Ballet and Grafiti

I was a chubby kid. Large. Grande. Gordo. Augustus Gloop from the Gene Wilder Willy Wonka movie fat. (Not the obese Augustus Gloop from the Johnny Depp Willy Wonka movie…) My mom always said I’d grow out of it.

I know it was obvious to people who saw me because I do have one memory of a relative questioning my use of butter. We had gone out to breakfast with extended family and, as I slathered another tablespoon of butter on my pancake, he said something like: “Are you sure you need that much butter?”

My mom jumped in at that point and told him to be quiet. Issue averted, I suppose. I’m pretty sure he was right though. To answer the question now, “No, I really don’t need that butter.

I also remember the way all my grandparents were always fussing that I wasn’t eating enough – even when I was large. I’d come around for a holiday, they’d fix a plate stuffed with more food than any one person needs, and complain that I needed to eat more.

Sigh. There’s just no way to make everyone happy, is there

Well, I did grow out of the fatness in my high school years. Then I became an adult and grew right back into it.

It’s been a constant struggle. The truth is, I love food. Every time I pick up a bag of chips, it’s a real struggle to not eat the whole damn thing. I eat too fast and my plate often has more food than it should. I hate throwing good food away, even if I’m full.

I’ve done the ping pong thing. Gaining weight, losing weight, gaining weight, losing weight. In more recent years, I’ve mostly got it under control but there was one thing I never expected – to still see that fat kid in the mirror.

Sometimes, when I get up and look in the mirror, I can’t see past the little fat that still exists. The stretch marks don’t help. Just some ugly reminders that never go away.

When I go for runs, I still focus heavily on not breathing too hard. If I start to breathe loudly, I walk for a bit even if I should have kept running. It’s because of that fifth grade bully who would goad me into chasing him around the playground and then make fun of me for being so fat and breathing so hard. He’d make fun that I couldn’t catch him which just made me angry. And that gave him another thing to make fun of.

I never did catch the jerk.

With all of that experience, and the strong desire to never be that person again, I get on the scale at least once a week to see how I’m doing. Lately, I’ve been telling myself, “You’re trending up. You’re still in a good place but it’s going up. Skip the chips today.”

I’m not a particularly good listener, though. I eat the chips and find some way to justify it. I tell myself, “You haven’t hit the limit you set, you’ll be fine. Summer is almost here, the extra pounds will come off just by virtue of being more active.”

Of course, none of that matters if the limit is adjustable every time you get near it.

Honestly, this story really doesn’t have much to do with the artwork. I had a different idea in mind when I drew it. Something about the juxtaposition of a large woman doing something athletic and graceful in a run down place filled with graffiti.

We’re always looking down on people because they are large, treating them like trash, but being large doesn’t mean unhealthy. I’ve met lots of larger people that are more athletic than I am. Or they’re more healthy and make better choices. But, later when I sat down to write, I realized that I didn’t want to drone on about body acceptance or beauty standards. Everyone’s already on that train anyways. I’m not sure it’s for me anyways.

All those relatives in my life that accepted me and encouraged unhealthy behaviors, that’s the body positivity movement to me. A well meaning bunch of people coming from a place of love but not actually doing anything to address the underlying issues.

Maybe that one relative who questioned my use of butter was on to something. I don’t know if things could have been different but I do wonder if there should have been an intervention of sorts. What if someone had asked me how I felt about myself? What if I had tackled those unhealthy behaviors earlier in life?

Eventually, it all worked out, and I could catch that bully now. But, what if I could have caught him back then?


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