As many of you already know, I recently went on a Christmas trip to Boracay Island, Philippines, with my family from Christmas Day until New Year's Eve. My family went boating, snorkeling, paddle boarding, helmet diving, scuba diving.....and I caught a nasty food born illness or parasite that I am still fighting. Think: fevers, puking, body aches, cramps, delirium, and just about the worst case of the poops I think I've ever had in 40 years on God's green earth.
I've been to two doctors, been on IV hydration, on multiple medications, and still feel as though I were hit by a truck. I tried to go out for a late anniversary dinner with my sweet husband last night, and came home in tears, because I was just so tired and achy, and I literally could not stomach being out of my bed for one more second. In addition to feeling like caca 24 hours a day for 10 days straight...I've also used the restroom more in the last week and a half than I had in all my forty years prior to traveling to Boracay. Literally. I wish I were kidding. Nobody should be allowed to **** this much without dying. I may as well just move into the restroom. Live there permanently. Get a fax machine and a mini fridge set up in there. My children just know to talk to me through the door. My husband doesn't even bother asking me to hurry it up, because he's got to go. I't's my new habitat.
So that's my (current) life in a nutshell. Not so much fun. But hey, I'm alive, so I'm doing alright. Right?
But oddly enough....this peculiarly unfortunate life twist has afforded me some very interesting fodder for blogging. Namely: what women (myself included) have said in reference to my torrential case of the craps, and how sick & twisted it is that THIS is where our minds go when we hear someone is deathly ill with diarrhea.
"Imagine how much weight you've lost!"
"Ha! I'll shed those last few pounds with all this diarrhea!"
"Your face! You must've lost so much weight. Congrats!"
"Think of all the weight you must be shedding with all these stomach issues!"
"Well, if there's a silver lining to all this, you'll likely drop a few pounds."
"My pants fit so much better! I mean, I've crapped my body weight on the daily for a week, but my jeans fit nicely now!"
These are all comments that have been said to me lately. As in, since coming home with a nasty gut bug so stubborn that I am still on medication and being IV hydrated over a week later.....
Does anybody else see a problem with this?
These things were said by lovely, sweet, normal women. Women of all sizes. Women from all backgrounds. One of whom is ME, for Pete's sake!
(***A little background here: three years ago this month, I had weight loss surgery, and went from being 250 pounds to being around 145-155 pounds, depending on the time of month, and how active I am. I made the choice to get WLS because my weight was making me sick. I was pre diabetic, had apnea, and neuropathy issues. I wanted to feel good again, and I wanted to meet my grandkids some day. The physical prep for this surgery was excruciating and arduous, and the work since hasn't been a walk in the park, either. Anyone who says WLS is the "easy way" is clearly clueless and ignorant. It's constant work for the rest of my life, and that will never change. Every single day is a struggle for me, because food is the only addiction that you have to continue to dabble in and indulge, rather than quit cold turkey--and because in changing my stomach, the doctors couldn't change my brain. And the part of my brain that feeds my self loathing, insecurities, and addictions is still alive and well. My body might be healthier, but the way I see myself, accept myself, and understand myself will always be an uphill battle for me.***)
Anyhow...what these comments made me think was: how screwed up is it that we live in a world where women's minds immediately and innately go to a congratulatory state whenever any fellow female loses weight--whether it's intended or not?
Take for instance, the beginning of the school year at my children's school....I saw my son's old teacher, and she looked thinner in the facial area. Sure enough, I congratulated her. Told her how good she looked, and then beamed when she seemed so flattered and grateful. I did the same thing for a friend. She'd returned after being gone for the summer (in the expat community, people always holiday all summer) and looked slightly smaller than she'd been in June. Of course I complimented her, and she responded with a very enthusiastic thank you so much! Because we, as women, are trained to be grateful when someone tells us we look thin. It's ingrained into our DNA as females. If someone calls you a skinny b*tch, you say "THANK YOU VERY MUCH!"....even though being called a skinny b*tch is downright insulting. Using the word bitch in any term is degrading.
(I say all that while fully acknowledging that when I was overweight, I called my smaller friends "skinny b*tches" all. the. time. and I fully expected gratitude in return. Not nice, Brooke. I accept and own how not nice that was. Forgive me, friends, for I knew not what I did.)
What got me thinking was...what if the teacher I'd complimented in August was thin because she's battling an illness, or because she lives abroad and someone at home is sick, so the stress is making her appetite go down the toilet? What if the friend I'd complimented was thin because her husband made a discouraging remark about the size of her derrière, and she's been starving herself because she feels like crap right now? What if both of them are suffering in some random way that hasn't even crossed my mind, and I just pointed it out to them, making them feel even worse??
Or........what if I'm losing a little weight right now because my dad died two months ago, I've been grappling with some guilt and angst from that? Oh, and also because I missed my deadline with my editor, so my two new releases are getting pushed back again. Ugh. Also add in the holidays--which are ridiculously expensive for a large family like ours, not to mention the fact that our daughter's birthday and our anniversary lands in the middle of it all. Then pepper aforementioned stress with traveling to the ends of the earth with four kids and seven suitcases on rickshaws, fumey busses, two plane rides, and rickety boats. Then, to top it off, plop a stomach virus from hell on it all......
