My husband and my mother are just back from church. I am still in my nightgown, trying to get my 14-year-old daughter to eat a healthy breakfast before soccer practice, trying to coax my 16-year-old son to clear the old tee-shirts from his dresser drawers, so he can stop piling the ones he does wear, neatly folded from the laundry, on his windowsill. He has final exams next week. He's in 11th grade, and this is the report card that will matter next year when he applies to colleges. What I really want is to create a room around him in which he will want to study. A clutter free environment so the facts he needs to master can float right into his brain, instead of being intercepted by all the mess. Okay, that's how my brain works. Still, I haven't seen him crack a book all week. Every night, he lodges himself on the couch and watches his DVR'ed television shows. And on Friday, review day at his school, he and several friends went to the beach. But I am finally at the stage of mothering him where I have nothing to do with his schoolwork. So if he keeps his A in honors physics, I will cheer. If he doesn't manage to raise his C+ in honors math to a B, I will shrug. Silently, I will pray that he gets into the college of his choice anyway.
My husband, watching me type away in my nightgown, senses my mood. "I guess, I'm the one chaperoning soccer this morning?" he says.
My mood. Ah yes. I am on the verge of changing my life, but what I feel is not the exhilaration of possibility, but the despair, the dark desperation of a lifetime of having failed to lose this weight that encases the real me. While my husband and my petite and elegant 86-year-old mother (who has bionic knees but no depth perception because she is blind in one eye) knelt in church and prayed and got happy, I was watching Sanjay Gupta's Fit Nation on CNN, searching for confirmation that I need not worry about all the weird bumps and ripples and unexplained aches all over my body. I turned 50 last year, a fact I still find shocking. Since then, my body has begun to manifest all sorts of distress signals. Watching Sanjay interview cancer patients and a man who lost 100 pounds by writing a blog, I chanted under my breath, I will see my children's children. I am healthy, I insist to myself, even if I haven't been to a doctor in several years now, and the back of my head, my neck and my shoulders throb constantly. I will see my children's children.
The guy who wrote the blog and lost 100 pounds was a professor. Black guy. Handsome before he lost the weight. Still handsome, but now too pretty, after he lost the weight. I think: I am a writer and an editor. Writing the weight away is the one thing I have never tried. So I am trying that here. As I said, I am desperate.
My daughter will start high school in the fall. She wants to continue playing soccer. My son knows what is in store for his sister. He is a varsity athlete, a soccer player and a hurdler, not an ounce of fat on his body. He's told his sister that all she needs to up her game is conditioning. Well, with three hour practices every day after school, she will soon be well conditioned. I am quietly thrilled. I want her to make lifelong friends with exercise. I don't want her to ever have to put a brave face on and bear the hurt of walking through this world as a fat person.
So how will writing a blog help me lose my 100-plus pounds? Maybe it will keep me conscious. Perhaps it will help me accept myself in this moment, love myself in this moment, so I can stop hiding from myself, because who wants to face a self that is so at odds with the never-attained ideal, a physical self one has always secretly loathed.
My husband of 22 years is still loving and attentive to me, even with those 100-plus extra pounds. He never acts embarassed to walk into a room with me. But all my life, I have fantasized about being thin and sexy for him. Who am I kidding? Even when I weighed 140 pounds, I wasn't thin. I was normal-sized, but I still had a globe behind and thick legs that made me feel fat even then. When my kids throw themselves down next to me on the couch, and snuggle against me, those are the only moments in my life when I don't mind the size I am. I know I am comfortable. But everywhere else in the world, at every other moment, I am braced against the onslaught of people's judgement. Will they see who I am, what I can do, who I can be, beyond the unseemliness of my weight? The armor I put on to navigate this fat-hating world weighs a ton. Every morning, as I pull it around myself, all I want to do is climb under the covers and cry.
My husband says all the right things. "I didn't marry a dress size," he told me when I asked him if he felt betrayed by all the weight I had gained. Another time he said, "So do you love me less because I am bald and grew a stomach?" Of course not. I see him. I look at him and I see the man I married, his eyes dancing, his wit and humor ready to spring, his steadiness, his goodness, his hotness. I won the husband lottery, really. And I gave my kids a wonderful day-in-day-out devoted father who is capable of sublime silliness and cooks gourmet dinners to boot. They hit the dad lottery, too.
I want to be everything for these people. That is why I will make my doctors' appointments this week. I will see my children's children.