The issue of my perfect weight.
In October, while I was in New York, I took the train out to Long Island to visit family I hadn't seen in nearly two years. My stomach was in knots. The relatives I'd planned to meet had never seen my tattoos, my red hair, my nose piercing (which I'll admit is tiny, but significant) and I was unsure how they would react. And there was also the matter of my weight - as a byproduct of recovery from my eating disorder, I'd gained about 35 pounds since our last visit. In the days preceding our reunion I played out various scenarios of how the day might go. I girding myself against possible shock or hostility or long, uncomfortable pauses. I was anxious. I couldn't sleep. I talked to my husband about it.
"Why do you do this to yourself?" he asked.
"Because," I said, but then I realized I had no idea. I was an accomplished woman, with three beautiful children, a successful blog, a blossoming freelance writing career and a book to publish. My anxiety made no rational sense. These people were my family, and they loved me. I was being ridiculous.
When I arrived at my family's house, there were hugs and kisses and no mention of any of the things I was worried about. Well, not at first.
"Well," said my relative. "You look great. Really. You're at your perfect weight. This is your perfect weight."
The rest of the visit went by in a blur. Through our afternoon of lunch and shopping and coffee and chatter, I felt increasingly flummoxed. The words "perfect weight" hung over me like one of those thought bubbles in a cartoon. What did they mean? Was I at my perfect weight? Was this the way I was destined to look? That morning I'd spent fifteen minutes in front of the full-length mirror in my hotel room, examining the way my thighs looked in my suede skirt. They didn't seem perfect to me. Neither did my stomach, or my knees, or the backs of my arms. As a matter of fact, I was pretty dissatisfied with my body in general. It jiggled and took up too much space. If this was my perfect weight, I wanted no part of it at all. No sir.
Sometimes I feel like there's an invisible scale that follows me around. It sits next to me when I eat, staring pointedly at the pat of butter on my bread roll. It lurks in the corner while I'm running on my treadmill. I open the door to my pantry and the invisible scale glares at me from a shelf, dictating what I should and should not eat. And worst of all, it regularly reminds me of my lowest weight, the number I was when I was sick and starving.
That damm scale.
My damm weight.
I don't want to be the kind of woman who thinks about their weight all the time. Truthfully, I don't really give a damm what my perfect weight is. I invest a lot of energy in not thinking about my weight, and only perseverate on it when someone else (like my doctor, or husband...or relative) brings it up. I'd much rather spend my time concentrating on writing, or hiking with my kids, or thrifting, or reading a good book.
I understand that my relative meant well. I know they never intended to send me into a spiral of self-doubt. Ultimately, it's up to me to process comments about my body in a healthy, rational way. There will always be people who take it upon themselves to comment on my body, well-meaning or not, and that invasion is much more concerning than whatever my "perfect weight" is. I'm not sure when it became acceptable for anyone to comment on another person's weight, or body shape, or other attribute of appearance. Increasingly, it seems our bodies are not our own. Whether it's relatives, or the media, or self-help books telling us how we should look, the message is the same: As women, we exist for public display.
This morning I ate Greek yogurt with granola and bananas for breakfast. It was delicious. And I didn't think about my perfect weight once.