Thursday, April 03, 2008


I wrote a poem/story once about my fat being an armor. I remember I read it at a gathering filled with the friends/family of my "Writing the Body" class. It was a year before I meet Horacio. It was also right after heartbreak due to my looks (as told to me by the heart breaker: "You're not pretty enough."). I read the poem/story in a black slip, knee high Doc Martens, and white make up. I felt exposed in multiple ways.

Being fat has worked me and not worked me. In some ways my fat is an armor. I feel stronger, more protected when I'm layered as opposed to when I'm thin. On the other hand, being fat also exposes me to ridicule. It has been the foundation of many rejections. J, the horrible lover from past stories, spent most of our time together commenting on my fat which was barely nonexistent but the time I ended the relationship. Fat has also been the basis upon which I based a large chunk of my self hatred.

My mom gave me a book (yes I have an abiding love and addiction for self-help you think there is a self-help book for that addiction?) about learning to love your body. One of the exercises is to imagine that you wake up to discover that your weight is frozen. You will never gain or regain ever again (I read that part with great terror). The catch is that everyone accepts your weight. There are no judgements. Then they ask: What would you do? Wear? Would you continue with your exercising regime? How would you eat? There was a certain shallowness to my initial responses. I'd wear a bikini...zits, fat and all. I might wear slinkier clothing once in awhile without being totally self-conscious about it. But the most revealing answer came almost unbidden: I'd not be ashamed to be seen with H.

You see I feel like people see H and I together and wonder why such a nice looking guy is with me. When H and I first hooked up the girls at UMF would literally throw themselves at him. Sometimes in front of me. My friends would say things like "It's a good thing that H likes smart women." Everyone assumed that there must be some other reason H liked me besides my looks. And there was this big part of me that thought so too. H never said that and has always told me (and still doess) I wasbeautiful but I just couldn't believe him. I lost weight thinking not that I'd be more attracted for him but rather that other people would think I was attractive enough to be with him.

Another component came up as I thought about how I felt being thin. As I lost more and more weight I felt more and more vulnerable. I felt fragile. It seemed okay at that weight to want someone to take care of me. People take care of small things. They don't take care of big things. And honestly, I think I've spent much of my life in this ambiguous space between wanting care and rejecting it. There is a part of me that yearns for someone to take care of me but another part that just does not except people to do that. I never ever let go fully. I never ask for help. I rarely show myself as vulnerable.

And I think it's because no one ever really came through in the caring area. My mom was not much of a caretaker (better, much better now) and obviously neither was my dad (even less so than my mom). My grandmother would sometimes give me care but I wasn't around her enough for that to be anything but a special treat. I learned pretty young that self care was key. But this self care had to be done without attracting much notice to one's self. I remember burning myself on an iron when I was about seven. I hid in my room, chocking back tears with this horrible burn on my stomach. I don't think I ever told my mother. Independence was not anything to be proud of. And then there were the lovers...especially J. One of his main attractions was that he kept promising to take care of me. This never materialized of course. And there were others. It's become very hard for me to lean on other people or to even admit I need help. I've broken through that some with H but not totally.

New focus: Attempting to work through being independent and vulnerable. I'm trying to learn to balance these two ways of being.


John B-R said...

The mroe you talk about yourself the more you talk about all of us.

Fat Lady said...

Even though you and I both struggle with our weight, I've always felt that we did it from very different places - different points of view. But there is so much in what you've written her that I relate to so deeply, that I'm sitting her doing my best to hold back tears.

Ginger said...

Thank you John B-R. I keep a lot of what I'm thinking about in terms of weight loss off the blog. I'm always afriad it will turn into a whine about me. It's good to know what some of this applies to other people.

And Julie, I know. I've cried alot over the last couple of weeks. This whole journey towards accepting my body as is is not thea easiest thing I've done. WW was nothing compared to this.

Lolabola said...

oh john is so dead on with that comment. I keep thinking about this post.

neverneutral said...

Yeah, "the intimate is political". Which in my book means that this that you are writing is not only about yourself, but about the rest of us (so the same as John and lolabola said).

It's interesting because I can also read how, without even name-dropping him, the spectre of Foucault can be sensed (at least by me, and I know you have read him extensively) behind these posts. This is the social function of "personal" blogging at its best.

Have you read Susan Bordo? Her book about the male body (which is in a way a book about her father's body and her relationship with it/him) was an important one for me.

Ginger said...

I haven't read it E. Sounds interesting though.

Oh yeah on Foucault. I much of this stuff about size acceptance for me is always pushed through all the Foucault I've read. He's been very important for me in understanding how culture shapes our bodies. And also Freud believe it or not. He's hard to get away from.

Ernesto said...

Though this is her best-known book...

Ginger said...

E, the book looks familiar, and if I haven't read it I've heard of it. Thanks for the link...good summer reading.