I saw you today when our cars passed each other in the lot of the outlet mall. Your windows were up because it was hot outside and I’m sure you were running your air conditioning. Your hair looked nice.
When your car, heading in the opposite direction approached mine, I spent a short second hoping you were forgiving. I know I had pulled over to the fire lane briefly and this caused you to have to go around me. That was unfair of me and though I didn’t cost you any lost time or inconvenience, it doesn’t mean I was right.
But what you don’t know is that I was pulled over close to the sidewalk because I had a hot sandwich and a cold drink to hand to a hungry, homeless person. I’d have parked and walked it to him but the nearest available parking spot was too far for me to walk. On cooler days, if I’m feeling well, I might’ve been able to make it, but today was really warm. I don’t have a working air conditioner in my car and that makes a few of my health conditions worse, including my ability to breathe.
As you got closer to me, I whispered a quiet apology and prepared to raise my hand and wave to thank you for your understanding. Sweat had beaded on my forehead and was sliding down into my eyebrows.
“This heat… as soon as I get this done, I need to see if I’ve brought my inhaler,” I thought.
I turned my wheel tightly to the left and hugged the sidewalk, as far from your way as I could get. In truth, you had plenty of room; we were the only two cars driving by at that moment. Going around me was a cinch.
As the front corner of our bumpers met, I noticed you had a pre-teen girl in the car with you. I made eye contact with her in your front passenger seat. She looked directly at me. Then I saw you wave your hand and I began to raise mine while shifting my eyes to meet yours. I couldn’t hear what you were saying but thanks to an auditory disability, I’m an avid lip reader.
I wish you’d smiled. I wish you’d said anything about my thoughtlessness and nothing about the way I look.
My eyes pricked and stung when I read the words on your lips. I felt ashamed and embarrassed that I’d left the house. I felt angry that I’d eaten today, even though truthfully, food is almost a luxury these days for our family. My cheeks grew warmer and my breath sucked in. I wiped my eyes but it wasn’t sweat that was in them.
I want you to know we fat girls often suffer for years with eating disorders that often don’t actually even help us lose weight. Mostly, it just gives you scars on your knuckles, worn tooth enamel, bad breath and an empty stomach and heart. Though purging hasn’t been a consistent part of my life for a few years, at that moment, my racing brain screamed for a toilet and five minutes to erase the damage I’d done by eating today.
My demons aren’t your fault though, and I don’t mean to imply you should take responsibility for them.
However, in that fraction of a second that you were screaming at me, I caught a look at the girl in your passenger seat. The words “fat bitch” are unmistakable when they come at you seemingly in slow motion, drawn out for effect.
I didn’t have time to be angry with you because my heart fell for that young lady. You probably don’t know it right now, but hearing you shame another woman for her appearance, damaged her. She will always know her value is less if she carries extra weight. She learned today that women march on a tightrope their entire lives and that they are a breath’s inch from being not good enough for somebody at all times.
So, no … my weight, my bulimia, my self esteem, do not fall on you tonight. Other people don’t make us do or think or feel anything, we do that for ourselves.
But you did a disservice to the beautiful girl with you in that car. You had a chance today to show her how to reach out and grab another woman’s hand and steady her across that rope and you chose to give her a push instead.
I’m heartbroken for all three of us tonight. Mostly though, I’m sad for the woman she could help someday but maybe won’t because that wasn’t the example she’s been shown.
We’re never going to change the world like this, you and I.
Tomorrow is a new day and we will both get another chance to do better. Will you join me?