They did their best. They were very young when they became parents. Neither had exceptional models of parenting. I cut them a lot of slack. And, as I've said — we're fine now. I've had a lot of therapy, the three of us have talked a lot over the years — our relationship is great. I actually feel very lucky. If I had to choose between a kinda sucky childhood and a kinda sucky adulthood, I'd pick the former, no question.
But here's the other thing that haunted my childhood and had a huge impact on my feelings and choices regarding my body: My mother (despite all of her softball-playing) was fat. She was as big as I am now. And in fact, I just wrote that sentence incorrectly. It should read like this: My mother was fat.
We never said that word out loud. Never. It was the elephant in the room that nobody discussed. But it was clear, from how everyone in the family talked "around" it, that being fat was the worst possible thing that a woman could be.
Dad would buy Mom clothes for Christmas and birthdays, and they were almost always slightly too small, and Dad would sigh and Mom would cry. Every damn year. Periodically, Mom would go on diets, and Dad would get very excited and encourage us all to support her. And then she'd fail (because most diets don't work, as we all know. But facts had no role in this dynamic. It was a character failing on my mother's part, and that was clear to all of us) and two clouds would descend over our home: the black cloud of Dad's disappointment and anger, and the blue cloud of Mom's misery. And I, as the oldest and the only daughter, learned to do the Caretaker Dance, tiptoeing carefully around Dad's wrath and shielding Mom from any more pain.
In my first memory of consciously doing this, something bad had happened at school, and I came home crying . . . but then I saw that Mom was crying, so I wiped my tears, put on a smile, and set about cheering her up.
I was 8.
At this time, I began to shred my cuticles, picking at and ripping off the skin around every finger until it bled. (Before my cuticles it had been my lips. For most of my elementary school career, some part of me was visibly bleeding.) A therapist later pointed out that this was my way of begging for help. (And of course I still do it, but I truly think that now it's just a terrible habit, without any deeper psychological meaning.)
So, obviously, this was a fairly intense environment, and I absorbed all sorts of life lessons from it, mostly along the lines of I will never never never let this happen to me. But then there were all those other life lessons doing their part: Food is love! Food is comfort! Food is a reward! Exercise is for "other" people!
Two things happened to me in my 20s:
- Mom got thin. When I was 22, Mom went on the Optifast diet (the one Oprah famously lost a ton of weight on) and she started exercising, and she lost all the weight she needed to. During one phone conversation, she said, sadly, "You're the only one who never asks me how my diet is going." I was speechless. Here I thought I was doing a good thing. I'd assumed that like all of her other diets, this one wouldn't work either, but for whatever reason this one did the trick; she's been thin ever since.
- I met Husband and got fat. The two events may not be connected.☺But these are the facts: I was at the high end of a reasonable weight when we met, and I promptly began to gain, five pounds a year. I'd gone up 10 pounds by the time we got married, and I remember looking at my honeymoon pictures in dismay. And I've steadily gained five pounds a year ever since. Twenty years = 100 pounds. And here we are.
My parents and brothers know that I have a blog, but they don't read it, which is fine — and I didn't personally invite them to read it, either. Weight is just such a weird, crazy issue in my family. I don't want my parents getting all excited because I'm "on a diet." I don't want to hear that they're so proud of me for losing weight. I do other things that I'd like them to be proud of. In this realm, it's enough for me to be proud of myself.
OK, enough reminiscences for today!
In other life news:
- Aw, my funny friends. I appreciate your good intentions and your faith in me, but I need you to listen carefully: It is huge that I have found an activity that I love, namely, zumba. Huge! And I will do as much of it as I can afford and can fit into my crazy schedule. But I will not take this activity that I love and turn it into a livelihood (so that I now have all this work associated with it: Find a venue! Attract clients! Get CPR-trained! Keep my certification current! Attend zumba conferences!) No, no, no. That is not the reward for finding "my" activity. Please let it go now.
- And speaking of zumba: The instructor whose mother-in-law died seems to have vanished from the earth, so they may have to cancel my Saturday class. Weep! I will likely go back to Sexi Danci Nanci's class if they can't line up another instructor. But this past Saturday, since I didn't have zumba, I took a long brisk walk, up and down many hills, and lifted weights and worked my core and did all that stuff I haven't been doing, and since then my body aches like I've got the flu. Exercise will kill you, man. ☺
- I love love LOVE my Sunday night UU sex class!! I'm teaching OWL (Our Whole Lives — incredibly stupid name, IMHO) to seventh graders, and I adore all of them, and it is the funnest Sunday School teaching experience evah!!! It's the job I was born for.
- I'm reading my third Lesley Kagen book and I am crazy about this author!!! Highly recommended. Check her out.
- I also just got a book from the library that was on Brunie's summer reading list; I couldn't resist the cover. Creepy as all giddy-up. I'll let you know how it is.
I have no idea what I'm going to do with my Math kids today . . . an hour from now. And tomorrow I've got jury duty at 8 a.m., and I don't know where I'm going. Oh, life — what a bewitching bevy of mysteries you are!
—Lady C, proud fat girl