Well, These Boots.

I ordered new boots online. They just came in today – and they don’t fit.

And now I’m sitting on the floor of my room, trying not to cry about it.

Sure, this is a common annoyance for anyone who orders an item of clothing online. After all, you can stick that tape measure every which way and assume that a medium is a medium is a medium everywhere – but there’s that chance that something still isn’t going to fit.

This isn’t what I’m talking about. This isn’t why I’ve shut my door and turned off my lights. This isn’t what sent all of my emotions spiraling home.

This is the moment in which I stop to look and see how far I’ve come – and yet, how much longer I have to go.

Fifteen months ago, this exact same scene played out in my old apartment, almost down to the dust-bunny-ridden floor. I had ordered boots from a plus-sized store – a different store from last week, mind you – and I knew the trouble I was getting myself into by doing so. I had taken a tape measure and roped it around my calves, my thighs, my foot, my ankles. I double checked – no, quadruple checked – my measurements, and compared them almost obsessively against the size chart provided on the website.

Of course, nothing I looked at was bound to fit exactly – clocking in at under five feet and weighing nearly three times what was deemed “healthy” for my size, things were either going to be way too long or way too wide.  To be safe, I ordered six different pairs, in varying widths and sizes. I hoped that maybe something would fit – anything – and then I could return what didn’t work and use the best fit to buy something that actually worked.

The boots came in. The box was nearly as big as I was. And lo and behold, nothing fit.

Nothing. Not the short booties that were supposed to stop at the ankle and wouldn’t slide over my heel. Not the long leather beauties that claimed to be wide enough to hit my knee, but instead wouldn’t zip over my calf muscle. Not the bright yellow rainboots I had been so excited over, which cut off the circulation halfway up my leg and bent in uncomfortable angles.

 

Nope. Nothing fit.

 

So I sunk to the floor, surrounded by six pairs of boots that taunted me, that haunted me – and I cried.

I cried because I was so sick and tired of feeling  like I was trapped in a body I hated. I was sick of being punished for looking the way that I did, by the world around me, but by myself, too. I cried because I didn’t think I had any sort of way out, any sort of solution that could feasibly work and put me in a place where I could ever love myself again.

I cried because I hated the way I looked. I cried because I hated the way I felt. I cried because I hated almost everything about me, and I cried because I just didn’t know how to stop.

So I did what I normally do in an emotional situation I’ve lost control of – I did the most dramatic and drastic thing humanly possible in the hopes of jump-starting my system. The next morning I woke up, picked myself up off of the rug (because yes, I had been so upset I had fallen asleep there), and called the Sibley Center for Weight Loss Surgery to make an appointment. I was done fucking around with diets and disorders. I was sick of skinny people recommending a new workout routine, or dance studio. I needed help, real help, from those who “got it.”

Most of you know the rest of the story from here. I went through an intensive six-month process that included physical and psychological tests, as well as modified diets and a whole lot of soul-searching,  before I went in for gastric bypass surgery last July. I started dropping weight immediately. Within the first five weeks I had lost thirty pounds, and not a single pair of the pants that I owned fit. In the last eight months I’ve lost over a hundred pounds – and there aren’t words to explain the difference.

There isn’t a week that goes by that I walk into a room and my roommate doesn’t go “GOD,YOU’RE SO SKINNY.” I catch people staring at me on the bus – except this time, it’s not a look filled with pity or contempt. It’s because my skirt looks damn good and my eyes match my sweater.

 

So why in the hell did I spend last night on the floor on the verge of tears, just like I did nearly a year and a half ago?

Because the sheer act of trying new boots again was something I had been avoiding. Yes, I’ve lost weight. Yes, I look good. But with rapid weight loss, you don’t just lose the parts of you that you hate and then you’re done with it. My arms aren’t as weight-heavy, but I’ve got extra skin that makes me look exclusively for open-cut (or long) sleeves. My stomach is considerably flatter and my waistline considerably smaller, but there’s some careful rearranging that’s done behind the scenes – and you’ll probably never catch me dead in a two-piece ever again.

And my legs – well, my legs will always be shorter, and curvy, if the female members of my family are any indication.

 

Up until this point in my “journey,” if that’s what you want to call it (which I don’t..) it has not been much of a challenge to lose the weight. If I’m not hungry anymore, I stop eating. For a long time, even walking down the hall became seriously strenuous exercise. It was a genuine surprise when, last week, I stepped on the scale and didn’t automatically see a drop from days prior.

I wouldn’t call what I’ve been through up until now “easy,” but it certainly wasn’t as hard as it seemed.

