Finding my silence
“‘Dog and pony show’ is a colloquial term which has come to mean a highly promoted, often over-staged performance, presentation, or event designed to sway or convince opinion…”
When I am finally done to my satisfaction with this weight loss – when I have reached my stated goal of 160 lbs on my sturdy, 5’2” body, a weight that will still manage to traumatize those who earnestly believe we all must be quasi-skeletal, I will have lost 260 lbs from my lifetime high of 420.
Think about this for a moment. Two hundred and sixty pounds. That’s a big human being. Or two medium sized ones. Or four smallish ones. That’s 37 eight lb newborn babies plus one who ran a little bigger.
Right now, my loss from my lifetime high is a mere 200.8 lbs.
When you weigh 420 lbs – or even 320, which is what I weighed a few years ago – there’s quite the process to prove to the world that, while you may be fat (huge, enormous, gargantuan), you are still a human being (despite the world’s earnest attempts to rescind your human being identity card).
It’s a whole song and dance:
Tada tada tada “See, I’m nice.”
Boppity boppity bop “Smart, too!”
Tapata tapata tapata “Clever! Amusing!”
Shoop shoop a doop “Interesting and worth your time!”
There were plenty of people who never really needed the song and dance/dog and pony show to see me as a human being. Problem was, there were even more people who seemed to need convincing, or even despised me on sight, making me feel obligated to justify my existence.
Bebop bedoobop debop bedoop “Look, I’m not stupid!”
Shuffle hop shuffle hop shuffle hop “I have value!”
It was exhausting. It made me terrified of silences – what if I stopped dancing and the people started really noticing I was fat and decided to hate me despite my best efforts? It was bad enough under just ordinary circumstances, but it was particularly difficult at work where that sort of bigotry got in the way professionally on all sorts of levels.
So I became a great showman. Boy, was I entertaining. Clever and funny and wise, interesting and informative – if I couldn’t be fully human by social definition, I would be the best freak I knew how to be.
By the time I started this journey to gastric bypass, last fall, 2012, I had it down to an art. And I was sick to death of it.
Even though none of this has been sudden, it does seem to me that I am now kind of in the range of normal. I’m round, still, but not intensely so. I have cheekbones (I have cheekbones???) and slim-looking hands (which someone finally noticed are freakishly large for a person my size; when I was bigger, they looked in proportion). I have collarbones (I have BONES? That’s what those lumpy things are?) and a neck. People are reacting in ways I expected but also didn’t – they’re friendly. They don’t dismiss me right off the bat. People who kind of ignored me or were actually hostile are being nice. The woman in my office who gave me the “get away from me, thing” face smiles faintly as she passes in the hall.
Suddenly, it seems, I have nothing to prove anymore. People assume I’m fully human. They figure that these cheekbones mean I’m intelligent (how’s that work, from a practical standpoint – can anybody tell me?). The collarbones apparently give me character. The slimmer hands apparently signify charm and an interesting (as opposed to galling) set of opinions.
No more song and dance. No more dog. No more pony. Just me. Suddenly, I don’t have to say a thing to prove myself. No more fear of silence.
I can be quiet now.
So when I walk around, I may smile, but there’s a good chance I won’t strike up a conversation. I just don’t need the validation from anyone — I have my own now, thank you. I’m not less friendly and if you engage me, I’ll delight in spending time with you, but I don’t feel obligated. I sit at my desk with my headphones on, listening to music, which, surprisingly, interferes not at all with my silence, and I do my work. I may emerge to interact sometimes, but I may go a whole day without saying much.
It’s delicious. It’s serene inside. I’m no longer afraid that I have to paint an enormous virtual mural with butterflies and dissertations and rainbows and puppies and Mahatma Gandhi just to be seen as half as good. I can just be me, whoever on earth that is. Quiet sometimes; loquacious other times. Still opinionated. Still irritating. Still good-hearted. Still wanting everybody to feel loved because I know so deeply, immediately and rawly how it feels when you don’t.
It’s just that now that I can be seen as whatever it is my chrysalis is pupating into, I don’t have to prove a damned thing anymore.
And I can be silent without fear of consequences.