There are some words we aren’t allowed to say at my house. We don’t use swear words, offensive body-part lingo, crude bodily functions, nor are we rude (“shut up”) or hurtful (“ugly”). There’s also another word we don’t say. Not because it’s never been banned, but because my kids are sensitive and kind and wonderfully blind to size.
That word is F-A-T.
I am fat.
I am not delusional about my weight. I don’t blame it on genetics. I make no excuses for my body, and I accept responsibility for eating portions that are too large and for not exercising enough. I have PCOS, and it’s been a problem, but it’s not the only problem.
I get this. I know.
Every morning I stand on the Wii Fit and watch my Mii balloon to 100 times her starting figure. I hear the little voice say “That’s obese!” and have to explain to my kids what that means. Most mornings it’s okay. Like I said, I am not delusional. I am proud of the five pounds I’ve lost (and kept off!) since Christmas, and if I can only lose five pounds a month, it’s better than gaining them.
I am okay (not proud, not elated, not even happy) with being fat. It’s something that has taken me years and years to realize, but I accept who I am. I accept how I am. It helps that I have been generally healthy, and that my body is strong. It sustained four (five) precious babies, even if only briefly. It recovered nicely from three abdominal surgeries. It is MY body, and I honestly love every bit of it. Every stretch mark, every wrinkle, every scar… every part of it that makes me who I am.
I also love knowing that I am a pretty great person. Call me what you will (keep the rude comments to yourself, please), whether it’s a “Sweet Spirit” or a “Great Personality”, but as a general rule, I think people like me. I am a good wife and a great mom (sometimes those adjectives change, but generally they are positive) and a loyal friend. I am funny. I am a good listener. I have compassion. I am genuinely concerned about the welfare of others and I try to lighten their burdens. My point is, I’m not horrible.
So it really hurts when people who know nothing about me (AND are unwilling to make the slightest effort) make nasty comments about my appearance, as if it’s okay. Like because they wore stiletto heels and a mini skirt in the snow and ice, it gave them the right to point out my jeans and sneaker-ed feet, or because I went out without makeup, it means I am a frumpy sloth who cares nothing for fashion. (Hello? There’s snow! It’s cold, and the ice-slip-factor is HIGH. And also? I made refreshments for my daughter’s open house this morning and spent an hour in her class, deciding that being with her was more important than contouring my cheekbones. We both made a choice, is what I’m saying, and I am not criticizing you for yours.)
Most of the time, people ignore me. They see through me like I’m invisible, and I pretend not to care. When I was at Ricks College, unquestionably the friendliest campus on Earth, nine times out of ten, if I passed a guy on campus, he said hello. If I passed one on the street, he’d look at my face and smile, do a not-so-sly body glance, and look right through me as we passed, as if I wasn’t there and he hadn’t given me a flirty smile ten seconds earlier. (That was 16 years and 60 pounds ago.) Now women do it, too, and while I’m not looking to be hit on, I do hope for some sort of affirmation that our paths crossed for a brief second. I’m not looking for a hello, or even a smile, although it would be nice to get one in return. What I want is the acknowledgement that I exist, even if I am fat. And don’t wear makeup on occasion.
Today, after Kendra’s school activity, I took advantage of two well-behaved children and ran some errands. After we did some grocery shopping, I thought I’d pop into ULTA to check out a waver for my hair.
[Quick note: My hair is growing out, and it’s terrible. (I’d use the U-word, but then my kids would bust me, and I just can’t take any more criticism today. ha ha) It’s too heavy to style without hours of time and gallons of product, but too short to be pulled back without a dozen bobby pins. It really needs to be cut and re-shaped, but money is extremely tight and I thought it might be a better investment to buy a device that would allow me to camouflage the grow-out over the next six months and then have it cut into a great style, rather than getting it trimmed every few months until it grows out long enough to have something cute.]
My first mistake was thinking I could find one for around $20.
My second mistake was thinking that someone like me could walk into someplace like ULTA and have a successful shopping experience.
I had heard great things about stores like ULTA and Sephora, so when one opened here a few months ago, I was thrilled! I always thought that “someday” I would go in there, but with a niece, four kids and a limited budget, “someday” didn’t happen before today.
I walked into the store and off to my left were two (three?) employees at the checkout counter. One of them actually turned her nose up at me, as if I had stepped in something odorous and was threatening to use her coat as a wipe-off mat. I figured it was because I brought two kids in with me, so I made a point to loudly reiterate what we’d discussed on the way in– hands to yourselves and stay right next to Mommy. Right away, I knew I was going to love the store, because, hello? Who wouldn’t love a hundred aisles of beauty stuff? I have never been in such a store before, and I was already planning my next trip, sans kids!
A few steps further in led me past several glass makeup counters (think upscale department store) where a male employee looked directly at me, and then broke eye contact so quickly, I felt like I’d been coated in Teflon. Same for a woman unloading OPI nail polish who looked over her glasses at my kids in that frowny, disapproving way, and couldn’t seem to figure out which direction my face was in relation to my feet. She actually turned her back on me, and had to shift her feet to do it.
When we got back to the hair section, an employee walked out of the back and was literally an arm’s reach away from me. She glanced at my hair, smirked a little, and went over to her customer, who was having some sort of color process done. We wandered through the maze of curling irons, blow dryers, straighteners and crimpers before I found the waver I was looking for. It was $39.99. (Ouch!) They were out. I found another one. $34.99. They were out of that one, too. Both brands cost a lot more money than I wanted to spend, but I hate my hair enough that I was considering purchasing one anyway, so I tried to ask one of the employees if there were some in the back. They scattered like dry leaves in a hurricane when I got close, and even saying, “Excuse me” got no response. The woman with the nail polish turned her body away from me again, and I decided that ugly hair or no, I was not going to be buying a three-barrel waving iron at ULTA today.
Trying very hard not to feel small and worthless, and any uglier than I already did, I took Hannah and Anthony by the hands and we walked out of the store. My head was high, even when the woman at the register looked at me and quickly looked away. A customer passed me on my way out, and as the doors opened for her, I overheard the women at the register giggling. “…don’t know why women like that even bother to come in here…”
I cried all the way home.
I have been invisible for years. Invisible hurts, but not nearly as much as the darting glances and the panicky, don’t-look-directly-at-her reactions.
It’s not like fat is contagious.
I’m a real person, with real feelings.
And I’m trying. I really am.