Facing the Demons

Someone asked me if I am flattered now when people “flirt” with me.

It is a good question and one I have always had an answer for.

If you did not find me attractive at 420 pounds then I do not care if you find me attractive now.

Which is why my wife is special to me. – Posted by Tony “The Anti-Jared” Posnanski on his facebook page.

This innocent post made me face something I’ve kept in the back recesses of my mind for a LONG time. To answer simply, I’m not comfortable with people flirting with me. I was one of those people who craved it at one time, in another life, because I was unhappy and felt unloved and unappreciated. The attention I got counteracted those feelings but I didn’t like the person I became as a result. So, I packed on pounds to insulate myself from that woman. Whenever I managed to take off some pounds it was like stripping the peel from an onion. I felt extremely vulnerable. As a result, each time I did it I rebounded back to a weight where I felt ‘safe’. It was a crazy pattern and one I’m not proud of – and it kept my weight yo-yoing for a long time.

Even after I became involved with the man who would become my husband I couldn’t seem to put the past out of my mind. I couldn’t seem to believe him when he told me that he loved me no matter what I looked like. I hadn’t known unconditional love before and I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. So, I kept fighting my demons. Battles won; wars lost. Then came the ‘aha’ moment, when I looked at a picture of myself and saw a woman who looked much older than her years…and realized something had to change. As the layers of fat peeled away this last time I found myself facing the demons once again. I’ve changed enough to accept the love I have in my life – and feel comfortable and safe at this weight regardless of what I encounter in the ‘world’. I don’t need flirting to establish my self worth. I have that knowledge and it’s priceless.

If I could give one gift to those fighting demons of self worth and body image, it would be the gift of comfort and peace that comes with self respect and love of self.

Peace. Joy. Love. May you be surrounded by it and believe in yourself.

Before:
2008-02-27 Segina Debbi

Now:
IMG_1000

A Short Conversation With My Mother

I had a short conversation with my mother today. It was short, not necessarily because she’s been dead since 1994, but because I finally got fed up with her negative comments as they re-played in my head this afternoon.

Some people just make better parents than others. I realize that now. And, while I’ve made peace with my demons…every now and then, at the most inopportune time, they regurgitate themselves like bad bile, leaving a sour taste in my mouth and heaviness in my heart.

It happened today during my very first ride on my beautiful new road bike. I was struggling to learn coordination and balance while clipping my bike shoes into the bike’s pedals – all new for me. I knew I’d need to practice and had already prepared myself for the probability of falling — and I did! My left foot was firmly clipped but I was struggling to get my right foot into the cleat when I wobbled and lost my balance. Being left handed, my instinct was to put down my left foot — except it was still attached to the pedal — and down I went.

It was a moderately easy fall – some road rash, a broken blood vessel – not nearly as bad as it could have been, but a fall nontheless. I sat on the ground a moment, assessing myself and thinking, “OK, that’s what it feels like…all good…let’s get up and go again…”

But before I could push to my feet another voice popped into my head. It belonged to my mother. “I’ve told you over and over again…I should have named you Grace, because at least then you’d have had some. You are the clumsiest person ever born on this earth.”

Years ago, she’d tell that to a gawky child many times a week. She’d say that (and other mean things) to a girl who was very uncomfortable with her body. As a result, I constantly felt unworthy of love. Without remorse, she’d watch my eyes fill with stinging, hot tears. Often times, she’d make fun of my sensitivity. She’d mimic my crying as I slunk away to lick my wounds alone in my bedroom. Food became a good friend, never talking back, always accepting me. No wonder I was overweight.

Now, as a parent and grandparent, I cannot imagine treating my children or grandchildren that way.

The thing is, in public, she treated me so differently that even people who knew us well never saw that side of her. She saved the ridicule for our ‘alone’ time. I was an only child and my dad was an over-the-road truck driver, so there was no lack of that.

So, today, at 58, well into my fitness journey and training to become a triathlete, she came calling. I’m sure that some psychologist could give me a wealth of theories why it happened. The truth is, it took me by surprise. I certainly didn’t expect it. But, what’s cool is how I responded. Because, without even thinking, I told my mother something I never would have said to her while she was alive. “Mom, shut the hell up,” I said. And she did.

I got up, brushed off the gravel and sand from my legs and mounted my beautiful bike. Without giving her another thought, I clipped in my left foot, pushed off and cleated my right foot perfectly. The wind caressed my face. There were no tears, no gawkiness. I may have fallen, but it wasn’t due to clumsiness. I’m merely learning. I may fall again – in fact, I probably will. But I don’t expect to hear that comment again. It has lost its sting.

Locker Room Etiquette

They are called ‘Private Parts’ for a reason. Fact is, I don’t want (or need) to see them. And, even if they were extremely special (which they aren’t), I don’t want to see you lathering them up and rinsing them off. It’s just plain wrong.

Close the damn shower curtain. CLOSE THE CURTAIN. Is that so difficult?

