Tuesday, December 27, 2005


Cliché Number One: Awake at six a.m. due to an upsurge of acid reflux, I started doing some internet research, hoping for a website that would say: here is what you should do to get your insides to stop burning and clenching so you can get back to sleep. None of them did. However. I noted something else interesting. Not one of these websites mentioned fatness as causally related to gastroesophageal reflux disease. When this first cropped up in my life, it was all anyone talked about. My doctor. My mother. Do you think it's related to your binge eating? The websites I read this morning offered clinical descriptions of the weakness of the esophagus that causes this condition. A couple mentioned behavioral modifications that can help reduce symptoms. One mentioned weight loss as such a behavioral modification. But nowhere did I find even an insinuation that being fat causes gastrointestinal distress. Thus I discovered, retroactively, my first adult encounter with that common issue in fat medical care: Blame It On The Fat. This is particularly demonstrative, because I receive very good medical care. Mothers aren't ranked (though I can tell you anecdotally that at this point in my life I generally find mine lovely), but the doctor I'm talking about here shows up annually in the New York Magazine "best doctors" list, noted for young women's health and a specialty in eating disorders (let me tell you, she draws blood like a champ, but knows fuck-all about eating disorders in fat people—I remember her confusion when I first tried to articulate that I didn't think I was fat because I had an abnormally large appetite that could be treated with appetite suppressants). Point is: even the best doctors. The most expensive, the ones with the best reputations.

I did eventually get back to sleep (apple juice, water crackers, elevation of the upper body) and feel much better. (By the way.)

Cliché Number Two: I think I am developing a Shopping Issue. I went on a hypothetical shopping spree on the Lane Bryant website the other day, putting everything I wanted into my cart, and stopped short when I quickly racked up a thousand-dollar (hypothetical!) bill. When given a check for Christmas by my kind, generous, and extraordinarily entertaining aunt, I mentally earmarked it for clothes shopping. I used to want books. Now all I want is clothing. It is enough to make an English major feel superficial. Thoughts include: I have discovered the ability to dress myself and want to exercise it and what's wrong with that?; what sort of crazy consumerist machine am I buying (literally) into?; I wish I had the two hundred dollars to spend on a brown velvet skirt suit and if I did I would try not to think twice about spending it. Combination of books and fashion: an item on my Christmas list (alas, unfulfilled, so I will have to buy it for myself) included Roland Barthes's collection of theoretical writings: The Language of Fashion.

I was a terribly, terribly matronly high-school girl. My weight fluctuated wildly (during that four years I wore a 14, a 28, and everything in between). Clothes shopping was a hateful ordeal, and I avoided it, so a lot of my clothing was bought for me by my mother. Tentlike basic t-shirts, sack-skirts, elastic-waist "jeans." And now that I've learned that I can dress my body to advantage? Now that there's a boy who (for reasons I on bad days find unfathomable, I admit) kind of can't keep his hands off my ass? I cannot stop buying clothing. Or, perhaps more accurately, I cannot stop thinking about buying clothing. I find it diverting, distracting, and empowering. Can all three be true?

Among the slightly-too-big and slightly-too-small Christmas clothing gifts (after a very explicit email about my sizes—the fat girls know what I'm talking about in the pluralization and for all I know the skinny girls do, too) is an absolutely perfect dress. One perfect dress. I believe in the power of a perfect dress. With all my silly heart.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Fat Shock Value

I was the only fat person in the room all night at my parents' holiday open house this evening. I wore a dress both short and low-cut and received tons of compliments. I felt good, even if the cleavage on display was a mock-up of bra and arrangement.

Smalltalk question of the evening: "So, what are you planning on doing after graduation?"
Response: "I'm thinking about starting a thrift store for fat people." I tried to always accompany this with a cocked head and a charming smile.

In some tiny way, this is activism (in a more immediate way, it is immensely entertaining). One recipient of this response remarked on the ease with which I use the word "fat." He said, "I can barely get it out of my mouth." I smiled. A middleaged woman, the mother of a childhood friend, was more conventional: "You're not fat, you're beautiful."

I wasn't quick enough on my feet to ask: "Why can't I be both?"

My learning curve about talking about fatness has been so steep lately. Before the fat clothing thrift store idea, there were so few people I'd talk about this stuff to. Now, I yammer on in beer gardens and library lobbies and cocktail parties to boys my age and men my parents' age, to friends and acquaintances and strangers. I find it delightful. The best part is that nobody disagrees. I have a theory that nobody ever disagrees, that if enough people just speak flippantly about fatness, if we are just charming and pretty and articulate as we consistently talk talk talk talk talk about fatness as if we expect to be taken seriously, as if no reasonable person could possibly fail to take us seriously, public opinion (in the aesthetic sense) will begin to change.

"My mother wanted me to be a slim respectable socialite. Instead, I became an overweight troublemaker." Of course, I'd replace "overweight" with "fat," but I love Brigid Berlin.

Monday, December 19, 2005


When I am around a scale, I cannot resist it. 254.

I am not supposed to think about numbers. I do. I think about numbers all the time. I think about the numbers on the scale and the numbers that are my measurements and the numbers that are my clothing sizes. But you cannot make plans on numbers that slide on their own. It is infuriating.

I am sitting here and watching my boyfriend's TV show about Art and thinking about this stuff. That, too, is infuriating.

But sometimes one realizes all over again that this is everywhere, and today is one of those days. I read Glamour because my sister had it lying around—using it as a surface on which to make notes for Christmas presents, in which discussion she asks me, "So what's your size, these days?" (hers is a 6—used to be a 12)—and I have, finally, done what is considered such a symptom, the sectionalizing of the body. But I've done it now. I've broken myself down into parts. I have found saddlebags on my thighs. Things I hate: my breasts; my upper arms; my inner thighs.

There's the boyfriend's credit.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Does It Stop?

I saw my nutritionist today.

(We are in medias res. I see a nutritionist. Biweekly. She is part of my Team. I was a resident in an inpatient eating disorder treatment facility, fall of '04, and progress must be maintained and, hopefully, furthered.)

Anyway, I told my nutritionist that I have been having "spikes of distress." She asked, "Food or body image?" I thought. "Body image."

I had to buy pants. The fantastic pants I bought way on sale got the chub-rub holes. I'm teetering on this weird edge where sometimes a Gap 20 fits and sometimes it doesn't. The Gap 20 I bought on eBay? Didn't. And I've been trying to buy my sister a skirt for Christmas. She wears a 6.

And I've been reading the diet blogs again. Thinking I should lose weight. I've been holding so nice and steady. But when I went home for Thanksgiving, my mother said brightly—my mother, who is generally good about observing the edicts of mental health professionals—that I looked like I lost weight. I disagreed, but weighed myself and saw 257, down from my last noted weight of 263.

I wonder if it ever stops.

This is why I bring up my nutritionist. I told her how they told us in treatment over and over again that "bad body image is the last to go." Even so, I said, "I want it gone."

You will note that my New Year's Resolution was something of a failure. I will note, surreptitiously (now, not-so-surreptitiously), that I wonder why I was writing this then. What happened January 3rd that made me want to start a blog? I know what happened January 1st. I had the best New Year's kiss of all time, with a kissing partner who turned into a wonderful friend and lover who turned into a truly fantastic boyfriend. Romance does not obviate the feeling that one is too fat for the world.

Last night I read personal ads. I thought, when we break up, will I ever find another boyfriend?

I am recording. Keeping an eye on things. As per my nutritionist's instructions. This is indeterminacy.