Popeye the Sailor Man
So now the man with the swollen neck and Popeye arms, who once told me he dated a stripper with an amazing body, has messaged me since seeing my updated profile pictures on the dating app. What he does not know is that my body has always been comparable to the stripper’s body. He just met me when I stopped caring about body presentation, and I ate and worked and ate and worked. Meanwhile, he still thought his swollen neck and Popeye arms deemed him a worthy surveyor of my body (because patriarchy still assures men of some sort of power even when they are powerless in the eyes of a fat sister—dare I say an obese woman by BMI standards).
His message did not say, “Hi, I see your slimmer pictures, but I always saw you.” He didn’t ask, “Who held your hand through the process of losing weight?” Instead, after two years of not speaking, he wrote, “Hi. Did you lose weight? We should go out.” No one climbed the stairs with me each morning at 7 am. No one committed to an indulgence of only smoothies and salads alongside me despite the alluring aroma of greasy beef inhaled on nearly every commercial street. No one discussed hunger with me. Gummy bears were once an enviable childhood breakfast. I treated myself to candy bars as an adult to relish in the fact that I could finally afford them.
But what is more disturbing is that since I have climbed the four flights of stairs in my building, up and down, up and down, fifteen times which makes for damn near 1000 steps climbed in total, he now thinks I am good enough for his swollen-neck-ass to date. But he was never good enough for me, even when I was fat, even before he could see the curvature of my body. The curves were always there. I just chose to have Richard’s Premium Ice Cream three days in a row to donate to the charity of my heart.
He doesn’t understand magic—how a person can look beastly, in a derogatory sense, but have full awareness of her next grand attack and measure the potential of her body against the body of gods. He could only see the present and prod at a body rendered tender with wounds of imperfection from every possible surveyor. How does a woman hold her head above imperfection? Maybe she holds up her middle finger instead.
The Weight Problem
My issue with the wording of the weight problem is that the problem never seemed to be mine. After all, I’m the one who is fat and jolly. I’m the one who ordered Richard’s Premium Ice Cream three days in a row after a breakup as a cliché form of healing. I didn’t regret discovering banana pudding, peach cobbler, and sweet potato pie ice cream. My God, the magic that business works in their ice cream-making will make you wonder why those desserts were never ice cream in the first place! But a problem is something one would perhaps struggle a bit to solve. It can’t be easy, and it must be something to figure out. So, the weight problem does not quite seem fitting because I wasn’t trying to solve how to be 50 pounds smaller when I bought the ice cream. The ice cream was the solution.
In fact, the noodles, the fried rice with coconut shrimp and crab meat, the pounds of a seafood boil with special Cajun sauce, the oh so scrumptious waffle flights from Chicago Waffles that have the mix of red velvet, pistachio, strawberry, cheesecake, and chocolate flavoring was never a problem—at least not one that I believed would cause immediate concerns besides additional cavities in my mouth. These were all situations that I willfully entered, aware of the consequences and determined to not solve the problem of overeating or eating too much of what I damn well pleased.
However, after much meditation, I’ve come to learn why I eat the way I do, which, by the way, I don’t think is too excessive:
When I was younger, my biggest whoopings were a result of eating my mom’s sweets. She would hide her Oreos and pops on the highest level of the cupboard or beneath her bed, and whenever she stepped away from the apartment, she would state very firmly that she did not want me or my sister to eat any of her snacks because that was her stash. Some children get beat for stealing large sums of money or telling gargantuan lies that could potentially lead to a life of imprisonment. But there I was: beaten for eating food. My sweet tooth and I, guilty.
What I learned from being beaten for drinking 7-Ups and slurping down several popsicles is that I saw junk food as a prize I deserved. Today, after a long day of work, teaching three college classes and tutoring three students individually without as much as a 30-minute break in-between, I immediately go to my UberEATS app and negotiate gaining extra weight and chewing on the most delicious steak taco from Jimmy’s Famous Burgers. The decision is always clear—I will choose the latter because I deserve the beef, the grease, and the taste of the cornmeal shell. I perhaps have a few more good years left in me before that taco causes diabetes or heart disease.
Although . . .one day, I stood before a mirror to do the bunny hop—that dance Chicagoan millennials may know that entails bending down, twisting a leg in, going down again, and twisting the other leg in. Oh, the heaving I did just to come back up, and the way my leg stubbornly refused to turn inward! Perhaps that was from an accumulation of eating whatever the hell I wanted. So sure, in that instance, I had a problem. But it still was not a weight problem—it was the problem of not getting my body to move the way I wanted it to or to look the way it used to.
I have tried lemonade diets, cleanses, excessive workouts and what I’ve learned is that 1) people are starving themselves and calling it divine and 2) none of these things are sustainable for a girl who grew up thinking candy was the biggest treat she could offer herself. What I’ve learned is that talking about fitness in a country that supersizes meals is ridiculous. Selling salads at places like McDonalds and Chick Filet is a capitalistic ploy to maintain our dollars, and some of us are foolhardy enough to continue investing in their lettuce. There is no weight problem in a country like America because America willfully creates this issue for its citizens but expects us to be slim super models.
Yet, I’m not content with blankly blaming America for what may or may not be a national weight problem. I need names and numbers. I hate when we turn our anger into abstractions. I can call out several culprits, including myself and my Facebook postings of a happier me during weight loss journeys. However, the discipline required to be slim enough in a country surrounded by processed foods and sweets requires down right deprivation.
Most of our juices are steeped in sugars to a point where we think we know how Papaya tastes, not realizing that Papaya often tastes like feet. All of this is to say that I’m not injudicious enough to believe that I’m healthy because a doctor says I’m without ailments. If I can’t bunny hop or walk up and down some stairs without losing breath, then I may have a problem.
But it is to say that my weight was always a risk that I was willing to take. So, when you talk about a problem, go deeper. The problem is that I think I deserve bad food. The problem is that I value bad food.
As an adult, I will eat all the candy, popsicles, potato chips, and cookies I want because I am no longer poor. I will share these items with friends too— weigh the risk of these foods killing them and choose to offer it as love because this is how I prevail against a childhood of my mother hiding cookies from me. Each order of food is a reminder of how far I have come—such a far cry from my friend Jeremy buying me Fudge Rounds and Star Crunches to quell my stomach growls during 7th period English.
I spent many of my earlier years relatively slim—I was teased for appearing anorexic slim. I look back at those days with a fantasy of my potential size, often forgetting that I was hungry during those days.
I don’t need your outside eyes telling me to control my weight in a country that is out of control with profiting from my desires. I did buy a juicer, though. And I do enjoy the natural sweetness of a lime versus lime candy and natural orange juice over water, sugar, and orange flavor. Yet, weight is an area that I have not quite mastered. Just like I have not quite mastered being comfortable with obesity despite knowing the faultiness of BMI standards. I wish I could say that I remain steadfast amongst disapproving eyes. Instead, I go home, do side by side glances of my figure in the mirror, and try to solve how to calm this childhood trauma and be picturesque in the eyes of people who still believe my weight is the problem.