One Hour

hungry hippoOne hour.  That’s all it took before I felt like a big, ugly oaf.   That is when my mom brought out the clothes she had brought from Taiwan for me.  This year, the fashion over there is skinny pants coupled with long, slim shirts.  Now, even in my best of times, that is not a look that works for me because I have BOOBS and HIPS which most women over the age of twelve have.  Well, except in Taiwan, apparently.

I eyed the pants, and I knew immediately, they wouldn’t fit.  I tried them on, anyway, and guess what?  They didn’t fucking fit.  Not even close.  I sighed as I yanked them off before trying on the shirts.  The first one gathered at the waist and had horizontal stripes.  I looked hideous.  The second one was more forgiving with a formless waist and zebras.  I like zebras.  Still, I looked huge.   I turned away from the mirror in despair.

It didn’t help that my mom modeled her new outfits for me.  She’s been fanatical about losing weight for the past year or so, and she looks great.  She was skinny to begin with (except for her stomach), and now, she’s tiny.  Yet, she was nattering on about wanting to lose five more pounds.  She’s wanted to lose five more pounds for as long as I can remember.   It’s not for health–that’s for sure.  Then, she tried on the pants she had bought for me and went on and on about how big they were on her.  Granted, she’s 5’2″, and I’m 5’6″, but I still felt gargantuan next to her.  If she thinks she needs to lose five pounds in order to be presentable, then what the fuck does she think about me?

Three hours.  That’s how long it took for me to seriously contemplate going back to my disordered eating in order to lose weight.  My mom was watching me as I got ready for us to go to lunch (yes, I am aware of the dichotomy of my mom harping on weight and being so invested in eating).  I tightened up because I knew what was on her mind.  In a careful voice, my mom said, “Have you gained weight?”  I said tersely, “Yes.  Some.”  My voice screamed, “Back off, bitch,” even though I would never vocalize that to her.  She took a deep breath and said, “Are you exercising?  Doing your 10,000 steps?  What are you doing about it?”

“I have to go bathroom.”  I shut the door in her face.  I’m not proud, but I couldn’t stand to listen to her any longer.  Sadly, she kept asking me questions through the door until it was clear that I wasn’t going to answer.  Then, she walked away.  At lunch, I had to tell her that while I am concerned about my weight, it’s not open for discussion.  In other words, dear mother, STFU.

Ten hours.  I officially fall into despair.  My mom is rattling on and on about losing those fabled five pounds.  She is talking about how hard it is despite her exercising.  I try to be noncommital, but it’s hard not to hear the censure in her voice.  It may or may not been there, but it’s impossible for me not to hear, “You’re fucking fat!”

My mom put me on my first diet when I was seven.  She told me I had such a beautiful face, if only I would lose weight.  Any time I did lose weight, she never asked if I was being healthy about it–even after she knew about my eating disorders.  Whether she realized it or not, she was subtly encouraging me to be disordered by her rah rahing when I lost weight and concern trolling when I gained.

The message I heard:  Your weight is of utmost importance as to your worth.  Because you are a fat, huge cow, you are worthless.

On the other hand, she brings me food from Taiwan, fattening foods.  She wants to go out to eat more often than I normally would go.  She wants me to eat, eat, eat, but then gets worried because I’m not skinny.

She doesn’t understand that there is no way for her to approach the subject with me.  There is no way for her to voice concern without it sounding like a put down.  Because of her own obsession with losing x number of pounds, she has lost all credibility with me when it comes to my weight.  There would be no health benefit in her losing five more pounds.  None.  Therefore, despite her protests to the contrary, it’s not about her health.  Therefore, whatever she says to me is bullshit.

Translation:  She doesn’t want a fat cow for a daughter who would reflect badly on her.

Sixteen hours.  I am now sitting in front of my computer.  My mom is asleep.  I keep thinking about how fat I am.  I am getting her issues and my issues entangled, and I hate it.  I know I want to lose weight, for me, roughly 50 pounds.  I want to do it in a sane and safe way.  I want to do it for my health.

No, I lied on the last.  I don’t really give a fuck about my health in this matter.  I want to be thin for the sake of looks.  I am ashamed to admit it, but it’s all about the looks for me.  I hate the way my stomach bulges and how round I am.  I hate the way my thighs brush together as I walk.

