Sunday, January 5, 2014
There I was...so excited for my dad to come home. He's been traveling for several weeks with a rock band in Europe and I was so anxious to see him. I remember watching him come through the door like Moses parting the red sea. We scrambled for his hugs and for his smile. It was one of "those" moments that you never forget. He was so happy to see us and we were now complete in his arms. I remember curling up that night feeling like my home was now secured by the Captain. All was calm in Pleasantville. Waking up and racing to school to tell everyone that my dad was home and all the things we were going to do. He had bought me a new doll from every country he visited and I couldn't wait to have my United Nations doll party on my bed after school. I came home and ran down the hall but curiously noticed my mom was in her room talking...on the phone...those land lines never let anyone get far and that white curly cord kept her bound to the bed during all calls. Being the very advanced age of eight I listened...through the door - you never know what kind of information you can collect about upcoming holidays or ...well...me :) She talked about my dad being home and all the excitement in the house. I couldn't stop my heart beating - just hearing those words activated my body like an engine being jumped. And as I pressed myself up against the pale wood door, I heard her say it. "He was happy to see the kids but really surprised at how chubby Dawn got...we both are. It's like you can barely see her eyes when she smiles anymore"...and that was it. The shot heard around my world. That man who was my everything saw me in a way I hadn't seen myself before. I remember sliding down the door into a puddle on the hallway shag carpet floor. As my mother went on about my eating habits and how she has done everything, white noise/white noise/white noise. I kept blinking and wondering...was I fat? Did I somehow become some giant slob that after not seeing me for several weeks, that's what lingers in his mind? And now my mother agrees? And is telling friends? How could I stop this. I needed to stop this. I couldn't disappoint or gd forbid, embarrass them. I examined myself in the mirror. I didn't see the weight - maybe that was the problem. I couldn't see how fat I was. That was even worse. How could I get thin if I didn't know what it looked like? And so it began. The starvation diets. The hiding food. The bypassing snack at every baseball game I played to the joy and applause of my parents only to retrieve it later out of my mitt. The calorie counts on the fridge...the way my mom would glare when I would trick or treat and the way my dad would hug me in pride when I skipped the sugar contraband. I defined myself by my innate ability to eat nothing but grapefruit for three days and then eat like an inmate on release for the following five. I was crafty. I could binge, vomit and then binge again. I could "dress skinny" in the "slimming" blacks my mom always found me. I could suck in my stomach in every picture. I could take diet pills and drink only water for two days. I could do this. It became who I was. It never really ended for me...he remarried a woman who would tell me she was taking me to dinner and then 'surprise' me with an aerobics class. And a "free" weight watchers' membership. And my favorite...for my 19th birthday they filled my freezer with weight watcher meals and put a bright red bow on a new kitchen scale. A daily reminder of what my calling was...to lose weight and be pretty and skinny. I have dealt with a horrible body image my entire life. Fretting about every pound I went up or down and the day I saw my own seven year old daughter step on a scale two or three times "to get the lowest number", I resigned the battle. It's just not about what I was eating, it's about what I was programmed to think, to feel and to believe. It's a mantra that says I am nothing if I am not skinny. When I was skinny, I was a single, pregnant bartender hoping those college classes at night would materialize into a degree and a job one day. I was insecure, broke and without an ounce of morality but yet, I was skinny so all must be okay, right? I remember curling up with my pregnant self and promising that little baby would never worry about what size pants she would fit in. I wanted her to shine like a beacon on every bay. And yet I was all talk...each prenatal visit would beckon the question from my mother, "how much have you gained"...and I would always lie. Shame and self loathing, even in my 20s, as I was becoming a mother hoping to distance myself from the only one I knew. The media, the gossip, the attitude about women and our bodies will not change. I am not going to celebrate or recognize defeat with every pound. I will teach my girls about healthy choices, not low carbs, about strong attitudes, not calorie contents and about being kind and empathetic, not thin and empty. Out goes the scale, out goes the numbers, out goes the celebratory photos of my weight loss...it's. not. who. I. am. If I could go back to that day when I could hear my heart breaking in that childhood hallway, I would walk in to my mother's room. I don't really know what I would say but it would start with STOP. But I can't. And really, she learned it from her mother and my father just does what his wife does out of fear. So as far as I can see it, I have a choice. I can continue hating my body or fix it the way I want and shove the light to the front of the line. Find my spirit and let her wear the jeans. Teach my girls to love it, embrace it and run with it. Their bodies carry their souls not the other way around. And remember that despite not being that little girl, I am still that girl. I can't outrun her but I can raise her again. A little older, a little smarter but just as smiley. And guess what - in my bright shiny new adult body...you still can't see my eyes when I smile. So fucking what. ********** ed note: My father would like say this conversation with my mother about my weight never happened. While I appreciate the correction, my blog is about my feelings every day since and the multiple moments where I felt shamed. Since it was very important to my father that this notation be added, I am providing it.