…so, at this point you may being asking, ‘Something bothering you?’ Yes, my perceptive grasshoppers. Yes, indeed. It’s been festering for weeks – since I joined the Y, as a matter of fact. Since the first time I wrapped a towel around myself before stepping out of the shower stall and came face to face with a middle aged woman in the stall across from mine vigorously soaping and stroking herself with the shower curtain wide open.

It was not a pretty sight. I walked out and past her silently, wondering if she was claustrophobic or otherwise physically/emotionally limited so that she could not shut that curtain. I’ve tried to give her the benefit of the doubt. But after watching and listening to her over time, I don’t think there’s anything stopping her from pulling that curtain closed. She can do it. She just chooses not to.

And therein lies the rub (no pun intended).

I don’t like it. I shouldn’t have to see her private stuff, or how she handles it. I shouldn’t be able to tell someone whether or not she’s got a Brazilian or abdominal scars. I don’t want to know, yet, when I open my shower curtain and she’s standing there in full view, less than 5 feet in front of me, it’s hard to miss.

To be clear, the Y has a well equipped women’s locker room with two rows of nice, private shower stalls with curtains. Women don’t have to shower in a common area. It’s nice. Really nice.

Yet, still, there are those who feel the need to just bare it all. I don’t get it. (And I don’t want to).

So, I recently started giving some signals of my displeasure. Last week when I opened the shower curtain and saw her, she looked right at me. I gave her my most disgusted look and shook my head with (I thought) complete disdain. I can tell you this – if I’d done that to my kids, they would have definitely known they’d crossed the line. I have a good ‘look’. It gets the message across.

But this week, I heard her start the water in the stall across from me and could tell that, once again, she was up to her old tricks. I steeled myself against the sight. I knew I had to ramp it up…and I did. When I opened the curtain and saw her, I walked out, saying, “Jeez, seriously? Shut the frickin’ curtain!”

I know she heard me (how could she NOT?) and I fully expected her to approach me as I dressed, but she didn’t. She went to her locker and acted as though nothing had happened, having an ongoing conversation with another woman (who was showering at the same time in another stall with the curtain closed: i.e., normal).

I don’t know what next week will bring but I’m hoping for a lot less exposure.
None would be nice.

It’s Only Fitting

I’ve spent a lot of time on the toilet over the last couple days. I’m not trying to gross anyone out here – as the old saying goes, ‘no brag, ma’am. Just fact.’

No brag indeed. Just getting to the start line of my colonoscopy was a race in itself. The prep was an endurance event, sprint, and dirty girl mud crawl – all rolled into one!

It’s all behind me now (OK, I’ll try to resist any more puns- but that one was just too good not to include!). No polyps but the doctor found some inflammation and sent in a sample for biopsy. We’ll have results in 7-10 days. Meanwhile, I’m keeping positive vibes going and looking ahead rather than (ahem) backwards. (aren’t you proud of me?)

But (no pun intended, honest) while I was seated there on the stool today, I happened to notice the clothes tag on my pj’s staring up at me. “XL” it proclaimed. XL indeed. Like I needed a reminder at that point about the size of my bottom, hips and legs?

Now, before I go too far, for all those petite ladies out there who buy XL clothing because they like to wear loose clothes, especially pajamas and sweats, I just want to say, good for you. You are able to make a conscious choice to buy those big clothes. I’m happy for you (I guess).

But, from my perspective, here’s the thing – it’s tough to find clothes – especially workout clothes and sleep wear – that looks and fits nicely if you’re a size 14 or larger.

I look far and wide (again, no pun intended) to find good clothes that fit me. Some brands – Champion & Under Armor, make it easier. But Nike, Adidas and most of the other ‘top’ active wear providers need to listen when women like me say, ‘your clothing sizes need to be re-vamped to include those of us who won’t be in any upcoming commercials!’ We need workout clothes, too – dri-fit clothing, cold weather gear, warm weather wear, bras, shorts – all of it. Personally speaking, I shouldn’t have to go to the men’s section to find a top that fits my shoulders without straining. I’m an Athena…not Godzilla.

It would be nice to shop for women’s workout clothing without feeling bad about myself for not being a size 10 or less. I won’t ever BE a size 10 or less. I’ve accepted that. It’s taken a while, especially considering some cruel memories.

When I was a child, my mother would take me school clothes shopping at a store called Robert Hall Clothing.
Robert Hall
We’d start in the children’s section but ultimately be led to the back of the store – the ‘chubby’ section. The saleswomen would ‘tsk’ as they pulled out selections for me to try on. ‘If she loses weight we’ll be able to find her SO much more,’ they’d tell my mother in a pseudo-whisper I was meant to overhear (as motivation?). My mom would nod and agree as she turned away in embarrassment. I’d cry silently in the fitting room as I sweated and tugged ugly clothing into place, wiping away any evidence of tears before opening the door afterwards. I hated shopping then – and (here’s an aha! moment) – it’s probably why I dislike clothes shopping to this day. Shame on them all. Shame, shame.

The reality is, I am 40+ years older, living an active, healthy lifestyle but still large enough to be considered overweight – and I want good looking, well fitting workout clothes. I want choices. I want pretty colors. I want to look feminine.

It’s not too much to ask. So, get with it, people. This is long overdue.