Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Father, Parts I & II...and thin mom in my psyche.

Father, Part I

While my father was visiting recently, my body weight did not come up...but I think it almost did.

I mentioned that my feet hurt.

His response was to shake his head slightly and say that a person of my age (nearly 28) shouldn't hurt so much. He didn't quite have an empathetic tone. Now, he didn't say it, but I felt like it was a hint at my weight. Fatties get a sense for these things. And since everyone tells you your feet-knees-everything would hurt less if you just lost weight, I subverted what I felt was an impending weight statement.

"Well, my feet have always hurt, that's the way it's always been." He couldn't disagree.

Essentially, extraordinarily tight ligaments and tendons which get tighter and cause pain in my feed and legs if I'm on my feet for too long or walk for too long, which isn't very long at all. At any rate, it's been this way since I was little. And, in twist that will utterly baffle people who believe the anti-fat hype, the pain has gotten less and my recovery quicker as I've gotten fatter. That is, I think, not because I've adapted or because I stretch more, but because my body presses down more, which forces my tendons to stretch. If I wear a heavy backpack, it's also easier and less painful to walk.

So, he didn't say anything about my weight. I'll never know if that's what he was getting at, but if that's what he was thinking, I was way ahead of him.


Father, Part II

My father doesn't say much about my weight anymore. The last thing he ever said about it was that he was worried about my health. I can't remember if I had the knowledge at the time to combat that claim or if I just shrugged it off.

I recently realized something interesting about my father, who's been a hefty guy or at least "husky" since his twenties or earlier: He married my mom when she was skinny.  (They have been divorced since I was 5.)

I don't know why this struck me right then. It's not like I didn't know this.

My mom comes from a family of a lot of fat women, and a few fat men, and was fat in her teens. I don't know when my mom got skinny, but she had me when she was 27 and all my childhood memories of her are of skinny mom. Now, I don't know her size, but she wasn't just "not fat," she was skinny. Skinny mom with straight brown hair so long she would sit on it. And growing up that's the image I had for the way I wanted to look some day. My only wedding fantasies were about fitting into her wedding dress one day...not because I gave a damn about a wedding, but because I wanted to be as thin (and therefore, beautiful) as she was when she was first wed. I even held on to the fantasy of super long hair well into my twenties before figuring out it just doesn't look good on me.

A few years ago my mom revealed to me that, of course, she wasn't thin by accident. She was exhausting herself to be thin. In addition, she told me that my grandmother, my dad's mother, would often give her clothes several sizes too small, even after she'd explicitly told her what size she wore. Classy, grandma!

Honestly, I'm not sure if my mom was fat when she met my dad or if she had already slimmed down. His second wife was very thin, his third not so much. My dad, himself, fluctuates in his weight. At one point in my childhood he slimmed down quite a bit--a time when he was obsessed with lifting weights and running (which explains why I could lift weights and had a weight bench in my room in my early teens, a time when I was obsessed with losing weight and doing a lot of unhealthy things in an effort to become thin).

While not completely invested in the thin ideal, my dad would like to lose weight, I am sure. He lost some weight recently. I don't compliment him on it, but I know some people do. I know he doesn't hate fat people, and he loves me like nobody's goddamn business, but thinking about that image of him and my skinny mom struck a nerve.

For some reason I wondered, for a moment, if that was my dad's image of an "ideal" woman. I felt a little insecure. "He loved thin mom," I thought. "Is that his image of what I should look like in my twenties?" Naturally, he loved my mom for all sorts of reasons. He has never lamented the thinness of my mom's once-thin body.

I don't know why I thought his long-ago marriage to thin mom had anything to do with me (except for, you know, the obvious).  He certainly sees how much my partner loves me. Honestly, my dad has been one of the most compassionate people I know when it comes to my weight and my insecurity about my weight over the years. The fact that he loved a thin woman (or two) doesn't mean he doesn't love his fat daughter.

If nothing else, reflecting on all of this has made me even more aware of the effect thin-mom-as-ideal has had on the development of my own self image, and the place it, perhaps, still holds in my psyche.

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