No longer invisible…

Kinda hard to think of an almost-400lb person being invisible. But I was. People tend to ignore things that make them uncomfortable. Maybe they don’t want to offend or seem like they’re staring, or maybe they’re just totally disgusted and don’t want to appear mean. It’s easier to avoid someone with a disability (and yes, a BMI of 60 is a disability) rather than acknowledging the elephant in the room. Wow, that sounded shitty.

So I didn’t get a lot of attention. People would speak to me but most of the time I was in the periphery, there but not significant enough to really notice. When the subject of my weight did come up, people danced around it as if somehow I hadn’t noticed that I was morbidly obese. Either that or they would call me fat without actually saying it.

Unfortunately... Yes.

“You have such a pretty face.”

Sounds like a compliment doesn’t it?

Here’s what I heard-

“If you weren’t so disgustingly fat, you might actually be attractive.”

A comedy? Made ME cry.

Even when I physically got in the way, people would pretend like I wasn’t there. Walking through a crowded restaurant or going down the aisle in a movie theatre, I would be constantly pushing and touching people with my stomach or my butt. I would be apologetic to the point of tears and yet people seemed to just ignore it. They wouldn’t respond to my profuse apologies but didn’t express their discomfort with getting smushed either. It was like I was a cart being pushed though the crowd. Annoying, but not worth acknowledging.

 I think probably my worst experience with this phoenomenon was shortly before I got my surgery. I was on a business trip and I had to fly to my destination. Because it’s Vermont, there are no drect flights anywhere so you have to take a “puddle-jumper” to NY or Philly to connect to a flight that actually gets you somewhere else. As I’m sure you know, these planes are rather small. I boarded the plane and sat in the aisle seat, right in the front.

Picture... smaller

 I was squeezed into the seat and clearly imposing on the seat next to me. I had to request a seat belt extender (which is horribly embarassing by the way). I was praying there would be no one in the seat next to me but of course, a nice-looking, fit young guy, right around my age sat down in the seat next to me. He sat down without a word or a glance and shifted uncomfortably for a minute or so. I am fully aware that no one wants to sit next to someone as big as I was on a plane, it’s no surprise that he was unhappy in his seat. I was definitely invading his personal space and I leaded into the aisle as far as I could, apologizing the whole time. He didn’t even look at me. Instead, a few minutes after the plane finished boarding, he sighed loudly, called the flight attendant over and asked to be moved to another seat. He was not quiet or discreet about it and still continued to ignore me as he gathered his things and moved accross the aisle. I was not a person to him. I was a blob, an annoyance, something that got in the way and forced him to take another seat. I sat there and cried quietly the entire flight. I didn’t want to be there, I swear I would have driven to the conference if I’d had a choice.

I was accostumed to not being there. I was used to people overlooking me while still (mostly completely unconsciously) showing their distaste for my appearance and my displacement of space. It was painful, depressing and dehumanizing but it was the norm for me.

I even did some BBW (Big Beautiful Woman) modeling (umm… yeah, I’ll leave it at that) at one point. I had men constantly telling me how sexy I was but even they only saw the fat. I was a fetish to them, not a person, not a woman.

Then I lost weight.

 I think I was down to about 220-250 when people started treating me differntly. It started off fairly subtley, a door held open here, a smile and a good morning there. By the time I got down to about 190, it was prominent and it kinda freaked me out. People stopped moving away when I stood near them and stopped looking alarmed when I got on an elevator. People didn’t avoid the row I was sitting in at the movies, didn’t sit in the chair farthest away from my table at a restaurant.

Just... weird.

Probably the thing that I noticed the most was I was getting noticed by men in a way that made me… uncomfortable. Men that looked right through me when I was fat were now looking at me as a woman. My former boss actually made a pass at me where he had never even looked in my direction before.  And though the change began superficially, people all of a sudden took the time to get to know me. Like they noticed I was an actual person and I was worth knowing more about.

At first I liked the attention. It was vindication for the struggle I went through to lose the weight and I felt like I had finally been accepted. I still felt fat. I think a part of me always will. I was so big for so long, I still look at chairs and wonder if they’ll hold me or if I’ll bust it like the ones (that would be 2) I broke in High School. In the middle of the cafeteria. In front of about 500 people. Even the teachers laughed. So it was weird to be noticed without, you know, breaking furniture.

After a while, I figured it out. Why it felt so weird and uncomfortable to be noticed at last. I had BEEN a person all the while. And with this realization came pain. And it hurt even more now that people were actually seeing me because it made me see how much I wasn’t there before. It took some time to get over that hurt.

It’s funny, The Zen Master said he noticed me when he first met me, even though I had already lost a majority of my weight before I asked him out. I believe him because the two things he said he noticed about me were my sparring style (I was apparently pretty aggressive for a white belt) and my smile. Which I gotta say has always been pretty nice, at 380lb and 145lbs and everywhere in between. He thinks I’m sexy now (which I still don’t see but I think that’s a woman thing) and he thought I was sexy before, not because of what I looked like, but because of how I am. Maybe that’s why I asked him out in the first place… because he noticed me.

It's nice to be happy

Wow, I’ve totally been rambling on this post. I guess it’s a topic I have a lot to say about. My weight problem, how I was treated, how I was perceived, my weight loss and how I’m seen now have a lot to do with who I am. We are our experiences right? I’m happy with myself now, I can even believe people when they tell me I’m pretty. I’ve noticed that I don’t wear makeup anymore (even before I got married), I don’t do much with my hair, I don’t dress up or wear jewlery anymore. I did all that when I was big, trying to get noticed. Waiting for someone, anyone to see me. Now I just don’t care. I’m not invisible but I don’t stand out either. And I’m okay with that.

I’m okay with me. Finally.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Dear Terry « newlifeinvermont

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