Saturday, December 11, 2010

My Life As a Fat Teen #1

Square peg in round hole syndrome all the way! A constant blur of activity and motion characterized my high school years, starting at home-where I spent hours doing yard work, or helping my mother clean the house.

During my first two years of high school, I had gym every day, and also join the golf team as a sophomore. We weren't allowed to use golf carts, so we had to walk the entire course. The next year, I spent hours on my feet as a salad girl [this was when salad bars were in vogue in the 80s], among other jobs.

For all this exercise, I was was still fat. However back then I wasn't falling into the super sized category yet: I ate normal meals and had lots of movement. Magazines like Seventeen reflected a different reality: to have any prayer of getting a boyfriend, I had to be micro-miniature. All their clothes were sizes 3-5, a world that lay beyond me.

Somehow, these girls always had time for a boyfriend between their part-time jobs, perfect grades, flawless makeup, and shopping for an endless array of clothes to show off their lithe figures, with not an ounce of fat.

At school, a few girls were fatter then I, and a few more approached my weight. But the majority were blessed with thighs that magically never touched in the middle, their stomachs flat as a board, and blemish-free; and their necks were sinewy, and showed veins.

I saw the outline of clavicles in their shoulders, and the pelvic bones in their hips. Their bodies were so unlike my own, we might as well have been females of a different species!

In secret, I liked the curves of my own body, particularly my stomach. As an asthma free teenager, I could run around in 20 degree weather without a coat and barely feel it. Nowadays when the temperature dips that low, the heat is on high and I'm buried in blankets. I was stronger back then too: the ill health of college had not yet hit full force, teachers asked me to move heavy objects just like the boys, with whom I'd wrestle with and win at times.

Thinner girls though had a license to be carefree, happy-go lucky and most important vulnerable: I was none of these things. At home, I could relax a bit while hanging out with my siblings, in school, if I showed any weakness, I would have gotten squashed.

I wasn't anybody's girlfriend: people sought my advice with their problems or homework but never offered party invitations. Taking my weight out of the equation wouldn't have mattered: I went to a provincial upper-class high school-think of the one in The Breakfast Club but with the jocks in charge and the art kids pushed to the back of the bus and an even more fascist tinge. Annoying constant pep-rallies and Reaganomic politics provided the icing on the cake.

I was more interested in a good book then going to a basketball game, or buying makeup. Whenever my weight dipped from increased activity, the jokes changed from fat jokes to "Amazon"! [related to my near 6 foot height], "nerd", "bookworm" and ---funnily enough--since I was such a wallflower, "goody two-shoes".

Yet I knew all the popular girls puked to keep their figures trim after eating French Fries and 2 pizza squares [a disgusting lunch from the health angle]. My high school bathroom was a nightmare with it's ever pervasive odor of vomit.

Although seen as serious illnesses in the media, anorexia and bulimia garnered a strange respect at my high school: the biggest pukers always had the best reputations. On TV I watched these type of girls martyr themselves as they replayed stories about cutting celery into bite-sized pieces, fighting with their parents over half a sandwich, and fighting to remain under 90lbs for the big national gymnastics meet.

At least their starving earned merit badges as they mutated their bodies into fur-covered non-menstruating sticks, reminding me of saints I read about in Catholic school, who allegedly lived on on communion wafers and small sips of water.

On top of all that, endless books extolled the sufferings of these poor girls who couldn't eat a carrot stick for dinner to save their life! Somehow I was supposed to shed copious tears over The Best Little Girl in the World as it's heroine did many life-threatening exercises to avoid turning into me. Not to deny the seriousness of these problems, but Betty Bulimic and Annie Anorexic had school therapists, groups and parents to save them from the horrors of puking. No such books or movies existed on fat girls except one fat character in the book by Judy Blume called Blubber.

I continually heard the message of a life deferred, this will happen for you when you are the proper size. Talk about setting up false expectations.

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