So, getting back to those boots – to try them on and have them not fit was a straight up slap in the face to my confidence. Sure, these boots are several inches smaller than the ones I tried on in January – but they’re still meant for curvy girls, for the “plus-sized.” The zippers wouldn’t close and my stupid new rainboots still cut off circulation, the pawprint pattern just continuing to taunt me. I was still the girl who shopped for Old Navy online since their plus sizes were exclusively on the website. I was still the girl who bought oversized band tees since I could blame the bad fit on the men’s sizing and not my own shameful size.

I had come all of this way, and felt like nothing had changed.

Those boots didn’t represent the progress that I’ve made – and I’m not trying to downplay my success, I’m really not. I’m perpetually impressed with the changes that I’ve made, and how many bags of clothes that I’ve shoved in my hall closet because I don’t have room for things that don’t fit, in my life, anymore.

I, like most people who go through this sort of change, think that losing the weight is going to be the be all, end all. It’s really, really not – I can’t stress that enough.

I still stand in front of my mirror in my underwear and my bra and push things into places I want them to be. I still see flabby arms and chubby legs and a random patch of dark hair in a spot I won’t point out because I don’t want to draw any more attention to it than I already have.I still hate my bangs and bite my nails, which doesn’t help me in thinking about how stubby my fingers are.

 

At my most recent surgeon-check-up-visit-type-thing, he told me that I was at a “comfortable place” and that I could be happy with where I was – this was a good weight for me. I remember staring at him like he’d just insulted my mother – and I remember getting mad. I still want to lose another forty pounds – how dare he? It was like telling a middle-schooler that a C is a “comfortable grade” and that I should be happy with that. And if you knew me at all in an academic setting – you knew that a C was never, ever enough.

These boots represent my need to do more – to do better. I recently signed up for a 5k with an included training program – because I knew this was on the horizon. I knew there was going to be a moment where I would hit “good enough” and I wanted to be sure I didn’t just stop there.

The organizers for the 5k organized us into groups to train based off our initial running times. I was put into the slowest group – which, contrary to what anyone thinks, I’m completely fine with. I often tell people that “I don’t run – for buses, for men, for anything.” That still applies today.

What got me so upset was that all of the slowest exercises had been modified – so much so, that the work wasn’t even strenuous anymore. I lost any sort of respect for the program when they made it clear that the point of this group was for complacency – for those happy with where they were. There was no motivation – no push to be better if you feel like you’re running in place.

I don’t do well with complacency. I like to make goals and then hit them, and if I fall short, I’m sorely disappointed in myself. These boots felt like they should have been a goal – and I’ve fallen short. It feels like I’m back where I started, sitting on the floor, staring at the wall and hoping to god that there’s something, anything I can do to feel better about myself.

I’d like for those boots to represent something better – a step (ha) in the right direction towards the goals I’ve already established. I want to be able to run that 5k without stopping. I want to be able to put on a sleeveless top and not immediately grab the closest cardigan. I want to wear jewelry that I’m not consistently worrying about, jewelry that doesn’t have my thinking that my hands look chunky. And yeah, I want to be able to order a pair of boots online that will zip up and look good – boots that feel like they fit.

Is this a low point that I’m going through? Maybe. Do I love the way I look? No. Is this new phase, “Phase Two,” if you will, the hardest thing I’ll ever have to do? Most likely. Am I going to have to work towards those Michelle Obama guns and a bathing suit body. Yes, definitely. But hey – who doesn’t? I just can’t afford to let people tell me this is good enough anymore. These boots, as trivial as it may seem, just confirm that.


And for those of you who are actually curious – I’m keeping at least two pairs of these boots. They’re going to fit one day. I’m sure of it.

Well, These Boots.

My People.

It was just after midnight on a beautiful Friday night, not unlike the one we had just last night. I wasn’t sleeping – I had a paper due that following week for a research class I was required to take, so, naturally, I was watching the X-Files on Netflix. The tapping on my door made me jump – did I imagine that? Was it something that had happened in the show? Was the Cancer Man outside my door, ready to take me out for wanting to believe? – so I carefully tiptoed over to the peephole in my door and peered outside.

It wasn’t the Cancer Man – it was one of my residents staring back at me through the tiny, warped hole. I had been an RA for a few months now, but no one had ever so much as responded to my overly-cheery emails, let alone come by to talk. As I opened the door, the smell of DC spring hit me, along with something else – very, very cheap beer. With a sheepish smile, he looked up at me, and said, “I know it’s late, but do you have a second?” And so I let him in.

We talked for hours, what exactly about, I couldn’t say. I know he was having a rough time with his two roommates, who had once been his closest friends but now chose to rush a fraternity and seemingly, left him behind. I know he was struggling with his parent’s divorce at home, and that the girl next door who I’d seen sneaking out his door late at night was now seeing a senior off campus. It didn’t really matter what the issue was – he had come to me to talk, and I was there to listen. It wasn’t until I found a handwritten note underneath my door the next day, explaining how much it meant to him that I was willing to let him in at such an ungodly hour and just talk for a few hours, did I realize how much my residents meant to me. And slowly but surely, I found that more and more of his friends, my kids, my people, would swing by to say hi, or ask me a question, or talk out their latest freshman-year drama.

