I Hoped You Would Look Different

When I was little, I thought I was freakish. Not ugly; freakish. I would look at people who were not conventionally attractive–people with distinctive noses or curious fat deposits or faces far from the Golden Ratio–with envy. I wanted to look like them, because they were normal. Not like me. I was freakish, disfigured. Grotesque.

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That’s me on the left. No one wants to say a little girl isn’t cute, but come on: that’s not a face you’re going to use to sell breakfast cereal!

Now, decades later, I understand intellectually that I had (and have) a mental illness that caused me to see myself in the mirror in ways that I was not. But it’s not like age, wisdom, and better styling have fully cured me of these impulses. In some pictures from my childhood, I think I look cute. But in others, I still see flaws: my head is large and block-like. There is too much fat under my chin. You could show movies on my forehead. My eyebrows do not start at the inner corners of my eyes where they are supposed to. My eyes are too small, my face too long, my cheekbones indistinct. My nose needs work. I am covered with tawny freckles. Even in the fullest flower of my youth, I was never a pretty girl.

Of course, this assessment assumes a singular and universal definition of “pretty.” But by the standards dictated to me in my middle-class, midwestern suburb as a child, I did (and do) not measure up. Compounding the problem, I have always been highly susceptible to negative assessments of my appearance. I internalize them effortlessly, involuntarily, like a form of respiration.

My sister played the strongest role, but there have been others. She teased me relentlessly about being ugly from my earliest memories until she mercifully left home after my freshman year of high school. Her abuse was so faithful that I remember it not as specific insults but as a condition of our relationship, like sleeping in bunk beds or wearing the same Grandma-made rompers at Christmas. I was also teased at school, for being tall and overweight, for the odd proportions of my face, and especially for my freckles. They were all that I saw when I looked in the mirror. My Grandmother “helped” by sending astringents to lighten my “blemishes,” and I tried the Jan Brady lemon technique, to no avail. I fantasized about inventing a magnetic device to disperse my mutated melanin deposits, but eventually I just learned not to see them.

Over the years, other people weighed in. Even if they didn’t mean their comments maliciously, I remember them with distinct clarity, as though the critique was rendered yesterday. For example, when I was in college, I took a course on theatrical makeup. We had to create a line-drawing of our faces on which we would then design three makeup treatments to make us look pretty, old, and like an animal. Class was held in a room filled with tables and large makeup mirrors framed by lightbulbs. The instructor circled the room and examined each student’s drawing, making simple corrections as she went (she was an excellent artist). She looked at my self-portrait for half a second, then she glanced at my face in the mirror, then she start erasing my left eye.

“You left eye is smaller than the right,” she said bluntly. “And crooked.”

I looked down at the drawing. Thanks to her correction, my face was staring back at me. In less than ten seconds, she had altered both my self-portrait and my self-image. I think of that moment, and the millimeter asymmetry of my left eye, every time I put on makeup.

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Who knows what Tori would look like today if she hadn’t done a thing?

Likewise, I never realized there was something wrong with my nose until Jean C****r called me “Big Nose” during a playground argument in fifth grade. I started saving coins in a wine bottle for a nose job right after. A couple of years ago I had a small windfall, and I considered using it on plastic surgery to finally pare my schnoz down to size. I screened plastic surgeons online, I examined my health insurance coverage, and I looked at a million before-and-after rhinoplasty photos. In the end, I decided against it. Deep down, in the dark bile where the monsters lurk, I believe the “problem” of my face is just too extreme. Unfixable. In that sense, I feel a certain kinship with Tori Spelling, a woman with strong natural features who underwent multiple plastic surgeries starting when she was still a minor. I worried that if I started messing with plastic surgery, I would end up like Tori, with a strange face halfway between myself and beauty, but with all of my insecurities exposed.

