"Do me a favor," says my friend Candice. "Stop calling yourself fat. You just had a baby three months ago. You're reminding me of Kelly Ripa or something. I mean, she was still pregnant when she was saying, Ewe, don't look at me.... but really. You're being ridiculous. You're making me feel bad. All right? I'm sorry. Am I making you feel bad? I'm sorry. It's just.... you're a beautiful mommy. With your hair back last week you looked like an adorable shiksa. That's all I'm saying. You're fine. So stop. All right?"
I love my pal Candice. She's such a good kid. She so much wants everyone to be happy, and she's sincere about it. She even admitted to me that she tells her new-mommy-friends who are o-BEAST that they look great, because it's nicer, she says, to get a compliment than to be reminded of bad news one already knows; and it's probably more helpful, too, she says.
(so is she lying to me??? oh, who cares....)
She's not wrong. Take for example me and my father's neighbor, a kvetchy, middle aged gentleman who lives alone and prides himself on his lean physique and sartorial stylings, who has now told me on three separate occasions that I need to lose weight; each of which times caused me about 24 hours of alternating bouts of food deprivation and cookie orgies, and during which times I was snappish to my husband, impatient with my kids, and outright mean to my dog.
"GET off my chair! GET! And stop making that smacking sound with your chops, you make my skin crawl. God, dog, you are disgusting." This I said to a 10-year-old, sad-sack excuse for a Pit Bull who already slinks around our apartment in a state of humiliated depression since the children arrived, having been far demoted from her former position as Center of My Universe. She was my best friend, confidante, protector, and warm body at night during the worst of my divorce years, and now, I get to feeling so crummy 'cause I got told I got fat, as if I needed telling, that I talk to this once-dignified creature like she's a bag of her own shit. And my kids get to see me behave that way! So nurturing!
Thanks, Dad's neighbor, we've all really benefitted here from your helpful hint.
Grumbling, nevertheless, one wants to reckon. So I went to The Gap, where surely much reckoning is done. Back when I was thin and hot, and too insecure to know it, I was sure they used long, stretchy mirrors there to make you look model-fabulous in all their clothes, which also I was sure they big-sized; I couldn't possibly have been a neat little 6, could I??? NOW, however, I am sure they use the special sinister expaaaaanding mirrors, because I can not possibly be THIS WIDE. Oh, but I AM! Putting too fine a point on it, I'm a 12 on a good day, now. But I also own one pair of their pants that's a 14 and snug, and one 16 that are only a little too big (but were on sale.)
But whether the mirrors are rejects from a fun-house or not, what's there is there; I have a really big, flabby tummy. I just do. I used to have a tiny waist, and now I have no waist. My boobs are gigantic, granted in part due to nursing my babies, as I am blessed with milk for the masses, it seems; but not everyone gets big boobs from nursing. I know many nursing moms who are Bs, Cs, even Ds; but I am calling in from waaaay out here in E-land, me and my two-gallon-jugs. Hello! The echo resounds through the maw of my cleavage! My upper arms are jello-y. I'm losing my chin. The flesh of my thighs seems to have separated entirely from the ligaments and bones and swings freely in my skin as I jiggle down Queens Blvd., my flab flapping so that in a stiff wind I'm liable to become airborne, stroller and all, casting an ominous shadow across the land of Rego Park....
This is it; Fat Minky.
And then of course, there's the scary stuff; first and foremost, the psychological well-being of little H; I don't want her to carry on my life-long food-fight. I want to eat with her. I want her to eat! I love food, M loves food, my husband loves food... I just won't torture H the way my mother tortured me; I have been on a diet since I was born! So to H, Champion Nurser, She Of Dimpled Elbows, I say, Viva La Suckle! Pack on those polkes! Slurp it, sister! I'm channeling my mother in too many ways as it is; with the flab and and the mounting freckles and dots all over my body, I have started to look unhealthily like her, and she DIED at 64 of heart disease and adult-onset diabetes, not to mention Parkinson's, high blood pressure, all obesity related, is all the good the dieting did her. So vanity, shmanity; I don't want to die.
Okay... okay Fat Minky... get a grip... listen, most of the time, I'm very optimistic. This is actually a much more realistic body for me. I've been fighting my weight for 37 years, and now I'm not. I'm just not. My appearance occupied nearly every conscious moment of my life till I had M, and now it doesn't; now M, and little H, do that. It was exhilarating for me to get rid of all my size 6 and 8 clothes that I smoked-and-coffeed myself into for so long; 17 years I'd been smoking when I got pregnant with M, and then I quit, cold turkey (gee a turkey sandwich sounds good right now...,) so I'm probably not gonna die young of smoking-related cancer (of course I'm also not so young...) I've grown out a beautiful head of long, un-smelly hair (with a little gray...), my teeth aren't yellow, my face isn't yellow, my hands aren't yellow, I don't have dragon-breath, I don't spend $50 a week on smokes (I spend it at Toys-R-Us for race cars and at CVS for diapers, and at Starbux because I am NEVER giving up coffee....) and best of all, I no longer obsess about getting fat! Because here I am! And you know what? It's not so bad.
There's a relief in this, a liberation. I don't live in fear anymore of tiny numbers on little tiny pants that will mock me if I eat a peanut butter sandwich. And I don't, actually, look completely terrible. No, Candice is not wrong about that either. I'm well within the range of normal mothers. I'm not shopping at Avenues yet or the plus size department at Old Navy, in fact some days I happen to be cute, in my nifty new capri pants and scalloped-neck top (I still love The Gap even tho their mirrors continue to betray me.) And I feel very good, I get around like crazy, humping and bumping along with that goddamn stroller up and down Austin Street sometimes for 25 blocks to a playdate or a change of playground scenery. I'm up those jungle gyms like a shot and M has yet to beat me out the gate into the traffic though he seems hell bent on getting his little ass knocked off by a livery cab.
It's not like I'm not trying, either. I bought a DVD home-aerobics set, 'Hip Hop Abs with Shaun T!' who says to me half-way through my sweaty 40 minutes in hell; "We got to DANCE! Too much booty in the PANTS!"
But I do it! 3 or 4 times a week! Ok, sometimes I cheat and do the 30 minute modified. Some times I do yoga instead. But I do something! No one could tell, but I do it.
More than all that, though, is that I am more than all that. There's more of my butt, yes, but there's also much more of my soul. I'm more person than I ever was when I was thin. Inside I was always fat, and outside all I did was run away from it. Oh-mi-god, I'm gonna get fat... over and over... so boring! Now, I am interesting, at least as far as some people are concerned; little tiny people who look up at me, licking their chops, from under my great, big boobies. And I have friends, which I never used to, who are also mommies, some of whom are nursing, and some of whom are fatter than me, and by the way? Let nobody insist that nursing will make you skinny. It makes SOME people skinny. It makes other people very hungry, as me and my mommy-friends Red and Cinderella (not their real names) and our un-lost baby-weight attest! And there we are in the playground, fat Minky, fat Red, fat Cinderella, skinny Tinkerbelle (also not her... you get the idea,) and Ciao Bella somewhere in the middle, everybody sweaty, eating ice cream, climbing up the slide, wiping noses, catching little hands mid-slap, mid-shove, uprighting tricycles and breaking up brawls, kissing toddlers, missing our husbands, dreading cooking, thinking of lovemaking, needing a bath, a nap, laughing, grateful, the sun is setting, we collect the race cars and scooters and wrangle the wild babies back into the strollers and roll on home.
Am I fat? Sometimes I don't even notice.