In fifth grade, on my way to Goody’s for a vanilla egg cream and a pretzel, one of the mean girls sitting with friends called, “Hey, you! What month are you in?”
I didn’t know what she meant and decided she must be asking when my birthday was.
“May,” I shouted back. They all laughed.
Mulling over the strange conversation, I realized what she really meant. Now they have a word for that…body-shaming. That’s how prevalent it is. For me it was the beginning of a life of begging you to let go of my fat and hating you for not doing it.
I felt like the fattest girl in the school. When I look at old pictures I see a pretty, normal-sized me. Dr. Jacoby always said I was “pleasantly plump” and I took that to mean I was fat. The popular girls weren’t. I was never going to be one of them, but I wanted to be accepted by them. I blamed you. Every time I looked in the mirror all I saw was my belly.
Do you remember when I was in junior high and Estie Nicks was the person everyone wanted to be friends with? We were at the same bus stop, but I never said a word to her. One day, she asked if I was a model. She said she saw someone in a magazine who looked like me. The next day she showed me the picture. It was an ad for pimple cream, complete with a miserable-looking teenager with acne. I was twelve and didn’t have a single pimple. Still, I walked the halls with my head down and tried to be invisible. And every time Estie saw me in the hall she said, “Hi, Model.” I thought it was your fault.
I didn’t realize what a loyal, giving body I had. I won relay races and 100-yard dashes in camp, never appreciating my muscular legs. In junior high I received a medal for volleyball, thanks to my strong serve. I never gave you credit.
When I was older I took for granted the sweet taste of kisses, the warmth of a touch, the heat of passion. When pregnant, I felt like I was the only one in the world who had ever carried a baby. I did give you credit for that because it was obvious you created a miracle. I was awed by my ability to breastfeed and cherished the bond it created. My arms held my babies, my lips kissed their sweet-smelling heads, and my lap gave them a place to nestle. I thank you for all of it.
I reached sixty relatively unscathed, then all hell broke loose. First came a diagnosis of Lymphoma, complete with chemotherapy and a weakened immune system. Then several months of fighting Lyme Disease. Back pain was my constant companion until I had a spinal fusion, capped off with rods and screws. One night my hip shattered in a restaurant, causing months of misery until I had a hip replacement. I felt like Humpty Dumpty except, in my version, I didn’t need all the king’s horses and all the king’s men. I just needed you (and a few skilled orthopedic surgeons.) I survived because you gave me strength and the will to get better.
I know what a gift it was for you to make me whole again. Without you, I would not have raised two amazing children, traveled the world, and lived to experience the best things life has to offer. You’ve been steadfast and loyal and I haven’t shown enough appreciation. I want you to know how blessed I feel to have spent my life enveloped by you. We’ve been a good team. Thank you, thank you, thank you.