Working out and paying attention to fitness is reminding me of my timelines: relationship to food, others, self.
I was a skinny, happy kid. I liked being fancy AND I was a total tomboy. The nature of kidness for me was minimally gendered and all about fun.
When my grandfather started molesting me, I started gaining weight. (Family photos show a sudden transformation from a laughing, long-haired sprite to a bulky, short-haired brick with a frown and tired eyes.) I had already been discovering sexual feelings on my own, thank goodness for that, but I was also being heavily gendered and sexualized by an adult who bought me my first pair of heels and thigh-highs when I was nine years old. We lived in the country. I had precious little human context, so whatever I saw from people seemed like what it all must be.
Moving around made me the new kid, not fat but chubby. My first defense mechanism was brains — staying in at recess, reading books all the time, making friends with teachers and getting their approval. I played sports for a while, but not well. My second defense mechanism was humor. At that age, it was a withering sarcasm, suitable as shield AND sword, a habit it took a long time to outgrow.
Junior high unpopularity waxed and waned. I was borderline hysterical, going from a school an hour away (where my aunt was a guidance counselor, hissing at me between classes about letting her down, she bragged about me, the teachers aren’t seeing it, I’m a laughingstock and it’s All Your Fault!) to a home that was terrifying. We were back living with my grandparents, and I was sleeping on a cot at the foot of my grandfather’s bed, tired all the time, scared to use or leave the bathroom or be alone with him, trying and failing to do my algebra homework, crying in the shower, getting chewed out by my mother and grandmother, thinking about the night time to come.
The summer before high school, I determined to be thin, funny, vivacious, blithely indifferent to anyone’s regard for me, and keenly aware of the effects I had on others. There was no secret hope that this would make me popular; only that I would be loved by all. (I used to think that’s what popularity was; now I know better.) I did it.
Skinny waxed and waned in college, but morale was sunk by my first boyfriend being a churl, and second boyfriend being a charming abuser with a scorching case of borderline personality disorder. My looks were a comfort to me, as was the admiring attention of strangers. I loved the interim times when I could just have anonymous encounters with strangers — relief, reassurance, gallantry on both sides, a pleasant memory, without strings or feels or fuckups. Occasionally running into “silent partners” in grocery stores or social situations, with nothing but a secret smile or open chuckle of acknowledgement, a grin to the host and inside joke with a fellow guest. My hat is off to you all; you did me more good than that one night!
Weight waxed and waned with depression in my first marriage, which was a mistake, but we did the best we could until giving up in 2000. I didn’t get TRULY fat, EXTREMELY fat, until my current relationship — which started gloriously and turned scary for me, moving to a new town, struggling during the cementing phase of the relationship, fighting a lot, having no support or resources or career — but having access to a bottomless well of beer and quality Mexican food.
Wash, rinse, repeat until 2010-2011. Relationship happy and smooth; grief from leaving my beloved and profitable first career behind as it was no longer either; beginning grad school.
It’s 2017. I’ve finished grad school and associateship and am now licensed. Still very happily married, but lots of personal stuff put to the side over the years…nearly 18 years now. Enough time to grow up and get my shit together, I hope. But what a colossal mucking out I need. What an enormous debt to work down. What austerity awaits me during what should be the prime of my life. So much starting over.
But I did my best, did what I had to to survive. I always said I’d pay for it later, and later seems to be now.