Thursday, May 16, 2013

Self-fulfilling Prophecies and Other Epic Failures

One of my classmates has dug up a book that encompasses all of our annual homeroom group photos from first through eighth grades. She and I were in the same room starting in second grade, when it was decided to divide us alphabetically- she and I sat together in many classes, because her last name fell just before mine in the list.

Looking back at the pictures, I knew that starting around fifth grade, as we slid headlong into puberty, is when I started being teased about my weight. A girl who had been my friend in kindergarten moved home when her father's job brought them back to the area after a four year absence. For some reason, she had become mean, and especially hostile toward me...at the time I didn't realize, because I was too busy being hurt, that it was because she wanted to make sure that someone else was recognized as fatter to deflect attention away from her own weight issues. My childhood friend had metamorphosed into my teen bully.

There were other factors in play: family crises that were becoming harder and harder to avoid or ignore as they escalated. I can see from the seventh grade photo to the eighth grade the effects of my grandmother's illness and the family strain. From that year to the next, I became what I'd been called for three years: the class fat girl. I had become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Thing is, I wasn't that fat. I was overweight, not obese, but it was enough extra weight in that era that I had difficulty finding popular styles of clothing that fit and/or didn't look totally ridiculous. What most people didn't realize, too, was that unlike my friends whose parents went out and bought them new wardrobes for each school year, my parents made me keep wearing my old clothes in an ill-advised attempt to make me lose weight. I had very few clothes, too, so I had to wear them over and over again. There were kids from "poor" families who had more clothes than I did, because at least they had access to hand-me-downs.

In one particularly choice case, a friend of mine (who probably doesn't remember) came up and asked, because my jeans were riding up above my ankles, if I was expecting a flood anytime soon. She further commented about how out-of-style those jeans were. What she didn't know was that my mother often complained, "I can't buy you new jeans. Not only are they hard to find, the fat sizes cost more! You need to wear those until they wear out, whether they're in style or not!" She even ironed mending patches into the inside thighs on my pants so that they wouldn't wear out as quickly- I got very adept at holding bookbags and folders in my lap in case they might be visible. It was humiliating. I made sure to always take my very-newest, best-fitting jeans on band trips because I knew if I didn't that my bully would be on it like stink on a skunk.

There were a few times that I got even with my mother: she was out of town the night before Hopkins graduated, so I swiped a brand-new, still-tagged linen designer dress out of her closet along with a pair of her heels (at the time, I was wearing the same size clothes and shoes as my mother) and a crushingly expensive handbag. She got home before I did and had a total cow when she saw it; I was rather proud of myself. She was so angry that she gave me the dress- she said 'now everyone has seen it'- but I knew it was because she was embarrassed that her obviously fat daughter had worn the dress first. She also caught me the next night (commencement) as I tried to make off with another brand-new dress from her closet- I ended up wearing my own clothes, which is just as well. I spent four hours climbing up and down off of a porch rail, and another five or so sitting in the Mouse talking. Mom's dress was too tailored for that.

Sometimes I wonder how I let myself get hyperobese, and other times I just don't worry about the mechanics of it. I am going to have WLS again because of the issues with my band, and maybe that will take care of it this time. It's the aching back and feet, more than anything, and the fact that my oncologist was really insistent that I lose weight in case she ever needs to do anything to me again...

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