The Shot and The Draw

I still remember the feeling of my first heartbreak. I’m not talking about –you’re over there and I’m way over here-heartbreak, I’m talking about the heartbreak sitting right here on my chest, the looking over my shoulder, breathing in my ear heartbreak. The heartbreak that holds you and never lets go.

I’m thirteen and bus 62 is a cauldron of teen angst. Some boys light cigarettes and hang out of the partially descending windows, some girls scribble the names of bad boys onto books, others carve words into the skin of their ankles, and the driver drives, ignorant to it all. I initially sit near the front, but am soon pulled to the back by older girls and the promise of their friendship. Tammy is mentally unstable, and even at 13 I can clearly identify this trait. She wants to be my friend, yet threatens to beat the shit out of me on a daily basis. This has been happening for months.

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Me at 13. Quite the fox, I might add.

Today, she and her crew call me to the back for some arbitrary reason. Maybe they ask to borrow money, or need someone to laugh at. Those are the details that fall into the street with the traffic, because at this point Ollie is all I can see. A regular, brown-haired boy sitting behind Tammy and her friends. He’s cute enough, with a nice smile and a freckled nose. But I can’t recall what drew me to him. I only remember the after. It’s like I can remember the shot but not the draw.

Here is what I do remember:
The autumn light in his hair and on my shoulders and the way he smelled, like motor oil and Marlboro Reds, like freedom to a 13-year-old girl whose parents won’t let her leave the front porch with a boy. He smiles, he calls me something cute like “sweetie” or “honey,” and I melt into my seat and burn with the sun against the cheap upholstery.

Ollie was older than me. 15-which is an entire universe away in teenage years. He knew things I didn’t, like how to get a homeless guy to buy us beer, how to light a smoke with a match in a wind storm, and which woods were the safest to drink in. His parents were absent, I think, I don’t remember ever really seeing them. His house seemed full of mismatched car parts and brothers. He went to school like one goes to church, sporadically at best, and only if it was really important. But he protected me, held me against him in the storm of middle school drama. When Tammy and her friends started upping their game and really scaring me, Ollie was there. He threatened anyone who looked at me wrong. He  beat the shit out of anyone and everyone who bothered me. To a 13-year-old girl, this was kryptonite.

Here is what I do remember:
His hands, calloused and small, traversing my virgin skin. A worn mattress, red curtains, and Ozzy Osborne. I have lied to my mother. I have lied to this boy. I have lied to myself. I have lied to everyone. The candle becomes a nub and I bury myself under his worn blankets. It will be decades before I dig my way out of that cave. I imagine the 14-year-old ghost of me forever roaming that small basement.

We broke up, and some of that is fuzzy. He left me, I can’t remember if it was for another girl or if a defect of mine inevitably rose to the surface.

At 37, I can confidently say that there was no reason on earth to love him the way that I did. But at 13, 14, 15, 17, 19, 23, 24, 28 and all of those years in between, loving Ollie was as natural as breathing. At 26, 27, obese and stuck in a bad marriage, that feeling-being tucked tightly against Ollie’s chest-was a feeling I’d swim back to over and over again and hope to drown.

Will High School Be Awful For You? Yes.

This morning, when I logged onto The Fat Girl Blog , I was met with something disturbing.  While glancing at my blog stats and seeing where all of my visitors are coming from, I noticed something in the “search terms” that deeply bothered me.  Someone had found my blog by typing into Google the phrase “I’m a fat girl, will high school be awful for me?”  This nearly broke my heart.

Coincidentally, the other day I was remembering high school with an intensity I hadn’t had in a long time.  This search term has compelled me to share my high school experience with you (in hopes that the young woman will land on my page again).

I had the unique experience of attending both a public high school and a private high school.  And they were very, very different.  I was in public school my entire life.  But when I reached high school, there were some things going on in my district that made my experience there less than desirable.  Therefore I went to a private school my Junior and Senior years.