The same sentiment rings true for a particular group of young gentlemen I spent the better part of my college experience with. During my sophomore year, my two best friends rushed the same fraternity and (at first) unwillingly dragged me into a foreign world of Greek life – parties, philanthropy, you name it. It took almost a year, but I found myself knowing the name of every single brother in the organization; and beyond that, I found myself calling them friends. These were the boys who taught me showed me that men can still have virtue, and honor, in the way that someone always offered to walk me home from a friend’s apartment without fail. These were the boys whose diligence and devotion to their chapter was evident in the way they held themselves to a consistently higher standard. And these were the boys who taught me that brotherly love extended far beyond their own chapter – they were willing to open their hearts and their arms and share that brotherly love with a couple of lucky ones, just like me.

I went to a barbecue for those graduating seniors last night and couldn’t believe how many intelligent young men I had been so lucky to watch grow up were now ready to cross the stage. I sat and chatted with one of my best friend’s “little,” who I can distinctly remember meeting four years ago as an eager, sarcastic freshman ready to return the sass at any opportunity. I hugged a friend who managed to graduate a year early and had to remind myself that the first night I met him, playing cards in one of the apartments as he got to know the brothers, was over three years ago. I met the parents of a young gentleman who used to keep me company during my late-night desk shifts, writing his papers and joking with me about the failures of our mutually-adored sports teams. I told a younger girl that I met last night that these were the boys I knew I could call no matter the hour or the problem. I told her that they were wonderful, and caring, and I wouldn’t have made it through my four years without them, without my people, and that’s when her boyfriend (a new brother) interrupted me. “It’s funny,” he said, his arm draped effortlessly around her. “Several of the guys, when pointing you out, have said the same thing about you.”

And of course, that’s when I teared up in front of two virtual strangers and quietly excused myself to go bury my face in the back of a friends shirt to stop the flow of feels, but that’s neither here nor there, now, is it?

My people, though – my talking about my people really wouldn’t be complete if it weren’t for the multiple staffs I’ve worked with in my 5+ year stint with my current department. I loved befriending the new kids on staff every semester, teaching them how to best procrastinate on your homework at the desk; the little tricks and shortcuts when it came to patrolling the buildings on duty; the best places to go study when you just couldn’t handle another resident knocking at your door; the best off-campus hideouts where the residents DIDN’T go. I’ll admit, some of these kids I might have groomed for bigger and better things, and I take pride in seeing them accomplish huge things both in-and-out of the residential life aspect of things. I’m going to miss talking to the desk receptionists in my office about the scandalous shows on TV. I can’t imagine certain staffs without certain student leaders taking charge when a crisis hits, whether it be that there’s a fire drill on campus or there’s a potential armed gunman on the loose. They understood what it meant to have Halloweekend duty calls or why it was absolutely imperative that you end up laying upside down on my black futon at least once after a particularly stressful staff meeting, and play with the blue pig until you felt better. These were your staff, but they were your friends, and more importantly, your family – and to see them grow up and move on is more than I could have ever asked for.

A year out from my own graduation, I’ve spent the better part of this weekend in complete denial as I watch these residents, these gentlemen, these staff members, this family I’ve grown to love and loved to watch grow cross the stage and ceremonially turn into real people with real jobs and real futures ahead of them. I couldn’t list all of the people I’m so proud of this weekend, because I could write post after post about every one of you and each individual accomplishment you’d had, every dream I know you’ll succeed in. That’s why I decided to congratulate you all – you know who you are – and remind you how genuinely happy and proud I am that you’ve made it this far. Every single one of you has made such a distinct impact on my life, and I wish you the best in all that you decide to do.

Best of luck, Class of 2014. I love you!

My People.

Dear “Nice Guys” Who Are At the End of Their Rope: You Actually Aren’t That Nice.

GUYS. THIS IS AN ARTICLE I WROTE FOR THOUGHT CATALOG AND THEY ACTUALLY PUBLISHED IT. THEY ACTUALLY PUBLISHED SOMETHING I WROTE. HOLY CRAP.

Thought Catalog

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You tell us that you’re nice guys, and it’s our fault that you can’t seem to hold our attention.

You tried to prove that chivalry wasn’t dead by holding the door open for us and by paying for an incredibly expensive dinner we didn’t ask for when we were in the bathroom, so we couldn’t even offer to split the bill. You looked disappointed when I squeezed past you to get into the doorway of the popular, crowded café – what, you’re angry I didn’t thank you making sure the door didn’t slam in my face? Would you be upset if there was a man behind you, and he didn’t offer thanks? Would you have held the door for a man in the first place?

I probably shouldn’t have mentioned the ex on the first date, but that should set off warning bells in your head anyway. Maybe I’m…

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Dear “Nice Guys” Who Are At the End of Their Rope: You Actually Aren’t That Nice.

Ukraine, Jews, And Another Throwback Thursday.

I’ve recently become a fan of the hashtag #throwbackthursday, or #TBT. It’s a cute way to remind people of days past, and moments we might have forgotten otherwise. Last week, I posted a picture from my days at Jewish summer camp – I won’t make excuses for the awkward side ponytails or the spaghetti-strap tank tops because hey, it was 2000 and I don’t really have an excuse to make.

This morning I woke up to several articles explaining how, among all of the chaos in the Ukraine, things can actually get worse. Reports indicate that Jewish individuals, under the new pro-Russian government, are being told they have to pay a “registration fee” and if they don’t, they’ll be ejected from the country and all of their assets and belongings will be seized, too. If this isn’t bad enough, more recent articles say that it’s nothing to worry about, that the government wouldn’t be that dumb to threaten the credibility of the pro-Russians when they’re very much in the world’s headlights, and that it’s just a couple of foolish groups trying to play up a history of anti-Semitism.

Nothing to worry about, they say. Nothing to worry about?

What bothers me is that the second article is titled, “Relax, Ukraine is Not Asking Jews to Register,” and yet it goes on to say that “in conclusion: the Jews of Donetsk and eastern Ukraine may have been asked by a leaflet to register, but it has not been enforced nor are any Ukrainian Jews registering themselves.” So not only is the title of the article blatantly contradictory to the content of the article, but no one’s addressing the fact that THIS STILL MEANS JEWS ARE BEING ASKED TO REGISTER THEMSELVES BY A GOVERNMENT? Jews are still being told by some group of people in charge that they have to declare themselves, upon penalty of expulsion and seizure of property. Maybe it’s not being enforced now, but they didn’t roll out all of the Nuremberg Laws at once, you know.

And maybe you think that’s a huge jump – leaping from registration of Jews to the thought of ghettos and extermination camps and millions killed simply because of what they believe. Maybe it is. But I’m pretty comfortable making that jump, because I spent an entire semester in college researching the importance of teaching Holocaust education, both in and out of schools. An excerpt from part of my paper:

“As my middle school education and religious school education drew to a close at around the same time, I began to notice that the two were seemingly converging on one another. Just as we started reading Night out loud, every Thursday afternoon in a quiet room in the basement of my synagogue, we began the chapter on the Second World War in our history textbooks in the inner-city school that I attended. I was excited to be able to talk about the things I had learned in my religious classes in “real school,” so one day I decided to bring both Night and my religious school textbook, The Holocaust: The World and the Jews, to class. As we turned to the chapter on the Holocaust in our big blue books of American History, I was surprised to see that there were only a handful of pages on the topic before jumping right into the bombing of Hiroshima. I was even more surprised, and hurt, to find that whoever had owned the book before me had attempted to draw their own swastikas in the margins of the old, ratty book. The marks were shoddily erased, but the symbols were still visible on the pages and I quickly closed the book and pushed it to the side. I figured that I would know what the teacher was talking about, anyway, so I didn’t worry too much about following along.

            Unfortunately, class went from bad to worse in a matter of minutes. My teacher spent the majority of the class period talking about America’s lack of involvement in the plight of the Jews and its relationship with England. Several times I tried to raise my hand to point out things that I had learned in religious school, like how reports had been smuggled out of the Warsaw ghetto as early as 1942 and sent to London, or that when the world finally was given proof that same year that the Germans were exterminating Jews that newspapers in Palestine were bordered in black to represent mourning. However, it was clear that my teacher was already crunched for time within a public school syllabus, and was under pressure to not only talk about the Holocaust, but to do so as quickly as possible.

When class ended, I approached my teacher at his desk while everyone else gathered up their books and headed off to lunch. I put my religious textbook down on his desk and waited for him to realize that I was standing there, as he himself packed up his leather briefcase and shrugged on his tweed coat. When he finally noticed me standing there, a look of pure defiance in my eyes, he sighed and sat back down, picking up my book and flipping through it halfheartedly. “This looks like a perfectly acceptable book,” I remember him saying. “See? You’re getting the education that you should. Isn’t that good enough?” I wanted to tell him about the faded swastikas in my other book, erased from the pages but not from my memories. I wanted to tell him about how the kids in class weren’t interested in hearing about the diplomatic relations that prevented the U.S. from entering the war. I wanted him to show us how important it was to learn about this tragedy in the ways it had been presented to me, through firsthand accounts and through books that helped young learners relate. When I opened my mouth to tell him these things, however, he stopped me once more. “You should go to lunch now-it’s a beautiful day, I bet everyone will be eating outside.”With that, he stood back up and sidestepped me on his way out the door.”

