Like so many women, I never know what I’ll see in the mirror. Sometimes I catch sight of myself in a window and cringe, appalled at my own body. My belly seems to look like it did when I was seven months pregnant. Fat rolls between my breast and armpit. I shouldn’t be in this dress; I have no business in this dress. You can see a hump of fat above and below my bra. My stomach comes out as far as my breasts, and my breasts are double Gs. I’m a wreck, a mess, a mass of jiggling fat.
Other times I look and I think, I look good. My belly really isn’t that big, like my husband tells me. I don’t look pregnant. If I have some pudge near my shoulders, so what? It doesn’t look bad. I have a great ass. I have some great tits. Those Spanx sure do suck me in well. I don’t jiggle. My legs look like a pinup girl’s, especially in red shoes. If this were the Rennaissance, I’d be the hottest chick on the block.
Unfortunately, the days are usually more like the first than the second, or will be until I lose another 15 kilos. My weight has yo-yo’d ever since I had my first son, now almost seven. I’d have doctors shaking their heads at my huge pregnancy weight gain, then I’d lose it slowly over the course of a year, all but about five kilos. I even did this with my youngest son, with whom I had gestational diabetes, with whom I gained 45 kilos.
Over the course of several months, I ballooned up to 20 kilos above my normal weight. I knew I was gaining weight. I just didn’t know how much.
Now I’m stuck in a body radically different from the body I picture, radically different from the body I had, radically far from the clothes in my drawers. I gained four sizes, went from a medium to an XL. I’m perpetually startled at what doesn’t fit. The mirror shocks me. I notice new rolls on a regular basis: I chart how far the line of my belly travels, how deep the crease in my side.
I hate it. I see it and I hate it.
I grew up in a house with a perpetually dieting mother and a perpetually obese aunty. My father once told me not to “pork up like your mother.” When my aunt saw me before I delivered my son, the first words out of her mouth were, “Look at the big fat pregnant lady!” I learned to hate fat, to loathe the self that produced it. If you only tried hard enough, they seemed to tell me, you wouldn’t be fat. And who wants to be fat?
No matter how much I'm into bodily acceptance, no matter how attractive I can find overweight women, I can't apply the same standards to myself. It's a kind of doublethink, this hatred. In one sense, you must be dutifully grateful for your body, glad it can walk and move and eat without tubal assistance. Because you birthed your children, you must be happy you had the strength to bear them. But you hate it, all the same.
You see it constantly through the eyes of others: through the media's, through a starlet's, through your earlier self's. You see it and the words rise up, unbidden - fat. Ugly. Jiggly. Huge. Sag. Bulge. Ugly words, short words, words heavy in u's and g's.
Listen: Carlotta shares her fight for acceptance as a transgender woman:
You would never apply these words to someone else. You would never call another person your weight ugly. But standards differ for the self. This doublethink leads to the surreptitious sizing up of other women, especially women who might be around your size. You ignore the skinny ones, the very big ones (who still look fine, by the way, whom you would never call ugly just for their weight), and concentrate on the women that look like they tip the scales at around the same number you do. Maybe she wears the same size I do. If she does, I don’t look that bad.
On the other hand, that woman is my own worst fears imagined: the protruding belly, the thick thighs, the fat neck. But I would never call her ugly. I would call her big, but not unattractive. It’s only on me that these traits become a misery.
That’s because I don’t want to be big. It’s not how I picture myself: my mind wears a size 6. I feel like a failure that my body doesn’t match it. So I look in the mirror and think, "Ew." Not just at my body but at my very self. I am fat. I am a failure. These two things are synonymous. No matter how much I’m into bodily acceptance, no matter how attractive I can find overweight women, I can’t apply the same standards to myself. I’m trying. But like my body, I constantly fall short.