Whenever this photo of me from 2001 comes up on our digital photo frame, my husband always says, “I love that picture of you.” I say “Mm hmm,” but inside I have a completely different dialog.
That photo was taken shortly after a really unfortunate incident that hurt me more than I’d like to admit.
A little background – The year before, I had traveled to Newport, OR to see Keiko (aka Willly, the orca from the Free Willy movies) before he was to be moved on the path towards freedom. I had a really amazing trip, got to meet Keiko and we had a wonderful day together. I wanted to do the trip again with my husband, so we planned it for 2001.
About a month before our trip, his employer was talking about layoffs. Couldn’t possibly involve us as my husband is their only IT guy on the west coast. SURPRISE! Two weeks before the trip, he was officially “dot-com’d”. We took the trip anyway, determined to have a good time, but there was some stress and worry that joined us on the trip.
We had rented a yurt at South Beach Campground and were trying to enjoy our time on the coast and in the redwoods before having to go home and find a job. The campground was busy, but not busting at the seams. There was one group of teenage girls wandering around and they all stopped to have a giggle across from our campsite. I was on alert, but my husband said, “They aren’t talking about you.” It has been my experience that at 350 lbs, you know when people are talking about you. 🙁
A few minutes later, he noticed my mood was falling and suggested we walk out into the dunes to watch sunset. I said I’d just run to the bathroom and meet him at the trail head. I walked into the bathroom and inside was that group of teenage girls. Two were by the sinks and two were in the bathroom stalls. One girl in the stall was talking…..
MeanGirl1: (from stall)… I mean she was SOOOO fat. It’s disgusting.
MeanGirl2: (from other stall): HA HA I know!
MeanGirl3: (standing next to me and my death stare): Um.. c’mon.. let’s go!
MeanGirl1: Just a minute! But seriously. How can she even leave her house when she looks like that?!?! I’d kill myself if I ever got that fat. I mean, have some control. Does she just eat donuts all day or what?
MeanGirl2: (emerges from stall, looks at me, flees)
I just stood there by the sinks and MeanGirl1 just kept on talking. Her friends were making a beeline back to anywhere I wasn’t and she was alone. With me.
I will admit having some really awful thoughts about how I was going to handle it when she came out. I considered going all American Psycho on her, but didn’t. She was still talking about how disgusting I was when she opened the door and saw me standing there.
She briefly looked around for her friends and walked to the sink. I just stood there and she would not make eye contact. I’m ashamed to admit that anger got the best of me then and I said, “Seriously. How can you even leave your house with curly hair like that girl? How disgusting to have hair like that. Why would she ever make me have to look at that. UGH!!” …. and then she was gone.
I spent a few minutes trying to get myself together. I wanted to hurt her. Badly. I wanted her to feel what I had felt when she was talking about me. I wanted her to know this wasn’t something I chose or something I enjoyed, but it was my life and who the hell was she to pass judgement on me? I wanted to tell her mother to beat her with a switch. I wanted to run her and her bratty friends over with my car. I wanted them to feel my pain. I wanted them to HURT!!!
I got myself together and walked to the dunes with my husband. He was taking pictures and I just wandered around with my thoughts.
-You ARE disgusting!
-Why ARE you out in public, making people have to look at your fatness?
-Why don’t you kill yourself? You know the world would be better off without you.
-You’re just fat, and stupid and lazy and dumb and worthless and…. and…. die.. die… die……
*Snap* And that’s what that picture means to me. It’s full of shame and anger and pain and hurt feelings and suicidal thoughts all rolled into one great big story about how I am unworthy because I am fat. A story about how my worst fears have been confirmed by a 14 year old girl in an Oregon State Campground restroom. Clearly everyone’s best source for information, right?
That story still hurts, but not for the same reasons. I fell victim to my anger and lashed out at a kid (who should have been taught better, but). I let that incident stick with me for the rest of that trip and well beyond that. I let myself tell that story about how my lack of worth had been confirmed and was TRUTH. It may have been that girl’s truth, but it wasn’t mine. I was just a person in a lot of pain, trying to do the best she can with what she had available at the time.
Who can ask for more than that?