Being fat isn’t just a source of shame. It’s also a source of health issues. While historically a woman with a bit of meat on her bones was viewed as healthy and therefore fertile, nowadays, excess meat on those bones can mean poor health and infertility. Yup, as good as that pizza looks, it’s the Grim Reaper that’s the delivery boy.
When you are overweight, it is an unspoken rule that you must be larger than life—no pun intended. What I mean is the driving need to try harder, to be “more” than you are in order to be accepted. You have got to be big and boisterous and jolly to make up for the fact that you are big. You must give others a reason to like you besides your uniqueness. You must bribe them into friendship.
Is there room enough in the world for fat people? If calculations are correct, physically, there is. Not counting Antarctica, the population density of the planet is 115 persons per square kilometer. Some say the earth’s population can fit into one city; others claim we can all fit into the state of Texas (but Texans are known for their absurd claims on size, so I’ll have to get back with you on that one).
Bang-Bang-Bang. A fist pounds on the door.
“Bella! Open this door! I swear I’ll kick it in if you don’t. Bella? Do you hear me?”
Bang-Bang-Bang. Sands is determined to talk to me just as I am determined to avoid her.
“Mummy, why won’t you let Sands in?” Fi asks.
Bang-Bang-Bang. “So help me God, I’ll break a window if you don’t let me in!” Sands threatens.
“Go play in your room, sweetie,” I avoid Fi’s question.
Bang-Bang-Bang. “All right, you asked for it. I’m calling the police. I mean it!” Bang-Bang-Bang.
Abe wanders from his room to the kitchen. “Mummy, I can’t play my videogame with all that noise. Can I open the door?”
“No,” I say and try to focus on the romance novel I was reading before Sands descended on the comfort of my misery.
The banging stops and I breathe a sigh of relief. I just can’t face anyone, not after what happened on the Date from Hell. So at home I stay, avoiding calls, knocks at the door and emails from inquisitive minds.
“Bella! What in the world is wrong with you?”
I nearly come off the sofa in fright and spill my tea across my lap. Sands is standing in the doorway between the kitchen and living room.
“How did you get in here?” I demand.
“Abe let me the back door,” she says.
Abe parades into the room. “Look, Mummy, Auntie Sands gave me a dollar!” He holds the coin aloft as if it is the greatest treasure the world has ever seen
“I want a dollar, too!” Fi cries.
Sands pulls another coin out. “Here you go. Now kids, I need to talk to your mummy, so run outside and play awhile.”
Abe crosses his arms. ”That’ll cost you another dollar.”
“Scram. NOW,” Sands points toward the door. Abe and Fi hustle out. Abe knows he can only push her so far.
Sands plops down on the opposite end of the sofa while I get up. “Where do you think you’re going?”
“To get dishtowel to clean up the mess you caused by barging in here uninvited,” I reply dryly.
“I wouldn’t have been uninvited if you returned my calls in the first place,” she retorts. “Now talk. What happened on your date that’s so bad to make you cut off your friends?” I ignore her as I grab a towel and mop up the tea on myself and the sofa. “Bella, come on. You can’t hide in here forever.”
“I might as well,” I mutter.
Sands shakes her head. “Cat said you had sleeping pills and liquor. Bella, what were you thinking?
“What do you think I was thinking?” I snap. “And by the way, tell Cat I want those pills back.”
“It’s a good thing she took them and cared enough to stop by and check on you. God, Bella, you’re so freaking selfish sometimes. Can’t you think about anyone but yourself? What about Abe and Fi? What about your dad and grandmother?”
I’m planning to write a book entitled How to Extract Yourself from Embarrassing Moments with Your Pride Intact. Actually, the book is already half written. It’s based on a lifetime of embarrassing moments. Problem is, I haven’t figured out how to extract myself from these moments with my pride intact, so don’t look for it on bookshelves any time soon.
It’s a week before I see Sands again. On the way home from the grocery store, I stop by her gym. She’s just finished an aerobics class and waves me into her office.
“I did it,” I say as we step inside.
“I told you not to!” she wails and plops into the chair behind her desk. “You can find a guy here for only $12 a month. How much did you pay? You paid double that amount, didn’t you? Triple?”
“It was a special offer. $49 for three months. But never mind,” I say as I squeeze into the narrow plastic chair in front of the desk and pray it doesn’t collapse. Its arms dig into my sides. Why did its designer think it necessary to make arms with such sharp edges? “I’ll probably delete my account when I get home.”
“So did you meet anyone yet?” she inquires.
“Yes and no,” I offer vaguely.
She peers at me suspiciously. “You did. You met someone already and you’re going to meet him for dinner. No way you’re going alone. Text me when you find out where you’re going and I’ll go there and sit at a nearby table and make sure he doesn’t slip you the date rape drug.”
“You’re over-dramatizing this just a bit, aren’t you? Yes,” I sigh, “I have chatted with a few guys and am unceremoniously dumped when they find out my weight.”
Now she looks at me like I’m crazy. “You’re weight is a topic of conversation?”
I shrug. “I feel bad because my photo only shows an extreme close up of my face and I want to be honest. I don’t want to lie to men. I want them to accept me, ALL of me.” I pinch my flabby upper arm for emphasis.
