Friday, January 29, 2010

Which "one" are you?

I sometimes think my life is a great big study in contradictions.

For instance, I am a relatively emotionally intuitive person. I read a room, and the people in it, pretty well (if I do say so myself). Even when there is every appearance of contentment I can usually sense if something’s not quite right and alter my approach to the situation given the mood of the other players involved. It’s a trait that served me well in my life (and one that, as I read it back now, I suppose can either be seen as a useful instinctive gift or an indicator of sociopathic tendencies, but that’s a pretty fine line of distinction, don’t you think?) and that basic intuition helps me to see how I can best fit into the world around me.

But when it comes to judging the physical nature of that same world, it’s a totally different story. Let’s just say that if I decided to ditch my life and become a carnie that they’d better not let me man the “Guess Your Weight!” booth unless their goal was to give away big inflatable hammers, plush sponge-bob toys, and decorative mirrors etched with AC/DC album covers to just anyone who happened to pass by. I’m notoriously incapable of accurately judging things like height, or weight, or even age in other people. I can’t count how many times I’ve judged someone to be a certain size only to find that I’m WAY off in my estimation—in either direction. I find myself consistently surprised when other people reveal their weight, finding that my own estimation of that number is usually wildly off from reality. I also suffer from the delusion that everyone on earth is the same height I am, and am often amazed when I look at the person standing next to me and realize that I can clearly view the top of their head or when I see my own shoulders standing well above the crowd in photographs. It can be a little disorienting.

I’ve often said that I suffer from fat-blindness, a condition characterized by an astonishing inability to see myself as I appear to others, but as my body has changed (in both directions) over the last few years I’m getting better at seeing myself more accurately. Yet there are still times when I’m unprepared for cold hard reality.

For example, I have a friend I’ll call Jennifer (because that’s her name, and all) who is about as big as minute. She’s an adorable little pixie of a thing that stands all of about 5’2” (And you can trust me on that since I just verified that via the source—though she did try to get me to say she was 5’5”. We all want to be something we’re not, don’t we?) and I could carry her around in my pocket if I was so inclined. A few months ago, Jennifer and I were out running a few errands over our lunch hour in her sparkly little mint green Prius (which she’s named “Julep” how cute is that?). Apparently a friend of Jennifer’s told her that they’d seen her out and about that day and asked “Who was that gigantic person in the car with you?” She went on to tell me how they thought it was funny to see the contrast between Teeny-Tiny-Jenny and the Big Broad Giantess in the seat next to her. She did not tell me this to hurt my feelings, and I suspect that the contrast between us was striking to see…but I confess that it’s been rattling around in my brain like a BB ever since she told me.

Intellectually, I’m not unaware of my stature. At 5’11” in bare feet (and given my propensity for wearing heels most days) I’m already going to stand out from the crowd. Add a lifetime of being overweight and a strong personality to the mix and I can imagine that many people (and some Japanese cities) could be startled by my approach. And yet I forget that because my size is the single most identifiable thing about me that it’s naturally the first thing people notice about me, and that’s totally normal. I do the same thing, and I bet you do too. In just the last 24 hours I’ve described other people as the “tall guy in IS” and the “pretty curly red-head in legal” and that “little blond kid in your class” without hesitation. All that hooey we pass around about how we’re not defined by our bodies is more or less touchy feely BS, really. It’s just that some descriptive traits are more emotionally charged than others, being the “fat one” (or any less obvious derivative thereof) is one that—true or not—stings a little.

As I look over the last few years and why I am still committed to continuing the life-long battle against the fat, I am reminded that the holy grail of weight watchers everywhere is not the desire to someday be something that we’re not, but to finally be seen for all the things that we are. If we can take the fat out of the mix, then we just might get the chance to be the “tall one”, or the “blond one”, or the “one with the green-eyes”, or smart, or pretty, or anything but the “fat one”.

Which one are you? Which one do you want to be?


  1. At 5'6" and add in the fact that the only flat pair of shoes I own are my sneakers, I'm a bit taller than the average woman, but I don't see myself as tall. I can't imagine 5'11!!! Holy crap that's tall.

    I have no idea how people that don't know me would describe me. The loud one?

  2. I know other still of think of me as the big girl with brown hair or the fat girl with dark hair!

    But the funny girl is also true!

  3. I'm pretty sure others see me as fat, with wiry and crazy hair and a "say it like it is" attitude. As I see myself, I'm the chunky, friendly, funny chick with curly hair.

  4. I just want to be the smartest and most beautiful woman in the world. Is that asking too much?

    I've read every post you've written here. Now going into withdrawal without your voice, your very distinctive, wise, funny, beautiful voice...please, m'am, may we have some more?

    Seriously, thank you. I hope you'll keep writing (and publishing!)

    Sincerely, RN

  5. Hey Sara ...
    Just checking in to see if everything is ok over there.
    Hope you're well.