I have a good friend here in the Queen City who kindly plays the role of Joan Rivers for me. She is my fashion police with a wicked sense of humor, except she is kind and her face is original. “Events” and “Functions” and “Galas” have become a part of our Charlotte life, and they are still a new thing for me. I love them because I like nothing better than chit chat and meeting new people. I know, I’m weird. But as a newbie on the charity circuit, I really don’t want to commit a fashion faux pas that would detract from all of the witty repartee to be had at a table for ten in a ballroom. I often run an outfit or a dress by her to make sure it is appropriate and she responds with her always supportive thoughts and advice. It’s a good system. Today, she innocently sent me an email ad from Ann Taylor and suggested that I might like some of the styles shown. Ann Taylor. Not Lane Bryant, not Dress Barn Woman, not Moamar’s Caftan Bazaar. Ann Taylor. Ya feel me, fam? Ann Freaking Taylor.
My immediate reaction was, “Wow. These are such pretty clothes but they’ll never fit me and good heavens I can’t imagine going into that store with all of those pretty women and paying that price for a dress that I’ll be afraid to wear because it costs more than the rent on our first apartment and I would totally feel like Fudgy the Whale standing next to a kale salad if I even stepped foot in Ann Taylor so NO. Just NO.” And then I clicked the link. Many of those beautiful garments would fit me now. Gulp. And they are not really that expensive. Intriguing. I’ve spent as much from one of the online retailers that I favor (my bedroom is a far more comfortable dressing room than any store cubicle). And then it hit me. I’m “normal”.WTF.
I have been here once before and it didn’t end well. I did not handle “normal” very well. Dropping weight is easy, but dropping my armor is not. As long as I am defined by my weight, I don’t really have to worry about being noticed, being pretty, being judged by other women (surprising fun fact: some of us ladies are pretty bitchy), or even being spoken to sometimes. I can be the funny fat lady who has a great personality if you just get to know her, but otherwise you can skip on past her. If someone gets to know me, and likes me, I know it is genuine. Fat women don’t have to sift through potential friends because only genuine people take the time to get to know us. Really, it makes things easier. But, now, as I have achieved the typical American woman size 14, I am “normal”. How I look matters. People who meet me for the first time don’t just see an obese woman and then move their gaze on to someone else that does not make them feel pity or discomfort. They see me.
Being as big as I recently was, have been before and may be again (I live in daily fear of gaining weight) is an eating disorder. No one wants to be obese and the reasons for obesity are as varied as the number of people who struggle. (What I can guarantee you is that being obese does not necessarily mean that someone is of lesser intelligence, slovenly, lazy or that he or she consumes mountains of food at each meal. That’s just not how it is. “My 600 lb Life” ranks right up there with “The Biggest Loser” as some of my most despised television shows. Reality, my ass. My Big Fat Ass.) I really can’t tell you why anyone else struggles with his or her weight. But, I know why I do. My fat is my chainmail. My food is my weapon and security. I am accustomed to navigating the world with a protective suit on and now that it is falling away, my nerves are exposed. It is freeing, but it is frightening. Now the real work begins. How do I live in this body? Can I cope with being “normal”? I have no answer for you, but I think it is good that I am asking the question this time. And I just may pop in to one of those stores for “normal” women and try something on. Imagine a thing like that.