Several years ago, when my kids were toddlers, I used to go out with my girlfriends on “Lady’s Night Out” to go dancing. To drink, look at single men and fantasize what it was like before children and husbands. Before we had sticky fingers clinging to our legs and eyes that looked longingly at our bare breasts when we undressed at night, whether for 5 minutes in Heaven or a comforting sip of Nature’s honey.
I’d be flattered if a young man asked me for a dance or bought me a drink. I knew, despite his possible hopes for more, that nothing would happen at the end of the night, but we were both glad to dance the game of desire and fantasy.
I remember one night when I fooled myself into thinking I was extra hot that a tall, handsome black man asked me to dance. He held my hand as he pulled me onto the dance floor and I giddily followed along, shy as a schoolgirl in my attempts to match his easy rhythm and sway to the beat of the music.
“Your ass is so PHAT!” he hummed in my ear as I tried an artistic twirl in front of him. This was one of those new words that initiated ones like it that teens are using today, like SICK! and BAD! in order to express glorifying descriptions of approval. In my rational adulthood, it’s always been a wonderment to me that these descriptive words have become so backward to their actual meaning. How in the world did that ever start? How did PHAT, SICK, BAD mean anything that was possibly……GOOD?! However, I do digress.
So, this black guy keeps the supposed compliment going, telling me repeatedly what a PHAT ass I have, while I become increasingly sure he’s NOT using the new twist of the word, he most assuredly is telling me my ass has one too many jiggling pounds on it. And who knows – this being a guy of African-American persuasion, it’s equally as likely that he really DID like some extra poundage on the kaboose of his women. But I suddenly found him rude, irritating and ugly without any sense of dancing ability and I stopped mid-song to exit the dance floor to rejoin the safety of my girlfriends and cocktail.
When I pray, most days it’s quite likely that I’ll have some words with that Supreme Being about making me thin. (despite knowing that She’s got War, Hunger, and Cancer on Her mind. I’m selfish and narciscist sometimes. I don’t think I’m alone in that.) I ask that She’ll open the gates of wisdom and understanding to show me the magic key that will make diet and exercise work so that I’ll look like every other celebrity in the gossip magazines that’s over 40 with a waist that her partner can circle with his two hands. Or even moreso, being over FIFTY, without arms that droop below like winged dinosaurs.
Now, it’s not like I’m under some disillusionment that I’m terribly overweight. I never have been. I think the largest size I ever wore was a 12 – and that was before kids. Generally, I’ll hover between a size 8 and 10, even though I agonize lately that I’ve never weighed as much as I do now. More now than I did at my heaviest in pregnancy, even though I can understand that my persistance at the gym and lifting weights has created a more solid, hard frame. Though, who can see that, I criticize, under all these soft rolls that stare back at me in the mirror.
I understand that those celebrities are airbrushed and beautified, or that their health is endangered, as is their psyche, in their need to maintain an unhealthy skinny shape. I can even rationalize and justify and talk myself into feeling better saying how fit and healthy I really am, how active I’m still capable of being, that I’m almost FIFTY, for God’s sake! And yet, that inner voice still frowns on all my accomplishments, saying, “You gotta be better than the average Jane.” Thighs that don’t rub, abs that are ripped and don’t pillow over your zipper, and arms that don’t flap in the wind. Is it really so much to ask when you watch what you eat every day, exercise religiously and pray to God for enlightenment? Why does it have to be so hard?!
Sometimes if I’m quiet and listen, I sense Her response, “You are my blessed child. You are precious.” I grow frustrated with Her and argue back, “But you don’t know! You can’t want me to be like this! Help me to be my best!” And I hear Her again, “You are my beloved child. You are precious.” Now I’m getting angry. “You are just biased. You’d say that to all of us!” And somehow in my competitive brain, this is not helpful. I’m like the jealous sibling wanting the parent’s approval all to myself. I sense I hear, “ You are so hard on yourself. You need to let go.”
I envision Letting Go. If hard work and stress brings me this, then Letting Go means they’ll be paying quarters outside the circus tent to hear the fat lady sing. OH, she’s likely a lovely lady with a beautiful singing voice. And she’s probably happier than all of us put together – me AND the skinny bitches in the magazines.
But hey, I agrue and stomp my foot – I’d rather be miserable and thin. Memories of guilt and shame over diruretics, laxatives and restrictive fad diets flash through my mind.
“Guess you don’t need me, then, “ She says. “You got that already.”
When my mom was around my age, I remember her biking nightly, swimming as many laps at the neighborhood pool that each rest period would allow, the liter bottles of Fresca on the counter. It was never a spoken message: “Does my butt look too big in these?” or an all out lament that she felt like a cow; she was just always trying. Now, at 75, in a state of health that is always struggling, she’s rail thin. I think she’d rather be fatter.
If I were advising my daughter, I’d tell her she was beautiful. She had eyes that shone from within with such beauty that would shine no matter what the scale said. I’d tell her that my weight never fluctuated much more than 20-25 lbs, and yet I’d wasted so much time being unhappy with myself. I’d look back on pictures of the past, remembering my feeling obese and ungainly only to discover later how pretty I looked at the time. Is it really worth it to spend so much time and angst over it all? Missing out on the focus of what was truly important in the world?
If I were to envision God, She’d not be all angles and perfection. She’d be soft, with dewy skin, eyes that emblazoned love and large arms that you’d ache to crawl beneath. And She’d be yelling at me, “Laurie, you got one PHAT body, girl!! Go out and USE it as a blessing to others before you can’t any more!!”