Fat and family
My dad came out of his deep 3 year depression a few weeks ago. We had a wonderful chat about Thomas Hardy and the sadness of Tess of the Dubervilles and then the following exchange:
"I'm so glad you feel better, daddy."
"Well, everyone has problems."
"Of course they do."
"Even you have problems. You have a weight problem."
"A weight problem. Don't you think you have a weight problem?"
I'm not sure what I said. He hadn't actually seen me since last January and I didn't know my weight had made such a clear impression since he spent the majority of his time sitting in the dark on a corner of the couch. I have spent the last 4 years trying hard to help my parents to get past feeling crummy and what do I get in return? You're fat.
So how does fatness figure in my upbringing? Fat people are not acceptable. My grandmother was the enemy of fat people everywhere. She was Irish and thin and didn't see how anyone who was fat had the right to exist. Grandma started the pat down and my mother continued the tradition. You pretend to be embracing someone and then you feel them up to see how fat they are. Prime pat downs take place on the return from college, summer camp, or any prolonged period when your patented formula of healthy, delicious meals and shame has been absent. Recently my parents have felt the urge to announce their weight. Maybe they are old but they aren't fat, goddamnit. When they first came to visit me in Chicago they sat in a restaurant and counted the pudgy. "My goodness," my mother said. "Midwesterners are so overweight!"
I have been about the right weight for most of my life. After my sister was killed I got skinny. The grief diet, 8 cups of coffee, lots of tears, no food. I acquired two boyfriends despite my suicidal depression and many, many men attempted to date me. I started to get work as an actress. No one cared that my eyes were like black pits of hell. I was thin.
One of these boyfriends delighted in my inability to eat. He loved the way the bones were rising from my skin. He would take me out for those incredibly expensive dinners that the 80s specialised in. He would eat, I would pout. He would call the waiter over and show him how he had just wasted hundreds of dollars on his depressed girlfriend. The waiter would look appalled. I would take home those artfully wrapped in swan foil leftovers and let them rot in my empty fridge.
When I was pregnant I pretty much enjoyed it all. I had a three day labor and then Luke arrived to make me finally understand the meaning of love. Six months later his father asked me what my plans were in terms of losing the weight. That's how he put it, "I wondered if you could tell me when you'll lose the weight?" he said. I handed him the baby and drove away, drove through the weird Dallas streets until I ended up in an all-women's AA meeting and repeated this conversation. There was a loud hiss after I finished speaking.
The woman next to me leaned over and said: "I just ate a stick of butter."
"Freak," I thought, "pathetic freak."
You see, I inherited this genetic predisposition to blame the chubby. I have put on weight and it must come off. It doesn't matter whether there are other factors such as age and a husband who finds me very attractive. I must carve away this wretched excess or something truly terrible will result.