 

I could go on and on about how those who fail to learn history are doomed to repeat it, but I think I’ve made my point.

 

And that’s why this Throwback Thursday, I’m posting a photo from my March of the Living trip, nearly six years ago next month. It’s a photo of one of my close friends, Brian, looking over a vast stone structure located in Majdanek, one of the most “dirty” concentration camps on the planet. If it came down to it, the camp could be fully operational as a death camp within 48 hours. And the structure he’s looking out over, it’s full of the ashes they found when the camp was liberated. It’s the ashes of thousands of people who died there. It’s the ashes of people that had to register themselves over sixty years ago, register with their government as Jews, so that they government could start to target them.

 

Maybe it wasn’t enforced right away. Maybe this really isn’t anything to worry about. But maybe, maybe it really is.

 

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Throwback Thursday: Surprisingly Sentimental (A Christmas Story)

My dad’s a surprisingly sentimental guy. He enjoys traditions like biscuits for breakfast on his birthday, and he proudly displays photos around his new apartment of him shaking hands with Clinton and grinning with Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. (Please, don’t ask me who they are-I’m way too young and you probably are too). He’s even got a tiny wooden rocking chair in the corner that he’s had since he was a boy-it was important enough to him to make the trip from New England to central Florida. As sentimental as he is, though, my dad is still the former detective I grew up with, and it takes a lot to get him worked up. I’ve only ever seen him cry twice-once when our family dog died when I was ten, and once when his younger brother died of an unexpected heart attack.

 

He’s been living in an apartment now for about six months now, in a cute little Stepford complex where each building looks the same and there’s absolutely no parking anywhere. I’ve been really worried about him just picking up and moving like he did; he’s never had a problem making friends, but he’s also not really the type to go out and join a Bingo game.

 

Except that’s exactly what my dad did-he plays Bingo, weekly, with the people in the surrounding apartments. And he does more than just play Bingo with them, too. On Friday nights, he goes with them to a local bowling league (though his knees won’t let him play anymore); when they get out of work at the Disney parks, he’ll meet them there and goof off until it’s time for the fireworks. He’s gotten particularly close with one family, transplanted here from Southern Massachusetts, and regularly plays with their six-month-old baby, Evvie, when Momma needs a break.

 

I really wasn’t expecting much of a holiday here. I was raised Jewish, and although my dad was raised in a Christian home, we haven’t celebrated Christmas since I was twelve. Holidays tended to be strained towards the end of my time at home anyway-but that’s another story, for another day. I figured maybe my dad would buy me a sweatshirt or two in the Disney parks, and potentially pay for a butterbeer in Harry Potter World, and we’d call it a day. I was genuinely surprised when he told me that we’d be spending part of Christmas Day with his new friends and their family, and that they had presents for us, to boot.

 

When we finally got to their apartment, we apologized over and over for being late-we had gotten tied up at my dad’s best friend’s home (another pleasant surprise to find out they had invited us over as well). We carefully stepped over baby toys and a sleeping greyhound or two and grabbed some space on their already-crowded couch. The apartment belonged to Dan and Do, a semi-retired couple around my dad’s age, and their son Danny, along with his girlfriend Laurie (who is definitely my age), and of course, baby Evvie. Joining us that night was Dan and Do’s daughter, Crystal; her boyfriend, Bo; his toddler son, Bebo; Bo’s brother; and their cousin, Mr. Bill. Strewn among people were cans of root beer and plates piled high with Puerto Rican dishes Laurie had spent all day making, and she handed us each our own once we sat down. “Eat. Eat!”

 

Danny was poised by the Christmas tree, a present in each hand. One-by-one, he handed them out to each person, calling out their name and patiently taking photos as they tore through the wrapping paper and exclaimed in delight. Bebo, at four years old, was finding it hard to sit still, so when possible I’d distract him by asking him to tell me about his dinosaurs. He’d light up as he explained the difference between a brontosaurus and an allosaurus, and it reminded me of a good childhood friend who would get that same gleam in his eye nearly fifteen years before.

 

I wasn’t expecting much when Danny called out my name. I knew that part of the gift was a set of tickets to Sea World, thanks to Crystal’s connections. What I wasn’t expecting was for Danny, grinning, to call my name several times over the course of the night. Between the basket of lotions, a stuffed pirate toy, and a beautiful Disney poster, I couldn’t believe my luck. But the thing is-this story really isn’t about me. It’s about my dad, and his new friends next door.

