Dear God, Please Make Me Average
Those two words are pretty much a guarantee that two of my best friends are going to yell at me, like they do every time I say them. My friends mean well. They love me. They see me very differently than I see myself. They’ve both known me for decades. They don’t understand, though. At my heaviest, I weighed as much as my two friends COMBINED. I am really glad that they’ve never experienced what it’s like to be really fat.
They’ve never gotten on a plane and seen the look on a stranger’s face when they realize that they are stuck next to me for the next few hours. They’ve never had a saleswoman walk up to them and tell them that they needed to go to the fat people’s store three doors down because “there’s nothing here for [them]” – and at the time, I was shopping for one of my skinniest friends. Other than perhaps when one of them was pregnant, they’ve never gone to a restaurant and been seated in a booth with an unmoveable table that doesn’t afford enough space, putting them in the mortifying position of having to decide whether to say something and draw attention to the fact that there isn’t enough room or spend the rest of the meal with a piece of furniture jabbing into their ribs.
There is a kind of invisibility in being really fat that is hard to explain to someone who has never been there before. For the life of me, I cannot find it now, but I read an article recently in which a woman who used to be fat talks about how now that she’s skinny, people treat her differently. People smile at her more, talk to her more, hold open doors for her – in short, people are nicer to her. In addition to feeling invisible, though, there is often a desire to be invisible. A desire to not be seen in the fat lady’s section of the store where all the clothes are dumpy soccer-mom attire. A desire to not be seen when you eat birthday cake at a party and catch the judgmental glares you get for not skipping the sugar.
When your body doesn’t fall within the “average” range, people aren’t shy in commenting about it, and -NEWS FLASH- we hear it. My dad’s side of the family is tall – really tall. My dad is the tallest of them, as far as I know, 6’9″ (about 2.05 meters, for my international friends) and is no longer the super-skinny guy he was in his early twenties. People laugh when I refer to my 6’6″ (or maybe 6’7″?) younger brother as my little brother given that he is 13 inches taller than me. Growing up, I knew that most men were shorter, but my dad was still “normal” to me. However, I also grew up thinking it was “normal” to walk into a room and hear people make comments to each other. The not-so-quiet whispers about how big “that guy” is were a normal thing. After a lifetime of it, he seems perfectly able to ignore them, and he doesn’t take offense when little kids with wide eyes are speechless. I’ve had fewer years to learn to deal with it, and the comments I’ve heard aren’t very kind, and it takes all the Jesus in me to not respond. I don’t hear people make comments about me as often, but I do hear them. I have heard how I’m described to people. It sucks and it hurts, but it’s nothing I haven’t already said about myself.
For about the 47,000th time, I am trying to do something about it. I’m trying to make better decisions, get my lazy butt to the gym, all that crap. I’m trying to be patient with myself, and I am so grateful for the encouragement I get from my friends. I’m trying to not let it be all I think about, but when you’re really fat, the reality of being fat is inescapable. Because of my draw in the genetic lottery, my body carries more weight than is typical for my size – I have friends who wear the same size clothes, are the same height, and yet are 70 pounds lighter than I am, and that can be really demoralizing if I let it. I’m down to about the size I was when I graduated high school – for the first time in over a decade. I hope things keep going in this direction, and I know that it depends on me continuing to work on it. I don’t expect to ever be skinny, but I wouldn’t mind being average.
Average would be nice.