R-E-S-P-E-C-T: soul queen Aretha Franklin sang it best. Losing weight has a lot to do with respect. Do you respect people because they are thinner, while showing less respect for those with extra poundage? Are you shown less respect when heavier and more respect as you lose weight? There is something to be said for hard work, and losing weight and keeping it off is hard work.
Why does it take a tragedy or sudden shock to wake us up from complacency and make us realize what is really important? Some of us go through life thinking everything’s okay and fate will work out all the kinks. Others live in denial or are just trying to survive or allow themselves to be controlled by anger or resentment or mistakes.
Lots of people have had near-death experiences. Some claim their lives flashed before their eyes. Others became focused on the things which truly mattered to them. I had a near-death experience in the hospital and yes, I thought about my children and the man I care for at The End. But it was what I thought about on the other side of the fatal moment which changed my life.
Don’t you wish you had a rewind button? How many times have we said, done or assumed something which was in error and it made a situation worse? Imagine, having learned a lesson the hard way, you could instantly rewind the scenario and repeat it but achieve a more positive outcome?
Fat comes with unwelcome side effects such as diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, back and knee pain, and gall stones. But the weight of regret is an even greater burden to bear, and results in guilty feelings, annoyance, shame, sadness, and wishing—wishing you had made better choices in the past.
Is there any feeling quite as thrilling as shopping for clothes and finding you have to go down a size? It’s like winning a trophy in a competition, proof that your dieting is paying off. It encourages us to work harder. We aren’t at the beginning of the diet journey any longer. We’re already down the road.
When is fat acceptable? At what points to you cross over from being “normal” to a few pounds overweight, to overweight, to fat? Sure, you can calculate your body mass index (BMI) according to your height, weight and age to find out technically where you stand on the fat scale, but even if you fall in the “Normal” category, you can still be overweight and unhappy with yourself.
Dieting is frustrating. You eventually hit the “plateau,” when your body refuses to let go of the pounds no matter how much you exercise and starve yourself. And of course, even the most cursory of research will give you conflicting views on how to get past the plateau.
“‘Cheap knit crap from the dollar store’,” I mimic Tiresa’s self-righteous tone. “‘I’m even willing to buy you a decent dress’.” I scowl as I examine the black dress which had been purchased for the date with Wesley. It was more than decent—in fact, it had cost a bit more than I could reasonably afford—and would fit in with Tiresa’s and Mika’s engagement party, which was certain to be on par with a black tie affair. Now I just needed a new pair of shoes since the heel broke off my sandal.
I park my car just off Trafalgar Street and make my way down the crowded sidewalk toward Hannah’s Shoes, where I hoped to purchase the same sandals I bought for the date with Wesley. There weren’t many styles in my size, let alone could accommodate my fat feet, so I often bought a couple pair of the same shoes.
At a corner I run into Cat. “Cat! How are you?” I ask.
I was the first to befriend Cat, who has lived on the street for a decade. Initially, I felt sorry for her and gave her an old winter coat of mine, which progressed to spare change here and there, then invitations to have coffee. Feeling sorry for Cat didn’t do any good, however. Her mind half gone from alcohol and a successful career lost, Cat survives quite well on the streets, her brutal honesty put to good use and her “It could be worse” attitude keeping her afloat
She looks at me up and down. “I see you’re finally off your face,” she comments.
“Uh, yeah,” I stammer. “Thanks for checking in on me the other night. It was a pretty horrible night.”
“Try living on the streets,” Cat retorts unsympathetically.
I sigh. Typical Cat: unsympathetic at best, uncouth at worst. “Where are you headed?”
She shrugs. “Nowhere, last I checked.”
“I’m going shoe shopping. Want to come along?” I invite. She falls into step next to me, both of us shuffling along, me from my weight and her from having nowhere to go in particular and being older. “So are you going to give me back my sleeping pills?”
“Nope. Sold those to a drug dealer.”
“It’s a living,” she shrugs and glances down. “What do you need new shoes for? Not going on another date, are you?”
“Tiresa and Mika’s engagement party.”
“Well, well, aren’t we the glutton for punishment,” she cackles.
I stop and stand aside to let another pedestrian pass by, the sidewalk is so packed. Most people avoid contact with Cat because of her smell and looks, but my size makes me little harder to circumnavigate in a crowd. “I’m just trying to keep the peace in the family for Mama Rose’s sake. Otherwise I wouldn’t go near the place, not for a million dollars.”
“The poor can’t afford to be choosey,” she intones.
I accidentally jostle her when another pedestrian rushes by. “Oops, sorry. It’s not about poverty. It’s about pride. I can live with being poor, but I at least like to hold up my head with some dignity. Having my ex and sister publicly rub their affair in my face isn’t worth winning the lottery.”
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.