This is the part where people who love me weigh in and say, “No, no, no, you’re beautiful.” But there is no evidence to support that contention. From certain angles, yes, I am attractive, and a smile is every girl’s best accessory. But I am not a woman who gets glances in bars, except maybe a familiar, quizzical stare from someone trying to figure out what to make of me. No man ever launched even a single ship over this face. No woman ever handed a picture of my nose to a plastic surgeon and said, “Make it bulbous and hooked like hers.” I am tired of pretending that my appearance conforms to expected norms just because acknowledging otherwise makes people uncomfortable.

When does it become ok to say, “I am ugly, let’s move on?”

I am being hard on myself. But at least I know this. In the past, self-abuse felt normal and deserved. At present, I recognize that it is wholly unproductive. But my project is not so much to convince myself that I am beautiful, as it is to convince myself that beauty doesn’t matter. I have been working at it for decades. Sometimes I am close, sometimes I am adrift on a sea of self-loathing. But I have come really far.

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Who wouldn’t want to look like Kelly Garrett (left)?

When I was in elementary school, I lulled myself to sleep with elaborate stories of my future, but they starred a woman from an entirely different gene pool. She was slim yet buxom, raven-haired with creamy skin and bright blue eyes–a mashup of my girl crushes on Vivien Leigh, Lynda Carter, and the very best Angel, Jaclyn Smith. By the time I was in middle school, I imagined my future self as me, but with major improvements–perhaps the cumulative effects of puberty, being allowed to wear makeup, and massive plastic surgery following a devastating but ultimately productive car accident. (I’ve always had a flare for the dramatic!) By college, Future Me looked like present me, but having her best hair, makeup, and lighting day ever. And for the last 20 years or so, Future Me is just everyday me: when I fantasize a movie for myself, I am finally its star. I suppose, as I start to show my age, that Future Me might come to look like Past Me, because I increasingly wish I had the skin, blush, and ass of my twenty-something self. It’s funny and a little sad.

It’s also progress! More often than not, I am satisfied with my appearance now, even though I am at my heaviest weight and have a rat’s nest of hair. What a shock to my 10-year-old self, for her to meet me as an adult!

“I hoped you would look different,” she would say.

“We don’t get to choose,” I would answer. “Just learn to do the best you can with what you have.”

That is the answer for so much of life, and yet it is such a challenge to remain in a state of grace. I learned just how hard last summer, when my up-and-down relationship with J* reached its nadir and became entangled with insecurity about my appearance on the way down. Months after he jettisoned our romantic bond, he began dropping hints that I did not know the real reason for his withdrawal. Finally, in a paroxysm of honesty, he told me the truth: He was never attracted to me.

“Never?” I asked plaintively.

Not once. Ever.

Not when we had sex, not the first time we kissed, not the first time we stood near enough to feel each other’s warmth. We hugged goodbye after our first date, and I was so excited to have met him that I drove halfway home with my emergency brake on. Only the smell of burning rubber jarred me from my reverie, so I pulled over to call my friend and tell her all about him.

I guess he drove home that night and thought, “I really like that girl. But I don’t want to fuck her.”

Not ever. And yet, he drew me into a long-distance something, he pulled me close and pushed me away, he castigated me for wanting to cut ties if we weren’t going to date, and he breached the physical divide between us again and again. To learn, after a solid year of ups and downs, that he had faked every moment of attraction, that every compliment about my appearance was a lie, that my body was not something he enjoyed but rather something he endured, absolutely gutted me. I felt embarrassed, humiliated, violated, betrayed.

And also uglier than I had felt in years. The progress I had made turned to ashes. I looked in the mirror and saw what I presumed he saw: a big, dumpy, shovel-faced old woman with stooped shoulders, mousy hair, a hooked nose, gapped teeth, pores you could drive a train through, and on and on and on. A woman no one could ever want. A woman no man would ever love.

He was contrite, though he declined to ever fully confront the pain that he had stirred in me. “I wasn’t attracted to you ‘that’ way,” he explained in a text, after I excoriated him for his cruelty. “But in many other ways.”