Would all of those stressors warrant compliments from people? Not likely. I mean, when you break it down, whittle it down to the bare bones of what's really going on in my life, it probably isn't "compliment worthy," if you know what I'm saying. It's stressful and gritty, yes, but probably something you would offer a hug and/or some chocolate over...not compliments.
And yet, I keep getting told, "Hey, at least you're dropping some weight with all this diarrhea!"
Who says I wanted to drop more weight? Who says I'm happy about this? Who says this is a positive change in my life? I'll let you all in on a secret: I would take my 250 pound body back in a heart beat, if it meant I could have one weekend with my father at Priest Lake, Idaho, or my Boracay vacation back, sans hallucinations and excessive TP usage?
It's important to share that I know it isn't as though my friends are trying to be mean. On the contrary. They're just trying to be nice. They're good women, probably some of the very best out there, and they're trying to find the joy in an otherwise crappy (pun intended) situation. Heck, even I've been doing the same thing!
What troubles me is.....why are women so quick to compliment each other on presumed weight loss? Why is that where we, as women, naturally go? Why do women feel this innate need to hate ourselves, our bodies and our shapes, and our friends' bodies and shapes, much that we would congratulate each other on getting a ****ing parasite that causes us to POOP FOR TEN DAYS STRAIGHT!?
Are we so inundated with pictures of the likes of Gigi Hadid, Kylie and Kendall Jenner, and Miranda Kerr, with their round, perfect butts and their perky B cup boobs, and their antagonizing flat stomachs...that we only consider ourselves, or our friends, successful when we're shedding pounds? Like.....for real? What about career heights, or family successes, or personal triumphs? What about volunteering, or teaching, or caring for each other without fanfare? What about successfully existing in a world not intended to support and uplift women?? Holy heck, that must count for something!
I don't know about you, but my friends are gorgeous. They are white, black, and every color in between. They are old and young. I have one who has a head of naturally curly hair that just sprouts from her head in ringlets, and another who wears black all the time and who struts like she's fresh off a catwalk. I have another who looks adorable in every hat she tries on, and another whose body looks like you could bounce a quarter off of her midsection. I have fat friends and in between friends. Friends who like cake, and friends who eat tofu. . I have one who is tall and unapologetically herself, and another who is soft and curvy and undeniably sexy, even when she's just trying to be a regular old mom. I have one whose smile could light Times Square, and another whose quiet presence feels like a cup of cocoa and a warm blanket.
I have friends who have fought--and WON!--against depression, eating disorders, sexism, ageism, racism, cancer, pancreatitis, obesity, being dumped, losing babies, and more. I have friends who have dropped everything they were doing to bring me Jewish Penicillin and York Peppermint patties because they heard I was sick, and others who write to me every single day, despite being 5 thousand miles away...just because they know I depend on it. I have women in my life who care for others as if their life depended on it, and who share their gifts with others because they know others can't go on without their help.
They give and give and give and give........and yet, we compliment them because they dropped a pound or two.
I say no more.
No more letting what the world calculates a woman's worth on determine how we value ourselves. No more letting a woman's size determine her worth. No more letting her size, or fluctuation of size, determine whether or not she warrants a compliment. No more letting her physical image, or more specifically, her weight, be the one thing we watch, monitor, and gratify her for. If we want to be smaller, then so be it. If we want to be bigger, then so be it. But that shouldn't be the one detail about us that her friends/family fixate on. Even if we mean it with the kindest of intentions. Women are worth more than that. We are not just pretty packages. There is more to our depth and internal qualities than anybody ever pays attention to, and I'm over it! Who cares if my pants fit better or worse after this stomach issue goes away?? I'm more than a size.
I am more than a size. I'm freaking Wonder Woman.
I was a foster mom. I became a published author with a loyal following. I am a loving wife and a functional mother. I lost a daughter. I moved abroad to a place where I don't speak the language. I travel. I live. I laugh. I breathe. My body heals itself. My mind does, too. How freaking amazing is that!?
Yeah. I'd like to drop another 15-20 pounds. To see the numbers I used to see on the scale in high school. But frankly, I'm 40, and I've had four kids. It's not going to happen. Instead of fixating on the numbers, or how many rolls I have when I wear a swimsuit at the beach, I'd rather focus on how much healthier I am now than I was three years ago.
Instead of focusing on how much thinner my face looks now that I've been crapping myself silly for ten days, I'd rather focus on how much better I feel when a friend brings soup to my apartment, or when my bestie from across the ocean sends me a sweet text. I'd rather focus on the friends who seem to like me, despite my being a big boob who says the wrong thing in every situation, and the fact that I've kept for children alive for seventeen years. I'd rather focus on writing my books that bring people joy, and listening to music that makes me happy, and being around people that make my soul comfortable. Those are the things worth fixating on.
I love complimenting people. Nothing makes me happier than telling someone that their outfit is cute, or their hair looks great. But I am no longer going to compliment people when they appear to have lost weight. I don't know their whole story. And I'm not sure that the weight thing is something worth complimenting people on anymore. Like I said, WLS helped me to lose weight, but the mental part of food addiction and self loathing...that's all on me. And being told that having torrential diarrhea is a good thing because I might drop a pants size only seems to perpetuate the problem. I'm better than my weight. I am more than my weight. My worth is greater than that.
And so is that of my friends.