Someone on my Facebook fan page asked whether I’ve noticed, one year after surgery, that I’m treated differently by people…and the answer is yes. And no.
Most of the people I knew before my surgery still treat me the same – because they love me, or at least like me, for the person inside. They don’t even remember the girl in my “before” picture because they never really noticed my physical faults in the first place…and I love them for it.
There are a few people in my life who don’t get it. Unfortunately I work with them, so I can’t completely exclude them from my life. To them, my surgery and my process is not mine…it’s somehow about them. My decision to have gastric sleeve surgery seems to have labeled me as a person who needs to be babysat, else I might eat the entire Thanksgiving potluck and cause the rest of the department to skulk back to their desks with empty plates and empty stomachs. And bloody nubs where their fingers were because they tried to grab the last dinner roll from my heaving jaws. I call these people the Food Police.
It’s hard for me to handle people like this in a professional environment because I have quite the sassy mouth, but I also have a profound desire to keep my job. This is the reason I don’t drink at company happy hours. It’s also the reason I try to avoid the Food Police as much as possible. I’m just trying to keep the peace because, honestly, these people aren’t my personal friends and it’s not worth the hassle. Sometimes, however, I need to put someone in their place as an example and I get the sweats just thinking about it. I always feel like I’m going to let my tongue off the leash a bit too far and end up being escorted to my car with my personal belongings in a box.
One day in particular comes to mind as I’m thinking of the Food Police. I was chatting with a few people when one of the secretaries came by with a tray of cookies that were leftover from a celebration. I hadn’t had a cookie in several weeks and these were from a bakery…and they were gorgeous. A little something sweet sounded quite yummy to me so, like others in the group, I said thank you and took a cookie. You would have thought I pulled a gun out of my handbag and shot a dog…that’s the reaction I got from the Food Police.
It started with a very loud, over dramatic gasp, which brought everyone’s focus to the mortified expression on her face. As if that wasn’t enough, she pointed a finger at me and loudly exclaimed, “YOU CAN’T EAT THAT!!!”
Everyone turned to look at me. Bad, bad, bad. This is exactly the situation I try to avoid. First, it takes me back to my days as a ten year old kid who was repeatedly emotionally terrorized by an asshole over whatever food I put in my mouth. And then all the kids and parents would turn and look at me, most of them secretly grateful that the negativity was not aimed at them. I don’t like being reminded of what that felt like.
Once I get put in that spot, I feel a split second of fear and panic before I realize I’m an eff’in adult. I’ve spent a fortune on therapy to get past all this shit…and, oh crap, here comes my sassy mouth with a big zinger. But I’m at work. And I have to be professional. So I can’t verbally smack the crap out of this insensitive asshat like I want to. I decided to play along and see where that took me.
“Why not?” I asked innocently.
The Food Police sputtered madly at first, then blurted “Because you worked so hard and lost all this weight. You can’t have a cookie!!!”
By this time, most of the others in the group had slightly embarrassed or bemused looks on their faces because they realized I was fighting to keep a lid on the Hot Mess Princess who was just dying to get out and put this chick in her place. The finger was still pointing at me. Part of me wanted to bite it, but I would have just proved her point so I resisted.
“Don’t you think I can be trusted with a cookie? Do you think this one cookie is going to bring back all the weight I’ve lost and undo all the hard work I’ve done?”
She sort of blinked as she thought about it. I didn’t wait for an answer.
“Do you even know how long it’s been since I’ve had a cookie?”
More blinking. More suppressed smirking from my colleagues. I continued.
“I didn’t realize my food choices affected you so much, so I apologize.” I slowly moved the cookie away from my mouth with the same cautious obedience a criminal uses on an episode of Cops. Be cool, man. Just be cool. I put the cookie down.
“There. I put the cookie down. Are you feeling better? I’m so sorry I upset you.”
The look in her eyes told me she finally got it. She saw what she’d really done, which is embarrass me with her ridiculous judgmental bullshit. I resisted the urge to say “Maybe you should lie down” or something, but I knew I’d made my point. I walked away quietly.
