She doesn’t get why the girl who’s been sharing the seat gives her a glare when she gets off the bus– at least not until the girl– pretty in a red and purple vintage style wrap dress, zaftig though more so than Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks– says to the friend who’d been standing next to the pole during the ride–
“Skinny bitch. She shrunk over like fat was contagious.”
Oh. No, see. Wait. She wants to get up and chase them, explain, but if she does she’ll be late for her doctor’s appointment, the one she’s going to to figure out why she keeps losing so much fucking weight.
See, she slid over because she wanted to get her own body out of the way to give her seatmate some room– her big thighs, her broad shoulders, the way she has to stuff herself into XL jackets and sweaters and her arms look sausage-like, legs look like hams. Porky, pig-like, right down to the way that she blushes bright pink and sweaty in shame at how she can’t lose the weight, how it’s been a fight all her life– biological destiny, even. In the pictures from her brother’s wedding, at 225 lbs, she looks like a not-so-young, sad, tired version of her sad, tired, 65 year old, 300 lb. mother. Nothing separated them whatsoever but thirty years and the two people standing between them.
That’s the invisible self she carries around in her head, even as she shifts and squirms on her seat on the bus, curls her back in and away from the “cushion” and sits on only one hip, because the hard plastic jolts against vertebrae, ilia, scapulae, every time the bus bumps over train track and pot hole, the to-be-expected ups and downs on the journey of life.
She’s forgotten (again) that how she looks on the outside isn’t how she feels on the inside.
Of course, there are reminders, and not just in the baggy size twelves and larges she wears and the scale that dips under 160 if she eats too much gluten and it roils her guts, so that for a week she needs to concentrate on cramming food down to pack it back on. (How ironic, trying to keep the weight on when she was a teenage bulimic.) But the nutritionist has made good suggestions and so far, so good, especially now that they’ve figured out it’s her anti-depressant being depressant of systems that just weren’t meant to be so affected. Now that she’s off, she’s sort-of-hungry again. Of course, her mood stabilizer still keeps her appetite down, compensation for how the last one made her bloat like a balloon, but at least now she can eat without heaving.
The reminders are there in the way the “fat” girls give her a glare as they get off the bus. It’s there, too, in the way more people flirt with her at the store, whether or not they’re married, whether or not she’s married too, and her rings are right on her hand. It’s ironic and kind of gross, because she’s always tried to be nice– polite– pleasant to people– but she sells more memberships, too, on the days she wears makeup and since she’s lost weight– sells more e-reader gadgets in skirts than in pants. And it’s there in how a half hour in the tub requires more shifting around because there’s less of her between her and the enameled cast iron– just hot water and bone, a thin layer of skin to go with the steam and whatever book that she’s reading, that and how certain tops slip off her shoulders, expose upper ribs and clavicle bones in a way that maybe some find attractive but she looks at in the mirror and thinks– well, she doesn’t know, the last time she was this weight she was in high school.
She does know one thing. When people offer her a bite of dessert and she declines, it’s not because she doesn’t want to get fat. It’s because it tastes lousy, waxy, like paste, another effect of the meds. She’d take it and eat it, she would if she could– it’s calorie dense and would help keep the weight on, after all. But what she can do now versus what she’d do in the past– they’re two different things, and if she stopped to explain how things are, how they were as contrasted with what people see every time?
Maybe they don’t deserve that much explanation. Maybe they do. Maybe she does. But energy, time, they’re all fleeting things– shed almost as quickly as calories, at least for her, nowadays.
There were two recent articles in the NYT about being “fat” and its contrast. The F Word, a thinky piece on fashion and fat and whether zaftig’s a good thing or not– it’s very well done, and it makes me want to choke down lots more dessert and buttered baked potatoes, whatever I can manage to eat, so I can fill out my jeans a little more fully.
There is also this article about the small-busted, of whom I have always been a member, no matter my weight. It points to a wholly different challenge of fashion, i.e., the refusal until only recently to acknowledge– gee, really, women come in all shapes and sizes and different people find different things like that attractive and might want pretty underwear to complement that attractiveness, too? (Setting aside the frivolity of expensive underwear for the moment, and assuming instead that the small busted consumer should have the right to blow as much money on lace and sheer nylon as Heidi Sontag.)
It’s an old whinge, but a good one. Design for us all, goddamnit to hell, and in the meantime, ladies, learn to live with the bodies you have. Take care of your physical self, sure, the best that you can– but nipping and tucking and tanning and stuffing yourself all full of botox and silicone and synthetic shit because Karl Lagerfeld and Miuccia Prada don’t like the way that you’re shaped?
They don’t know you– don’t see you– don’t know all who you’ve been in the past and are right now as you stand there, trying on clothes, trying to make something fit in the present, trying to make room for all the other girls on the bus whose vintage style red-and-purple dresses you really like, the ones who are pretty like Christina Hendricks, zaftig, just a little more so. And that’s fine with you. Though not with them, because at present, they have their own pasts in their heads.