I’ve never been and will never be a skinny girl. Even at my skinniest, aged eight, most kids were way skinnier than me. Growing up, my best friend was definitely a skinny girl. When I filled out, she grew taller and every boy I ever fancied was into her. Entering adulthood, every third bloke along the street undressed her with their eyes. She pretended not to notice, but she knew. I think she felt a bit sorry for me, pitied me even.
I vividly recall two occasions. The first was when we were in a popular, trendy bar in town on its busiest night. Wall to wall with punters who thought they were better than everyone else – because, on the whole, that’s what it was like in our town. I stepped backwards and accidentally trod on someone’s toe and as I turned to apologise, I was met with a hostile glare and a disdainful bark, ‘Watch it, you fat bitch’. She was neither common nor pissed. On the spot, it cracked my heart in the same way clunking two glazed china plates together causes permanent weakness.
The second time, we were walking home from a smaller, more average, pub in the same town, through the busy town centre at chucking-out time. A group of lads were sprawled over a bench and I remember feeling apprehensive and self-conscious as we approached. As we walked by, there were a couple of wolf whistles and one spoke up, ‘Mine’s the fat one’. My friend seemed furious on the surface and I attempted to laugh it off, but the crack in my heart intensified.
The really ironic thing is, as I sit here at my current maximum weight allowance, I think back to that ‘me’ of two decades ago and realise I wasn’t actually that big. It just always felt that way, walking in the incredibly skinny shadow of my skinny best mate. Not that her shadow covered much of me, mind.
Anyway, I thought I was starting to (very slowly) overcome this warped illusion that the general public judge people based on what they look like. I’m a reasonably intelligent person, occasionally quite opinionated, but above all, I try to live my life based on logical and calculated assessments and very rarely regret what I do or say. And yet, this irrational, illogical reasoning continues to haunt my daily life and prevents me from making choices, doing better things, enjoying myself. Maybe it’s fear… that one more such occurrence will put too much pressure on the deep crack and my heart will actually break.
This is not about what I weigh, what I look like. That’s a whole other battle with a distantly related demon. No, it’s all about the attitude of other people towards someone they don’t even know, solely based on their physical appearance. And yes, it makes me think that, deep down, everyone feels the same way! And yes, cracking fat jokes is my way of pre-empting someone else. Because no one would dare say anything, but in my mind, they’re always thinking how hideous I look. I know it’s a massive issue (in more ways than one) but it’s clearly going to take a lot of hard work and time to move past it. If I ever can.
As I say, I am getting better. Since having the boys, I can somehow be a Mummy (albeit a fat one!) without the other invisible label sticking out of my collar. I have adorably supportive friends and can even almost accept that they mean it when they say they don’t see what I see. I also know I’m not alone in feeling this way, but it’s very real and actually quite debilitating. And then a few weeks ago, I was devastatingly set back, emotionally, to the place I was in about twenty years ago. I felt my heart crack.
I’m guessing through fear of an irreparable break, I did something I’ve never before been able to do. I shelved it. Quite successfully too, for a first go. I hid it in a locked box, in a dim and fusty back corner of my mental storage. I didn’t cry, but then, I am unable to do so these days. The thing is, I know I’m going to be forced to unlock the box at some point, because I sort of feel as though there’s some outstanding business. But for now? For now, I keep hoping and wishing for it to just silently dissipate. Fat chance, I know. But I don’t think I can deal with the alternative. Above all else, I would rather be content, confident and carefree than as skinny as the day is long. Hopefully, one day soon, I will find a happy medium. Or, if not that, a happy large.