As much as her behavior pissed me off and as happy as I was that I was able to stand up for myself with diplomacy, I still returned to my desk with tears in my eyes like a scolded little girl. I took a moment to pull myself together and then I was fine. That ten year old little girl will always be there inside my head…and that’s okay. I have the skills to deal with jerks now. I never fail to come to her rescue – but I hate that other people’s behavior touches this part of me. I know it’s going to happen once in a while. Once I unleash the fury of HMP, I feel better. The jerk’s feelings, to be frank, don’t matter to me in the slightest.
I have similar feelings about the judgy strangers I meet from day to day. I was out to dinner with a friend and I was eating my dessert when I caught the disapproving glare of a stranger a few tables over. My first thought was “What’s up their ass? I look awesome!” Then I realized this person doesn’t know that. He’s looking at a disgusting fat woman eating dessert. He doesn’t know I’ve lost 113 pounds. He doesn’t know I won’t be able to eat the whole thing. From his seat at the Judgy Asshole table, I’m going to eat the whole dessert and then go out for pie later. How dare I do that? I should be jogging around the parking lot, not daintily spooning up a few bites of my mini peanut butter chocolate mousse.
Who the hell did I think I was, right?
See, when I run into jerks like this I know I don’t have to face them again. Strangers are awesome that way. My job isn’t in jeopardy if I mouth off, so the sky’s the limit really. In this particular case, I settled for making a suggestive motion with the spoon like I was trying to turn him on.
I love doing shit like that to men who obviously find me disgusting and think they’re quite the badass for humbling me with dirty looks. My intention was to take away any possibility of a boner his little pinky dick might get for the next 6 months. Judging from the look on his face, I was successful…and that’s all I wanted. He doesn’t need to know that in reality I wouldn’t touch him with a ten foot pole.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are plenty of people who didn’t know me last year – so when they see me take a few bites of something and say I’m done, the unavoidable next question is…”Oh, are you on a diet?”
First I cringe, then I smile and explain. The fact that they first see a fat person and then they think it’s okay to ask such a thing just irks me.
The problem is…the world still thinks they have way too much freedom with the boundaries of overweight people and it really pisses me off. If there’s a guy in a grocery store with his cart loaded with booze, the assumption is what? Someone’s throwing a party!!! The assumption isn’t usually “Wow, this dude needs help…” Replace him with a fat person and a cart loaded with chips and processed crap? People feel they have the right to glance at the cart and give dirty looks. You disgusting person. How can you eat all that?
Hot chick walking out of Victoria’s Secret with a big pink bag ‘o panties. Like…hundreds of dollars in panties (which is probably 5 pair). Guys are drooling over her. Not one of them is thinking “Wow, she’s in credit card debt so bad she’ll be an old lady before she pays that off.” I don’t want to get with someone like that…she’ll drag me down into financial hell.
She looks good…so she’s okay.
Because we’re overweight, we wear our addiction for everyone to see…and so people feel entitled to assert their opinions for some reason. They think they’re being helpful. They think they’re educating us. They need to turn their judgy vision on themselves and leave others be.
So the answer is yes…and no. People treat me different and people treat me the same. The people who really matter in my life treat me the same as they did when I weighed 383 pounds. Healthy relationships don’t change whether you weigh 100 pounds or 500 pounds. And the jerks? Yeah, I still get the same treatment from them because jerks don’t change either. Sometimes we want them to, but they don’t.
There are a few clueless souls out there, however, who treat me like some sort of walking cookie monster because I was honest about having surgery and they’re judgy, misguided people who can’t see the damage they do with their unhealthy need to control. They need to interfere in order to feel helpful in someway and they don’t see the damage they do as they’re mowing you down in the process.
My take-away from all of this? I’ve changed…and that’s enough. I’m blessed with loving people in my life. I’m grateful for my independent brain and my will to be happy…and that’s all I really need.