I want to do it the easy way–the old way.  I want to embrace the demon until it devours me.  I want to whittle away my body, melting the fat until only the pure essence of me remains.  She is very seductive as she whispers her lies into my ear.

“Follow me, and you’ll be the most beautiful girl in the world.”

“Follow me, and you won’t have to think about anything ever again.”

“Follow me, and I can give you everything your heart desires.”

“Follow me, and I can transform you into someone hot, beautiful, and thin.”

“Follow me.”

She lies.  I know she lies.  In this moment of weakness, I don’t care.  I want to listen to her lies because it’s so fucking easy to do it her way.  Yes, easy if you don’t mind devoting your whole life and soul to her.  She’s a demanding mistress, and she doesn’t give any quarter to the faint of heart.

I know all this.  I know it with every fiber of my being.  And yet.  I am thisclose to taking the hand that she offers me.  I am a sucker for her lies.

9 Responses to One Hour

  1. In these sorts of situations, I never know whether to offer advice or sympathy. It’s a guy thing. Lord knows, though, I certainly offer the latter. As someone with longstanding (though very, very different, and largely imaginary on my part) issues with my mother that I only started dealing with this spring, I understand the feeling.

  2. I suspect you may have chosen the photo of the hippo to represent girth.

    But a hippos is an irascible and bad-tempered animal, and it moves surprisingly quickly for its bulk. In Egypt they’re feared more than the crocodile, and to this day they’re responsible for several deaths a year — if memory serves me right, more than sharks.

    I don’t mean to criticize your mother, but if she keeps saying she can’t lose that last five pounds, that’s because she can’t — her body isn’t meant to. If she’s obsessed with it, that’s unhealthy. It’s sweet of her to buy you clothes, but clothes that obviously won’t fit also send an unhealthy message, as you know. (No offense, but to be honest, I’m sitting here wondering, “What the hell was she thinking? I’d never do that to my daughters, especially the one who is sensitive about her weight.”) Again, I don’t want to knock your mother — as an Italian, I’m *very* touchy about people saying anything against the family, even if they’re right — but if she sends you messages that she doesn’t love you as you are, it’s her failing, not yours.

    Family issues resonate powerfully all our lives, but you have many people who do love you exactly the way you are. Please don’t forget that.

    You know that voice in your head lies. I’m sure you’re strong enough to resist it. And it’s that strength, ironically, that will lead you to where you want to be.

  3. Minna… you know the demon lies.

    And you have the brains to dissect situations into their components. Take your mother’s voice and actions out of the current situation, and what do you see? I bet it’s what you described in your recent posts about your plans and steps to take and goals to achieve. So, what gets you all down right now is your mom’s input, not your own thinking and planning. YOU GOT PLANS, girlfriend! You got worked out what you want and what it takes to get there! Your mom is a distraction in this that you have to put up with (some of us break contact completely for self-preservation, as you know, but I don’t think you’d be the type to do it), but can you somehow manage to see her concerns about you as HERS, her hobby, her taste, her definitions, HERS!, and keep them out of your own mind?

    I think you’re too much the dutiful daughter to be rude in some way, but if you can change the subject every time it’s about food or weight, it might help (help you to have less of the topic and help her get the idea at some point that this is a non-topic from here on out). There’s really not much sense in trying to change her mind or make her see the damage that this has done to you all your life or any of that… if she’s obsessed with weight and looks, that’s just what it is. Imagine she was obsessed with Palin instead, or with some religious cult thingy. How would you handle that? What approach would let you keep your sanity during the visit? Her obsession with weight is the same thing, really, it doesn’t have anything in particular to do with you any more than a political or religious obsession would.

    I dunno… obviously, I myself am no good at handling these kinds of relationships or else I’d still have contact with my mother. My only recourse was to bow out. Sucks, but hey – I’m alive 🙂 That part was shaky there for a few decades.
    Me, I can’t tune out the demons, so staying away from them is mandatory for me. But you are stronger than that, I think. Definitely smarter, too! So, what’s your plan?

  4. I wonder if this is really all about her. About how her mother treated her. Did she feel pressured about weight? You & I have talked about my mother (sigh), and I can tell you that finally, after 40+ years, I’ve figured out that she is a lousy mother because her mother was a lousy mother, and that all of the things that make her difficult stem from her own issues w/her mother & father. Therefore, what I used to feel were shortcomings on my part I now recognize are shortcomings (uhm, lack of empathy, love, warmth, affection) on hers.

