In a little over a month, I will turn 50. Yep...the big 5-0...a half century...closer to the end than to the beginning. If I am honest, I must say that this birthday has hit me a bit harder than 30 or 40. With both of those milestones, I gaily danced through the day and never looked back. This one, though, has made me stop and take a breath. It has made me look a little more closely at my life - where I have been, what I have done and where I am going. I know that there is one thing that has followed me around for 28 years of my life - I am fat. Yep, I can call it "cuddly", "well upholstered" or even "fluffy", but the truth is that I am a size 14 on a 5'1" package. But this is not some "oh, woe is me, I am unloved and unworthy" rant. Nope, that is definitely not me. Let me begin my story.
I guess that the "fat" part of my life started when I was 22 and I gained 40 pounds within a 3 month period. I won't go into the whole story about doctor visits, so the short version is that I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. I was told that 1) it can be treated, but not cured; and 2) I was going to be a "big girl" pretty much forever. Now, let's put this into where my life was at 22. I was born and raised in Mississippi, and the other girls in my social set were obssessed with pretty hair, pretty clothes and pretty bodies. Even as children, we all knew that Mary Anne Mobley, Lynda Lee Mead and Cheryl Prewitt were Miss Americas from Mississippi, and we knew all about them. Our mothers taught us that being Miss Mississippi was the pinnacle of all that was Southern womanhood. We also knew that in order to "catch a husband", we had to look like Miss America. We spent summers tanning on the roofs with Crisco spread all over us, and the winters religiously putting lotion on our sacred temples of God. A Southern woman is not ever supposed to be bigger than "a minute", which I estimate is between a size 0 and a 1. Our hair was bigger than our hips, and if we were lucky, our breasts were the only things bigger than our hair.
With that background, can you imagine the reaction of my mother and friends to the 150 pound version of me? To put it delicately, there were a few stares at every bite I put in my mouth at parties. I am certain that there were phone calls discussing "Lisa, bless her heart" and although I have no hard proof, I still believe that there was a prayer circle and a healing service. At that point, I could have hidden myself away and taken the oath of non-offensive fathood - dedicating myself to being the church lady who bakes all the time and keeps the calendar of everyone's birthday. Instead, I went off to college and made some new friends. (The story of why I was a 22 year old college freshman is one for another day.) I didn't much worry about what people thought about my figure, because I was having too much fun doing stupid things. I made memories that will make me laugh when I am approaching my 100th birthday, and friends who I will probably be sitting next to me. Then, a strange thing happened. I started to have guy friends who wanted to be more than friends. I dated several (without sex), until I met the man who became my husband.
He was 22 to my 29, and built like a brick shit house. (For those of you not from the South, that means that he had a beautifully sculpted body of Greek proportions.) This beautiful artist boy and I started talking one day and found out that both of us are nerdy nerdsters - so we bonded immediately. At the time, my weight had ballooned to an all time high of 187, and I was wearing a size 20. So, although I wasn't ashamed, I didn't think that this god of a man would ever be interested in me - I know, but all I could hear in my head was my Mother saying "You would be so pretty if you would lose weight." One night, after spending hours talking about the use of lighting in Bladerunner, he leaned over and kissed me to the lust inspiring sound of Trent Reznor singing, "Head Like A Hole". It was a perfect romantic evening. Two weeks later, we made love for the first time. I, honestly, was afraid that he would take one look at the naked me and either 1) laugh; or 2) run. He did neither. What he did, and what I love him for to this day, was to run his hands over my body (including the belly) and call me beautiful. He compared my body to a painting by Botticelli, and he looked into my eyes when he made love with me. For the next 8 years, we were together. Yes, it ended pretty badly, but it was the cruel joke of life that separated us more than not loving one another. He gave me so much in that time, and for it he was subjected to a lot of jokes and comments from his friends. He loved me, and to him I was worthy.
Of course, there have been the assholes. Like the guy who told me that he was in love with me, but he couldn't be with me because his father would disown him "if he took a fat girl home". Or the times that I have thought that someone was interested, only to find out that they "just" wanted to be friends because I "wasn't their type". This usually happened after spending huge amounts of time with each other over a three month period. But, you know what? I see my body type as sort of an "asshole repellent". Because of it, I never have to worry about someone loving me only because I am a "hot chick". I never have to worry about someone not having the intellect to interact with me on a basis other than physical. There is not that uncomfortable moment, as some of my friends have had, when they realize that a guy was too busy looking at their cleavage to listen to what they said.
But, there is one thing that I do know, after 28 years with this body. After beating back the feelings of inadequacy, after exploring what makes it feel good, after deciding that exercise is evil and is a form of demon possession, and after realizing that food is good and the eating of it makes me happy...I realize that I like my body. It is a part of who I am, and it is a part of what has made me stronger in the past 50 years. We are friends, my body and I. When I turn 100, we will still be friends. And I can promise you that we won't be on a damned hamster wheel or a walk to nowhere...we will probably be eating creme brulee or making love to a youngster of 70. :)