I never really realized I was a fat person until I saw a picture that my fiance took of me on Saturday. I was on my way to drop off my latest abstract painting to Brigandi’s Barbering Company located in Audubon, New Jersey. Ariel, the owner of Brigandi’s and someone I’ve unbelievably known for 14 years (god, we’re old) was kind enough to ask if I was interested in bringing down one of my pieces of artwork for Audubon’s National Night Out on Tuesday, August 7th. I was delighted about the opportunity to showcase one of my paintings that are a part of a thousand, non-cohesive collections sitting on my Bad Art and Meow’s webpage.
So, on Saturday morning, after racing to clean my house and attempting to get part of my homework on my linguistic analysis on Wuthering Heights and the Great Gatsby completed, I ripped the tags off the new blue, warehouse-inspired jumpsuit I snagged from Target last week, poofed out my curls and threw on my Francesca’s sunglasses circa Twiggy 1964 and posed nonchalantly outside my house, painting in hand, waiting for a fantastic artistic aesthetic to blossom on the other end of the iPhone. This is what bloomed on the other side of the camera.
When John handed me the phone, my jaw dropped. Look how fat my arms are! Look at how the jumpsuit – size XL – drops down past my waist and hugs me. Look at how my frizzy hair adds more volume to my already voluptuous silhouette. Look how choppy my legs look. Look how ugly I am!
I tossed him the phone, could barely breathe as I stumbled back into the house, jingling my keys in the front lock, panting, disgusted that this artistic aesthetic turned out to be a fat loser in an ill-fitted jumpsuit. I opened up my closet to outfits I can’t wear, to my drawers, busting out with shirts and pants and size 6 this and size 8 that, clinging on to the same fallacy I have: that one day they’ll fit again. That one day, these clothes I was able to wear recently will drape loosely around my shoulders instead of resembling a sausage with the fingers to match.
I put on ripped jeans and a t-shirt, forgoing a bra with socks peeling out of my shoes and my pair of obnoxious sunglasses, and rode quietly in the car until we got to our destination.
“You look beautiful,” John told me, grabbing my wrist with his one free hand before resting it back on his steering wheel. “I’m a whale,” I retorted, fighting back tears over how I looked.
It’s confusing because I don’t feel this way when I put on my clothes in the morning. I take pictures of myself – flattering angles – and enjoy going shopping. I look in the mirror before I leave work and I guess I’m standing too close to my reflection because then, everything seems moderately skinny. I’ve been 130 pounds the majority of my adult life. And now, standing here, at 183 pounds, delighted that I’m down from 185.6 – I’m the fattest I have ever been.
When I lost my mom I was wearing a Size 8 comfortably, and while that was still a little heavier than I was used to, I liked the way I looked. Do you ever have those pictures that when you first look at them, you’re like, “Wow, I hate the way I look?” but then a few years down the line you look back on the times you thought you were really disgusting and you wish, “Man, I still looked like that?” Well, that was me at Size 8. I was happy, healthy, a balanced blend between eating right and lack of stress. When my mom died, I didn’t eat the first two weeks, and I remember fitting into a size 6 easily, as I shopped for clothes for her funeral and that first trip I took to J.C. Penney’s to try and find some direct way I could still be close to her. When I went back to work, my torso was basically flat, and the appeal of food was non-existent.
And then, a few weeks turned into a month, then two, and by August, I was sitting with my back arched against my kitchen cabinets underneath my sink, with my head banging into the plywood, begging for God to kill me. John had to come home and raced to my side, peeling me off the floor like I was a sticker as I just asked him, “Please let me die,” over and over and over and over and over and over and over until the pain went away and I was lying comatose on our olive green couch, all cried out with nothing left.
Tensions became even greater the closer it came to my birthday, our first Thanksgiving, her birthday and then Christmas. I was angry that the last Christmas I ever spent with her was filled with rage and hopelessness and depression. I was enraged that her last Christmas was spent with lack of resources because the government takes too long to send out a disability check. I was enraged that she didn’t feel like putting up a tree, or lights and that a few days before Christmas she sat across from John and me breaking down, crying that all she wanted to do was die. I was enraged that our final Christmas was mostly silent, and weird, and awkward during times when I opened up the gifts from her that she asked me to wrap myself because her five brain tumors fucked up her vision.
We went away for Christmas in an effort to escape those memories, and as we walked down Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood Studios, 8:00pm on Christmas Day, I still felt alone in a sea of people.
2018 came – the year of our wedding – and from what was originally an exciting time in my life took a turn and added so much stress and sadness of me not being able to share in this event with her. Coupled with a job that treated me badly, with stress and inconsistency running loose like a California wildfire, I felt the grief enclosing me.
Over the course of the year and a half since she’s been gone, I’ve turned to other avenues to dispel my grief: painting, traveling – but at the core of it all is the one truth that I became isolated because of my grief. I stopped cooking. I let my house grow dirty. I let the laundry pile up. I’ve come home, night after night after night, ordering Domino’s or Buffalo Wild Wings, digesting as much greasy, fatty foods as I could that would somehow comfort me, give me that ‘warm belly’ feeling that I’d used to have when I was happy, when I was down and needed the sincerest form of flattery and being picked up. I ate ice cream almost daily. I stopped caring because when you’re grieving the magnitude of a loss like your mother, all you care about is getting through the day.
My dad, he grieved the opposite way. He lost thirty pounds and his interest in all the hobbies he once loved. I gained new hobbies – and new weight.
Lately, I’ve been trying to become more body positive, because at the end of the day, regardless of size, women are capable of doing so much with their bodies. We grow babies, we cope with stress, we bare stretchmarks – which currently aline the bottom of my stomach. We’re the foundation in our family’s lives in a very big sense of the word and my body is a reflection, right now, of my grief, of my incredible sadness, of my depression.
There are times that I wished I was one of those people who took out my anger and frustrations with the world in the form of running or kickboxing instead of stress-eating, but that’s the path I’d chosen and it’s one that brought me comfort during my darkest days. I don’t like the end result, but the funny thing is, after staring at that picture a little bit longer, it’s not the worst image I could ever find of me. This image shows off a lot of things I hadn’t noticed the first time around: it shows how I’ve turned my grief into a new venture – and all the places it’s still taking me. This image shows a new pair of sunglasses, a jumpsuit, and handbag which means I’ve found an interest in going shopping again – a hobby my mom and I did exclusively. This image shows my home, where I still come home to, where I still find solace and warmth and comfort.
And this body, it shows resilience. It shows the damage of grief and depression but it also shows hope – because she’s still standing there, tall and proud, showing off something she made for the world. She’s still hanging on amidst the days when she feels like stopping. She still has hope, and that’s something she’s not ready to lose just yet.