“Hence the extreme close up. That’s really honest, Bella. What else did you lie about?”
I shrug again. “I might have made being a stay-at-home mom sound a bit more glamorous.”
Sands lets her face fall into her hands and she shakes her head in disbelief. Sands is my best friend from way back. A shrewd businesswoman, she is a fitness instructor and owns her own gym with plans to open more. Why we are best friends, I don’t know. She has everything yet chooses me, the antithesis of everything she represents, as a friend. She’s tall and beautiful and obsessed with staying fit and a consummate flirt. She gets any guy she wants, though ninety-nine percent turn out to be jerks. While my problem is not meeting any men, her problem is meeting too many men at her gym, the problem being that most take off their weddings rings before entering the gym or hide the fact that they have girlfriends until after she sleeps with them.
“Like I said,” I continue, “I’ll probably delete my account. I can’t take more rejection.”
I stare at myself in the full-length mirror. “Fat may be what I am, but not who I am,” I say. It doesn’t work.
There is nothing more terrifying for a fat person than to look into a full-length mirror. Multiple times a day, I traverse the Walk of Shame—also known as the hallway in my home—where at the far end the tormentor hangs. My dearest Pa noticed I didn’t have a proper mirror and kindly gave me a full-length one he had lying about. He even came around with the picture hooks and hammer to hang it. What could I do-refuse his well-meaning gift? Until then, I mercifully had just a small face mirror in the bathroom, which allowed me to avoid viewing parts of me I prefer to keep out of sight.
Most days, I make the Walk of Shame with eyes lowered, but try as I may to NOT to look, sometimes I just can’t help myself—like now. I am a sucker for self-torment.
“Being fat doesn’t define me. It’s simply extra baggage which I carry and I won’t carry it forever,” I tell the bloated image, trying to sound convincing but I’m not so sure. I know all too well the hard work which goes into “losing” extra baggage. And not just a few pieces of luggage—it’s a cargo load.
The tormentor reveals all. A huge flabby apron hangs around my mid section. Thunder thighs with Jell-O cellulite glisten and wink in the sun. More gelatinous mass hangs under my arms, which wobbles and rolls and juts out whenever my arms are flush against my body. It’s a hard task to not get lost in the disgust of it all. I mean, who wants to look at my fat ugly rolls and love handles? Ironic name, since nobody actually loves them.
But I do have amazing eyes and a great smile, complete with two cheeky dimples. I inherited my best physical features from both parents: my late Polynesian mother’s caramel-latte skin, high cheekbones, perfectly oval face and full, pouty lips; and my Pa’s glittering emerald-shaped eyes and unruly curly hair.
“I am a strong, beautiful, confident woman, mother and friend. My weight does not enslave me,” I pronounce to the woman in the mirror. “Hello, who am I kidding?” I sigh, shoulders slumped. My weight rears its ugly, embarrassing head all the time. To say it doesn’t enslave me is highly optimistic at best, a lie at worst. It has been the bane of my existence for most of my 30 years. I stop short at saying affirmations are a waste of time, but some days it’s easier to believe them than others. Today is not one of those days.
Defeated, I resumed my usual activity of picking up after my two darling but messy preschoolers. With eyes cast down, I work while trying to avoid the hippopotamus at the end of the hallway. Even still, I nearly trip over an open photo album lying in the doorway to the kids’ room. Fi loved to look through the albums. This one contained pictures from university through Fi’s birth.
“Great personality.” That’s code for “Fat.” Either phrase tolls a death knell for anyone doing online dating.
Online dating: it’s a euphemism for, ‘opportunity to be someone you’re not in order to get someone you want’. Problem is, if everyone is lying about themselves, how can anyone find Mr/Miss Right?
Mirrors: I used to hate them. Mirrors reveal what you don’t want to see, and when you’re significantly overweight, there’s a lot you don’t want to see.
At home, there are mirrors in the bath, bedroom and hallway to remind you how you look. It’s your own personal carnival fun house, which isn’t fun at all. And these mirrors aren’t distorted, making you look stretched or squatty or bulbous. No, they provide a perfect reflection which is perfectly awful.
Here are the songs that are shaping the book! A selection of songs i have been listening to whilst writing that go perfectly with Bella’s story.
Here is a book trailer/teaser i have prepared for the novel I am writing called The Lighter Side of Large… All going well it should be ready for publication in early 2012. Let me know what you think of the trailer.
What happens when a severely obese, single mother finds out her ex-husband is getting married—to her own sister? She reinvents herself to prove to them that there's more to her than fat.
The Lighter Side of Large is a modern day comedy romance, and disguised self-help guide set in Nelson, New Zealand. Isabella “Bella” White, a first generation Samoan New Zealander, is a talented artist with a flair for writing. Problem is, no one knows it. She hides from the world, men and her potential behind 60 kg of excess weight. The weight, however, is not so easy to hide and Bella endures revulsion, ridicule and rudeness for being fat. But when she discovers her ex-husband is marrying her sister in nine months, Bella embarks on a mission: lose the weight, get a career and find the perfect man in time for the wedding.