My mom is tiny right now.
She’s not really that hungry and she has the onset of dementia so, I suppose, even if you are hungry, you might forget.
This would’ve been an ideal situation back in her younger days. As long as I can remember, she’s been on a diet. Years of Weight Watchers. Did you know you can eat cottage cheese on toast? As a young girl, she was well-fed. She lived on a farm and believe you me, farm wives knew how to put food on the table. Men were going out into the fields for hours of heavy labor. They needed the fuel. The women? Not so much. Although I will say, there were a lot of chores to be done, gardens to put in, food to put up, and when my mom was a girl, heavy denim overalls were ironed.
My mom used to hate shopping at a store called “Chubettes.” Can you imagine? As if adding “ette” on the end of anything made you actually feel dainty. When she was in high school, she’d had enough. She dropped weight like a stone, became anemic, thin, was a cheerleader and in the marching band, the valedictorian of her 16 member class.
Was this weight gain and loss attributable to her mother? My mom’s mom purged to try stay thin, taking an interesting combination of diruetics and throwing up. When I knew her, she was in poor health and ended her days in a wheelchair. The medical records of the day do not reflect extreme dieting (or anorexia or bulimia) as the cause. Still, who told her she was fat? Why did she feel a need to do this?
I have been aware of my size and weight from a very early age. In order to avoid my mother’s fate, she put me in a variety of dance classes for poise and exercise….all at once, I was in tap, “acrobat” (today’s gymnastics), baton, and ballet. It’s a wonder I knew what steps to take at a recital, although I’m sure, had I been really loving it, I would’ve flourished.
But it’s hard to love something where you’re the tallest, heaviest girl. The only other girl my size, Moira Robantz (I don’t really know the correct spelling, but her parents were first generation in our country) and I would practice. Leah Bright, however, floated on air. Yes, that was her name. It was perfect, just like her lithe body.
I knew at 4-H Camp that I could lose seven pounds in a week. In high school, I cooked my family’s dinners, ate ice cream before they got home, and tried to starve. Starving has never caused me to lose weight. Neither does worrying. It’s mostly gain, gain, gain, all the time. My high school biology teacher told me that some man would love a girl with big bones – good for hard work and heavy lifting. This sounds cruel and it was, but it’s also true. I am damned strong.
You’d think I would want to exercise myself thin. I’ve found that, given enough strenuous work, my muscles thicken, piling on top of my already large frame. Once, I tried a Nordic Track. After two months, I jumped off and willed my legs to settle down to normal. Who the hell were my ancestors?
The smallest size I’ve ever worn, and this was prior to kids, was a Women’s 12 when I was engaged. (I was bigger than this in high school.) I ate soup, ran around like a chicken, smoked cigarettes, and drank wine spritzers (such a kick-back to the ’80’s – – and the carbonation gave you a quick buzz).
Why aren’t we weightless?
There is a lot of talk about “fat” women wearing bikinis on the beach to challenge the status quo. There is a lot of talk about bullying of fat people. And according to medical talk, when you lose weight, you can be healthier. But don’t lose too much weight. People will get down on you for being too skinny and crazy in the head.
Why can’t we float above it?
Is this something I’m passing down? I try and try and try to keep neutral around my girls. To say, “You look beautiful” and mean it, no matter how thin or thick. But how can they compete with this weighty women’s legacy in their family?
Most days, I keep a positive mental image. Most days, I like wearing clothes and convince myself to feel okay. But show me a photo and I lose any focus. Why couldn’t I be born into a Size 8?
Why can’t we be weightless?
Now, my mom’s thin arms and skinny body look like something’s attacking her, not allowing her to enjoy food. What she would’ve loved as a young woman, I don’t really think she can see now.
Speaking of seeing now, my confession at the end of this is that I’ve kept a picture in a corner from our family reunion. It’s my beautiful family, with me – – the biggest, fattest person in the picture. I want to crop me out.
My husband used to say there would come a day when the world will not believe I was in it, because I tried to avoid so many pictures. I’ve made a concerted effort to be a part and to take them. Not because I love how I look, but because we should be weightless and it makes me lighter to try and run into the lens.
Post script: when I first added this, I made it thumbnail-sized, so that I didn’t stand out so much. Someday, I will fly, I’ll be so light.