 

Several days before, my dad and I had wandered through Downtown Disney in the hopes of making some purchases before the holiday deals were over. We ended up stopping in one of the more classy Disney art shops, where they sell frames from various movies, and art inspired by the classics themselves. My dad paused in front of one of the cases, and pointed out a ceramic Mickey figurine, shaking hands and looking in awe of the firefighter in front of him. “Isn’t that cool?” My dad asked. “They have one for police officers too, but they sell it at the other art store, in the parks, and I’m going to use some of my birthday money from Nanny to buy it. I’m just waiting until I go with Dan and the crew, so I can use their ‘Disney Discount.’” He winked at me, and we continued on our way, weaving through toddlers dragging giant Mickey toys behind them that would never fit in their carry-ons.

 

Back at Christmas dinner, Danny had been hinting that the gift they had for my dad was going to make him cry, and if it didn’t, “everyone needed to go home.” Finally, as the pile dwindled down, he handed my dad a giant red box and motioned for him to go on. My dad tore off the wrapping to find a box, and opened it to find-another box. “Keep going!” the label encouraged, and so he did. Four boxes later, he finally reached a Styrofoam layer, and carefully lifted the lid. A single tear rolled down his face as he laughed, speechless. There lay Mickey and the policeman in his lap, as the family laughed and clapped with joy. “This is why we haven’t been to the parks with you yet,” Danny shouted. “We couldn’t let you buy it!”

 

The season is all about goodwill towards men, as the voices echoing over the Disney parks have reminded me all week. I wasn’t really sure what that meant, until I watched the joy on this family’s face as they surprised someone that they just met with a gift they’ve wanted for years. Dan, Danny, and Laurie work at the parks in the kitchens, and from personal research (ahem), I can tell you that they don’t make much. For them to take their hard-earned money and buy gifts not only for my dad, but for me, someone they had met days beforehand-it was what I needed to understand exactly what this time of year is about. It’s not about getting a photo with Santa Goofy, or putting ornaments on a three-foot fiber optic Christmas tree. It’s about peace on Earth, and goodwill towards men. And I’ll remember that every time I look over and see a ceramic Mickey shaking hands with a police officer, nestled between a photo of aging rockers and a surprisingly sentimental guy.

Throwback Thursday: Surprisingly Sentimental (A Christmas Story)

On Sitting Alone In The Airport.

I have absolutely no idea what is upsetting me so badly tonight. It’s a brand-new year and not to sound like a cliche, but the possibilities are endless for me right now. I’m going back to school in a few months, I’m on a path to a healthier lifestyle, and I just spent a week in Florida visiting my father, enjoying the Happiest Place on Earth, and even seeing my best friend for the first time since he’s moved away for a new job. On paper, I shouldn’t want to go back to messy, rainy DC by any stretch of the imagination.

And yet, I’ve spent the past two hours fighting tears in the airport terminal labeled 23, with my favorite band shouting at me through my headphones so I don’t have to hear my own thoughts anymore. I couldn’t care less that my flight is delayed, except for the fact that the longer I sit here, the harder it is to keep staring at the ceiling and counting to 100 over and over.

Is it because my best friend stopped answering me once again, a sign that he needs a break from me and my emotions for once in a blue moon? Is it because all I want to do when I’ve worked myself up like this is to call and just listen to his voice, a reminder of home a thousand miles away even when he’s just talking about his new job or the traffic on the highway or swearing at the unfortunate pirate that’s crossed his path in his video game? Or is it because I know that he’s got a thousand other things running through his mind and I am confident that I’m simply not one of them?

Could it be that I decided, in the fury of failed resolutions of New Year’s Past, to be more take-charge and leave no stone unturned? Could it be that once I started writing a letter to my ex-best friend asking him for, at the very least, some sort of closure, that I couldn’t stop? Could it be that a year ago, he would be the one I would consider calling, sniffling pathetically into the phone? Or could it be that I’m seriously contemplating the implication of just calling him still anyway?

Is it because I’ve run through my entire friend circle in my head and can’t find a single person I’m willing to burden with my blues? Is it because I’ve reached out to a couple of kids and I can’t bring myself to tell them just how terrible I’m feeling? Or really, is it just because in doing so, I can feel their apprehension in replying at all? Is it because it’s not the sympathy I’m looking for, but just the proverbial light in the storm?

It could just be the migraine I’ve been battling all day, using all of the strength I’ve got to fight the nausea that keeps threatening to keep me grounded permanently. It could mean that the power I utilize to keep my emotions in check is completely gone and sadness is finally fair game. Or it could be that I’m just emotionally tired from this entire ordeal, from realizing that my dad isn’t as young as I remembered him to be, and facing the reality of not knowing when I would be able to sit in comfortable silence with my best friend again.

Maybe I do know what’s upsetting me so badly, after all. Who knew opportunity could be so ostracizing? No one ever told me emotional living could be so lonely.

Here’s to 2014, y’all. Plane is boarded and I’m headed home, whatever that means.

On Sitting Alone In The Airport.

So, I am fat.

