Wednesday, June 29, 2016
Hiding in Plain Sight
It was in the parking lot of a closed-down shopping center. This was when cruising was what we did—driving our cars up and down Main Street, from Paradise Drive to Highway 33. There was a guy (there was always a guy, wasn't there?). He was bleached blonde and perfectly shaggy like a hair band singer. That's all I remember of him now, that hair. I think I coveted his hair almost as much as his attention. I'd seen him from afar for months. I was a little smitten, which means also a little obsessed in that teenage girl way.
And here we were, cars parked in that deserted parking lot, and I was mere feet from him. There were other people around me, I can't remember who. I remember what I was wearing (a peach t-shirt dress and gray tie-dyed leggings), that my tan was on point, my hair sprayed high and with just the right amount of fluff, bantering with him in a confident flirty way that I owned in that specific way that a young, wild and free teenage girl can do. I remember thinking anything was possible. I remember hearing him whisper to someone "keep that fat chick away from me."
I don't remember what happened next, but I remember that in this moment, when I was filled with confidence and self-ownership, he knocked me down harder than a right hook. It's who I was, it's who I'd always been, it's why that feeling of freedom was so foreign to me. I'd always been the chubby one, from childhood. It's what always made me question my worth. Looking back, I wish I'd have questioned his worth instead. I see pictures of myself from that time of my life and in spite of my smiles, I can see that teenage me was not happy. That's apparent to 40-something me. Teenage me was also not fat, though I wasn't thin, either.
Today I wish I was as fat as I had been back then.
And I was thin for a brief moment just a few years ago. It's hard to wrap words around what it's like to be obsessed, defined, enveloped by weight. And then to lose it and be validated. To draw attention because of it. And terrified of gaining it back. And then gaining it back (like maybe you always knew you would, like you knew they always knew you would), and becoming invisible again.
It hit a little too close to home.
To be fair, my life is not similar to Andie Mitchell's. Not in very many ways, at least. We are not the same age or from the same part of the country. Her father died when she was in her teens, mine died when I was in my 40s. We have different relationships with food.
But in other ways, we are similar. We both know what it means to binge. To lose weight. To gain weight. To be defined by weight, either too much or too little. The specific terror that resides in you after you lose a lot of weight. Having an alcoholic father. Depression. Learning to love yourself. Loving to write. Loving to cook. Craving connection with others. Being drawn to behavior that hurts more than it helps. To struggle to understand the meaning of "moderation" in just about anything. How to use television and sugar to numb emotions that are too scary to feel.
Reading this book was cathartic and scary. It reminded me of things I'd prefer not to remember, thoughts I'd prefer not to think. But that's not how it's done. Mitchell reminds readers that a successful weight loss, a happy life, comes with thoughtful consideration. Of not trying to run from yourself and retreat into your body weight. That the numbers on the scale, on the jeans don't really define you as a person and shouldn't be used to prove or disprove worth, to celebrate or denigrate yourself.
I'm thankful for this book, and for reading it at a time when I needed to hear it.
Disclaimer: this book was sent to me free of charge in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are not for sale, and all opinions included in this post are my own.