I don’t know if I know my body anymore. Do you know your body?
I was trying dating online for a bit again (stopped–that’s a whole different kettle of fish) and had to describe myself physically. On the one hand, it gives me pause to have to describe myself, accurately. On the other, the writer in me comes out and I go mad. My last posting was one thousand, six hundred and two words. It all started with describing my body, from my bones out.
I remember taking two pair of pants to a tailor to have them taken in at the waist. This was before I found the fantastic pervy tailor.
“Two inches!” he said. Not in a congratulatory way. There is no punctuation for, “Woman, why are you owning clothes that are in no way fitting you?” But the judgment oozed out in the two words. I couldn’t see his face–he was behind me, pinning the pants–but I could hear it.
“I’ve lost a lot of weight since I’ve been in New York,” I said. Not proud. A bit embarrassed. No one has compassion for the person who has lost weight without trying to. I put on the other pair, a pair of jeans I bought a year and a half before.
“Two and a half inches!” His tone said to me, “Are you a puker? You’re a puker, aren’t you? Came to New York from the Sticks and now are trying to change your image the wrong way. Your teeth will fall the fuck out. You know that.” I considered telling him I was on chemotherapy to make him feel the same way I felt at that moment. That’d learn him.
I was at one time eighty pounds more than I am now. That’s a whole anorexic right there. I was just about 210 or so. I was eating too much, smoking a lot of grass, drinking too much, and on a terrible medicine for the headsick. It made me hungry, tired, and slowed my metabolism. I was also depressed, but the White Coat People felt it was more important to get my mania under control. I can tell you, putting on sixty pounds in two months pushed me more towards suicide than it pulled me away from the cliff.
I didn’t know what body I lived in anymore. Nothing fit on the outside and nothing fit inside, either. I wore the same two pair of pants and the same couple of shirts. Seeing the numbers on the sizes that fit stung so bad I’d rather wear dirty clothes all the time than admit what I had become and buy new stuff. I had always struggled with feeling fat as a teenager, but I finally put it all together: at 210 pounds, I actually looked the way I had always feared I looked as a teen.
I lost the weight fairly quickly: off the fattening pills, off the booze, no longer smoking dank and eating accordingly, pounds starting melting off. All of the sudden, my body became everyone’s business: people asked me if I were bulimic, if I were using cocaine or laxatives, did I have The Virus? I learned how to set boundaries. I set a number on the scale: when I reached that dangerously low number, I would talk with people about my weight. I thought it would shame acquaintances into minding their own, but it seemed to only pique their curiosity. When would Seer reach that magic number so they could get the skinny on her “condition”? Hint: never, you fucks.
Now I’m out of New York, back in California, the Bay Area, where I grew up. Back to beginnings. I’m lighter than I’ve been in a long time, but I only know that from what the scale at the doctor tells me. I don’t weigh myself compulsively anymore. I’m a different shape than I’ve ever been. More muscle tone, especially above my waist, and my tits have deflated. Saggier and smaller. My party trick in college was holding up the yellow pages under my left breast (fuck Cosmo’s pencil test), and now I can only hold up the white pages. My friends joke that I’ll be able to dribble them like a soccer ball in a couple of years. I don’t have the ass that boys used to stare at. Too small to be noticed now.
I know; some of it is just getting older. But that’s strange, too. Some people older than me tell me you freeze in your mind at a certain age and your body begins to betray you. Am I already there, now confused not only by space but also time? Will I never know what size I should grab at the store but be also puzzled by the age of my reflection in the dressing room for the rest of my life? At least my new headsick medicine is making me break out in the worst acne I’ve ever had. It ain’t pretty, but it takes a few years off. With my mood these days, I’ll take the win where I can.
No one believes me when I tell them I spent years as a big girl. I show my stretch marks readily, as proud as if they were a purple heart. Shiny, looking and feeling like worm burrows under the skin over my hipbones. I have them other places, too. When I was fat they were an angry red. My belt is still forty inches long and I refuse to get the excess cut off. Never forget. I don’t know what I body I possess now, but I can never forget what I was. Or what I thought I was. I’m probably wrong on all accounts there, too.
And it’s never enough, anyways. I told myself when I lost the weight I would be happy. Problem is, you don’t lose the weight from your head. There’s always fat to grab and cellulite to point at. There’re always pictures of people with bodies different than mine. I could play that game forever. I could whittle myself away into nothingness and it still wouldn’t be enough. People do that experiment all the time–whole professions are based in it. The trick is to look at the belt and see the difference in size. Saddlebags and all. It’s more than good enough. Even if it still has a jamais vu sort of feel about it.
Do you know your body?