Who will I be when I’m not a fat woman?
So instead of beating myself up for being fat, I think it’s a miracle that I laugh every day and walk through my life with pride, because our culture is unrelenting when it comes to large people.
Oy. Transitions. Yes, I realize that life is change, but in some ways, I’m in the Zone. I am highly skilled at being who and what I am, with all its pitfalls and difficulties.
On May 28, I will have gastric bypass surgery. Now there’s a transition. Not only will I be permanently internally mutated, I will be eating about 300 very cautious calories a day. If I’m not careful, I’ll experience dumping syndrome, which is where you think you are going to die right up until you resolve it on the toilet (ew). In about a year, I won’t be fat anymore.
To be really fat in this country is to have an intimate acquaintance with being “other.” I may be one of the few white women I know who “gets” bigotry, to the understanding nods of some people also deemed “other” in this society and the annoyance of at least one. I was probably clumsy in my description; no, I don’t know what it feels like to be black. Nor Asian. Nor gay. Nor disabled. But other? Oh yes. Very much so.
As far as I can tell, generally, there are two groups who are blamed for their state of “otherness”: gay people and fat people. Even the most appalling bigots regarding other situations that engender “otherness” seem to get that these were not choices. People were either born that way or were transformed via mostly likely unhappy circumstance (catastrophic accidents). These folks may be ghastly, but they’re not blaming people for being who and what they are, as long as they don’t fail the fat-or-gay test.
The part of society that believes gay is a choice blames gay people, but that attitude is finally beginning to fade as gays refuse to be immured in the closet another minute. But boy do they blame fat people. With emphasis. Virulently. Endlessly.
If you’re gay, you can pretty much choose to reveal yourself – or not. This isn’t true for everybody, but you should have seen my brother play “straight.” What a chameleon! He could put on his closet like an overcoat and walk invisibly in the world, defined only as himself – a stunningly gorgeous young man, chivalrous and debonair. As for me, I am sincerely, truly and honestly fat. Sadly, there is no pocket dimension into which I can pop my excess mass.
But now, I’m taking the step that will take this fat away from me. Unlike being gay, the condition of fatness can be treated surgically. Maya North in 2014 will no longer be fat. No longer be “other.” Mind you, I’ll have the skin of a bloodhound. Jowels will probably be my new nickname (if the person trying to call me that forgets I have a red belt in martial arts). Although I’ll look much older, and that carries its own sense of being set apart, it does not engender the shameless hatred and cruelty as has my fat. I will suddenly become more and less visible. I’ll no longer be rejected based on body size, but then, am I relinquishing something that makes me somewhat special? Have I created a self with a uniqueness the depends on this condition? Good question. How will I handle looking more or less like a bodysize-typical woman? And what if the dislike I have experienced turns out not to be based on my being fat?
This I know with my whole heart. I’ll always understand what it feels like to be “other.” I’ll always remember the eyes that slide away, the sneering comments, the looks of disgust. I’ll never forget how the same opinions of mine that annoyed people became more charming with every 10 pounds I lost. I’ll never lose sight of how it felt to have people try to hit me with their cars while I was walking, lean out of car windows and bark at me, refuse to hire me, refuse to rent housing to me, slam the door in my face after duly noting that I had one arm full of newborn baby and the other carrying laundry. I’ll also remember the people who were always my friends, who saw me for who I am and valued that person from the very beginning. And I guarantee I’ll know the difference between those true friends and the ones who come fluttering out of the woodwork all full of approval because people who lose huge amounts of weight are objects of great fascination and admiration in our culture.
I don’t think I will miss my fat, but I’m not entirely sure. If I am not a fat woman, then what am I? Who am I? Has there been a secret lurking self at the core of me all along, separate from my definition by body size? Or did I invent this person – literate, charming, intelligent, interesting – in order to attract other humans despite my body size? After all, we’re a gregarious species. We like company and while I love solitude, I dislike loneliness. I don’t know, but whatever I’ve become, it’s who I am now. I have some faith that I’ll get to keep the good stuff even as the fat falls away from me. As to the rest, I guess I’ll do what I’ve been doing all this time. I’ll make it up as I go along. It’s kept me afloat so far.
I’ll keep you posted.