I think sometimes that I could be better than what I am.
I think sometimes I am the one that is holding me down.
I have always been big. I remember in the third grade we had to weigh ourselves for passports for this global unit that we did so we could “fly around the world.” I am fairly certain that it ended with our teachers singing “We Are The World” while we ate fruit snacks donated by my best friend’s dad’s company. (It was the midwest, food product plants are a dime a dozen -- and they pay.) I remember at 4’11 I weighed in at 108 pounds. I was the biggest girl in the class. The biggest boy too, as the fat boy that was my friend had moved away the previous year.
I vividly remember growing out of my girl-sized jeans and almost immediately moving into the plus size or “woman” section of the store. In some ways, I credit myself as being a trendsetter; because now everyone is a size 10.
I was picked on. But also stupid. I was too nice and would take people back. I didn’t realize that I was easily manipulated until years of not so nice words, and “I’ll-be-your-best-friend ifs.”
The two biggest moments of elementary school that I remember are these:
There was a girl who thought she was funny. As an adult I imagine her to have some shit job that she hates and a couple of kids. Hasn’t made any new friends in years and her brand of humor is just saying things loudly and then laughing. Or quoting relevant rap lyrics in ironic situations. In our little town, she thought she was hood. One day she made up a knock-knock joke about me and it caught on.
Knock knock? Who’s there? Brenna Brenna who? Brenna’s so fat she sat on a pin and popped.
Years later, I ran into her at a party. We were 21. I had graduated college and was working a good job. She and her bestie (read: hype girl since first grade) were in the kitchen when I ran into them. They performed their comedy routine and waited for me to laugh. I faked a smile while I pictured throat-punching each of them, but did nothing.
Does that make me weak? My opportunity was there. I could have torn them. I had been saving material for this moment for years. But I did nothing. I just went home and cried myself to sleep, as I had done so many years before.
There was a boy in my grade that raced go-carts. He had a much older brother. In the fourth grade, friends were starting to “date” each other. The boys in my class knew I was a little boy crazy. Go-Cart was bringing his go-cart to school for show and tell, and Go-Cart’s brother was coming along. They (the cool boys in my class) told me that Go-Cart’s brother really liked me. I remember dressing up and attempting to flirt (really cool when you’re 10). And talking to him. And telling him that I knew that he liked me. He laughed in my face. And when I turned around, all of those boys were laughing too.
I couldn’t give a fuck if one them worked for Doctors Without Borders now and is stationed in the worse worn-torn country trying to better humanity. He is still an asshole. All of them are assholes. They all still live in my hometown. I see them when I’m visiting at my brother’s softball tournaments. They have children, houses, and wives or girlfriends. They seem happy. Oblivious, but happy.
Things progressed. I never got below a size 13. When I graduated high school, I think I weighed 205-210 pounds. I was a size 18 in juniors. The biggest size. I went to camp that summer and rode my bike, swam the lake, and had wonderful friends. I lost 30 pounds and I went to college. I didn’t get a lot of flack in college for my size; I was also not that big. I think I topped out my senior year at 240. This had to do with interning at a theater that I hated but needed the credits. And of course, the massive amounts of drinking mixed with smashing a drunk pizza every night.
The next seven years were weight gaining and losing. I never got below 240, but at 320 I felt like something had to give.
She was a friend of a friend. I had been so badly beaten emotionally by relationships with shit girls that said they were my friends. They would use me, steal, lie to me, and threaten my home situation. I had no trust except for a circle that I had created. A safe place.
Franny and I met at a friend’s wedding. She was the Maid of Honor and I was in the Groom’s party. Our beautiful friends had a wedding party party on Doe Bay for the weekend after their nuptials. We all went. Franny stayed in the house I was staying in. She had gone to college in Olympia and she was nice enough. I had no idea in those moments the impact that she would have on my life.
Almost a year after the wedding, Franny moved back to Washington. She was living in her mom’s basement. Our mutual friend Megs had asked Franny why we hadn’t hung out yet. So Franny did what no single girl in her late twenties does: she reached out. We lived about an hour away from each other, but she was house sitting for July. She would come down to see me in Olympia only intending to stay a night and would stay for four. She was my confidant. I had never had someone in my life like her. She made me laugh and was supportive. I never judged her. She was just as broken as I was. Franny and I spent July poolside in the foothills of Mount Rainier. She was the most important person in my life. We talked every day. I hadn’t had a friend like that in so long. It was so nice. I lost the first 20 before we moved in together.
When we moved to Tacoma, I weighed in at 305. I worked and worked and worked (actually, I didn’t, I just hoped for the best). And then I was 298. Under 300. A place I thought I would never see again.
What people don’t tell you when you’re that big is this: your quality of life starts to significantly deteriorate. I would look at couches and gauge if I would be able to get up from them. I would wait for the handicapped bathroom. I wouldn’t eat in public. I would discreetly ask the flight attendants for seatbelt extenders and try desperately not to make eye contact with the person who had to sit next to me. Their disgust. Knowing they wouldn’t even be able to have the armrest fight. I flew home and saw my family. I hated that everything was so hard. I decided after my brother got engaged I had to change. I started tracking my calories and as of then I had dropped 61 pounds. I felt good. I felt like I looked good.
And then I met him.
It wasn’t a smart move for either of us. I don’t actually believe that either of us really ever liked the other. I think I let him stay because I thought he needed me -- and he was hard to get rid of. After almost three months, it was over. And it wasn’t nice. I brought his things to him after I rage-rented a Uhaul. He had brought a couch to my house after he had began living with me without so much as a conversation of such an arrangement. The living part, not the couch. He had supposedly “given” me that. Much like I “gave” him a place to live and things to eat. Franny hated him. She was concerned for me. She had spent so long giving me the greatest thing that she could -- self-worth. Now, she was watching me revert into something that she knew I was better than.
It took three tries, but I finally got him out. There was a flurried exchange of text messages, and his final words to me were “you look like naked peter griffin.”
I died a little.
He said I was insecure. I died a little more.
We didn’t ever really have sex while we were together. Maybe ten times in three months. I had brought it up over and over again, and he had some pretty shitty excuses as to why it wasn’t happening. But he never looked at me when I was naked. He didn’t open-mouth kiss me. He didn’t touch my breasts for fun. He never put his fingers on me. He never… was my lover.
It has been hard to look in the mirror. I feel like I am not worth anything again. Like all of my work was for nothing. And then I hate myself because I am allowing some asshole to make me feel this way.
I think the biggest lesson though -- was learning the caliber of a person.
Some people will do things with dignity. They will walk away. They will be respectful of the decisions that you’re making. They will attempt understanding. They will have empathy. They have love. And others will find the one thing that you are the most insecure about it and exploit that to their benefit. And when they can no longer exploit it, they will attempt to destroy you -- in a way that can break you. And you will have to find yourself again, if you are strong enough to do so.
I may gain and lose weight. But those people cannot break me.