My friends thought I was nuts for even speaking to him again, let alone spending time together as friends. (We continue to do so.) Even my best friend, who has a pathological ability to find the good in everyone and to endure the worst of boyfriends, finally broke. “I’m starting to think maybe he isn’t good for you,” she offered gently.

I could see where my friends were coming from, but between the eccentricities of my friendship with J* and the logistical complexities of the city we live in, none of them had ever met him. If they had, they would have witnessed the simple fact of our bond:  We really like each other. Love, even. We get on great, we make each other laugh, we delight in talking to each other, we share similar tastes, and we’ve shared nearly every story. He appreciates my intelligence and wit, he affirms my kind intentions, he holds me accountable when I fail to live up to my ideals, and he teaches me about corners of the world that I will never know. I hope I do the same for him. True, he never made me feel desired, because he didn’t desire me. And it pains me that I was never beautiful to him, not even on my best day. But if my project is to render beauty irrelevant to my self-esteem, shouldn’t I pay attention when someone constructs an elaborate lie–“I want to be your boyfriend”–just so he can spend time with me?  When I look at the arc of our time together, I felt–and feel–valued. Isn’t that the point of being beautiful anyway?

Even so, I was angry. I thought about cutting J* out of my life, denying him my friendship as punishment for failing to be attracted to me. But, after feeling so worthless for so long, I had to concede–J* wanted to be part of my life, and he made it demonstrably clear in a way that old friends sometimes forget to do. (That’s actually the great thing about old friendships. They are like hearty desert plants that don’t require much nourishment, but with such capacity for splendor when it finally rains!) Every time he detonated a mine in our tangled shared perimeter, I remained calm and still. And every time, he eventually circled back around to me. I realized that it took more effort to “hold the line”–and beat myself up for not being able to–than it did to open my heart and enjoy his company. I am happier when J* is in my life than I am when he ricochets into parts unknown. That’s all there is to it.

Before you ask, I have dated other people since J*, and I got invested enough in one situation to be deeply hurt when it ended. That man had great chemistry with me, and months later he still sends me naughty overtures. I also have a FWB who drifts in from time to time, which stirs feelings of desirability that I maintain apart from my general self-esteem. And yet, I lament to anyone who will listen that I wish I could meet a man who just wants to spend time with me–as though I never had.

But I do know what that is like, and it was J* who taught me. He is one of the great loves of my life, and yet it is “just a friendship.” I hoped this love would look different. I hoped I would look different. Frankly, I hoped he would look different. And I definitely hoped he would look differently at me.

But we don’t get to choose. And you learn to do the best you can with what you have.

Why Cake is The Best

I recently celebrated a birthday, which means that I got to eat cake with impunity. I know you would much rather read about my latest BIO exam, my latest meltdown, or yet another disappointing first date. But today, you are going to read about cake!

Specifically, Why Cake is The Best.

In my professional life, I teach students how to write persuasively, in particular how to craft a thesis (Cake is The Best) and how to use evidence to make an argument (see below). I remind them that part of making a successful case for why something (read: cake) is the thing that you say that it is (read: The Best) is explaining why something else (candy, pie, and other desserts) are not the thing that you say the other thing is (The Best). Or, as I summarize for them uncomfortably, “Part of believing you are right is believing other people are wrong.”

People who think candy, pie, or other desserts are The Best are wrong. (#sorrynotsorry)

Candy is awesome because it comes in many varieties and you can savor it a million different ways. (Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups built a marketing campaign on this very feature.) Granted, candy is more portable than cake. But, in the end, eating candy tends to be a solo experience.

Pie is awesome, because it comes in many varieties, but you can really only savor it one way, with a fork or spoon on a plate, unless it is very dense. I once baked a pumpkin pie that had a thick, mousse-like consistency, and I was delighted to an extreme degree when my uncle–who had spent three days tending various wood stoves around the clock during a blackout to keep the pipes on his properties from freezing–ate it with one hand like a slice of pizza. But that was an extreme case involving an extreme pie.

