Saturday, June 28, 2008

Inside Out

As a small child, I wouldn't eat much. So little, in fact, that my folks took me to the doctor when I was 5 or 6. His advice was to absolutely restrict food for a while and then gradually give it back.

And so, for several days (my memory is that it was a week, but surely that can't be true) I could have nothing but fruit juice. The next week, I could have one measured tablespoon of fruit at each meal. The next week they added vegetables—one tablespoon of fruit and one of vegetables at each meal. The next week I could have one tablespoon of each food served at each meal. After four weeks of restrictions, I could eat anything I wanted, and I wanted it all.

By the time I was 7 or 8, my mother's worst threat was that she'd make me wear Chubby sizes.

My body experienced a metamorphosis the summer before 7th grade, but my mind never caught up. "Chubby sizes" have haunted me for more than 40 years. They haunt me today.

Check this out.

24 years old. Married about 5 weeks. I made the skirt for the occasion, the wedding of one of my new brothers-in-law. The waistband was so tight I couldn't button the button at the top of the zipper. It didn't show under the blouse, but I was mortified. All day, the only thing I could think about was how fat I was and how awful I looked.

Well, okay. It was a wedding and a party. Maybe I thought about the bride and groom a little. I hope I got over myself enough to truly wish them well and think about their happiness, but if I did, it was only between bouts of horror over the button that would not.

I stayed out of pictures that day as much as I could, but my husband insisted on taking this one. I hid in a bathroom and cried afterward, not the first time or the last.

Fat is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Seeking comfort, I eat. Feeling fat, I need comfort. Around and around it goes.

Objectively, I have been fat at times. I have also been thin. Or, my outsides have been thin. My insides have been fat since the first time my thighs rubbed together under my dress as I ran across the playground, since the first time a boy told me I was too fat to be his girlfriend, since the first time a picture documented a truth I didn't want to know.

I am fat today, outside and in, and probably will remain so until or unless I fix that inner camera, the one that pictures fat no matter what the rest of the world sees.

I am not alone in this obsession/delusion/endless trap, not the only woman with a faulty inner camera. The trap may be baited by media that tells us a size 4 is fat, by airbrushed magazine covers, by 14-year-olds posing as adults in ads, but the true struggle is with the pictures we have of ourselves.

It's time to look at this from the inside out. 46 freakin' years. It's really time.


Stacy said...

OK, if you can change that lens, please pass on the secret. I am the same size I was 20 years ago and it is less than a size 4. In the mirror, an obese girl stares back at me.You were skinny in that picture. I hope you know that now. This body obsession is a result of a persuasive form of violence against women-advertising.

Michelle O'Neil said...

Oh Jerri,

I understand this all too well.

Look at how tiny you were in that picture. Why do we always assume it's a problem with our bodies and not the dress?

Deb said...

I can so relate to all of this. Wouldn't it be nice if we could see what others see (besides frustrated moms). You are so beautiful - in that skinny picture - and from the inside out.

Carrie Wilson Link said...

The last several books I've read have all dealt with this, it's so pervasive, insidious and crazy-making. Having a 14-year-old daughter has my awareness triple heightened.

dori said...

Right there with you, sister. Sadly, right there.