By Telaina Eriksen
“I’ve noticed you’ve gained weight. I mean, I haven’t been staring at your body…”
“A lot of weight,” I say.
“I just mean to say… I just want to encourage you… I’m not saying it right, but you deserve to be thinner and healthier.”
I feel the tears spill out of my eyes. So much shame. Ancient shame that I have carried with me ever since my mother slapped my arm repeatedly for salting a saltine when I was four or five years old. Good people aren’t fat. Fat people are ugly and bad and lack control and self-discipline. Men do not like fat girls and if men don’t like you, they won’t marry you, and if you aren’t married, if you don’t have a man, what good are you? The Gospel According to My Mother.
“It’s how I deal with things,” I tell my friend, oversimplifying.
“This fall, I think I know how you felt. I gained a lot of weight, was very heavy for me. I remember thinking, ‘why not? I’m happy with myself’… I’m not saying it right… but I love you. I want you to be happy.”
I am so huge, I require an intervention. I love my friend but I feel like sobbing. Doesn’t she think I know? Doesn’t she know that I always know? Maybe I am naïve enough to believe that some people just accept how I look and aren’t secretly judging me.
I get into my minivan after our conversation. I reach down to feel my stomach, feel the exact proportions of my shame and worthlessness. The exact dimensions of my failure as a woman.
As near as I can figure out and remember, I was sexually molested off and on from the time that I was about four to when I was about nine. When I was nine years old, I had my tonsils out and due to complications, almost died. I was without oxygen to my brain for not merely seconds, but minutes. It felt easy to blame my fragmented childhood memories on that illness.
The feelings I remember most from my childhood are terror and anxiety. Nightmares plagued me. During the daylight hours I constantly sought attention, distraction, love. At night I sucked my thumb and tried not to wet the bed.
Here is a list of the things I need to be doing at this exact moment:
cleaning the house
baking my son’s vegan birthday cupcakes
walking the dog
placing the new boxes of tissue around the house (it is cold and flu season after all)
turning in my grades for the semester
mailing the Christmas box to my siblings in another state
scooping the cat’s litter box
cleaning off the top of my desk
loading the dishwasher
wrapping my son’s birthday presents
being a good friend, wife, mother and daughter
being Zen (while also being understanding, charming, evolved and happy)
making time for the important things
reducing my social media time
achieving perfection. Continue Reading…