Monday, January 14, 2013
I'm so fortunate, so blessed, and so thankful. With one exception, I can I honestly say I have not been bullied because of my weight in my adult life. I wasn't always so fortunate as a kid when I was only a chubette, but I suppose brothers can be pretty brutal to sisters. And let's face it, no one knows better how to push our buttons and hurt us like our family members.
When I worked in a middle school a number of years ago, I walked by two boys on my way to my office, and as we passed each other, one boy said to the other boy, "I hate when people are so fat they waddle." I was so stunned that I was literally speechless, a rarity for me, to be sure. When I sat down at my desk, I replayed that moment over and over and tried to imagine that they might have been talking about someone or something else, but the simple fact is this: they were talking about me, and I was mortified. I wanted to cry. And these were just immature, adolescents being stupid.
I was aghast when I read Holly's (300poundsdown) blog post about her own horrific experiences. Granted, I've never been as heavy as Holly was. She once carried 300 pounds more than her frame was designed to carry; I've been carrying 120-130 extra pounds, the equivalent of another person. I couldn't believe the downright meanness of people. Someone put a post-it note in her Christmas wreath, on which was written that Holly was trash. When she began walking and taking her first steps toward better health, a man drove a truck past her, rolled down his window, and yelled, “Get back in the house! You’re too fat to be outside.” When she went to her children's school functions, she was always the one who created a distraction, as students stared at her and made comments. It's no wonder she found it easier to remain isolated within the safety of her home, behind closed doors. And these were just a few of the events she recalled.
Why my mea culpa? The last time I had a pedicure was a few weeks ago. I don't go often, but I love getting them and usually go with either my mother, or one or more of my daughters. This particular time I was with Mom. About half way through our pedicures, an extremely large woman walked in and she was seated in the chair next to mine. As much as I hate to admit it, my first reaction was to compare myself to this stranger, assessing that she had me beat in weight by at least 100 pounds, probably more. She was huge. I was, in fact, surprised she could get herself up into the pedicure chair. But she did. I didn't say anything. I didn't stare. I just sat there. Then the person working on this woman turned to me and in broken English said, "You lose weight? Look good." She had worked on me in the past and I said, "Yes, I'm trying." I was kind of embarrassed though that she asked me this in front of her client. But this stranger turned and said to me, "It's hard isn't it?" I agreed that it is difficult, especially during the holidays, which had just passed. We chit-chatted a little more, but soon it was time for my mother and me to leave, so I wished her a happy new year and went on my way.
Holly's blog post reminded me of that experience, and the fact that though I wasn't disrespectful in any way to her, I judged her silently and that was wrong. I had no idea if that woman is at her top weight or if getting a pedicure was a reward for having already lost weight. I didn't know her story. I had no idea what could possibly have caused her to balloon to that size. But I didn't see a "sister" when I looked at her. I didn't see someone with whom I share a common struggle. And that's exactly what I should have seen. Not for a moment did I wonder what her occupation was or if she had a family. My only thoughts about her were singularly focused on her size and her weight. I may not have been an active part of the problem (those who judge and bully the overweight), but nor was I part of the solution. My actions before we began conversing, could possibly have made her wish to be invisible and out of the public eye where countless strangers probably pass sentence on her every day, just like so many did to Holly. So to this stranger I would like to say, I am sorry if in any way I made you feel unworthy to live your life out among the rest of humanity. I'm glad you sat next to me. I'm glad we shared a few minutes of common experience. And to Holly . . . thank you for your brutal and beautifully transparent honesty. You are reaching more people than you can possibly imagine!
Until next time . . .