Thursday, February 28, 2013

Fatness equals happiness?

Me, age 2
Yesterday I was feeling bad because I outgrew another pair of pants and was down to one skirt that was appropriate for the workplace that I could wear comfortably (now I've given in and bought two more bigger pairs of pants, dammit). As I lay awake in the middle of the night, it occurred to me that many of my early childhood photos show me with a serious, if not grim, expression. The photo above was taken when I was about two and it's one of the more cheerful ones. Okay I'm joking, but there are several photos of baby Gina that show little happiness. In photos from a little later in life, it's clear that at about age four or five I learned how to smile for the camera because after that my face wore posed grimaces.

But I also remembered, as I lay in the dark last night unable to sleep, that there's one photo of me looking absolutely joyful to be alive and it's a photo of me as a baby in a stroller, surrounded by the vibrant colors of Olvera Street (in Los Angeles, California USA), and I'm just as fat as could be. I didn't keep my baby fat long and was a skinny kid, but in that photo -- and that photo alone -- I'm a little butterball laughing in the sunlight and I look delighted.

It also occurred to me that my four-month-long change from a size 8/10 (where I'd been for years and years) to a size 16 has been a difficult adjustment for me, but my new roundness makes me easier to look at. My childhood definitely included people who were chubby and cheerful, and others who were unhappy and thin. These body types were probably just coincidences, but the impressions went deep and I can still feel their effects. In spite of my American prejudice against fatness (which I'm trying to get over), I find my face easier to look at in the mirror because it appears softer, nicer, like someone I wouldn't mind getting to know. My more angular, sleek face more closely matched the American ideal of beauty, but I didn't always like looking in the mirror.

As the hour of 3 a.m. became the hour of 4 a.m, I realized there might be a false belief behind my current steady weight gain (there's nothing wrong with gaining weight, but I'd like my weight to stabilize enough to stop requiring me to buy a new wardrobe every two months). I finally fell asleep close to 5 a.m, but spent the day continuing to wonder. Was a belief that fatness equals happiness keeping me from settling into a new size? Am I subconsciously trying to put as many pounds as possible between me and my skinny, miserable past self? Am I trying to guarantee that I'll never be suicidal again if I just plump up enough?

It's irrational but it's possible. I feel so much better about myself and my life these days and -- what a coincidence -- this is also the first time in my life that I've stopped beating myself up about what I eat and look like. I'm relaxed and pudgy and getting pudgier. Maybe I am trying to distance myself from my thin, frightened former self whose reflection reminded me of unpleasant people. If so, I really hope I reach the new me soon because I'm sick of wasting money on clothes that only fit for a couple of months.

No comments: