Running in public is never easy for me. But now that I'm at my personal highest weight it's even more about pushing myself way way out of my comfort zone. Last time I tried the Couch to 5K, I ran in my backyard so that no one would see me. I can exercise in public but running is something I feel like I must be thin to do. My already acute sense of self consciousness is magnified with every running step. And the thing is that when I feel bad about the way I look, I tend to layer. It's not something I'm proud of but it something I do almost on autopilot. But when you exercise, layering is problematic. I mean one can do it but it rather sucks.
When I pull on my running tights, I carefully avoid all mirrors but at some point I catch the faintest of reflections. The reflection of long thin legs tapering into a round rolly circle of fat where my stomach threatens to break out of the spandex. If I am able, as I sometimes am, to step back a bit, I am not sure what is so repulsive about a big belly pushing against some cloth. I mean, I'm clearly fat but it's not disgusting really. It's not a reason to hide inside, to not run, to not wear the clothes that are the most appropriate and comfortable for the duty ahead. But then I am slammed right back into the culture I live in, and I fear that I will be laughed at, mock, become someones personal "Person of Walmart." I live in secret terror that someone is going to snap a picture of my fat ass running, and post it on the Internet as a big "NO."
It happened the first time I went out. I like running out doors, and now that I've got the big fancy jogging stroller I don't want to run in the backyard. I also have a new attitude. I don't think I need to earn the right to wear fucking running tights, or maybe I earned the right because I'm running and that's what you wear when you run and it's cold. It's pretty simple. People should get to wear what they want without fear of being mocked, censored, raped, violently assaulted, etc. And that attitude pushed me past the people who had set up their hammock in the park, passed the walkers, the people driving by. Until the end, when I ran by a couple walking their dog. They were thin, Indy, the kind of people who populate our neighborhood. As I plodded by in my slow slow jog, the woman snickered and as I went by, she said something to the man, and they both burst out laughing. I could feel my attitude melting into shame and humiliation. All the years of mockery for being fat, the times I've been mooed or oinked at from school until just a couple of years ago hit me hard. I finished my run but with the flush of embarrassment.
I admit that it was a lot harder to run after this. I did my Day 2 run at home, safe from the eyes of the neighborhood. Then I didn't run for a lot of days. I had good excuses. Too busy running around kids around. It was too cold to bring Jude out and I hate running at the gym. When Monday rolled around, it was balmy. The rest of the week was going to be cold. I had to get out and get Jude out. I pulled on my tights. Shamed at the way they kept rolling down over what seemed liked the most giant belly ever. I put on my biggest tee shirt hoping it would cover most of my fat. I hauled the stroller out, strapped Jude in, and put my Ipod onto my new running set list. As the haunting, dark beginnings of Crystal Stilts filled my head, I began to walk. Toward the construction men who were working on the small park across the road from my house.
"Please don't let the running start." I thought over and over. We made it safely past the men who only glanced up briefly as Jude and I walked by them.
I started to think about all the memes that made fun of fat women wearing tight clothes. Of the assumptions that a fat woman MUST dress in a way that "minimizes" her fatness. The idea that of course she must notice that she looks FAT, and that she MUST WANT to hide this fat. I started to get really pissed off. What the hell does society want, I thought as I started to puff through my first one minute run. People think fat people should exercise but they don't want to make clothes for fat people to exercise in, and they don't want to actually see fat people in clothes for exercising. People want fat people to feel good and look good but only if it's clothes that hide the fat. What.is.wrong.with.this.picture? Everything, I answered, and began to stop giving a fuck that I was a fat girl in running tights. I took of my coat when I got hot because I was hot. I stopped caring that my shirt was riding up because damn it I wasn't going to run in a tent.
I finished my run going past the construction workers who didn't look up from their lunch. I ran by cars, and by other runners who were all thinner than me. I ran by walkers, and their dogs. I ran by a little girl and her mom. I ran and I ran angry that I even had to spend so much time in my head to get me to a place where I could wearing these stupid running tights without feeling shame.
Here's the thing. I don't have to earn my right to wear anything. If you don't like my body, don't look at it. My body is not disgusting or repulsive. My body has done pretty good for me all these years. I have used this body hard and put it through quite a bit of agonizing pain all in the quest to be thin. To shrink myself to a standard set by a society that at the same time tries to sell me shit food. But this body still stuck with me. I bore children with this body. I have run and climbed and danced and made love with this body. This body is a pretty amazing wonderful thing. I shouldn't have to hide it so that I am not mocked for it. I shouldnt' have to worry about it something is too tight or if this dress looks like shit on my apple shape (never mind that I love the dress). I wish I could say I"m over it but I suspect I will keep struggling but that's okay because the struggle is worth it. It's worth it when I see my own daughters comfortable in their skin. Not worried about being fat or not. Just happy with their bodies that serve them well.