I will probably go ahead and post the poems I wrote over the last few days. I’m annoyed to have let myself be sufficiently bothered by nonsense to stop me from keeping up with something I want to be doing. Alas, despite all the rumors, I’m actually human.
I was thinking about times when I’ve been able to shoot down La Impostora, times when I’ve gotten past her and just gotten on with the business at hand. And all of that led me to tonight’s poem. This form is still irking the mess out of me. It is what it is. I continue.
Thirty-seven years old, Bellydance classes
accepting visible vulnerability,
facing down a familiar fear.
You, God’s own rhythm-less girl,
enrolling in dance class?
You’ve always known you couldn’t move fluidly,
You’d long since stopped dancing in public —
shame is so cruel,
closing you off from our loves, from yourself.
But you pushed past, through.
Gave yourself that freedom, that gift.
The discovery —
every movement made for you,
every movement full, round, voluptuous.
reintroduction to your physical self.
I stay grateful for your refusal,
rejection of doubt.
The line from that first hip circle,
that first undulation
traces through to the jigida I wear today.
That embrace of body,
embrace of self.
Finding the way home with no turning back.
You brought me here
It’s National Poetry Month!
As I have done for the last forever, I’ve chosen a poetic form, and I’m going to try to write a poem in that form every day for the month of April. I don’t always succeed, but I always give it my best shot. This year, the form I’ve chosen is the epistolary poem — poems written in the form of an epistle or letter. They are also called verse letters and letter poems. I’ve also chosen a theme for the month. Each “letter” is going to be written to a younger me: 12-year-old me on the first day of junior high, 5-year-old me navigating the overt racism of her kindergarten class, etc.
Plans are taking shape for offering our programming online. I spent pretty much this whole day in meetings with our program directors, answering questions, encouraging brainstorming, trying to reassure them that they won’t be left in the lurch.
I’m also, for the first time, worried. It’s not that I didn’t take this virus seriously before today. I most certainly took it seriously. It’s not that I didn’t acknowledge that I am in the group of people at risk for having a bad time with this virus if I get sick. I acknowledged that. So what’s different?
Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve actually had to make plans for working from home, had to wrestle with the concrete facts of the degree to which I’ll self-isolate, had to cross the line from “here’s what *people* should do,” to “here’s what *I* have to do.”
I’m also sad. Preemptively sad. I’m sad thinking about not getting to see my really excellent team every day until the fog lifts on this terrible time. I’m sad thinking about all of the people that will be negatively impacted by this virus. I’m sad thinking about all the ways we as a country could have responded more quickly and helpfully so that fewer people would be in jeopardy. I’m sad thinking about the fact that my trip to visit my family last month will be the last time I’ll visit for the foreseeable future.
I wasn’t thinking about any of these things yesterday. I wasn’t worried yesterday. I wasn’t thinking about the fact that, if I were to wind up in the worst-case version of this illness, I would likely not be a candidate for the limited supply of life-saving acute care equipment because of my age and size and pre-existing health conditions.
Wow, talk about things that aren’t helping my mood. I mean, damn.
And it’s also true that I ate a delicious Jona Gold apple today. It’s also true that I saw my team rally and come up with great ideas today. It’s also true that I had great text exchanges with my best-beloved niece and nephew. It’s also true that I started my day with a text from my best-beloved sister. It’s also true that my hair looked great today. It’s also true that the day turned from grey, foggy, and rainy to clear-blue sunny when I wasn’t looking. It’s also true that I made a connection with one of my neighbors. It’s also true that I won every game of online Scrabble I played. And it’s also true that I saw my first star of the night before the sun had fully set.
So, yeah. All of that. All of that. I’m worried. I’m prepping to start doing 60% of my work from home. And I’m determined to be fine, to keep myself as safe and healthy as I can … and to remember that practicing gratitude always makes me feel better.
It’s March, which means it’s time for the
13th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Curious? Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
and see what the rest of this year’s slicers are up to!
Years ago, when The Morphine Man* was breaking up with me for the final time (such an unpretty story), he cycled back around to his most significant issue with me, one he’d hauled out in each of our crash-and-burn moments when he wanted to end a conversation and send me packing in one fell swoop: my body. In his last goodbye letter, he told me about a woman he’d met who had confronted him about his smoking, asking him: “But don’t you want to live?” He said he’d never thought of smoking in such stark terms, and her question drove him to quit because yes, he definitely wanted to live.
And so, his question to me as he signed himself out of my life was the same: didn’t I want to live? Seeing me after so many years had broken his heart, apparently, because not only was I still fat, I was fatter. He’d once told me that he couldn’t be attracted to a fat woman—despite the evidence to the contrary in the form of his unflaggingly ardent pursuit of me. But more than how much he couldn’t possibly be attracted to me because of my body, reconnecting with me had made him understand the true, shattering problem: that I have a death wish.