Does that make anyone feel better? It’s the first time in nearly twelve years that I’ve actually said that. I’m tired of tiptoeing around my “weight problem,” or timidly stumbling over the word “heavy” whenever the conversation curved that way. I’m want to talk to you about what it’s like to be twenty-two, and fat. I’m going to share with you what it’s like to go through life knowing that people are staring, are judging, are sizing you up for disaster.

 

I’ve been fat since I was ten years old. Most girls were picking out training bras-nothing more than another layer of cloth to make them feel grown-up and important. I was already fitted for a B-cup, the straps cutting very real marks into my shoulders and causing sweat lines through my GapKids tees. I didn’t need to feel grown-up. I had already been tossed headfirst into it.

 

In middle school most girls stop wearing kid’s sizes, and spend hours in the junior’s section, fawning over the peek of a midriff or the dip in the waist of a pair of jeans. I skipped right from Oshkosh to Ann Taylor, sharing fitting stalls with women old enough to be my grandmother. And that’s where I first started noticing the looks-the disapproving clicks of a tongue, the sympathetic stares behind bifocaled eyes. My Bat Mitzvah dress was bought at a bridal shop, not because it needed to be beautiful. It was because nothing in my size, in the prom section of Macy’s, is meant to fit a twelve-year old without making her look like a child prostitute.

 

High school was where the teasing started and ended. Girls I had gone to sleepovers with would ask me why I sat so my boobs looked bigger. I had to explain tearfully, in front of teenage boys, no less, that I didn’t sit that way on purpose-that’s just how big they were. No one asked me to junior prom, so I didn’t bother going. It was where the teasing ended-but it ended because it got replaced by pity.

 

I can distinctly remember my freshman year of college, while looking for my shirt on the dirty floor of someone else’s dorm room, hearing him tell me “this should be our little secret. It’s not like anyone would believe it, anyway.” He was a division one athlete, and I was fat. He wouldn’t look at me when he said it. I don’t think he could. I remember going back to my room and calling my best friend at the time in tears, recanting the boy’s words. He didn’t believe my story either. He proved the athlete’s  point.

 

I became close with a group of fraternity boys in college-they were the 35 brothers I never knew I needed. They were always there for a kind word, a gentle hug, a person to sit and watch movies with on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I got to know their secrets, their hopes, their fears. I think it’s safe to say that they trusted me. But I would hear these boys talk about the guest rules at a party, “recruits and hot girls only.” Then a guilty glance my way, and the over-asserted, over-used, “and don’t worry, you don’t count anyway.” I watched photos pop up all over the internet of their formals, the boys picking dates they knew their friends back home would approve of. I wasn’t even in the backgrounds of those photos, hiding my disapproval at these girls who didn’t even know these boys. I was never invited. Oversight? Maybe. Embarrassment? Much more likely.

 

I have friends who won’t ask me to go to bars with them because I bring down the possibility of them finding a friend to go home with. I have people who pointedly stare when, out of breath, I ask them to please slow down, my short legs are carrying me as fast as they can. I have people who don’t bother to hide their shock and disbelief when I say that I try to go to the gym three times a week. And I have people who just stare. People on the Metro, people on the bus, people in the restaurant, people on the street. People who act like they’ve never seen a muffin top before, who will often stop and whisper to their friend like I can’t see what they’re doing. And yes, they stare.

 

My closest friend subconsciously scoots away from me if our arms or thighs end up brushing on the Metro. At first he started talking about hot girls constantly, but once that pity started climbing up his spine he hardly mentions them at all. He is one of a handful of people I actually feel comfortable eating in front of, instead of watching them watch me eat and wondering if they’re hiding disgust behind their dessert. He and I can sit and talk for hours on end. We can often sense when the other is upset or distracted through incomprehensible mediums, like text messages and Facebook. And yet on the nights that I have worked up the courage to tell him I love him, that I’d be the girl of his dreams if he’d let me, he tells me in no uncertain terms, no. He can’t be with someone who doesn’t take care of themselves, he says. What he means is that he can’t be with someone his friends can make fun of. He can’t be with someone he can’t show off.

 

For the record, I am not an unattractive woman. I have eyes the color of ice that can melt with compassion or freeze you with honesty. I have the softest hair known to man, and often times people will play with it absentmindedly when I’m standing next to them. I clock in at just under five feet, so I often get described as “adorable” or “cute,” and the fact that my personality stopped maturing at twelve probably helps with those descriptions. If you think intelligence is sexy, my favorite hobby is reading and I can argue my way out of a paper bag. But what really makes me feel attractive is that I’ve gained confidence through my struggles with my weight. I’m not one of those girls who screams “I’M FAT AND I’M PROUD,” from the tallest rooftops-I’m the first to admit that I’m still not comfortable in my own body. But I can say I’ve come a long way from being that girl who won’t make eye contact so she doesn’t have to see the pity in your eyes.