    There is, as you’ve noted here, the possibility that she believes that somehow you reflect poorly on her. Maybe you need to ask her that question point blank, shake her up a bit. Ask her if she would really rather have a skiiny bitch of a daughter than one who is independent, with a wonderful circle of supportive loving friends.

    Health is always always an issue once someone gets to a certain age and is at a certain weight (raises hand). The health risks are real, and no parent wants to imagine a scenario where they outlive their child. From the moment a child is born there is the fear that something will happen to them.

    There is also, however, a tendency in mothers to want the best in life for their daughters. We’ve discussed this, too. I wish that my daughter was healthy & fit & the best that she can be, but only for herself. Not because of me in any way. I want her to feel loved, adored, wanted, etc. etc. — without falling into the looks = self-esteem/worth trap — because I know that life is easier that way. And because I know that a lot of what is going on with her is a self-defeating behaviour, she is her own circular firing squad.

    There’s also the possibility that your mother has her own insecurities related to aging, and that may be exacerbating the issue.

    Good for you for telling her the issue is not open to discussion. However, I think a few very pointed questions for her that put her on the spot are in order, then, after that discussion declare the issue closed, with no possibility that it will be re-opened unless you open it.

    Sending warm wishes on the wind, along with some love & support, and assurances that you are loved by many (raising hand again) just as you are.


  5. Well said, Whabs. Minna, you ARE beautiful, right NOW. I’d rather see you stay the size you are now, and even gain weight, than to see you lose it in an unhealthy and self-abusing manner.

    Your mother’s obsession with weight is a problem. It may seem that she’s talking about pushing you toward a healthier lifestyle, but stories about your past indicate that she doesn’t care if you get there through healthy lifestyle changes or unhealthy/dangerous eating and exercising disorders. Please don’t fall back into those seductive lies. You know that path because you’ve already tried it. It hurt you WAY more than it helped back then. The same path would lead to the same result now.

    I’ve had to lay firm ground rules with my parents about what I will/won’t discuss. You will have to do that on this issue. You actually are already healthier and more self-aware than your mother about weight. Her technique as a weight-loss coach SUCKS, and you have a right to put the kibosh on her hurtful words and behavior.

    Even with the best of intentions, a hurtful word still hurts. I’m saying this as a friend: I recognize emotional abuse, and this screams it! Your mom may never understand that her efforts to help are abusive. Her dysfunction in this area doesn’t mean she is a bad person (far from it). But that’s not the point. You can choose to stop being a victim to this. I know you can stand up to her on other stuff. You can stand up to her on this, too! I will gladly stand with you.

    I love the person you ARE. You rock the way you are NOW.

  6. JMN, thanks. Sympathy is always welcomed, advice, too. It’s good to know that others struggle with similar issues.

    Gregory, hm. I didn’t know that about the hippo. I like! Oh, I told my mom that her body probably was at the weight it’s supposed to be (I’m a pro at all that health shit), and she just glossed over it. This is such a sticking point between us. I always feel like I’m seven again when she brings it up.

    Thanks for being so supportive. I really need it with this issue. I am not so strong against this particular voice.

    iratwo, I know so well the demon lies. It’s when I don’t give a damn that things get very dangerous. It’s when I want to buy into the sweet lie. Thank you for reminding me that I have goals. I have to keep my eyes focused on what I want to do and try not to let the chatter get in the way.

    whabs, I am so very blessed that you are in my life. I love you, too, sister of my soul.

    SMR, you are so freaking wise. You are right that there is too much there to just gloss over it. My mom had her own deep-seated issues with her mom, and the Taiwanese culture is even worse than ours when it comes to exhorting their women to be skinny, skinny, skinny. Thanks, babe. You always get to the heart of the matter.

    Choolie, you are right. I know health is not the issue here, neither for my mom (though she believes it is) nor for me (I have no such illusions for myself). Every time she brings up her weight or my weight, I become a little girl again.

    The problem is, I have made my peace with the marriage issue, the children issue, and the religion issue. This issue? Not so much. Not at all. Sigh.

  7. Screw it. If you’re happy the way you are, stay that way. If you want to lose weight for yourself, do it.

    Your decision. 100%.

    For the record, I had no complaints 😉

  8. Original Jim, awwww, shucks, thanks for the compliment and the support. You’re a sweetie. Good to see ya!