I almost titled this “My mother is considering weight loss surgery”, but while the latter is factual, what I have up there gets to the meaning of the post.
I need to preface this by saying that I was raised, to the best of my mother’s ability and against my father’s wishes, with the basic idea, if not the exact words, of Health At Every Size. I have never deliberately dieted in my life. I have lost significant amounts of weight twice, once in high school because I was accidentally starving myself (if I didn’t eat breakfast, I found I only needed a Mt Dew and maybe a pastry at school, had to eat a meal at 5pm when I got home from play rehearsal, then wouldn’t be really hungry for dinner at 6:30. I do not recommend this), and again after I got off Depakote, which had royally fucked up my body and my appetite and caused me to gain in the vicinity of 100lbs over two or three years, most of which I lost after getting the hell off it; neither of these times were health-promoting for me. I do not want to hear about your diet. I will bitchslap you (or at least fantasize about it) if you moan about getting fat in my presence, and you weigh less than 150% of what you did two months ago. I do not want to hear about your diet. I have recently fallen hard for Harding et al at Shapely Prose. I do not want to hear about your diet.
And this is how my good mama raised me. She was fucked over by the patriarchy and fatphobia and an asshole dad who thought “not starving” = “fat” (and yet insisted that no food be wasted at the table and all plates must be cleaned), and my asshole dad who thought fat = bad and ugly, and a diet industry that told her swallowing sponges = good. She promised to do better with me, her showing-every-sign-of-being-fat daughter, and though I wish she’d gotten a clue in time to save my seven-years-older brother (who once got in a yelling match with my dad about how fat I was WHEN I WAS FUCKING FIVE), I am beyond grateful that she did it more or less right with me. She wasn’t perfect (who is?), and I do not have a perfect relationship with food (who does?), but once I was talking with her (at her, really, with her nose buried in a magazine, she occasionally emitting an appropriate-sounding “uh huh”) and casually said “Mom, would it be OK if I dye it?” talking about my hair, and her head snapped up with the exclamation “you certainly may not diet!” Bless her a thousand times for that one, and for the subscription to Radiance, and then to Hues (both now defunct, unfortunately but unsurprisingly), and for putting herself between my dad’s fatphobic vitriol and me, and for the thousand other things she did to try to avoid fucking me up as badly as she had been.
Bless her also, while I’m on the topic, for plonking $1000 at a trip at boutique clothing stores that sold clothes at which I was a size 1 as soon as I hit adolescence (the $1000 was only once, and bought abundant [pun intended] clothes for both of us; but the general gist of go shopping, spend lots, make shopkeepers grin and stay open late for us continued). Bless her for giving me a wardrobe that looked fucking fabulous on me, whatever size I was at the time, for making shopping a joy and a treat and a way to surround myself with older women who also Got It, and told me how amazing I looked (because I did!) and offered to pay me to model for them. Bless her.
Thus, difficulties that many fat acceptance converts struggle with, I largely avoided. I grew up knowing dieting was stupid and unhealthy and didn’t work (knowing indeed that dieting was responsible for turning my 160lb mom into my 400ishlb mom), even if I did also watch her try PhenFen and every other “it’s medicine and scientific so it must be healthy” prescription diet drug that came out. I did not usually know my weight or consider it an important indicator of health, even as she had discussions with her doctors about hers. Bless her for that as well.
And now… weight loss surgery. Stomach stapling. Bariatric bypass.
If I still had all the old Radiance issues I could pull out all the articles that talk about what a Dumb, Self-Hating Idea it is, but she’d dismiss them because “the surgeries are really different now, and I know a lot of women for whom it really was good”. And she may be right. The surgeries are safer now (it would have been hard for them to get less safe!), and there are women for whom it was a godsend. And with her other health issues (notably her mobility issues, which are aggravated though not caused by her weight), maybe it would be good for her, too. We’ve had several discussions on the topic, each trying to listen to the other, each trying to be heard. I am open to the possibility that it might be the right decision for her.
But I still feel like I’m losing her. Not because, if she went through with it, her beautiful body would melt away (seriously, my mother is the most beautiful person in the world to me, with the only sometimes exception of my child, and it’s not that she has “such a pretty face”, though she does, nor in spite of her size, nor even really because of it, but simply because she is so. damn. beautiful, just as she is). Nor because she’d be making a choice I disagreed with (she’s an allopathic drug dealing MD, I’m a crunchy woowoo acupuncture-loving fish-oil-swilling neo-hippie; we’re used to disagreeing and still loving and respecting each other). Not even because, no matter how safe it is, the surgery still might kill her.
No, it’s because I find an article like this one that I so want to email to her because she’d Get It… and I don’t. It’s because I used to always talk to her about my own weight and health and body acceptance issues… and now I feel I can’t.
I’m losing her. My rock — no, my squishy safe bed with the softest pillows and the monster-repelling covers — my loving mother, my protectress, my goddess, the one person who would stand up for me and my right to love my body just the way it is thank you all very fucking much… isn’t anymore. I can’t send her those articles because she’d think I was trying to make a point with her and whether to do the surgery, when I just want to share my joy. I can’t talk to her about my stuff, because it’ll sound like it’s about hers. It sometimes makes me miss my mother so much I start to cry.
Which is so much self-indulgent angst and a slap in the face to everyone who actually has lost a mother in the real dead-and-gone sense (my own beloved lifemate included), but they’re my feelings, and I’m sticking to them… the way my mama taught me.
(Any comments in favor of her doing the surgery because weight loss always = good, saying I don’t want her to because then I’ll be the fattest, supporting the dangerous myth that fat = unhealthy, promoting your own diet, talking about the weight you “need” to lose, or in any other way displaying willful fatphobia or thin privilege will be deleted. Consider that fair warning.)