 

I’m sick and tired of people who are supposed to care about me, who are supposed to love me-hell, even people who don’t know me, treating me like I’m some sort of leper because of my shape and my size. I’m tired of the uneasy glances as I wiggle my way out of a cab. I’m sick of the avoided eyes whenever someone needs to sit on someone’s lap in a tiny car. I’m done with the glances exchanged across the table when I order a ginger ale that’s not diet. I don’t judge you because your stomach pokes out a little over the top of your jeans. I don’t scoff at your chocolate sundae when you spend over a hundred dollars on acne creams. I’m happy to stay out of your decisions-as long as you stay the hell out of mine.

 

I know there are some of you sitting out there, reading this and thinking that this is a pity party at its finest, that my weight is my own fault and I’m just looking for a quick vote of sympathy. I’ve waited until the end to address this, because people forget the faces that stand behind the words. I was diagnosed this year with a disease, the evil cousin of diabetes that makes it nearly impossible to maintain weight, let alone lose it. I’ve had this poisonous problem in my body for over half of my life, and couldn’t have done a thing about it.

 

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a couple of months now. I kept punching the keys, forming thoughts and feelings, but it didn’t sound right to me. It wasn’t until I was charged nearly a hundred dollars more for a medication that helps regulate my weight loss did I feel the need to stand up and say this. I was taking a medication in which the dosage could have been for several different ailments, and paying less than ten dollars a month. Now that the dosage has increased to a point where it’s clear the drug is for weight maintenance, the price soared through the roof. If that’s not blatant discrimination, I don’t really know what is.

 

Did I eat well as a kid? Absolutely. There was no candy allowed in my home, no sweets hidden in the floorboards or stashed in the rafters. Did my parents provide me with healthy meals instead of McDonalds? Of course. Did I live a healthy lifestyle? Up until a point, sure. I danced as a kid, until I started having panic attacks and refused to go back to the studio. Why was I panicking? The anticipation of having yet another stick-thin ballerina in my class tell me I was too fat to tumble, or too heavy to lift.

 

And kids are cruel, sure-but adults are crueler. My family was seemingly supportive, especially since many of them struggled with their weight themselves. But support stopped short when someone would order an appetizer for the table, and then sling shame at the teenager staring longingly as the adults stuffed their faces with cheesy fried goodness. I can’t tell you how many times I was told how pretty I would be “if I just lost some weight,” or, when I came home from college, “how hard it would be to get a job if you look like that.” Luckily enough for me, I work in dining services now. No one questions a fat girl applying for a job related to food.

 

A study by the Employment Work Alliance from a few years back shows that nearly half the nation believes that fat workers are discriminated against in the workplace. Maybe they’re not sitting in on the high-level meetings with the execs from corporate-it might ruin the image. Maybe it’s something as simple as not being invited to play tennis after work with the others because why would someone who’s fat wanna play sports, anyway? For the record, I played tennis in middle school, and I could kick your ass up and down the court. If someone would give me a chance and ask me to play, that is.

 

After a while the whispers seem to linger in your ears as you’re seemingly waddling down the street. The stares stay with you as you sweat up the stairs to your apartment. And you find yourself skipping meals and ignoring the gnawing in your stomach in the hopes that eliminating one, even two meals a day will keep those pounds from sticking to your skin any longer. This is the first time in my life I will openly admit that I’ve struggled with this. It’s also the first time I’ll publicly admit how far down the spiral I’ve gone. I’ve called my insurance company first to ask about gastric bypass-then to ask about psychologists and shrinks. I’ve locked myself in bathrooms, knowing that if I can’t even muster enough willpower to say no to dessert then how could I possibly muster the willpower to throw it back up? I’m long past my darkest days, thankfully, but that doesn’t mean I don’t find myself on the cool bathroom tile floor once in a while, wondering just how far I’d go compared to how far I’ve gone.

 

So here I am, pouring my heart out to you, and why? Because I am tired of being the only teenager at Weight Watchers, listening to women drone on about their baby weight and their menopausal moments. I want my friends to introduce me to boys at bars as “my friend with the gorgeous eyes,” instead of letting me sit at home watching the West Wing until my heart explodes from the weight of FOMO. I want my best friend not to flinch when I reach out to brush the dirt off of his shirt for the hundredth time. I want people to know what it’s like to be constantly on edge about how many people saw you sneak that piece of candy corn from your bosses’ jar. Maybe you’ll think twice about calling out your car window at the sweaty girl trying to run down the street. Maybe you’ll take a look at your fat kids, your fat friends, and stop trying to shape them into the role model you aren’t. Or maybe you’ll just stop staring as I’m trying to get to work on time.

 

 

Yes, I am fat. But if I can do something about it, I’m going to make sure that you can’t bring on my disasters any longer. 

So, I am fat.