Catholic school was better, in terms of academics.  But it was brutal on a social level.  In public school I had been somewhat popular, I had friends, people I had known for most of my life.  In private school I was an outcast.  I was made fun of because my family didn’t have money, because I wrote poetry (who does that?!?), and lastly, because I was beginning to struggle with my weight.  My peer’s ridicule only sent me further and faster into the comforting arms of food.  So I spent my days in school not with the cheerleading squad or drinking in the woods on weekends, I was writing and reading.  I was learning and bettering myself.

High school is a tough place.  It’s full of people who judge you, snicker at you, and sometimes flat out make fun of you.  But there are some positives to look forward to.  Most of those people, the very popular ones who usually lead the charge in ridiculing others, peak in high school.  After graduation they usually go on to do nothing much.  They bang out a few kids and then whine about their lives on Facebook.  They are bullies and their kids are usually bullies too.  There’s nothing you can do about them.

And here’s the best news: High school ends.  I never see the people I graduated with.  Sure a few of them tried to friend me on Facebook, and I’ll accept because, hell, it’s been almost twenty years, but that’s it.  They don’t have a daily influence on my life anymore.

Bottom line: will your life be hell in high school as a fat girl?  Yes.  But high school is hell (at times) whether you’re fat or thin.  And it all ends rather quickly.  Get through it, focus on yourself.  Read, learn, and in the end you will win the race.  You will outsmart and outwit them at every turn.  And if you don’t?  Just ignore their friend requests, they’ll go away.

Who I Am

I was thin, really thin.

Then, in high school, I started to grow fat.

I married my high school sweetheart.

I grew fatter.

It was good, and it was bad.  Then, it was mostly bad.

I was 270 pounds.

We tried to make babies, but nothing stuck.  He left me for someone else.

I joined Weight Watchers.  I lost 100 pounds.

I drank too much and made bad decisions.

I met the right man.  We made babies.

They saved me.

It is this time period, right here: ” I lost 100 pounds. I drank too much and made bad decisions,”  that inspired me to write this blog, and my book.  I was the thinnest I had been in almost 15 years, I should have been feeling great about my physical appearance, yet, I was still the fat girl.  Boys in bars still looked at me as the last option, girls snickered at me when I wore skirts.  I don’t want anyone to feel like I felt.  I don’t want young women to turn themselves inside out trying to appease the masses, because you never will.

Since I had my twin daughters, I have gained back thirty of my hundred pounds.  (They missed me.)  So I struggle yet again.  Not morbidly obese anymore, but still fat, still thick, still fighting every day to “be good.”  Learning, in little baby steps, how to treat myself better, how to “be good” to myself and not a diet.

So what I’m writing, what I’m sharing with you, comes from the brain of a fat girl. This blog is my story.  This is how I think about myself and the world around me.  I hope, on some level, that this is your story too, and that this is a place where you can feel-not alone.

This is me, bleeding out.

Fifteen Years and Thirty Pounds

When I was in high school and just mildly overweight, I used to think that if I lost twenty pounds my life would change, that boys would really see me, the popular girls would talk to me, I would ace tests and be invited to parties, and that the ache in the center of me would dull.   I would lie in bed at night and dream of a place where I was thin and happy, and wonder how on earth I would ever get there.

Fifteen years later, I’m in a bar, having lost almost 70 pounds, and I am feeling fantastic about myself, a feeling that tastes new in my mouth, and I savor it on my lips.   A blonde-haired boy who sometimes sleeps with me when he’s had too much to drink on Saturday nights looks into my eyes and says “If you lost thirty pounds, you’d be a knockout.”  His words are elastic, snapping me back to that place once more, the place where I am an outsider and everything good happens around me like I’m standing in the eye of something.

That night, I lie alone on my queen bed and dream of a place where thirty pounds doesn’t matter, and where the person who loves me the most is ME, where the hollowness in the center of me is plugged up, and I wonder how on earth I will ever get there.