Dear Darling Ones,
In exactly six months I will turn fifty. 50! Today is my half-birthday. I only remember this because when my niece was younger she made a big deal about half-birthdays. I have friends who celebrate their family half-birthdays with half a birthday cake, which is the cutest damn thing ever.
For my 50th birthday it is my fondest wish to finally forgive myself for existing in a body that refused to be tamed. I also want to publish a novel.
I’ve been doing a lot of reading on fat justice (Aubrey Gordon’s, What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat) and radical self love (Sonya Renee Taylor’s, The Body is Not an Apology). My hope is if I read enough, if I learn enough, if my humanity is reaffirmed enough I will realize my inability to shrink my body to society’s comfort is not something I need to apologize for nor does it make me a disappointment.
Reading books like this and Ariel Henley’s brilliant memoir A Face For Picasso is difficult. It’s a relief to see that despite my chronic loneliness, I’m not alone.
“Though I grew up longing for acceptance, I would have settled for anonymity. I wanted to blend in, to be normal. Instead I lived my life in reference to and as an extension of my ugliness.” When I read this passage from Henley’s book it took my breath away. I was shocked how someone who was not me felt exactly like I do.
Now that I’m almost fifty I know I don’t owe anyone prettiness or beauty or even niceness, but at the same time I still think if I gave people all those things they would forgive me my ugliness, be kinder to me, or allow me that sweet, sweet anonymity. At the very least I think that if I’m smart or funny or polite enough it will ward off the comments and the concern. Has this ever worked once in my entire life? Maybe, I’m not sure. I do know that some of the worst bullying and comments about my appearance come from people who claim to love me.
Years ago a woman who called me her best friend said this to me, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but you should try out for The Biggest Loser and maybe you could get a boyfriend while you’re there.” I laughed off the comment at the time because that’s what fat, ugly people do. It’s what I was taught, because it was my fault they were making fun of me.
It’s like Lucy Grealy wrote in Autobiography of a Face, “Besides, I reasoned, what could I do about it? I was ugly so people were going to make fun of me. I thought it was their right to do so simply because I was so ugly. So I just better get used to it.”
The thing is, you never get used to it. Not ever. I’m nearly fifty and I can still call forth an ocean of tears thinking about what that woman who was supposed to be my friend said to me. Or the boys who relentlessly bullied me about my size throughout my school years. Or that guy who stopped me in a bar while I was in college to tell me how brave I was for existing in my body. Or. . . the list is endless.
So, fingers crossed this is something I can give myself for my birthday.