Other desserts–tiramisu, for instance, or beignets and other pastries, puddings and custards, flan, ice cream, cookies, brownies, cobblers, buckles, trifles, etc.–are awesome. But they are not as awesome as cake.

Because cake is The Best.

Cake is The Best because:

Eating cake is a process. You can eat it tip to tail, tail to tip, or top to bottom. Personally, I like to flip slices of layer cake on their sides. I eat the cake layers first, then the middle frosting layer, then the outer frosting. No matter the shape, I always save the frosting for last. Unless it’s a cupcake and I’m in a hurry, in which case: “Cup! Cake! Sand! Wich!”

Cake is flexible. Seriously, check cake’s Wikipedia entry. Worldwide, there are thousands of varieties, and all of them are awesome. Ok, “Napoleonshat” looks a little sketchy. It is allegedly a Danish concoction that consists of a marzipan tri-corner hat dipped in dark chocolate. I quibble with whether that is actually cake (I think of marzipan as a confection), plus at first glance I read the caption as “Napoleon shat.” And it looks like this:

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Napoleon’s Hat or Napoleon Shat?

But still! Cake is a shockingly flexible medium that can be adapted a million different ways. Try that with a Twizzler!

Cake communicates. You can write on it. No one writes on you, Pie! But on a cake, you can express whatever you are feeling:

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And cake takes shape! To express love, you can mold it into something you love. Like your dead Yorkie:

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Or yourself!

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Cake can even be pie!

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Cake is beautiful. When it is done well, cake can be gorgeous. This is buttercream, people! BUTTERCREAM.

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(If you like cake, I urge you to check out Cakewrecks.com, which features professionally made disaster cakes Monday through Saturday and then professionally make dream cakes on Sundays (“Sunday Sweets”). They are amazing–both the tragic attempts and the stunning triumphs.)

Cake is always good, even when it’s awful. It’s really hard to ruin a cake. Sure, you can mistake salt for sugar, you can burn it, and eventually it gets stale. But setting aside these little disasters, cake tastes great even if it looks terrible. And you don’t have to spend a lot of money or have a lot of expertise to make a successful cake. Betty Crocker saw to that: just crack a couple of eggs so you feel like you’re actually “baking,” then smear on some canned frosting, and the result is still perfection, even though zero skill is involved. My favorite cake is actually yellow birthday cake with gritty, white buttercream frosting by the grocery store Giant. You can buy it by the slice, and it’s never bad. The best is when someone orders a fancy rosetted birthday cake and fails to pick it up, so the store chops it up and sells it in pieces. Corner slice or it didn’t happen!

Cake is for sharing. Yeah, whatever, you can share other types of desserts. But there is something about the collective experience of a cake–doting adults watching a one-year-old smash into her first-ever birthday cake, or singing “Happy Birthday” to your dad on his 70th birthday, or a newly married couple cutting the cake on their wedding day. I have a lot of cake-related memories, because cake has long been a shared experience among some of my closest friends:

  • That time my friend Kelly and I went to Giant to buy a cake for our birthdays. Ok, that’s happened several times. But this one time, they only had blank sheet cakes, and there was no baker on duty. Unacceptable; without 3-D embellishments, the frosting-to-cake ratio was devastating. So, winsome Kelly coerced some poor Giant employee to go behind the unmanned bakery counter and bring out some piping bags of frosting. Kelly proceeded to pop the top on a cake we hadn’t yet paid for, then athletically squirted huge blobs of frosting onto its surface, like a rainbow had just taken a shit. It was awesome. Come to think of it, it might not even have been our birthdays.
  • That time I ordered an enormous white sheet cake for our local Democratic Party’s 2004 John Kerry Election Night Victory Party, which was the SADDEST event I ever planned. I provided an official Kerry campaign volunteer badge to the bakery so they could do a scanned, frosting transfer on top as a way, win or lose, of thanking all the people who had helped get out the vote. The bakery complied, sort of: they printed the image actual size. Meaning, I had about four square feet of blank white frosting with an image the size of an index card in the middle. Given Kerry’s dismal showing that day, that pathetic cake seemed about right.
  • That time the same thing happened, but with my PhD graduation cake. I wanted the bakery to scan before-and-after photos of me into the frosting, essentially documenting that graduate school had transformed me from a doe-eyed dreamer into an overeducated hot mess. They scanned but didn’t enlarge, so I had two tiny photos floating in a sea of frosting. But this time, much to the chagrin of my friend Jen, who had driven me to pick up the cake, I was stone drunk on champaign and not having any of it. She helped me stumble around the store while we waited for them to fix it.
  • That time my 13 year old niece made me a scratch cake with scratch fondant that was both beautiful and delicious, and so well crafted that I cannot wait to see her skills develop in the coming years. Ok, that was this birthday. And I am SO PROUD of her!
  • And the best cake ever, that time we ate it off the floor. My friends were celebrating my dissertation defense, and they got me a custom cake from Giant. Those cakes get decorated on a piece of cardboard, then the cardboard is placed on a plastic tray with a lid. My friend Ryan presented the cake to me with a flourish, sans lid, not realizing that the cardboard is not attached to the tray. The cake slid off towards me, and I managed to catch it, upside down and with one hand squarely in the frosting. Then, because I was literally shaking with laughter, I dropped it–face down–on the floor. No matter, Liz’s kitchen floor had been cleaned that day, and the frosting stood about an inch deep. Liz, Kelly, and I had at it, eating the cake in chunks and using the floor-bound frosting like a dip. We figured, so long as we didn’t penetrate that last 1/4 inch, we were golden.

Yes, cake is The Best. And Floor Cake is the Best Cake of All. Because that night still makes us laugh more than a decade later, and because true friends will eat cake off the floor with you–no plates, no silverware, no judgment.

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My first-ever birthday cake! It was the ’70s, so fire + babies = totally fine.

 

 

 

First-Date Friday: Hefty Hiker

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After the assault by my neighbor and the disastrous encounter with Libertarian Yoga Instructor, I took about a month off from dating. The next guy was very sweet and easy to talk to, but I wasn’t attracted to him. I tried to be, but I wasn’t.

Hefty positioned himself on Tinder as a well-traveled photojournalist, with a sweaty but sexy profile picture that I quickly identified as having been taken in Vietnam. We chatted about travel, taking pictures, and I’m sure other stuff that I can’t remember, and then he asked me to meet him for a drink. Just as with Tom Tiny Horse, Hefty sent me a picture en route to the date, in this case a selfie he took in the car. He was much heavier than his profile pictures, his hair was thinner, and he was older that I was expecting. I think the Vietnam photo was about five years out of date.

We met at a busy restaurant, ordered drinks, and eventually settled in for dinner at the bar. It was pretty uneventful. I learned that photojournalism was long in the past for him. At present, he managed a hotel restaurant for a nationwide chain, he was starting an import business and had several hundred bottles of fancy olive oil in his living room, and there was a lovely story about a painting his parents had bought that turned out to be valuable. When the check came, he offered to pay it, but I suggested we go Dutch, and he didn’t give me any grief about that. It was clear that he was a nice man.

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The Heisman Trophy

The thing that made the greatest impression on me was the end of the evening. The most awkward part of a first date is the goodbye. Some people never kiss on first dates, some people do, some people hug, some people want no physical contact, and of course someone has to initiate, but no one wants to get the Heisman. I’m up for pretty much anything if the chemistry is there, but I wasn’t sure how I felt about him. Plus, I was still squicky about strangers touching me in the wake of the thing with my neighbor. I was apprehensive that Hefty might make a move in the parking lot, and I would have to rebuff him. Instead, he walked with me until we got to his car, where he said, “This is me.” He did not offer to walk me to my car, which was a relief. And, he found a charming way to call attention to the awkwardness of first date goodnights, then he concluded by saying something like, “I don’t want to make you uncomfortable by going in for a hug, so I just want you to know that I had a great time and would like to see you again.” I thanked him and offered him a fist bump.

There was a second date a few weeks later, not so much because I was eager to see him again, but because I liked him well enough and wanted to see if I could be attracted to him. On the first date, we had met in a dimly lit restaurant bar and immediately sat down. He kept his leather jacket on the whole time, so I couldn’t tell how big a person he was. I don’t demand absolute fitness in a partner, and am rather zaftig myself. But I am not attracted to very heavy men, and an inability to do fun, outdoorsy things is a real turnoff for me. In retrospect, the second date was kind of a fitness test, and Hefty didn’t do so well.

He told me he liked to hike, and he said he did it often in our area, so we agreed to meet up at a nearby park. Hefty showed up wearing a billowing t-shirt and enormous cargo shorts, which is often the uniform of people who are uncomfortable with their bodies. He was a much bigger guy than I remembered, and it seemed like he might have gained twenty pounds since we first met. He was also wearing hiking boots that looked fresh out of the box. There’s no need for a serious boot like that on local trails, and I was in tennis shoes. I got the impression he had never been hiking before. I also realized, with genuine concern, that I was about to take an obese man on a four-mile walk.

It took a long time. A trail that I usually finish in about an hour took almost three. There was a steep climb down some stairs to the river at the start, but the rest of it was flat–an easy out-and-back. Even so, Hefty struggled the whole time and got very winded. Despite temperatures in the 60s, he was soaked with sweat. I felt bad for him. I worried about him. At the end of the hike, you have to climb back up the stairs, and I was concerned he wouldn’t make it. We had to stop and rest twice. It was nice talking with him during those interludes, and I remember that he was especially kind when I told him about my mom’s illness. But it was also clear that we enjoyed very different levels of activity, that an unhealthy combo of rich food and sedentary dates were in store for me if I continued to see him. There was also the not-small matter of sexual attraction. I could tell he was into me, but I… well, I walked behind him most of the way, and I can still picture his massive calves tapering into those brand new hiking boots. So much person balanced atop those poor little feet!

Hefty was a nice man, and even today I feel bad that basically I didn’t go out with him a third time because of his weight and degree of fitness. I recognize the irony, that I struggle with shame and low self-esteem due to my own weight, yet I pathologize fatness in other people. But I wasn’t physically attracted to him, and I can’t change that. On the other hand, it’s not as though I felt a strong connection with him either, so my reticence wasn’t just due to his size.

Still, I liked him well enough. He was nice to me. And at that time, I really needed someone to be nice to me.

I considered getting in touch with him after a few months, thinking, “Maybe the hike woke him up and he’s lost a bunch of weight since then.” But meeting him on that basis would have been selfish and cruel. I did the fade away instead.

Et Tu, A&P Textbook??

Five days until the start of the new semester, when I will begin Human Anatomy & Physiology I. I am terrified! And a little mad.

My new $200 textbook arrived in the mail yesterday, and I eagerly started flipping through. My initial reaction was horror: HOW WILL I EVER LEARN ALL OF THIS.

And then I calmed down and started to skim the introductory chapter. The first thing that really caught my attention was the concept of the  “reference man” and the “reference woman”–the prototypical humans to which the book will refer in all the lessons.

He weighs 155 pounds. She weighs 125.

What. The. Fuck.

According to the Washington Post, the average American woman currently weighs over 166 pounds, and the average American man tops 195.

I get it, WE ARE TOO FAT. But it seems to me, there’s no reason to low-ball the weight of a prototypical human by that much. How is 155 an easier number to work with than, say, 175 for a man or 150 for a woman?

