Last weekend E and I attended the Navy Submarine Force’s 113th Birthday Ball. It’s basically Navy Prom – formal pictures, fancy dresses, up-do’s, crappy hotel ballroom food, The Cupid Shuffle – except drinking is encouraged and you don’t have to beg your mom to let you stay out after curfew. (You do have to get someone to watch your kids though, which is why I stayed sober and we didn’t get a hotel room.) I haven’t been to any of the formal events since I was pregnant with Evan and I haven’t been to anything prom-like since, well, actual high school prom so when E announced we were going the first thing I thought was “I have to find a dress.”
More accurately, my first thing I thought was “Dammit, now I have to try to find a dress. This is going to SUCK.”
It did suck. It sucked super hard. It sucked worse than a shop-vac. It’s one thing to know in my head that I have been losing the battle with my weight for several months now. It is entirely another to stand in front of mirror after mirror in my underwear because I couldn’t get a gown over my hips or thighs or shoulders. It sucks to not fit into the size you wore six months ago or two years ago or ten years ago. The actual prom dresses were all comically small and built for younger bodies. The women’s formal dresses were much much more than I could afford AND either too small or incredibly unflattering. I’m fat, I’m not invisible. Or maybe I mostly am. I’m definitely invisible to the people who make formal dresses.
At one expensive store a very kind sales girl asked if she could help me and I explained I was looking for a formal dress but wasn’t having any luck. She responded “I’m sure we can find one! What size are you?” and I mumbled “I don’t know anymore. SIZE HUGE.” She tried to be helpful and found me several cocktail dresses she thought MIGHT work, but after the zipper on a $160 plain black “slimming” dress got stuck half way up I just sat on the stool and cried. I cried as quietly as I could with my hand clamped over my mouth until I slipped on my sunglasses and fled the store before the sales girl could ask me how things were going. I’ve never been so embarrassed.
I’ve been unhappy with my body since I was 17, so that’s not new. But I’m not used to feeling like I don’t physically fit into my own life.
The end of 2012 was not kind to my mental health. As silly as it sounds, the combination of the Sandy Hook shootings and Caroline’s second birthday in the same week was really, really overwhelming for me. I tried to eat my feelings and hoped if I allowed myself as many “special treats” as I wanted I would somehow fill the sadness I couldn’t shake. It’s an explanation I would have rolled my eyes at a few years ago, but it’s not an excuse. I knew what I was doing. I could feel myself doing it every time I stood and stared into my fridge and yet I still made choices that I’m paying for now. I’m paying for them when I can’t get dressed in the morning because none of my clothes fit. I’m paying for them at the gym when I can’t bring myself to use the treadmill because it faces the mirrors and I can’t stand to look at my reflection for that long. I’m paying for them when I take 300 photos of my kids and family on Easter and three of me, two of which I deleted. I’m paying for them when I make wiser choices now, go to the gym, track my calories, regulate every bite, but only manage to lose .4 pounds in a month.
I am uncomfortable with myself 24 hours a day, clothed, naked, walking, driving, running, cooking, smiling, shopping, being in public, hiding in a bathroom. I think about my size more than I think about anything else. It’s exhausting. I am not naturally thin. I don’t have a fast metabolism. If I do lose weight I will have to be vigilant every day for the rest of my life to make sure I don’t gain it back. But the alternative is I can feel like THIS for the rest of my life. It feels hopeless. There is a reason so many people who lose weight become weight loss bloggers or healthy living bloggers or diet recipe bloggers or people who talk about their low fat low carb high fat high protein all vegan all bacon miracle shake miracle pill lifestyle ALL THE TIME. I feel too old, too tired and too fat to reinvent myself as one of those people.
I did eventually buy a dress, in the plus size section at Macy’s. I cut the tags out the second I got home. It looked fine. I felt uncomfortable and heavy the whole night. I don’t fit.
I’ve been hesitant to even try to write this post, since I know people’s well meaning responses will be to a) cheer me up and b) offer advice but I don’t really need. I promise I understand how weight loss works. I know in my head that being fat shouldn’t stop me from living a happy life. It’s just a state of my body, not a reflection of my worth as a person. It’s just really really hard to put a healthy mindset into action when I’ve let my brain work that way for the last 20 years. Thanks for listening, I just needed to get it out.
p.s. By chance, my friend Miranda is starting her weight loss journey this week, so you can direct encouragement and advice to her. (Warning: her post includes numbers.)