I have fat in places I used to have angles. Like my back. I have back fat. And my collarbones have faded into something soft and rolling. I used to say those were my two best features. I was the kind of girl who looked good in backless dresses, showing off my shoulders and collarbone.
My hips were always “too big” – baby making hips although I never wanted babies. And my thighs were thick before that was a good thing. I could tell the size of my ass by the color of the cat callers on the street. Brown, I was just right. Black, I’d put on some pounds. White meant I was seriously underweight. I hardly every got white cat calls. I always had me some serious ass.
A friend had told me the trick was to wear it loose where you were fat and tight where you weren’t. And I would drape the bottom half of me in something flowing, show off the top of me in something snug. My small breasts, gently curving back, strong shoulders and collarbones you could hold a golfball in comfortably.
Until the day I turned around in front of the mirror for some reason and there it was. Back fat. If I was a domestic pig, you could call it fat back and fry me up with some collards.
My therapist gave me a prescription for my usual antidepressants and a note that read: exercise, low carbohydrate diet, practice portion control. This is not about portion control. This is not about control. It’s about being out of control. This is how I’m dealing with stress.
“Don’t use that as an excuse,” my mother says.
It’s not an excuse. It’s a fact. This is a coping mechanism, albeit not the best, its better than many I’ve used in the past. This is about denial. About having to be in control in so many areas of your life, including your brain, keeping everything running, on track, voices down to a low hum, that there has to be someplace to give up control, go wild, not have to be in charge. When I was what anyone else would call “running wild” the drugs and alcohol were the place I could let go, not be in control, relax. I’ve had to be in charge my entire life. To save my mother. To save myself. To defend my father and save him from his fantasies. I had to be in control or he would have destroyed me. And think again if you don’t think that juggling a life of drugs, sex, mobsters, guns and petty crime is not about control. If you want to stay alive it is. It sure is. Ask all of those people who didn’t control. Yeah, you can’t. They’re dead. I’m not.
Imagine your body, your life is a house. Denial is like a burglar alarm system. It keeps the bad things out. I don’t know how to set it for one part of my life and not for another. So, denial about my eating and my weight––because I know you can look at me and say how can she be in denial. Her stomach pours over her pants, it looks painful. It is. But if I can keep that at bay, then also at bay are the feelings around what’s going on with my mother, her aging, her forgetting, getting smaller, more fearful. The feelings about being alone after she’s gone. The feelings about being alone. The feelings. The fat, and the denial that goes with it, because yes, I can acknowledge I’m fat and still be in denial, much in the way I knew I was an alcoholic, I just didn’t see how that was a problem, are keeping me a sane today.
This is not about portion control. Or excuses. This is about being 25 years clean and sober and not yet having developed a coping mechanism that works. Those old survival skills kick in and they’re comforting. After the drugs, was the promiscuous sex, the spending, the working out. To control the things that need to be controlled, to run the ship properly, I need to have a place I can lose myself, let go. Right now, that is the eating.