old texts. I went grocery shopping and bought note cards and pretty pens for color-coding because I’m insane. I called my manager and secured every Wednesday off for the next semester. I explained I had two more hours I had to take, knowing full well that she’s a librarian and knew I had my presentation yesterday and failed. I put the embarrassment aside, because that is one of the worst parts. I hide behind a different persona at work to a psychologically unhealthy extent anyway (another entry for another time). Why should this be any different? I went to lunch with my dad and he reassured me I’ll pass.

I love my dad, but he doesn’t know me all that well. Gail is the person who knows me best in the world and she didn’t know if she should leave me alone last night, because she thought I might hurt myself. I’m not saying it was rational, but yes, that was a valid fear. My dad, however, felt he should begin sentences with “… and if you don’t pass…”

NO! Shut the fuck up! I WILL pass. That’s the only thing I want to hear. I’m not saying I’ll pass by fate or magic. I’ll pass because I spent the whole day reading and ordering textbooks. I’ll pass because I have six months to learn the theories of information services inside out. I’ll pass because I WILL read a minimum of two hours a day on information theories and articles about current trends in the library world. I may still be the worst driver on the planet, but I will learn this stuff to the point that I have no fucking social life beyond this blog and text messages to Gail if that is what it takes. I will not get used to failure and develop better coping mechanisms than eating an entire Old Chicago, because I won’t fail.

And in the meantime, I will slip behind my work persona, Winifred, and tell everyone I have one more class to take, consoling myself with the fact that it is not a lie. They just assume… and eventually write the blog entitled “Winifred.”