A death wish. Really.
When he wrote that letter, I had pissed him off well and truly, and he needed me to go away. And the version of me that he’d dated in our first go-rounds would have collapsed in shame and pain at the merest mention of her body, would have slunk away to weep and moan in private, would have stopped speaking. That’s what he wanted and had come to expect from me, so the turn to blaming my fat wasn’t a surprise. If we were going down in flames, there was no question but that my oversized self would be heaved up on the pyre.
Sometimes, I live to disappoint. And in this case, I surprised him by not crumbling and slinking away. In the years between our first failed relationship and final, equally-doomed one, I had changed. I had changed enough that – when I chose to – I was able to talk openly and reasonably-comfortably about my body, about being fat. I had changed so much that I no longer accepted as an “of course” the idea that my body was to blame for any and every ill that befell me.
I clearly hadn’t changed enough to know better than to get involved with that man again, but I knew enough to know that I—and by “I” I mean all of me, all of my body, every bit of my big, fat self—was perfectly fine, entirely loveable, entirely life-embracing. A death wish? Not this girl.
The Morphine Man isn’t alone in thinking fat people are eating themselves to death. Of course not. That’s basically the popular conception of fatness. Fat equals death. Punto.
Except … not.
Here’s a thing we should establish up front: food isn’t the same as cigarettes, drugs, or alcohol. Not in any way the same. The woman who turned The Morphine Man’s head was puzzled by his insistence on inhaling poison. On purpose. Over and over again. The choice to smoke is that, a choice. While there is choice involved in eating, eating itself isn’t a choice. I have to eat. I have no choice but to eat if I want to keep living. I get to choose what I eat, of course. And, if my idea of dinner is a vat of Cool Whip, three pints of ice cream and a shopping cart’s-worth of pork rinds, then maybe I need to consider adding some fruits and vegetables to my grocery list, some legumes, a handful of cashews.
Another ex, the one I call “Z,” wondered how I could be fat when I ate the way I did. “I cannot understand how this comes true, how you have developed this size,” he said after we’d been together for a while (Z’s first language isn’t English, so we grant him his funky constructions). It was very simple, I explained to him. “I didn’t always eat the way I do now.”
And that was true. And isn’t it always true for everyone? What we want changes. And so the things I choose to eat change over time all the time. I used to eat meat and lots of it. Then I became a vegetarian. Now I’m an occasional carnivore who’ll probably go back to being a vegetarian. I used to enjoy crappy candy. Now I choose higher-end treats made with better ingredients and fewer chemicals. I used to eat only a narrow range of vegetables, now I eat just about any vegetable that comes my way. The only thing that hasn’t changed in my eating habits is my love and probably-excessive consumption of fruit. I like to think this is evidence of my having been a butterfly in a previous incarnation.
Unlike smoking, drinking, or taking drugs, eating is a thing humans must do … unless they actually do have a death wish. Are there fat people who harbor death wishes? I’m sure there must be. Just as there must be slender and skinny people who hold those same wishes. Where do we lay the blame in the case of a thin person, I wonder. Not on their hideously-outsized bodies, so where?
So, what The Morphine Man called “a zen-clear question”—Don’t you want to live?—works for smoking, works for meth addiction, works for alcoholism. It doesn’t at all work for eating. People who want to live, eat.
Of course, that’s not really what The Morphine Man was asking me, I know. My fat meant something was wrong with me, meant I was unhealthy. The fact that I was fatter than I’d been when he and I had last been together meant things were out of control, meant I was eating myself to death. That, too, is a pretty common perception of fat. If everything were fine with me, why on earth would I be fat? If I were the picture of health, I would—obviously—be as svelte and fit as an Olympic athlete. Like everyone else in the world. Like The Morphine Man himself, right? Except The Morphine Man, though thinner than I am, had never been “svelte” in all the time I’d known him.
If The Morphine Man hadn’t been throwing my body at me in an effort to drive me away, I would have talked to him about some of the things that are true about why I am fat and what being fat has meant and means for me. I don’t know that he could ever have processed the idea that, rather than eating myself to death, I had eaten myself to a sense of relative safety. He wouldn’t have understood that, but he might have had a better understanding of me, of the things I’ve dealt with.
As for his insistence that he couldn’t be attracted to a fat woman, that was surely true … for all that it was also quite obviously completely false. While I never had any doubt that he was physically attracted to me, I was certain I was the first fat woman he’d ever dated, maybe the first fat woman he’d ever wanted sexually. It had to be both puzzling and troubling for him to find that he could be attracted to me, could want to have sex with me. Men aren’t supposed to want to be with me. With the exception of my hourglass shape, I most emphatically don’t fit conventional beauty standards for female bodies. For him to pursue me while at the same time knowing that he could never be attracted to a fat woman must have created some painful cognitive dissonance for him.
