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.
Everything at Café Crave is just a little wrong since the new manager took over. It used to be a quaint, comfortable hangout for Sands, Riyaan, sometimes Cat and me to meet up for our weekly therapy debriefs.
The new manager is turning it into one of those up-scale a la carte cafés where yuppies are seen sporting designer label clothes and latest Gucci handbags. The walls are now covered with original artwork from local artists, hung crookedly at different angles each time we come in, as though someone keeps trying to get it right but is unable to do it. It’s hardly a place where a fat lady and her eclectic group of friends, including her very own stinky homeless friend, are welcome.
Riyaan, world’s best gay friend and coffee barrister extraordinaire, catches my eye as the door shuts behind me. “Large mocacchino?” he calls across the counter.
“Make it a double,” I reply and approach the booth where Sands sits. Why can’t she remember to get a table?
Booths convey a sense of privacy and intimacy while making it difficult to slide in and out of them, not to mention the table cuts into one’s gut.
Another annoying change to the café is the tables are too close. The place is never more than a third full, yet they squeeze in the tables as if anticipating of throngs of caffeine addicts. As a large woman, I am unable to walk through this minefield without bumping into something. I only ever go there when I have no choice and this was one of those times. The gang hasn’t met in weeks and Riyaan insisted on meeting here as he was on a break.
“Excuse me, so sorry” I mumble as I bump the arm of a patron and cause her coffee to slosh across her hand. I hope it doesn’t scald her. Another patron, chatting loudly on his call phone, grabs his purchase at the cash register and walks toward to the door, except I am blocking his path. He stops short gives me an obvious “Ew” look, then backtracks and takes the long way around the minefield. He lowers his voice and snickers something.
I’m almost to the booth. In my haste to get there, I turn sideways to squeeze between a chair where sits a man with a laptop and a table where a couple, oblivious to the world, makes googly eyes at each other. “Sorry,” I say as my stomach knocks the man’s head and arm forward. His hand hits a key and the laptop screen goes blank.
“Shit” he mutters. So much for hoping whatever it is is backed up or not important.
Meanwhile, my butt pushes the table behind me backward. “Hey!” the female hisses. I glance over my shoulder and see coffee spilling over the table.
“I do apologize,” I offer and duck my head in embarrassment. I’d get out of there but my friends were waiting.
Tonight sitting here, in front of a roaring fire- always a sure environment for pensive reflection, I have been taking an honest look at WHY i want to loose weight.The honest truth is that in every respect I have been made to feel like I am not good enough…As a FAT woman, I fall below the mark… My X Husband used to refer to me as a ‘big fat cow sitting on the couch eating chocolate’ to all his mates at work…and wouldn’t touch me sexually or affectionately, for that matter, for months at a time…its a miracle I have two beautiful children really. My parents, took me to a ‘fat’ doctor when I was 9 cause they were concerned about my weight even then.
“Though i may be fat…fat is what I am…not who I am.” I say as I stare at myself in the full length mirror, There is nothing more terrifying for a fat person than a full length mirror. I do the walk of shame multiple times a day, up and down my passage way, where my full length torment resides. Up until a little while ago I happily just had a small face mirror in the bathroom but my dearest and well meaning Pa noticed I didn’t have a proper mirror and kindly gave me one he had lying about the house. He even came around with picture hooks and hammer to hang it for me. What could I do…refuse?
Most days, eyes lowered, I hurry frantically up and down the narrow passage way avoiding the mirror like the plague but try as I may NOT to look sometimes I just can’t help myself….like now…I guess I am a sucker for torment.
“Being fat doesn’t define me its simply extra baggage I happen to be carrying today but it wont (necessarily) be there forever” As convinced as I try to sound to myself as I say it out loud, secretly I am not so sure. I for one know about the hard work that goes into ‘losing’ the extra baggage well not just a few pieces of baggage a whole cargo hold actually…which is why I emphatically add the word (necessarily).
Standing in front of it I see the HUGE flabby apron that hangs right around my midsection, I see my thunder thighs and all the jello-like cellulite as it glistens and winks at me in the sun…I even see the flabby mass hanging from the bottom of my arms that wobble, wobble, wobble, and the rolls just under my arms that jut out whenever my arms are flush against my body. Its a mission not get lost in the disgustingness of it all…I mean who wants to look at fat ugly rolls and love handles that nobody actually ‘loves’. I know i have amazing eyes, a great smile…complete with two cheeky dimples. I am told I inherited the best physical fiatures from both my parents from my late Polynesian Mothers’ caramel-latte skin colour, her stunning high cheekbones, perfictly oval face and full lips to my Pa’s glittering emerald shaped eyes and scottish unruly curly hair.