Seeing the number 125, in particular, stung a little bit, because for some reason that is the number that has hung in my head my entire life as “the ideal weight” for a woman. I suspect that I heard it in health class when we talked about nutrition, and again in gym class when we got weighed (in front of other girls, no less), and that I read it in 1980s fashion magazines. 125 pounds is actually fairly robust on a woman of average height (5’5″), compared to the size-zero ethos of today’s fashion industry. But I’m tall–5’8″–and somehow no one ever pointed out to me when I was a kid that it was normal for me to weigh more than the average girl. I constantly felt–and was made to feel–like I was a fucking monster.

125 pounds on a woman 5’8″ is Scary Skinny. I know, because I once weighed 128 pounds. I looked like a bobblehead.

But somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I can’t shake this idea, that a “normal” woman weighs 125 pounds. Unfortunately, my mother encouraged this thinking.

Here’s an example that is not going to make you like my mom, so just trust me, she’s a lovely person in other contexts.

The summer between freshman and sophomore year–perhaps not coincidentally, the summer that my mother’s father died and that my sister left for college–my mother got it in her head once again that I was too fat. Other moms might think, “My kid is going through puberty, and being a teenager is hard enough. I’ll set a good example, provide healthy options, and let it ride.” But not my mom!

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Trust me, this was a sick look in 1987!

Nope. My mom coerced me into joining Weight Watchers for teens. When I say coerced, I mean that she shamed me for being too fat, she normalized the idea of dieting, she incentivized my participation by offering that it would be a bonding experience between the two of us, and she said I had to do it. Oh, and she bribed me by offering to buy me a chambray denim jumper that cost $55 (about $115 in today’s money), if I made my “goal weight.”

I kept that jumper until about 10 years ago–changed the buttons out, wore it as a skirt, hung onto it well into my thirties. Why? Because I fucking earned that jumper. I suffered for that jumper. Fuck that jumper.

When I started Weight Watchers at age 15, I was 5’8″ and weighed 144 pounds. That’s a BMI of 21.9, smack in the middle of the normal range.

Going to those meetings was awful, because all the other kids in there were genuinely obese. ENORMOUS. And they looked at me suspiciously, probably enviously, because I had the body they wished for. I still can’t believe that a second “responsible adult”–the teacher of the class–allowed me to enroll, essentially legitimizing my mother’s project of giving me an eating disorder. Fuck that lady.

After a couple of months, I reached my goal weight, and I got the jumper. I weighed 136 pounds, which is on the low end of normal.

Eh, what’s the harm?

In between, I was taught to obsessively measure servings of ketchup. I weighed bananas. I weighed myself, as I still do, every day, naked, preferably after I’ve emptied my bladder and colon. I ate dry rice cakes. In anticipation of the weekly weigh-ins, I ate NOTHING. That summer, I denied myself any pleasure from food, all so I could look “trim” (to use the preferred term of the WW “teacher”) in a medium-sized jumper with a sweetheart waist.

By that point in my life, it was clear that I was never going to weigh 125 pounds, so even getting down to 136 felt like failure.

At present, my weight fluctuates between 160 and 165. I am ambivalent about losing weight, because I like to eat and because I have shockingly nice breasts, and I don’t want them to disappear. Many people in my life think it is weird that I fixate on my boobs so much. Part of it is that they are the one feature on which I have gotten consistently positive male feedback. And part of it is that in jokingly appreciating my girls, I am also speaking to a 144 pound, 15 year old kid with freckles and braces and a mom who found a million tiny ways to say she wasn’t pretty enough, and I’m telling her, “It’s ok that you’re tall and you have curves. It might even be a good thing.”

Because when you marinate in a sick culture like ours your whole life, and the people who are supposed to raise you to be strong instead train you to be weak, then you kinda can’t hear it often enough.

So, fuck you too, A&P textbook. Your Reference Woman is too small.

But I know a jumper that would look great on her!