I keep thinking of that question: Don’t I want to live? Well, yes, I absolutely want to live. But—of course there is a “but”—I want to live on my terms. I want to live in a way that will let me live fully, comfortably, and confidently. That shouldn’t surprise anyone. Isn’t that what we should all want? It shouldn’t be surprising, and it also shouldn’t have to have anything to do with the size of my body or the food I eat.
Because I have for so many years had a disordered relationship with my body and with food, living fully and comfortably does have to do with my body, does have to do with what I eat. Living comfortably means I need to change that relationship, need to continue the self-love journey I started years ago. And that means I need to care deeply for this body I have—care for myself. And that’s something I know how to do and something I continue to learn and relearn how to do. This self-care is pretty basic: I need to feed myself what I’m hungry for when I’m hungry for it, keep myself hydrated and well-rested, move for strength and flexibility, take myself out into nature so I can feel sunshine and summer breezes on my skin and sand between my toes, surround myself with people who love and respect me, laugh loud and long, and take lovers who want me—not some idea they have of the person they should be with but me in all my me-ness.
It’s possible that, should I ever do all of those things all at the same time and consistently, the size and shape of my body will change. But it may not. If I ever do all of those things all at the same time and consistently, what is sure is that I will be healthier and happier, stronger and more deft in my movements. And that will be fabulous. I’m looking forward to that.
I eat, therefore I am. And I have every intention of keeping it that way.
* I don’t generally use folks’ real names, and I haven’t come up with a good fake name for him, so I use this nickname because it pleases me, and he is the person who introduced me to the amazing band, Morphine.
Part of a series about my body, originally inspired by Roxane Gay’s Hunger.
If you haven’t read the ground rules, please take a look before commenting.
You can find all of the Fat Talk essays under the Fat Talk tab. Thank you.
I’m following Vanessa Mártir‘s lead, she launched #52essays2017 after writing an essay a week in 2016 … and then deciding to keep going.
I’m months behind on my #GriotGrind, but I’m determined to do my best to catch up, to write 52 essays by year’s end.
I’m two days out from knee surgery. It’s hard to realize I had surgery Monday. That seems both like forever and five minutes ago. How am I home so soon? How am I home alone? How am I — for the most part — just fine?
My nausea is gone, which makes everything seem leagues better. And I was able to lie down to sleep, which also made today so much better than yesterday. Obviously, I am far from well, but I no longer feel as though a steamroller has just mashed me into the pavement. A clear improvement.
My friends have been trying to help me since I got home. So many people asking what I need, asking me to tell them how they can help, looking for ways to get my recovery off to a well-cared-for start. And that’s lovely. That’s what one should hope for from one’s friends … so why haven’t I taken advantage of a single offer of help?
Here is a place I was not expecting to find La Impostora. But here she is, standing between me and some quality TLC. Here she is, telling me that I don’t need anyone’s help, that I can’t ask people to help me because …
- My house hasn’t been vacuumed.
- It’s not as though I’m sick or anything.
- I live too far away from everyone, and it’s not fair to expect folks to come out here just to bring me milk or clementines.
- If I had done a better job preparing for this homestay, I wouldn’t suddenly find myself without milk and clementines.
- Everyone is too busy to be running errands for you.
Okay, it’s true that my house hasn’t been vacuumed, that it is filled to bursting with wafting clouds of cat hair. But does that really mean I don’t deserve a little help right now? Why is it (still) so hard for me to ask for things I need, so hard for me to admit that I have needs I can’t necessarily take care of by myself right now? Why is La Impostora here telling me that, even when I’m two days out from surgery, I’m not worthy of my friends’ care?
She doesn’t want me to forget. I was feeling pretty pleased with myself for changing my surgeon’s mind about the procedure I needed. So of course here is my forever-nemesis to rein me in, to make sure I appreciate just how much of a crybaby I am, to remind me that, because I pushed for the more invasive operation, the struggles I’m having now are my own fault, and I have to deal with the more difficult recuperation on my own.
But … I don’t have to listen to her. I can, instead, trust my friends when they say they want to help me. I can accept their offers of help and make these first days out from surgery a little easier. And maybe, just maybe, by saying these things “out loud” on this page, it will be easier for me to actually do this tomorrow. Perhaps just for the pleasure of pissing off La Impostora.
It’s March, so it’s the Slice of Life Story Challenge over at Two Writing Teachers! Twelve years and going stronger than ever. Click over to read a few slices, see what that eclectic group of bloggers is up to. And maybe write some slices of your own this month!